The lunchroom classic, all grown up in casserole form! This is a (very quick + easy!) taco-flavored beef and bean chili, topped with Fritos and cheese and broiled until crisp and melty. Top with your favorite taco accoutrements.
This can be fully ready and on the table in 30 minutes, and is totally customizable. A win all around!
The middle school cafeteria is no one's favorite place, but one thing that place got right was the walking taco.
If you have no memory of this (or if you've repressed them all!), let me tell you: A walking taco is where you take a single serving size bag of Fritos, ladle in a taco-flavored beef and bean chili, then top with whatever taco toppings you like. You eat it right out of the bag with a spoon. Thus, a walking taco.
It was the culinary peak of the school lunch experience. People went NUTS for that stuff. Which makes complete sense because what, I ask you, is more delicious than Fritos + taco chili + toppings???
Here it is, glammed up (can I say this?) in casserole form! It's fast, it's easy, it's everything you loved about the lunchroom version, without all the awkward preteen undertones!
This is a ridiculously fast dinner to make. A rare meal that can be fully ready, and on the table, in 30 minutes!
Basically you are making nachos with Fritos and there happens to be delicious chili underneath.
Plus, you can make it all in one skillet (I use my 10-inch cast iron) which makes for virtually no clean up.
Storage + Making Ahead
But! You can also make this ahead. Get the chili prepped and then refrigerate (or freeze) until ready to use.
A good layer of cheese is essential to make kind of a barrier between the Fritos and the chili. The Fritos WILL soak up some of the liquid and lose some of their crunch as they sit, especially if you don't eat it immediately, or if you have leftovers. They are still delicious! I like to serve it with some fresh Fritos for people to add more if they want!
Any taco toppings are fair game here! I love this LOADED with toppings, but do as many or as few as you want. It works either way!
Here are some topping ideas:
- Diced tomato
- Minced onion
- Sliced green onion
- Diced jalapeno
- Shredded lettuce
- Sour cream
- More cheese
- More Fritos (a must!)
A great many things can be substituted in this recipe! It's so versatile, so flexible, so BREEZY.
- The ground beef - Though I've not tried it, I'm sure ground turkey would work well here! (It would be similar to this turkey skillet.)
- The taco seasoning - If you make your own, 6 tablespoons is how much you'll need to use.
- The beans - Use what you like or have! As long as it's the same amount as is listed in the recipe, you can substitute black beans, etc. IF you use chili beans, reduce the taco seasoning by half.
- The Fritos - Most definitely you can use an off-brand.
Walking Taco Casserole
- 1 pound ground beef (80% lean)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 (1-ounce) packets taco seasoning
- 1 (29-ounce) can pinto beans (no need to rinse or drain)
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese
- 2 cups Fritos, plus additional for serving
- For topping: diced green/red onion, tomato, shredded lettuce, more cheese, jalapeno, cilantro, sour cream, guacamole
- Heat an oven-save skilet over medium. Add the ground beef, onion, and taco seasoning and cook, breaking up the meat as you go, 5-7 minutes, until the beef is no longer pink and the onions are soft. Add the beans and tomato sauce and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low to maintain a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.Preheat the broiler. Top the beef + beans with 1 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese, then the Fritos, then the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes, until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Top with your desired toppings and serve immediately, with additional toppings on the side.