Cheesy Taco Casserole


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Growing up in the Minnesota meant that I ate lots of casseroles growing up.  Except we called them “hot dishes”.  Since I’m no longer living in Minnesota I thought casserole was a more universal term than hot dish so the recipe title reflects casserole, even though in my heart, it will always be a hot dish to me.

Cheesy Taco Casserole with chips

Growing up, we needed hearty and warm food in our bellies to sustain us through those cold, long winters.  Hot dishes were the way to go.  Not to mention, they made planned leftovers, and were an inexpensive way to feed a family.

Cheesy Taco Casserole with chips

It wasn’t gogi berries and dulse flakes and locally grown avocados and lemon trees in the backyard where I grew up.

Cheesy Taco Casserole with chips

It was food like this.

This casserole reminds me of my mom’s weekly taco night and my grandma’s rice-based hot dishes.

Cheesy Taco Casserole with chips


Cheesy Taco Casserole

2 c cooked rice (cook 1 c dry rice with 2 c water for a 2 c rice yield)

1 jar salsa (I used a 12 oz jar of salsa that was corn and bean based, not red sauce based.  Use something you like or have on hand)

optional: 1/2 c to 1 c diced veggies such as carrots, bell peppers, olives, mushrooms, onions (whatever you’d add to tacos)

optional: 1 can beans (red, black, pinto, etc.)

2 tbsp taco seasoning (about 1/2 packet of commercially prepared taco seasonings, or the whole packet if you want extra taco flavor)

1 c sour cream (8 oz)

2 c shredded cheese + 1/2 c


After cooking the rice, combine all the other ingredients with the rice in a large bowl and stir until combined.  Pour mixture into a foil-lined 9 x 13 pan.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2 shreeded cheese on top.  Bake at 375F for approximately 35-40 minutes, or until cheese and the top is beginning to brown.  If you added extra beans, veggies, or your salsa was watery, this could lengthen cooking time.

Allow casserole to rest and cool for about 10 minutes to make slicing easier.

Yields: 12 hearty squares of casserole from the 9 x 13 pan.  Store leftovers in fridge or freeze squares in individual sized containers in the freezer for your a homemade, fast, “tv dinner”.

Notes: To make this vegan (and it’s already gluten-free)

For the sour cream, use a vegan/soy-based sour cream such as Follow Your Heart, or use a vegan/soy-based cream cheese such as Tofutti + splash of almond mik or water to thin it out.

For the shredded cheese, use a vegan cheese such as Follow Your Heart or Daiya.


Cook the rice

Rice in pot

Add all ingredients into a bowl and stir to combine.

Peppery Sweet Corn Salsa jar

Carrots, corn, and cheese in green bowl

Press into a foil-lined 9 x 13 pan, and top with extra cheese before baking.

Cheesy casserole in pan

After baking….

Casserole baked in panCasserole baked in pan

…Garnish with sour cream and a bit more cheese, and serve with your favorite chips, if desired.

Cheezy Casserole with chips

It combines flavors of my childhood into an easy meal.

Cheezy Casserole with chips

And Scott and Skylar raved about it. 

Then again, anything with cheese and real sour cream is off to a good start, right?

Cheezy Casserole with chips

Cheezy Casserole with chips

Planned leftovers save the day.  Refrigerate or freeze, as I suggested in the recipe portion, for a hectic workweek meal option to have on hand.

Cheezy Casserole in pan

Cheezy Casserole in pan

Cheezy Casserole with chips

From my last posts, a big thank you to everyone who continues to wish us a Happy 10 Year Anniversary.  I am blown away by how many of you have commented and how touching your comments are.  Thank you.

And, thanks for congratulating me on being featured in Women’s Health Magazine.  I am pretty excited about that one!


1. Did you grow up eating casseroles or hot dishes?

Oh, you know I did!

Cheap, easy, leftovers, can make in advance.  They were a mom’s best friend.  I understand that all better now that I’m a working mom.

2. Any favorite casserole recipes or go-to dishes that are your salvation for when you’re busy?

I’m all ears!  (One or two links, max, or your comment will go into moderation.)

3.  Best thing you’re eaten or done over the weekend?

Getting to Aruba, celebrating my 10 year anniversary, and being featured in a magazineIt’s been a great weekend for me!

P.S. If you’re just catching up on posts, here are mine since Friday:

About the Author

Welcome to AverieCooks! Here you’ll find fast and easy recipes that taste amazing and are geared for real life. Nothing fussy or complicated, just awesome tasting dishes everyone loves!

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Please note: I have only made the recipe as written, and cannot give advice or predict what will happen if you change something. If you have a question regarding changing, altering, or making substitutions to the recipe, please check out the FAQ page for more info.

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  1. Love this flavor combo and how versatile it is for what you have on hand. Just made it for the second time and added Greek yogurt (instead of the sour cream) – totally missed that the first time, and it is really creamy. I like it both ways and am not sure which way I will make it next, but I will definitely make this again. The first batch I made a ton and froze it, reheated well, but I liked it reheated in the oven better, helped to crisp it up again, but that might have been because that was the batch without the yogurt (sour cream).

  2. Very good recipe! I like that you do pretty casual measuring!
    I would just say- I made this recipe for 4 people and we finished nearly all of it. Not sure if we just eat a ton or if this was meant to be a side dish, but next time I’ll do more rice and maybe some more of the other ingredients.

    1. This is an older post for me and at the time, I had a toddler…she’s now a 2nd grader :) So I guess I would say it fed 2 adults and a toddler quite nicely. But casseroles, very flexible. You can always bulk them up or down, as your family size dictates!

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. yummo! looks like the perfect way to camouflage some extra veggies into my boys dinner!! easy chicken and rice and beans! they’ll be sold before they think to start picking through for anything possibly green colored!

  4. This was fantastic and would make it again, I added Hamburger to it because my husband likes meat in his casseroles and it turned out great…Thanks for the recipe…finally found something different to make and all I have to say is YUMMY

    1. Awesome feedback, including the meat-eating husband liking it. That’s high praise & glad you’d make it again. Thanks for the field report!

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    1. yay! I just posted a cheese recipes post…you may enjoy that one, too! Thanks for LMK that you made this!

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  15. Had to post here again. Made your Chessy Taco Casserole (without sour cream) tonight and it totally rocked! My husband is looking forward to the leftovers tomorrow. He didn’t even care that there was no meat. His words “oh my god this is amazing”. Hurray!

    1. good to know! I mean you can always add ground turkey, chicken, beef, tempeh would be great in it, or tofu, or just extra beans if he “needs” that :)

  16. We never really ate casseroles, most of our food came from a bag or box. That casserole looks AMAZING! Yummy

    Best thing I did this weekend? I just back from Vegas! Too bad I didn’t get back until midnight last night and now I’m getting ready to go to work *yawn*

  17. I just made a version like this on Sunday! hahaha I took out the cheese and made it spicy by adding green chiles & hot salsa!

    1. they froze and reheated just fine! I tested them out with freezing/90 secs nuking in micro. Totally fine.

  18. I’m drooling over here! I love that it turned into a cake like consistency! I would LOVE to throw bison in there and plop a huge spoonful of guacamole on the chips… oh, and wrap it in a rice tortilla. Wow, I need to make this.
    We ate a lot of casseroles at our house. So much cannelloni and lasagna i can’t really stomach them anymore.

  19. Your taco hot dish looks so much like the taco chicken dish my grandma made for us EVERY time we went to her house for dinner! It was exactly your recipe but with chicken breasts laid on top of the dish, shredded cheese dumped on top of that and then baked. I remember having that ALL the time. I grew up in Alaska so we also had meals that were hot and large for leftovers.

    I make baked spaghetti or tortellini for my boys. We also call them hot dishes! :-)

  20. I love casseroles! We eat them all the time in the winter – nothing beats ’em!

  21. I love that bit of lore about the name ‘hot dish’ instead of casserole. That kind of thing is so interesting to me.

    I’ve been all over the map lately and sorry if I missed it: are you finding that dairy works ok for you now? Just curious: I know that some people find that they have a certain tolerance (Phil’s daughter can eat it a few times a week but not every day, and usually takes a ‘lactaid’ pill if she’s going to eat it). I like the idea that our diets make us stronger and more flexible and more able to eat all kinds of food as exceptions: going to write more about that soon.

    Hope you’re having a lovely time there. Oh, my best thing this w/e: my energy is getting so much better, I hiked all morning and half the afternoon _and_ did a weights workout! (and we got charged by a moose on our hike).

    1. replied to another commenter right above you about the vegan/dairy stuff but in a nutshell small amts of dairy IN recipes but read my reply to her, explains it more in depth.

      i agree 100% with this
      “I like the idea that our diets make us stronger and more flexible and more able to eat all kinds of food as exceptions: going to write more about that soon.”

      1. Thanks, Averie–I looked at your earlier commenter and your reply to her. Love what you say to reassure her: I definitely think that ‘feeling restricted’ is not a sustainable way to find a happy, healthy eating style.

        And I applaud you for not doing a big hoo-haa about ‘why I am no longer vegan:’ actions speak louder than words and the vast majority of what you talk about is solidly plant-based. Ethical reasons aside (not saying they’re not important), I think that it’s what one does most of the time that ‘counts.’ I was just interested in how your body was tolerating it and that’s great that it’s within your comfort zone.

  22. I think this recipe looks delicious, hearty, and comforting. I hope Aruba is treating you and your family well and that you can catch up on some of that lost sleep! Phew, I’d be dragging big time. I’m sure some quality beach time will fix that for you.

  23. Your hot dish looks delish! My hubby would love this! Also I wanted to congratulate you on your anniversary! Spending it in Aruba must be incredible:)

    Your food photos look great! I can just imagine all the hard work that goes into getting the perfect shot:)

    1. thanks on all accounts…and yes, I took about 100 pics of casserole by the time it was all over :)

  24. I really like casseroles, or any one-pot dish. My mom made a few casseroles when I was growing up and I always enjoyed them.

    The best thing I ate all weekend was the poblano pepper crepes I made yesterday.

  25. I grew up on casseroles, too, so they will always hold a special place with me. This one sounds good and most importantly…simple!

  26. Dang that looks good! My bf and I are obsessed with Mexi-style dishes, and I think we’d love this! I definitely must try this in the vegan-fied version. I have not had enough casseroles in my life in the last few years. Thanks!

  27. that casserole dish looks really really really good! i wanna make it tonite!! it’s been kinda cold here in the bay so i want something warm and hearty!

    congrats on being feature on a mag! wooho!!

  28. Hi Averie,

    I started reading your blog a while back while looking for a recipe for kale chips, and i loooove your recipe with nooch and i make it often. However i haven’t been keeping up regularly and i have noticed that this recipe is not vegan as well as another recipe that you published a few weeks back, of a dessert, i think a brownie. I was wondering if you have made the choice not to be vegan anymore, and have talked about it in a post that i have missed, or if you’re just publishing the recipes for people who might not be vegan… The reason i’m interested is that I have been vegan for a couple years, but recently started eating cheese again, as well as desserts that have eggs. I have been feeling a bit guilty, but i had been feeling very restricted in my diet and felt like my body needs this right now. Anyway I was just wondering how you felt about it.

    Have a great rest of the weekend!

    1. Hi Sally
      Two fold answer…one is that I am no longer vegan and no, I didnt have a “big post about not being vegan”…I just kind of did it. I dont eat eggs or dairy really on their own, but in recipes, i.e. brownies with eggs or a casserole with cheese/sour cream, yes, I have them. And let’s face it, I am not bellying up to a bowl of this casserole daily. 95% of what I eat IS vegan but the other 5% isn’t and I am totally fine with that. I dont feel “bad” about it. I am happy about it, I love what my current eating path is, and so if you’re feeling restricted in some way, then I say explore options to make you feel less restricted.

      Second part…truthfully, many people want non vegan recipes and so there’s that aspect for readers. But that’s secondary to the first part of my answer.

  29. I was just thinking that I needed something easy (no time today) and warm (it’s cold and rainy out) to make for dinner tonight, and lo and behold, you posted this! Thanks :) I’m headed to the store right now!

    My favorite hot dish is when I have random bits of ingredients that I can throw together and bake. I call it garbage casserole, much to the disgust of my husband, lol.

  30. We weren’t a casserole family, interestingly enough! My mom would just make like four boxes of pasta at once and then heat up a few jars of pasta sauce and tell us to go to town for a few days. Even less planning than casseroles, haha. It’s so funny how different regions call foods different things- I still think it’s so bizarre that people call sandwiches “subs” and not “hoagies!”

  31. This sounds awesome! I’m guessing I can use Greek yogurt to sub for some of the sour cream? I haven’t made any casseroles in a while but I definitely want to whip this up soon!

    1. yes, no problem.
      i posted at the bottom of the recipe some vegan options for the recipe and although I didnt mention yogurt, Im sure it would be fine.

  32. making it with real ingredients really ups the experience of a meal- i find it makes you appreciate the textures, taste, and smells much more, and each bite is truly a delight. The recipe is truly wonderful! im a sucker for anything that has a little corn in it too!! <3


  33. This looks so tasty! I know we would love this and I appreciate recipes where they make enough for leftovers. Leftovers are crucial for survival around here. ;-).
    Thanks! Have fun in Aruba!!

  34. Oh wow, this looks so good! Cheese and cheesy dishes is the one thing I sometimes craves BIG time as a vegan! So happy for you that you are so relaxed about your food choices, sounds like it is the right way for you!

    1. well, Ive moved away from vegan to vegetarian since I cook with dairy…not that I eat that much dairy, despite what this recipe suggests :) But you could use a soy based sour cream/cream cheese like tofutti + almond milk to thin and you’re all set for a vegan casserole.

  35. campbell’s cheesy chicken and rice casserole is definitely a go-to when times running low. I swap out the white with brown rice and add whatever frozen or fresh veggies I have available. I don’t eat the chicken, but it’s nice for my family who does. I’ll just eat the rice and veggies :)

  36. My mom used to make hashbrown casserole… it was the fattiest thing in existance. Some of the ingredients included half a cup of melted butter, hashbrowns, sour cream, whole milk, lots of cheddar cheese and as for the veggie? Well there were a few bits of green onion that my brother and I used to pick out. Needless to say I don’t make it now that I know better! But oh wow is it ever delicious!

    1. another commenter right before you, Emily, just talked about hashbrown casserole!

  37. This looks so great! I can’t wait to make it!

    PS. Are you in Aruba yet? If you are, is it amazing?!

    1. yes we’re here…did you catch my last post before this one? I posted about it :) And yes, its amazing. We have a house here we love it so much!

  38. The casserole looks great, awesome job!

    1. Growing up in the bay area of California, we called them casseroles and my mom had a few regulars she made – my favorite was a creamy tuna spinach one that used cream of mushroom soup.
    2. At the moment no, lentil stews and huge salads seem to be my busy night faves/
    3. Ate way too much avocado mousse at a baby shower. :-)

  39. I used to make the most delicious hash brown casserole. I got the recipe from my friend while I was living in Tennessee. I used to make it for work potlucks and church functions. My friends and family still rave about it. I haven’t tried to veganize it yet.

    1. Im sure you could, easily. Just sub in/out for the likely sour cream/cream cheese with soy-based and if there’s egg in in, flax eggs, etc…it sounds like great comfort food!

  40. My fiancee is from central Minnesota and his favorite comfort food is the hot dish he and his dad used to make. I had no idea hot dish referred to all casseroles!

    1. well every hot dish has a name, like hamburger and rice hotdish, or hot dog and rice hotdish, or tune noodle hotdish..all that can be called “casserole” at the end, but Minnesotans call them hot dishes :)

  41. 1.YES! my grandmother lived in the south, sour cream and mayo were her middle names
    2. my go-to is takes two seconds and i can eat a bucket of it.
    3. the best thing about my weekend was taking some kids(with my own) to boston who had never been + experiencing it through a child’s eyes. and today im off to a pet fest in the park with my fur child. sunday funday:D enjoy!!

  42. This sounds SO good!! I need a sub for the sour cream though… hmmmmmm

    Your pictures are GORGEOUS! Better every day! I hope you give us more tips one day!!

    1. isnt there soybased sour cream?

      or just use tofutti cream cheese, i know that’s soy based. it will work just fine…thin with a little extra water or nut milk if it’s uber thick but you’ll be good to go with that. sort of a failproof recipe, id say.

      thanks for the pic taking compliments. secrets? TAKE TONS!! of pics. play with composition, lighting, props and spend hours doing it. no shortcuts, just practice is what’s worked best for me…and i still learn daily. and shooting this food was HARD. It’s hard to make “comfort food” look pretty and not a big sloppy mess!

  43. This casserole looks delicious…we’ll be adding some sliced avocado to the plate!

    1. i made this in san diego right AFTER i finished all your avo’s but had i had any left, you KNOW i would have added them to this!

  44. That looks SO GOOD!!

    I grw up in an Italian household; our casseroles were only baked zit or lasagna, lol. Never had a tuna casserole or Mexican food until my 20s. I was sheltered, haha. There are still many American foods I have never had in my life…. Like Manwich, spam, green bean casserole, etc. Probably for the best!

    1. manwich…it’s actually vegan! the can of stuff is. i added it to lentils and it was soo good! :) i could eat it with a spoon…very few savory foods do that to me. but i love manwich! haha!

  45. my mom was never really the cassarole type person…she cooked more family style dinners like roasted chicken with a bunch of sides…I do remember that sunday was make your own pizza night! We each had boboli pizzas and we covered them in whatever toppings we could find LOL…she also made a KILLER ziti, but I would say that was the one memorable ‘cassole’ like dish…I think she is not a huge fan of cassaroles, so she just never made them! that one looks DARN good…doesn’t mean I dont like ’em :)

  46. THIS LOOKS SO GOOD! And from now on, in honor of you, I will forever call casseroles ‘hot dishes’! Sometimes nothing satisfies like a piping hot, cheesy, creamy bowl of yummy casserole/hot dish goodness. I was wondering what to make for dinner, now I think I know! Thanks love.

    1. “piping hot, cheesy, creamy bowl of yummy casserole/hot dish goodness”- you got that right. i made this in san diego when it was chilly out. not really aruba food. lol

  47. My mom used to make us tuna noodle casserole (or tuna nuna casserole as my sister and I called it). It was a box of pasta combined with a can of campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and a can of tuna. So simple to make and we loved it, though I’m sure it wouldn’t fly these days!

    1. your mom and mine have the same recipes…can of campbells mushroom was a staple in tons of things!

  48. Congrats on the Women’s Health magazine feature, that’s awesome :D
    That casserole looks really yummy actually. I have to admit I love stuff like that. Before my daughter was born I made a few casseroles and froze them but they were more noodle based. We especially like baked ziti. I don’t have a link but they’re all fairly similar I think.
    My sister in law who’s staying over this weekend and I made strawberry rhubarb crisp and rhubarb cupcakes yesterday with rhubarb from our farmers market :D The crisp was amazing and the cupcakes were really good too. We had so much fun in the kitchen together. I can’t wait to do it again :D

    1. keep the casserole, i want strawberry rhubarb crisp and rhubarb cupcakes! YES!

  49. Oh yes, I used to love Taco Pie casserole back in the day :)

    Went to a REALLY fun party last night!!

  50. You know I grew up eating Hot Dish. I love thinking about potlucks at school where there were a million different ones to choose from!

    I have always loved tater tot hot dish — super unhealthy and loaded with calories but so good. Layered with ground beef, corn, cheese, sour cream, veggies and topped with tater tots.