Taco Bake

March 16, 2013

Young teenagers can be finicky eaters, so for a recent gathering of my kids’ friends I make Chris Kimball’s Taco Bake.  It’s a hybrid between ground beef tacos and nachos, but I think taste better than either one individually. Of course, steak tacos beat out this recipe in terms of taste. If this recipe in the analogy section of the SAT, it would read “Guacamole is to Seven-Layer Dip, what Nachos are to Taco Bake”. But It was a big hit with the 13-and-14 year old boys, and I thought the recipe was delicious and easy to make. A nice weekday for the kids. 4-stars.

A step up from plain nachos

A step up from plain nachos


  1. If you can’t find Ro-Tel tomatoes, you can substitute a 14-1/2-oz can of regular diced tomatoes and a 4-oz can of chopped green chiles. Of that use 6 tablespoons of tomato juice and 2 tablespoons of chile juice.
  2. Alternatively, you can use 4 ounces of Colby and 4 ounces of Monterrey Jack cheese in lieu of 8 ounces of Colby Jack cheese.
  3. If you would like to make it ahead-of-time, prepare the ground beef filling through step 6 and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover the baking dish using plastic wrap to cover, which will allow you to and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Remove the plastic wrap and resume the menu on Step 7, but increasing the cooking time to 20 minutes.

Rating: 4 stars
Cost: $13
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Started: 5:00 PM.  Ready:  6:00 PM

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here.  The descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

16-oz can refried beans
2 (10-oz) cans Ro-Tel tomatoes
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
8-oz Colby Jack cheese
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion
Salt and ground black pepper
4 medium garlic cloves
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 lbs 90% lean ground beef
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
12 taco shells
2 scallions

  1. Drained Ro-Tel tomatoes and set aside 1/2 cup of juices. Peel garlic cloves. Mince onion. Mince cilantro leaves.
  2. Set an oven rack to the upper-middle of your oven, and pre-heat to 475 degrees.
  3. Line a 13″x9″ baking dish with aluminum foil. Add the refried beans, half the drained tomatoes, minced cilantro, and hot sauce into baking dish and mix until combined, then smooth into an event thickness. Evenly sprinkle half the cheese (1 cup) over the bean mixture.
  4. Preheat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil a 12″ skillet over medium burner until the oil begins to shimmer Add minced onion and 1/2 teaspoon table salt. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the onion softens, then press garlic directly into skillet, and add chili powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano. Saute for 1 minute.
  5. Add ground beef and cook for 6 to 8 minutes until it is no longer pink, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat. Add the remaining tomatoes, the 1/2 cup reserved tomato juice, cider vinegar, and brown sugar.
  6. Bring up to a simmer and continue cooking for 10 minutes until the mixture is nearly dry. Adjust salt and pepper according to your taste.
  7. While the meat cooks, shred cheese and break the taco shells into 1″ pieces. Also slice scallions thinly.
  8. Evenly distribute the beef in the baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup more cheese over beef. Scatter the taco shell pieces over the top, then finally sprinkle with the final 1/2 cup shredded cheese.
  9. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the filling begins to bubble and the top becomes spotted brown. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the sliced scallions before serving.

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