Walking Taco Casserole is incredibly easy to make and a long-time family favorite. It features cooked ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning, a bit of cream cheese, and salsa. This flavorful beef mixture is then topped with plenty of shredded Mexican blend cheese, and Frito corn chips provide their signature crunch.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the ground beef. Break the meat into large pieces using a potato masher or fork. Let it brown for several minutes, and do not stir it. Once the meat cooks for a few minutes and starts to brown on one side, break it up into smaller pieces and continue cooking it until more of it has browned. Stir once more and break up any remaining larger pieces. Continue cooking until all of the meat has browned. This should take about six to eight minutes total. Remove the skillet from the heat and drain any grease.
Put the skillet back on the burner and add the taco seasoning and 2/3 cup of water. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for three to four minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed.
Add the salsa and cream cheese and stir to combine. Continue stirring until the cream cheese has melted.
Spray an 11" x 8.5' oven-safe baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Pour in the meat mixture and spread it out evenly.
Add one cup of the shredded cheese, then top that with the Fritos and spread them out evenly. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese evenly over the top and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling and the cheese has melted.
Remove the casserole from the oven and top with lettuce and tomatoes. Add additional toppings if desired and serve immediately while it's still hot.
This recipe is really more of a guide than something you have to follow to the letter. Feel free to add more or less cheese, Fritos, lettuce, or tomatoes and customize it any way you like.You can also substitute your favorite corn chips or tortilla chips for the Fritos and as I've said above, add as much or as little of the optional toppings as you like.I have also made this dish without adding the cream cheese and salsa to the taco meat, and it was still delicious.You can make the taco meat mixture ahead and store it covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. Take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before baking it to allow it to come to room temperature. Before you are ready to serve it, add the cheese and Fritos and bake and garnish as directed.This casserole is best served and eaten right after it is made. Because it's topped with fresh lettuce and tomatoes, it does not heat up well after being refrigerated. Even if you remove the lettuce and tomatoes first, the Fritos won't have any crunch.You can substitute ground chuck or ground chicken, pork, or turkey for ground beef.When cooking ground beef, once you break it up, let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes so it will brown properly before stirring it. If you stir it the entire time you are cooking it, it will steam and not be as flavorful as if you let the pieces get brown and crispy.If your family likes onions, feel free to add a handful of chopped onions to the beef when you are browning it.Mexican Blend cheese generally comes pre-shredded and contains a nice mix of Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Asadero, and Queso Quesadilla cheeses. You can substitute any of these cheeses for the blend.