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.

dinner plate and a fork full of layered taco casserole with chicken

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.

Layered Taco Bake, cooked in a crockpot

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.

crock pot full of healthy taco casserole (Mexican lasagna)

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.

plate and fork full of Taco Casserole made in a slow cooker

More Delicious Tex-Mex Recipes

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.

 

Healthy Slow Cooker Taco Casserole

Slow Cooker Taco Casserole

5 from 9 votes
Easy Slow Cooker Taco Casserole – Layers of tortillas, cheese, beans, ground chicken or turkey, and veggies, cooked until hot, bubbly, and delicious!

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 4 hrs 20 mins
Total: 4 hrs 35 mins

Servings: 8 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 8), without toppingsCalories: 380kcalCarbohydrates: 43gProtein: 27gFat: 14gSaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 66mgSodium: 912mgFiber: 11gSugar: 7g

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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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58 Comments

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  1. This looks extra good and I’ll definitely be making it soon. Slo-cooker is the way to go in the summer if at all possible. Hope you have a wonderful “reunion”. I also have the pleasure of doing the same with my best friend from college – she’ll be spending this coming Tuesday with us along with her sister. Have a great weekend!

  2. Hi Erin! Congrats on keeping your friends so close to your heart! I’m still close to my high school and college friends after 50 years! Enjoy this blessing.
    A question: have you ever used foil or a commercial liner in your slow cooker? I was wondering if you used one if you could lift the whole thing out (in one piece) to either put in a decorative platter OR take it out and freeze for a future meal?
    Have fun!

    1. Hi Kathy! I have not tried foil or commercial liners, but if you’ve had good experience with them on similar recipes, you are welcome to try it! If it doesn’t work, you’ll be able to slice it into big pieces and lift them out individually (which is what I did for these photos!). I hope you enjoy!

  3. What can I say? I love Mexican food, and in a crockpot, during the summer, even better. Going to try it this weekend. I have everything but the tortillas, so this will be easy.
    Val

  4. Yuu mean I don’t have to turn on the oven? Praise god! Totally truing this with my udis tortillas! YUM!5 stars

  5. Hi Erin, this looks yummy! Can’t wait to try! Hope you have a great time tonight with your dear friends! Sounds like a perfect evening!

  6. Hi! Wow, this looks delicious and EASY! I’d love to make this but have a question — my husband is allergic to tomatoes. Can I simply leave them out, or do you think omitting the canned tomatoes + their juices would affect the outcome too much? Thanks so much for your time!

    1. Hi Kristen! I’m afraid the tomatoes are pretty necessary to the recipe, both for moisture and for flavor. I wish I had a good substitute, but I honestly can’t think of one :( You might like this Mexican Pasta Salad: https://www.wellplated.com/mexican-pasta-salad/. It’s not slow cooker but is delicious! You could swap the tomatoes for chopped red bell pepper instead.

  7. Did you add the toppings later or cook them with the casserole? They look fresh not cooked and I was confused reading the article. Thank you for posting this! Just wanna know about toppings ?

  8. Erin:
    I made this recipe For Sunday dinner! It is wonderful! I am having friends over mid week and I will be making the casserole again. It’s so easy to make and very hearty! I was chatting with my son on the phone while I was making it and after I assembled everything, or thought I had, I realized that I forgot to add the 2 cans of diced tomatoes!! I quickly poured the 2 cans of diced tomatoes on top of the casserole in the slow cooker! I thought if this casserole doesn’t turn out, no problem, I can blame it on my son! Didn’t need to worry, the casserole was delicious! Nice hearty meal anytime but especially for the fall and winter season! You’re the best! Thanks very much.5 stars

    1. Suzy, I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the recipe! Thanks so much for giving it a try and taking the time to report back!

  9. Hi Erin
    This recipe looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it! However, I’m the only person in my house that’ll eat it (my husband has an eating disorder and its touch and go as to whether my 2 year old will eat it) so I was wondering if its possible to freeze it in individual portions?
    Thanks for posting so many delicious recipes, your blog has been a lifesaver in more ways than one! Xxx

    1. Hi Paula, absolutely! You can cut into portions, wrap individually, freeze, and then thaw overnight. I hope you love it.

  10. This looks delicious! I don’t have a full size slow cooker. Is that ok? Would I have to adjust the recipe for a 4.5 qt crockpot?

    1. Hi Veronica, I’d do 3/4 of the recipe to make sure it fits and to ensure that it cooks all the way through!

  11. I can’t wait to try this for college football season! I have one quick question about it though — would it not be more advantageous to start with a layer of tortillas at the bottom? It seems to me that it would keep it all together a bit better when you’re trying to cut and serve it. Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Chris, sticking can be an issue if you start with a tortilla on the bottom, which is why I recommend starting with the sauce. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

    1. Hi Gina, if you want to double it, I’d recommend you borrow another slow cooker or do one of the batches in the oven. Doubling it in one crock pot would make it really, really thick, which would be hard to cut and hard to cook too. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  12. Do you have to cook the ground turkey and beans first? Just wanted a “dump and walk away” recipe and this looks delicious!

  13. This was soooo good. Exceeded my expectations. I mixed some plain not fat Greek yogurt into the filling to make it even creamier, and subbed in some chipotle chili powder because I’m obsessed with that spice 5 stars

    1. Elizabeth I LOVE chipotle chili powder too and bet that would be delicious. Thanks so much for trying the recipe and taking time to leave this wonderful review, along with the tip on the fresh tomatoes. YUM!

    1. Hi Samantha! I’ve never tried the recipe this way, but my guess is that because corn tortillas are more fragile, they will break down quite a bit more than wheat tortillas and the casserole will be very soft. If that doesn’t bother, you can certainly experiment with corn instead!

  14. I really Love this recipe. It’s easy to put together & then immediately put it in a crock pot. I’m just waiting for the final results when it is done – ready to eat.5 stars

  15. This might be a silly question, but any idea how big 1 serving is? I’m watching my calories very  closely and wondered if you had any idea how many cups 1/8th of the recipe would be? My math brain isn’t working well. I’m looking forward to having this tasty looking meal tonight with my family.

    1. Hi Sarah! Unfortunately, I don’t know the exact cups per serving size, but you could try eyeballing it into eight equal portions. I hope you enjoy the recipe!

  16. Hi Erin, I had a question about baking this in the oven — from an earlier comment, I see that you recommend baking it at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Would you bake it covered or uncovered? Thank you!

    1. Hi Cari! Since I haven’t tried it myself, it would be an experiment. If you decide to try it too, I’d love to hear how it goes!

  17. Just served this for supper to some last minute guests. They said they liked it, but when everyone had seconds I knew it was a hit! Easy to make and delicious! Just had salad with it and it was perfect! Thank you!5 stars

  18. I like the recipe. It’s simple it uses everyday ingredients economical.
    The only thing I did was use less cumin.

    I like cumin but it tends to dominate the whole dish. I used a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon. I would probably start with half a teaspoon next time.
    Very tasty I enjoyed it.5 stars

  19. I used vegetarian meat instead of actual meat and it was honestly so great! I recommend adding shredded lettuce and sour cream once it’s finished cooking/is plated for more of a deconstructed taco type meal.5 stars