When money is tight and you need to cut your grocery budget, don’t panic. You can feed your family a nutritious and delicious dinner without spending a lot of money. The solution is a casserole!
Casseroles are simple to make using nearly any recipe, simply by adapting the ingredients. You don’t necessarily have to go out and buy more groceries – check your pantry first!
For example, if you don’t have everything to make authentic tamales, you can make a tamale casserole instead. Or, with a casserole baking dish, a pound of ground hamburger meat, and a few budget-friendly ingredients, you can whip up a tasty enchilada casserole!
Beef enchilada casserole
This Tex Mex bake has all the flavors of classic beef enchiladas, but it’s simpler and less expensive to make. By layering enchiladas instead of rolling them, the meal prep is quicker, too.
Plus, there’s the bonus of being able to serve it in any portion size you want. Not everyone is a big eater, am I right? Less food waste means more money in your wallet.
Ingredient notes and substitutions
- Ground beef
To prevent the ground beef enchilada casserole from being overly greasy, I typically use ground meat with no more than 15% fat. However, beef is very expensive right now, so using an 80/20 blend is fine. Just be sure to drain the excess grease.
Substitutions: My enchilada casserole is beef, but use any ground meat you have on hand; chicken, turkey, pork, etc.
- Produce and dairy
Veggies – This recipe calls for diced onion and garlic, but don’t feel limited by my choices.
Need to use up the fresh veggies in your fridge? Go ahead and add anything you’d like to your casserole.
Maybe you want some color- add diced bell peppers, or some cooked corn from last night’s dinner. Even non-traditional enchilada ingredients like carrots would work. Just dice them up in small pieces or thin slices so they cook quickly.
Cheese – Tex Mex casseroles typically include shredded cheddar or pepper jack cheese, but any good melting cheese works just fine. For a more traditional Mexican flavor, use shredded Oaxaca or Chihuahua; both are great melting cheeses.
- Pantry staples
I include canned black beans for a bit of extra protein and fiber, and black olives because they’re my favorite. For flavor, in addition to cayenne powder, I include a can of diced green chiles.
Condensed cheese soup– I’m not a huge fan of condensed soups, but I didn’t have what I needed to make a cheese sauce from scratch. Besides, I wanted to make beef enchilada casserole QUICK and EASY to make.
Tortillas – Either white or yellow corn tortillas are best for this beef enchilada casserole. Flour tortillas tend to cause the casserole to be soggy.
Enchilada sauce– When I make traditional beef enchiladas, I use an authentic enchilada sauce, but it takes a bit longer to make. For this recipe, I use a quick version of red enchilada sauce. Either homemade or your favorite brand of canned sauce is fine.
For a milder beef enchilada casserole, substitute chili seasoning for the cayenne. To make it spicier, you could include slices of fresh jalapeno.
Feel free to substitute green enchilada sauce for the red if you prefer it.
Tips for making the enchilada casserole
- Shred your own cheese for the best meltability. Bags of shredded cheese are less expensive, but they don’t melt as well as fresh cheese. Also, pre-shredded cheese (coated in potato starch) often separates when it’s reheated. This is no bueno when it comes to leftovers.
- Remember to preheat your oven. Otherwise, the layered enchiladas will take quite a bit longer to bake.
- To prevent food from sticking, grease the inside bottom and sides of your casserole pan with nonstick cooking spray or cooking oil.
- If you have to use ground meat with a high percentage of fat, be sure to drain it well to prevent the enchilada casserole from being too greasy.
- Cover the pan with foil to prevent the cheese from burning. If you like melted cheese with crispy bits on the edges, just remove the foil during the final 10 minutes of baking.
Other simple Tex Mex dinners
For dinners with similar flavors to this casserole, check out my recipes for taco pie and walking taco casserole (Frito chili pie). If you’re looking for other easy Tex Mex dinner ideas, reader favorites include Tex Mex chicken spaghetti and Tex Mex chicken corn soup.
This post, first published on Kevin is Cooking July 26, 2019, was last updated with new content on Dec. 20, 2021.
Beef Enchilada Casserole
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 tsp cayenne powder (use more for more heat, optional)
- 4 oz diced green chiles
- 15.5 oz black beans drained
- 10.5 oz condensed cheddar cheese soup (See Note 1)
- 10 oz red enchilada sauce
- 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
- 2.25 oz sliced black olives drained, divided
- 8 oz sharp cheddar cheese shredded and divided
- 4 oz pepper jack cheese shredded and divided
- 12 (6 inch) corn tortillas torn into 1 inch pieces
- Shred the cheeses, set aside. Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the ground beef for several minutes. Add the onion, garlic, cayenne and green chiles, stirring until beef breaks down and is no longer pink. Season to taste with salt and drain fat.
- Place beef mixture in a large bowl. Add the black beans, cheese soup, enchilada sauce, sour cream, half of the olives and cheese and tortilla pieces. Toss to coat and mix thoroughly.
- Pour mixture into a lightly greased 11×7″ baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses and olive slices.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove aluminum foil and cook another 5 minutes, top should be bubbling and cooked around edges. Serve immediately.
- You can substitute cream of onion, cream of mushroom, or fiesta nacho cheese soup for condensed cheddar cheese soup.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.