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.

Cheesy Mexican casserole in a baking dish

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.

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.

A baking dish with Mexican casserole

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.

Mexican casserole in a baking dish with cheese

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.

The Ingredients

  • 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.

The Directions

  1. Cook the rice.

    Diced vegetables in a pot

  2. Sauté the onion and bell peppers.
    A pan with ground meat and vegetables
  3. Add the beef and spices, sautéing until cooked through. Stir in the garlic.
    A pan with ingredients for Mexican casserole
  4. Take the skillet off of the heat, then stir in the rice and yogurt.
    Refried beans in a baking dish
  5. Layer time! Spread the refried beans in the prepared baking dish.
    Refried beans and cheese in a baking dish
  6. Top with part of the cheeses.
    Mexican casserole being prepared in a baking dish
  7. Add the tomatoes and green chilies.
    Ground meat in a baking dish
  8. Top with the rice and ground beef mixture.
    Shredded cheese on ground meat in a baking dish
  9. Add the remaining cheeses.
  10. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Pop under the broiler for 3 to 4 minutes, until the cheese browns.
  11. Let the casserole rest for a few minutes, top with cilantro, and DIG IN!

Healthy Mexican casserole in a baking dish

Recipe Adaptations

  • 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.

A healthy and easy casserole in a baking dish

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:

More Marvelous Mexican Casseroles

Mexican casserole in a bowl

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

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  • 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!
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Cheesy Mexican casserole in a baking dish

Mexican Casserole

5 from 17 votes
Ultimate Mexican casserole with refried beans, rice, ground beef and veggies, layered and baked to cheesy perfection! A healthy family favorite!

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 30 mins
Total: 45 mins

Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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 (9x13 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.

Notes

  • 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. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 6)Calories: 447kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 32gFat: 19gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 77mgPotassium: 837mgFiber: 9gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1811IUVitamin C: 49mgCalcium: 286mgIron: 5mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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42 Comments

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  1. This recipe looks divine, my only problem is my husband HATES refried beans….do you think it would be possible to use a layer of black beans in the bottom? Would it still turn out Okay?

    Love your recipes and your site! I follow quite a few sites and I think yours is the best, the way you lay out your recipes and explain them, the pictures and all the extra info. You do a fabulous job! And for someone who isn’t a natural cook I appreciate it!!  Keep up the great work, and I can’t wait to get your new cookbook!5 stars

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Sherry! They MADE my day! I’ve only tested this recipe with the refried black beans, but you could experiment. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  2. Made this last night and it was SOOOOO GOOD and easy to make! Grocery store didn’t have refried black beans so had to use regular and that was the only change I made to the recipe. Hubby scooped some up on his plate and said it looked like warm 7 Layer Dip, I said that was your inspiration for this recipe. It was a hit with Hubby and me so I will be making it again. Thank you for another great recipe!5 stars

  3. We made it last night with my in-laws. It was a hit! My husband put a few spoonfuls of the casserole into a lour tortilla and made tacos! We all loved it. I just ordered your book off Amazon! Thank you for sharing these fabulous recipes.5 stars

  4. Hi! This sounds great, but I’m kind of new to the idea of cooking anything not microwaveable. I don’t think I saw where you said what size pan to use, what do I need please?

    1. Hi Linda! I recommend using a large casserole dish (9×13 inch or similar) to bake this casserole. I hope you enjoy the recipe if you try it!

  5. This was a huge hit! The first time I made it, I used diced chicken breast. The second time I made it (3 days later!), I used ground beef. I have to say that the ground beef was AMAZING! The chicken was good but beef tasted even better! What a great recipe. Thank you!!!5 stars

  6. Great recipes are a hard-working nurse that needs to learn how to cook again and they look so good in my Imagine they taste great I think the family will love it thank you5 stars

  7. If I could give this recipe 10 stars I certainly would!  My husband enjoyed it so much, he asked me to make it TWICE in the same week!  It has ALL been tremendously enjoyed, and there are NO LEFTOVERS!!!!  What an easy to put together, tasty recipe to make, and obviously a 5+ star hit around here.  Thanks again for another winning recipe you’ve so generously shared, you are definitely appreciated.5 stars

  8. Really liked this recipe and best of all it was very easy! I bet this will make great leftovers too. Will definitely make again. 5 stars

  9. Delicious! Our family of 4 loved this! We had a tiny bit leftover for the next day, and ate the leftovers as fillings in whole wheat wraps. We’ve decided to make this dish as our Friday night family routine! Thank you for this recipe :) We are grateful!5 stars

  10. I’m just starting to learn to cook so I can be healthier. Wow!!! This was delicious and absolutely manageable for a novice too. Love your site, thank you!!5 stars

  11. Oh my goodness!!! What a great Mexican casserole. I made it before our KC Chiefs game and enjoying it during halftime. Everyone loved it! I’m sure I will be making it several times during the month. We love it!5 stars

  12. Is it possible to cook this for 30 min at 350? I want to make for my toddler who can only tolerate baked milked products due to allergies and they need to be cooked 30 min or more. Thanks!

    1. Hi Kaity! I think that would work fine. I’d recommend covering it for the first 20 minutes, then uncover it for the last 10 minutes. You can pop it under the broiler only if you think the top still needs to be more crisp. I hope this helps!

  13. I made this with ground chicken instead of beef and used half the cheese and it was stellar. My husband and I both loved it and it will be part of our regular rotation! Thanks!5 stars

  14. I made it with ground turkey, quinoa and a little extra cheese. My husband and 3 teenage boys gobbled it up. I also made it the night before so hubby could pop it in the oven when he got home. Excellent dinner! This will be a staple in our dinner rotation going forward.5 stars

  15. Tasted fine but this is a dip not a casserole. I’d serve it with chips at a party not for dinner. Liked the use of Greek yogurt. Added poblano pepper for additional flavor.

  16. I made this using yellow Spanish rice and it was excellent! My boyfriend and I really enjoyed it and we have enough for dinner tomorrow as well. Thank you!5 stars