This weekend marks my 9th Annual Girls Reunion (<—official/unofficial title) with a small group of college girlfriends. The ladies arrive tonight just in time for dinner. I can’t wait to greet them with giant hugs and a home-cooked meal like this Slow Cooker Taco Casserole.
Actually, let’s make that giant hugs, Taco Casserole, and a pitcher of Skinny Margaritas. Let the fun begin!
This Taco Casserole recipe takes the core ingredients of any classic taco plate—beans, cheese, tortillas, juicy ground turkey (my healthy swap for beef; chicken would work well too), and a yummy array of toppings—and transforms them into an easy-to-make, even easier-to-eat layered taco bake.
It’s like a baked Mexican lasagna. Except…I didn’t bake it. I slow cooker-ed it instead!
Anytime you are feeding a crowd or need additional flexibility around when you’ll prep or serve your meal, the slow cooker is your BFF.
Because I’m not sure exactly what time girls will arrive tonight, I love that I can make the Taco Casserole in advance, then keep it warm in the crock pot until they arrive.
3 Simple Steps to Healthy Taco Casserole
This Taco Casserole has three core components: the tortillas, the delicious meat-and-bean-filling, and the toppings:
Part 1: The tortillas. I used whole wheat flour tortillas because they can hold up to longer cooking times, but if you need the recipe to be gluten free and don’t mind the tortillas breaking down a bit (still delicious), you can certainly use corn tortillas instead.
Part 2: The filling. This is my favorite part! I used a mix of pinto and black beans, which makes the dish extra satisfying and provides a delightful contrast of flavors and textures. For even more taco satisfaction, I added ground turkey, fresh veggies, and a tasty array of Southwest spices. Oh, and cheese. You’ll find a gooey, stretchy layer of melty cheese between each tortilla.
Part 3: The toppings! No self-respecting taco should be without a shower of your favorite toppings. I opted for avocado, cilantro, and a dollop of Greek yogurt, my go-to healthy swap for sour cream.
Once you’ve cooked the filling, simply layer it with the tortillas in the slow cooker, lasagna style.
Cover the crock pot, walk away, then return a few hours later to a warm, hearty, and healthy meal.
To the superstar meal preppers in the crowd: add this Taco Casserole recipe to your rotation. The filling can be cooked a day or two in advance, then layered with the tortillas and cheese right before cooking. Had I been more organized this week, that’s exactly what I would have done.
When I think of the moments that define my year, our Girls’ Reunion is absolutely one of them. Last year, I hosted here in Milwaukee, and in years past, I’ve traveled to Nashville, Minneapolis, and South Bend. These women and I have been roommates, stood up in each others’ weddings, and held each other’s babies, and they supported me in my blog’s earliest days too.
We also share a deep, fierce love for Tex-Mex. Every reunion so far has involved tacos in one form or another, so I’m sticking with tradition, Taco Casserole style.
More Delicious Tex-Mex Recipes
- Chicken Tortilla Casserole
- Crock Pot Mexican Casserole
- Skinny Taco Salad
- Crock Pot Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Recommended Tools to Make This Recipe
- Slow Cooker. This one switches to “keep warm” to deter overcooking.
- Sharp Chef’s Knife. An indispensable kitchen tool for slicing, cutting, and chopping.
Slow Cooker Taco Casserole
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey or ground chicken
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 large green bell pepper diced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper use 1/4 for more heat, or omit it completely if sensitive to spicy food
- 1 can reduced-sodium black beans (15 ounces) rinsed and drained
- 1 can reduced-sodium pinto beans (15 ounces) or kidney beans (I used pinto), rinsed and drained
- 2 cans no salt added diced tomatoes in their juices (15-ounce cans)
- 1 cup grated carrots
- 6 whole wheat flour tortillas, medium taco size
- 2 cups reduced-fat shredded cheese such as cheddar, pepper jack, Monterey jack or a combination (about 8 ounces; I used half sharp cheddar, half pepper jack), divided
- Optional for topping: chopped fresh cilantro, diced avocado, sour cream (or nonfat plain Greek yogurt), salsa
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high. Once hot and shimmering, add the turkey, onion, bell pepper, salt, and pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat, until the turkey is cooked through and most of the excess liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the black beans, pinto beans, diced tomatoes in their juices, and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down and most of their liquid has cooked down, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.
- Lightly coat a 5-quart or larger slow cooker with nonstick spray. Spread 1 1/2 cups of the turkey-bean mixture in an even layer on the bottom. Top with 2 tortillas, spreading the tortillas out so that they cover the beans, overlapping them in the middle as needed. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Continue layering as follows: 1 1/2 cups beans, 1/2 cup cheese, 2 tortillas, 1 1/2 cups beans, 2 tortillas, 1/2 cup cheese, remaining beans. Reserve the final 1/2 cup cheese to sprinkle on top.
- Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours or on high for 2 to 3 hours, until heated through. Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top. Cover, turn the heat to high, and cook until the cheese melts, 5 to 10 additional minutes. Cut into slices and serve warm with desired toppings.
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