If Mexican food always sounds like a good idea in your house the way it does in ours, then this ultimate Mexican Casserole is a must for your meal plan this week! It combines pantry staples with fresh ingredients for that rich, cheesy Southwest sensation that we never seem to stop craving.
Thanks to main ingredients that are often on hand at home – brown rice, canned beans and tomatoes, and cheese – this recipe is the pinnacle of easy and healthy comfort food.
This Mexican casserole with rice is a good Mexican dish because it relies on classic Mexican flavors, but with a healthy spin (like Taco Salad!).
It calls for lean ground beef, whole grain brown rice, and Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. Also, by using fully-flavored cheeses (hello, sharp cheddar) you can pack more flavor while using less.
This family-friendly recipe is adapted from my exceptionally popular Mexican Chicken Casserole. That recipe calls for quinoa and cubed boneless, skinless chicken breast.
For today’s Mexican casserole, I was hungry for something more old school and picked up inspiration from one of the most iconic, universally beloved Tex-Mex recipes of them all: 7 Layer Taco Dip.
Why it took me so long to come to the idea of a layered casserole I cannot explain, but I will be making up for lost time from now until forever. Rather than mixing all of the ingredients together, this Mexican casserole layers them, and the results are unstoppably delish.
While I usually opt for regular black beans in my Mexican recipes, with the layer-dip inspo in the back of my mind, I made this Mexican casserole with refried beans instead.
The refried beans make the casserole delightfully creamy and are a tasty change of pace. Like a layered dip but in heartier form, it’s fantastic to scoop with chips. Refined palate that he has, Ben eats his Mexican casserole with Doritos.
That’s the beloved nature of Mexican flavors: you can use so many different combinations and still have the cheese-tastic allure! (Another favorite Mexican casserole with tortillas: Slow Cooker Taco Casserole. This Chicken Tortilla Casserole is excellent too.)
If you’re looking for a hands-free way to cook a Mexican casserole, check out my Crock Pot Mexican Casserole and Instant Pot Mexican Casserole. If you are in for a little layered fun, however, today’s Mexican casserole with rice and refried beans is the move. It celebrates the savory flavors so many of us love in Mexican food.
How to Make Mexican Casserole
With the key five components of a casserole – a protein such as ground meat, a grain to hold it together like rice, creamy filling, fresh vegetables, and a delectable cheesy top, this Mexican casserole has it all and is a well-balanced dish.
- Lean Ground Beef. Flavorful, protein-packed, and delicious with the other flavors in this casserole. Not feeling the beef? You can swap ground chicken or ground turkey.
- Cooked Brown Rice. I chose brown rice for this casserole for its whole grain benefits and classic taste, but you could also use quinoa or another cooked grain of your choice. Heads up! The rice is not cooked as a part of this recipe, so it’s important to have it already cooked before starting the rest of the casserole.
- Onion + Bell Peppers. Scrumptious, colorful, and healthy additions.
- Spices. A little cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper give this casserole an extra kick of flavor and a touch of heat.
- Nonfat Greek Yogurt. A sneaky, healthier swap for sour cream. It provides the same tangy flavor and creamy texture.
- Refried Beans. Both refried black beans and classic refried beans (pintos) will taste delicious here. If you’re in a hurry, you can use canned refried beans for this recipe. However, if you desire to make them without added salt or preservatives, use my Instant Pot Black Beans or Instant Pot Refried Beans recipe instead.
- Cheeses. Sharp cheddar and mozzarella create the ideal creamy and cheesy combination for our casserole.
- Tomatoes with Green Chilies. Bold Southwestern flavor packed into one easy can.
- Cook the rice.
- Sauté the onion and bell peppers.
- Add the beef and spices, sautéing until cooked through. Stir in the garlic.
- Take the skillet off of the heat, then stir in the rice and yogurt.
- Layer time! Spread the refried beans in the prepared baking dish.
- Top with part of the cheeses.
- Add the tomatoes and green chilies.
- Top with the rice and ground beef mixture.
- Add the remaining cheeses.
- Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Pop under the broiler for 3 to 4 minutes, until the cheese browns.
- Let the casserole rest for a few minutes, top with cilantro, and DIG IN!
- Mexican Casserole with Chicken. Swap in ground chicken meat for the ground beef called for in this recipe.
- To Make Vegetarian. Omit the ground beef and use a can of pinto beans or vegetarian “meat” crumbles instead.
- To Make Gluten Free. No changes needed. This casserole recipe is gluten free as written.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
This Mexican casserole with ground beef recipe produces very generous portions for six, which is beneficial because it lasts up to a week in the fridge, and it stores very well in the freezer for any portions you don’t finish.
- To Make Ahead. Cook the rice, and chop the onions, bell peppers, and garlic up to 1 day in advance. Store each in a separate airtight storage container in the refrigerator.
- To Store. This casserole can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F. You can also reheat it in the microwave. I like to add a splash of water or broth to keep it from drying out.
- To Freeze. Freeze leftover casserole in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
More Ways to Serve Mexican Casserole
- With Tortillas. For a Mexican casserole with tortillas, pile this casserole into tortillas and enjoy it burrito style.
- As a Burrito Bowl. Serve this casserole in a bowl with your favorite toppings.
- With Chips. Grab a bag of your favorite tortilla chips, and serve this casserole as a hearty dip.
What to Serve With Mexican Casserole
Abundant with lean protein, whole grains, and fresh vegetables, this is truly an all-in-one meal. If you’re looking to supplement it though, here are some suggestions:
- Cornbread. Mexican casserole with cornbread is a match made in heaven. Since both Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread and Mexican Cornbread use a bit of honey, the light sweetness of the cornbread is a splendid complement to the slightly spicy casserole.
- Salad. Try a fresh, flavorful salad like this Grilled Corn Salad with Avocado and Tomato.
- Sweet Potatoes. This Roasted Sweet Potatoes recipe would be perfect alongside Mexican Casserole.
- Margarita. Pair your casserole with a refreshing and fun Skinny Margarita.
More Marvelous Mexican Casseroles
- Chicken Enchilada Skillet
- Mexican Stuffed Peppers
- Instant Pot Chicken Enchiladas
- Stuffed Pepper Casserole
- Do not miss any of these other scrumptious casserole flavors!
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Dish. The ultimate kitchen tool for casseroles and so much more.
- Dutch Oven. An invaluable addition to your kitchen that will serve you well in so many recipes.
- Chef’s Knife. Ideal for prepping ingredients for any casserole recipe.
Guess what we’re in the mood for tonight (and tomorrow and the day after tomorrow…).
COOKBOOK NEWS & EVENTS
- Join me for a live virtual cooking event and Q&A! It’s 8/31 at 7 pm CT and is free and open to all. I’d love to e-meet you! Register here.
- People Magazine featured my Baked Avocado Chicken Taquitos.
- LIMITED TIME. Order an autographed copy through my local bookstore (currently 20% off!). I’ll personalize it, then we’ll mail it right out to you. Open to the continental U.S. Four copies or more ship free <—Hello, gift idea!
- LAST CHANCE. Preorder your book by 8/24 for a bonus recipe bundle. More info here.
- 2 cups cooked brown rice or quinoa or other grain of choice—about 2/3 cup uncooked
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 1 green bell pepper chopped
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef or swap ground chicken or ground turkey
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cloves minced garlic about 2 teaspoons
- 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 can reduced fat refried black beans 15 ounces
- 3/4 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese divided
- 3/4 cup freshly grated mozzarella cheese divided
- 1 10-ounce tomatoes with green chiles (such as Rotel) well drained; use mild or medium depending upon how spicy you’d like the casserole to be
- Fresh cilantro for serving
- Chopped green onions for serving
- Be sure to cook your rice if you haven’t already (if you are just reading this and just now realized you don’t have any cooked rice and don’t want to wait, consider switching to quinoa, which cooks much more quickly than brown rice. Instant brown rice also works in a pinch).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a large casserole dish (9×13 inch or similar) with nonstick spray and set aside.
- In a Dutch oven or large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high. Add the onion, green bell pepper, and red bell pepper. Sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the beef, chili powder, cumin, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Continue to sauté until the beef is cooked through and no longer pink, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1 additional minute.
- Remove from the heat. Stir in the rice and Greek yogurt until evenly combined. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
- Assemble the casserole: Spread the beans into an even layer in the prepared baking dish.
- Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheddar cheese and 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese over the beans.
- Scatter the tomatoes with green chilis over the top.
- Spoon the rice and ground beef mixture on top of the tomatoes, spreading it into an even layer.
- Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar and 1/2 cupmozzarella.
- Bake the casserole, uncovered, until the cheese is melted and the casserole is hot, about 15 minutes.
- Turn the oven to broil, then continue cooking until the cheese is lightly browned, about 3 to 4 additional minutes, watching carefully so that the cheese does not burn.
- Let rest 5 minutes, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and green onions, and serve.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: Cook the rice, and chop the onions, bell peppers, and garlic up to 1 day in advance. Store each item in a separate airtight storage container in the refrigerator.
- TO STORE: This casserole can be stored in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- TO REHEAT: Rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze leftover casserole in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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