This Mexican Tortilla Casserole is a beautifully layered casserole, nearly cake-like—stacked to the heavens with a combination of corn, rice, ground beef, and cheese.
It was a huge hit at our house.
Not only was it delicious but it was also pretty.
Sometimes beautiful food isn’t quite as tasty but let’s be honest cheese makes everything lovely and delicious.
Except for the ground beef, everything in this casserole is pre-cooked or pre-packaged to make assembly fast and easy.
You can make it as easy on yourself or as from-scratch as you want.
We baked this cake-lookin’ beauty on just a cookie sheet with ½-inch sides.
That’s right, no casserole dish or baking dish or pie dish or cake pan needed. And we figured this out by accident.
We thought about putting it into a springform pan, or a different round cake pan lined with parchment but we soon realized we didn’t need to.
We wanted it to be easy to cut to make fabulous “layer-cake” slices.
The layers of beans, beef, cheese, and corn/rice are sturdy.
The cheese tends to weight it all down even more.
It was so good, y’all. But really, how could it not be?
This is nearly every tex-mex ingredient slathered into a gorgeous stack of yum!
In case you were wondering, no, this isn’t diet food. It’s hearty and delicious, like most tex-mex dishes.
It is a ground beef casserole, made with layers of seasoned ground beef, a mixture of corn and rice, and lots of shredded cheddar cheese.
I like to think of it as a gooey, beefy layer cake of tortilla joy—that tastes like delicious enchiladas, burritos and tacos all together!
What are the ingredients?
Don’t be intimidated if you glance at the ingredients list and think that it requires too much. Most of the list is just seasonings.
We like to make our taco seasoning from scratch so that is what you are seeing down below.
But you can buy a packet of taco seasoning from almost any grocery store.
See? Easy peasy.
Ground beef – I cooked this with a lean ground beef, which means that I didn’t need to drain it after cooking.
I prefer this because it just makes the process less messy.
Onion – I recommend either using yellow onion or red onion in this recipe.
White onion will just be a bit too strong but if it is all that you have, just use it.
However, if using white onion, I would recommend using just a little bit less.
Black beans – We just buy a can of black beans, drain them and use them.
White rice – We used pre-cooked white rice in this recipe. It is so handy to have so many different kinds of rice these days.
This is a real time-saver, but you can always cook your own first, or use leftover rice.
Corn – We used canned corn for this recipe but you could also use frozen whole kernel corn.
Just be sure to use whole kernel corn and not creamed corn.
Cheese – We used shredded sharp cheddar cheese in this recipe.
We love Tillamook, personally.
Buy one of those big 2-lb blocks and shred it fresh for the best taste.
You can use whatever kind of cheddar cheese (mild, medium, sharp, white, Mexican) that you want though.
Salsa – We made our own homemade salsa for this recipe but if you are in a hurry, you can just use a jar of salsa from the pantry.
Seasonings – We used a mixture of chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, dried oregano, minced garlic (but you can substitute garlic powder, just use half the amount called for) and salt and pepper.
Flour tortillas – You can buy a package of Mission tortillas or many of the other brands out there. We used Mission 10-in. size.
If you love corn tortillas instead, use the larger ones and layer those in. They get crispier than flour ones after being heated, so keep that in mind when cutting this up—you may not get the same pretty slices at serving.
Equipment you will need for this Mexican “Layer Cake” Tortilla Casserole:
- Baking sheet
- Can opener
- Large 10-in frying pan & spatula
- Conventional oven & stovetop
- A small bowl to mix the corn and leftover cooked rice or Ready Rice
- A colander to drain the corn and beans (and maybe if your beef is a bit fatty)
- A cutting board or safe surface to cut on
- Chef’s knife & stirring spoon
Gluten Free Version
Yes, you could make this Mexican tortilla casserole gluten free.
All that you would need to do is use corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas.
That said, read all of the labels on your packages and canned goods.
Wheat can be sneaky.
Can you make this recipe ahead of time?
You can partially prepare this recipe ahead of time but I wouldn’t stack/layer it until it is time to bake it.
What you can do is cook your ground beef mixture and put together your rice mixture.
Then shred your cheese and keep it in a baggie, but pre-shredded cheese does make things fast and easy.
Be sure to refrigerate your cheese, corn/rice mixture, and cooked ground beef and remove only when you are ready to assemble the layers.
Finally, when you are ready to bake it, you can assemble it and bake it in the oven.
VY-OH-LAY! Dinner is ready in less than an hour.
How to serve Mexican Tortilla Casserole
If you are curious about what to serve with Mexican tortilla casserole, we suggest chips and our Cinco De Mayo trifecta— salsa, queso, and guacamole.
We also topped ours with sour cream, cilantro, and salsa.
You could also serve oven roasted radishes and an arugula salad.
Tips for creating the Mexican Tortilla Casserole:
- Have all of your ingredients out and ready to use before you begin.
- Read through the recipe thoroughly before starting.
- Cheese that you shred yourself tastes much better than pre-shredded, but we love Tillamook cheese and either one makes a great tex-mex casserole.
- Make sure you give your casserole time to rest after taking it out of the oven. The cheese will firm up slightly and make it easier for you to transfer your “cake” to a cutting board for slicing.
The bottom line
I will say that I wanted to name this the Tornado Tortilla Casserole because we made this dish in the middle of a mighty storm.
While it was baking, we were hiding out in the closet while the sirens were blaring.
We worried that the electricity would go off and there’d be no dinner—and no photos!
But we got very lucky.
Food, photos, no storm damage. Win-win.
Let me just say that this was one hard-earned recipe created on a chaotic night.
But when we were done, we ate it with delight and perhaps a touch of exhaustion.
We hope you enjoy this delicious tex-mex casserole as much as we did!
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 c diced onion
- 1 c cooked white rice (we used Ready Rice)
- 1 can of corn
- 4 oz salsa, homemade or store-bought
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1 can black beans
- 1 T water
- 1/2 T chili powder
- 1 t smoked paprika
- 1 t cumin
- 1/2 t dried oregano
- 1/2 t salt
- 1/2 t black pepper
- 3 c cheddar cheese, shredded
- 6 large flour tortillas
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Spray your cooking sheet with cooking spray or oil it lightly.
- Open and drain the cans of beans and corn separately and set aside.
- Dice the onion.
- Brown the ground beef and onion together on medium heat, until beef is no longer pink and onion is translucent. Drain if needed.
- Add beef/onion mixture back to the hot pan if it’s been drained. Return pan to stove.
- Add the minced garlic and cook on medium for one minute while stirring.
- To the hot pan, add the black beans, water, and remaining spices.
- Continue to cook on medium-low for two minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine the pre-cooked (or leftover) rice with the drained can of corn and salsa in a medium bowl. Set aside but have it close by since we are about to start layering the “cake.”
- Place the first tortilla on the greased baking sheet.
- In the center of the tortilla, spoon about a half-cup of the meat and bean mixture, leaving an inch around the outside of the tortilla. Use the back of a spoon to smooth out the mixture evenly so more tortillas and fillings will stack neatly on top.
- Sprinkle cheese on top of that, keeping to the center of the tortilla.
- Cover with another tortilla.
- Layer ¼ cup of corn/rice mix, 1 cup of cheese, and salsa on top of that.
- Cover that layer with a tortilla and repeat layers one and two. Repeat until all the tortillas are gone or the meat and rice fillings are used up.
- Be sure to keep aside the remaining cup or so of cheese.
- Slide the cookie/sheet pan into the oven 350F for 20 minutes.
- Remove and add the remaining shredded cheese.
- Bake for another 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is bubbling.
- Remove from oven and let rest for 3 minutes, then transfer to a cutting board.
- Gently slice using a chef’s knife into “cake” slices. Serve with chips, dip and salad.