Dinner Freezer Meals Make Ahead - Heat & Serve Recipes

Turkey Taco Bake

taco bake casserole being spooned out of a glass baking dish showing rice, corn, black beans and melted cheese.

Taco Tuesday is loved by all kids, even us grown ones, but it makes a mess and in my honest opinion should be an outside activity. This Turkey Taco Bake recipe solves that dilemma of wanting to eat tacos without the mess. This recipe melds all the great flavors of a taco into a single bite without toppings falling out the back or sauce dripping down your forearm. (Does this not happen to everyone no matter how gracefully you try to eat your taco?) 

This taco bake can feed a crowd, is family friendly, is a one pot dinner and comes together in just a little over 30 minutes. Is there really anything else you could ask for? 

About the Ingredients

Ground Turkey – Feel free to use any type of ground meat you want. This dish has so many other great flavors that turkey compliments unlike beef that might over power some of them. 

Corn – Frozen, canned or sliced off the Cobb fresh, if you’re into extra work.

Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes – These are very common in supermarkets so you should be able to find them easily. They give an additional smoky flavor to the dish. If you want to use regular diced tomatoes though those work too. 

Diced Green Chilies – Find these in the international section of your supermarket. Don’t skip this ingredient! They aren’t too spicy but they pack a ton of flavor. I add them even when I’m serving this taco bake to a group with a lot of kids so don’t be scared of too much heat, there won’t be any.

Black Beans – Don’t forget to rinse them before adding them to your recipe!

Salsa – I use mild salsa here so no one complains (mostly kiddos) about the dish being too spicy. I also tend to use a regular salsa instead of chunky since we already added the diced tomatoes which give the bigger tomato bites. 

Cilantro – This is a love / hate ingredient. Some people love it, others hate it. Just leave it out if it kills the dish for you.

Cooked Rice – I prefer brown rice but white rice is fine too. The recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups cooked rice which is about 1 1/4 cups dry. 

Shredded Cheese – Cheddar or any Mexican cheese blend.

Turkey taco bake mixture waiting in an orange dutch oven to be transferred to a baking dish.

How to Make Turkey Taco Bake

Begin by setting your rice to cook. Then start by sautéing the ground turkey, crumbling it while you cook. When it’s no long pink, season it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder and cumin. 

Add the corn, diced tomatoes, green chilies, rinsed black beans, salsa and heat through, about 5 minutes and turn off the heat. If your pan is big enough, add the cooked rice and half of the cilantro and give it a good stir to combine. If necessary, use a large mixing bowl for this. 

Transfer the turkey and rice mixture to a casserole dish and top it with the cheese. Bake it until hot all the way through and the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 20 minutes. When it comes out of the oven sprinkle on the remaining cilantro and serve with your favorite taco toppings. 

Turkey taco bake topped with melted cheese just baked in a glass dish. Fresh vegetable toppings in the background.

Recipe Substitutions & Variations

Everyone dresses up tacos differently. Think about your favorite toppings and then figure out how to incorporate them! Maybe you love a good guacamole or dollop of sour cream; so serve them on the side. Or if you’re a peppers and onions fajita loving nut, sauté some up, give them a rough chop and add them to the casserole. 

Another great variation of a taco dinner is this Slow Cooker Taco Soup from Mindfully Healthy Living. Being a slow cooker recipe, or there’s instant pot instructions too, this soup is great for busy weeknights too. Just 15 minutes of prep in the morning and dinner will be ready when you are.

Turkey Taco Bake Make Ahead Instructions

To make turkey taco bake ahead of time is simple. Just prepare the casserole as written in the recipe up until topping it with cheese. Let it cool to room temperature then top with the shredded cheese, to prevent the cheese from melting just yet. Cover the casserole and refrigerate it until you’re ready to warm it. When you’re ready to heat it up, cover the casserole with foil and bake at 375°F for 25 minutes then remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until it’s hot all the way through. 

Turkey Taco Bake Freezer Meal

Ground turkey and rice casseroles make for great freezer meals. You can prepare the entire casserole and then just pull it out of the freezer for an easy, no prep dinner when you need one.

To freeze turkey taco bake is simple. Just prepare the casserole as written in the recipe up until topping it with cheese. Let it cool to room temperature then top with the shredded cheese, to prevent the cheese from melting just yet. Cover the casserole with plastic wrap and then foil and freeze for up to 1 month.

When you’re ready to eat your turkey and rice casserole, remove the tray from the freezer the night before and place it in the refrigerator to defrost. About 1 hour before baking, place the casserole on the counter to give it time to warm up a little.

When you’re ready to heat it up, remove the plastic wrap and replace the foil cover then bake at 375°F for 25 minutes. Then remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until it’s hot all the way through. 

Turkey taco bake on a white dish with a side of sliced avocado. Tomatoes, cilantro and a whole avocado are in the background.

FAQ’s & Recipe Tips

Can I make turkey taco bake in advance?

Yes, assemble the entire casserole omitting the cheese on top. Cover it and pop it into the refrigerator. 1 hour before serving pull it out and put it on the counter to start to come to room temperature. About 30 minutes before serving, top the casserole with cheese and warm it in the oven until hot and the cheese is melted. 

Do I have to use ground turkey in a taco bake casserole?

No, you can use any meat your heart desires! Ground meat, shredded chicken, sliced steak, or no meat at all if you’d like to go meatless. I would only avoid seafood. Although shrimp is taco friendly, baking it in a casserole is not a good idea.

Is turkey taco bake healthy?

Made with lean ground turkey and brown rice, this ground turkey taco casserole is a great source of protein, energy and whole grains.

The Recipe for Turkey Taco Bake

This recipe is adapted from a recipe that appeared on LifeIsButADish.com at Turkey Taco Bake. If you test out this recipe be sure to leave a note in the comments below. I’d especially love to hear if you served it to a crowd. Enjoy!

taco bake casserole being spooned out of a glass baking dish showing rice, corn, black beans and melted cheese.

Turkey Taco Bake

This taco bake is flavorful and easy to make – a perfect combination for a busy weeknight dinner. The best part? It has all of the things that kids love about tacos but none of the mess of a taco falling apart in their hands.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • cups brown rice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • pounds ground turkey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 14 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 4 oz can diced green chilies
  • 1 can black beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 12 oz jar your favorite salsa
  • 1 handful cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. 
  • Cook the rice according to the package instructions. 
    1¼ cups brown rice
  • While the rice cook the turkey in a large skillet over medium heat with olive oil. Stir the meat to a crumble as it cooks.
    2 tbsp olive oil, 1½ pounds ground turkey
  • As the turkey nears being completely cooked, add the seasonings from salt through cumin and stir to combine well.
    1 tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp cumin
  • Add the remaining ingredients, excluding the rice and shredded cheese, to the skillet. Mix well and bring everything to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.
    1 cup frozen corn, 1 14 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes, 1 4 oz can diced green chilies, 1 can black beans, 1 12 oz jar your favorite salsa, 1 handful cilantro, 1 tbsp lime juice
  • Stir in the cooked rice. Then transfer the skillet contents to a casserole dish lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Top the casserole with shredded cheese.
    1 cup shredded cheddar
  • Bake the casserole in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with your favorite taco toppings.

Notes

Make ahead instructions: Prepare the casserole as written in the recipe up until topping the casserole with cheese. Let it cool to room temperature then top with shredded cheese, so the cheese doesn’t melt yet. Cover the casserole and refrigerate until ready to warm. When ready to heat, cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 25 minutes then remove the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes or until hot all the way through. 
 
*Recipe adapted from https://www.lifeisbutadish.com/turkey-taco-bake/
Keyword casserole, taco

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