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Twice Baked Crispy Cheesy Taco Rice Casserole with Cilantro Lime Ranch. Homemade hard-shell tacos seasoned with a chipotle chile spice mix, stuffed into hard shells, topped with cheese, and oven-baked. Once baked, stuff each cheesy taco into a skillet full of green chili rice. Top the dish with cheese, then bake again to create the perfect cheesy skillet-crisp taco and rice casserole. Top with creamy cilantro lime ranch sauce. SO YUMMY!

Twice Baked Crispy Cheesy Taco Rice Casserole | halfbakedharvest.com

There’s just something about this back to school, early fall time, and knowing that the holidays are coming up. To me, there’s something so appealing about a casserole in the fall and early winter months. They’re just cozy and comforting.

It’s no secret that my family adores a crispy cheesy taco. So I combined my love for casseroles and our love for tacos into one simple, but so delicious, taco rice bake.

I’m actually a little sad because I created this recipe with Creighton in mind. Since he’s still in Portugal, he hasn’t had a chance to taste this just yet. But I know he will LOVE this dish.

It’s pretty straightforward. I took my go-to crispy taco recipe and I wiggled each cheesy hard shell taco into a skillet of green chile rice.

I then added extra cheese on top and put it into the oven to finish baking.

If you love a cheesy taco, this casserole is for you. I’m so excited to share this recipe, I just know it will become a weeknight staple!

Twice Baked Crispy Cheesy Taco Rice Casserole | halfbakedharvest.com

OK, here are the details.

Step 1: make the tacos

This is my go-to taco recipe. I love to use ground beef, but chicken or ground pork work just as well. Cook the meat with an onion then add a couple of big spoonfuls of taco seasoning and simmer the meat.

For my homemade seasoning, I mix chipotle chile powder, chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and salt.

When the meat has cooked, stuff the meat along with a small amount of cheese into the hard-shell tacos. Then bake until crispy.

Alternatively, instead of using store-bought shells, you can follow my homemade recipe here.

I like to take corn tortillas, stuff them with taco meat and cheese, then oven-bake them until the tortillas are crispy. Then I rub each tortilla with olive oil and flip them halfway through cooking. This is key to getting the tacos extra crispy on both sides.

If you have a couple of extra minutes, I would highly recommend making your own “shells”. They’re very, very good and healthier than store-bought too!

Step 2: make the rice

Now, get cooking on the rice. You can make this in the very same skillet you used for the meat. Just be sure the skillet is oven-safe so that it can go directly from the stove into the oven.

Add a small amount of butter to the skillet, then mix in dry rice and a poblano pepper. Let the rice toast in the butter, then simply add water and salsa verde. Allow the rice to cook while the tacos are in the oven.

Twice Baked Crispy Cheesy Taco Rice Casserole | halfbakedharvest.com

Step 3: assemble

When the tacos are ready and the rice is cooked, take the tacos and wiggle them into the rice. Finish the casserole with cheese.

Next, bake the whole pan up in the oven. It’s going to smell so delicious!

Twice Baked Crispy Cheesy Taco Rice Casserole | halfbakedharvest.com

Step 4: homemade cilantro ranch

Most tacos are topped with sour cream, but trust me, this cilantro lime ranch is so much better.

I use fresh cilantro and plenty of lime in place of the usual herb mix. I also stir in some pickled jalapeños for a spicy, tangy kick. This is the perfect sauce to dollop onto this cheesy crunchy taco casserole.

3 in 1 dish – saucy, crispy, and spicy.

The perfect game-day style meal, but also really great for a fun dinner with friends or family!

Twice Baked Crispy Cheesy Taco Rice Casserole | halfbakedharvest.com

Looking for other easy casseroles? Here are my favorites: 

One Pan Lemon Pepper Yogurt Chicken and Rice

One Skillet Louisiana Style Chicken and Rice

Broccoli Cheddar Chicken and Rice Casserole

Cheesy Zucchini Chicken and Rice Bake

Slow Cooker Herbed Chicken and Rice Pilaf

Easy Skillet Cheesy Green Chile Enchilada Bake

One Pan Chipotle Honey Chicken and Rice

Lastly, if you make this Twice Baked Crispy Cheesy Taco Rice Casserole, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Twice Baked Crispy Cheesy Taco Rice Casserole

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories Per Serving: 472 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

Ingredients

CILANTRO LIME RANCH

Instructions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
    2. In a large oven-safe skillet, cook the meat and onion, breaking up the meat as it cooks, until the meat is browned, about 5 minutes. Add the taco seasoning and 3/4 cup water. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce has thickened slightly around the meat, 5 minutes. Then remove 3/4 of the meat from the skillet to a plate and set aside.
    3. To the skillet, add the butter, rice, and poblano. Cook until the rice is toasted, then mix in 1 3/4 cups water and the salsa verde. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
    4. Meanwhile, line the taco shells up in a baking dish. Divide the meat among each shell and top with half the cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted.
    5. Wiggly the baked tacos into the rice in the skillet. Top with the remaining cheese. Transfer to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.
    6. Meanwhile, make the ranch. Combine all ingredients in a glass jar and shake or stir until creamy. 
    7. Serve the hot casserole topped with cilantro, avocado, and ranch. Enjoy!

Notes

For Easy Homemade Hard Shells: Warm 8 corn tortillas for 30 seconds to 1 minute in the microwave, until pliable. On a baking sheet, rub the tortillas with olive oil. Lay each tortilla flat and then layer evenly with cheese and taco meat. Fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling, gently pushing to adhere (see above photo). Transfer to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then flip and cook another 5 minutes more, or until the tortillas are crisp. 
Chipotle Taco Seasoning: Mix 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. 
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  1. 5 stars
    Love love LOVE this! I followed the recipe exactly and ended up with the most delicious and cozy taco meal! It was simple and with those nice taco flavors, yet a bit different! We added on some sour cream, ranch, and avacado slices, and it was delicious. Definitely adding this to my meal rotation!

    1. Hi Adelaide,
      I appreciate you trying this recipe and sharing your feedback, so glad to hear that it was enjoyed! xT

  2. 5 stars
    Made this with ease, and it was a hit from my 10yo to the foodies in our family. Daughter asked if we could have it every night😃 Thanks for a great casserole♡

  3. 5 stars
    Made this last night, did not have a microwave to warm up the tortillas and they all broke but it was still amazingly delicious! Easy enough and the cilantro lime ranch dip was delicious too. Will definitely be making this again!

  4. 5 stars
    Made this last night! Another big hit! Loved the rice with poblano peppers & salsa verde! Baking it in the oven for the last 10 minutes made it perfect! Cheesy and crunchy! 😋 thank you for another tasty recipe!

  5. I was skeptical reading through the recipe but will definitely add this to our rotation! will cut back on the heat, maybe less pickled jalapeños in ranch? That way my kiddos can enjoy too 🙂

    1. Hey Emily,
      Happy Monday!! Love to hear that this recipe turned out well for you, thanks for trying and your feedback! xT

  6. Can I make this the night before and then bake it for dinner the next day or would the tacos get to soggy? Thinking about sending this for a meal train!

    1. Hi Kimberly,
      I think you could make up until the second bake in step 5 and then give instructions for baking! I hope this helps! xx

  7. 5 stars
    Made this for the second time tonight! It’s so unbelievably good. Highly recommend making your own hard shells. The poblano pepper in the rice is also a must! And the ranch! 10/10 recipe as always. Tieghan taught me how to cook! So grateful for these recipes 🙂

  8. Followed the recipe exactly and it was so yummy even my picky eaters loved it. Super easy family meal and satisfied my taco Tuesday craving. I kept going back for more of the ranch 😡

  9. 4 stars
    Great family meal. Easy to plate from a single source. Tweaked the cilantro lime ranch as I didn’t have any fresh cilantro – dried works but definitely not the same as fresh. for the meat, I quickly heated a morita pepper and removed it from the heat. I added the onions and while they started to soften, I chopped the pepper and added it to the onions. This definitely opened a smokier flavour profile.
    Only thing I want to keep working on is the rice. It was very good but lacked the “wing man” punch to the tacos.
    Will make this again

  10. 4 stars
    I made a mistake and forgot to take out ¾ of the meat before adding the rice. I turned them into regular tacos. It was really good. The cilantro-lime ranch is very tasty and bright.

  11. 3 stars
    I really really wanted to love this – and it smells great. But the rice was really lacking in flavor and just threw off the whole thing. The cheesy taco part was good – but like I said – the rice just threw it all for us this time. Keep the ideas coming though.

      1. I made this recipe and everyone loved it have to double up on the sour cream topping everyone was scrapping for it. I made Mexican rice and not Spanish made a world of difference. Can’t beat Mexican rice it’s the real deal. Look up the recipe. I have to try the enchiladas next. Can’t wait. I know they have to be outstanding.

      2. I had the same problem. I re read the recipe like 5 times thinking I missed something because EVERY recipe I make of yours is 10/10. I added more verde to the finished dish which helped alot but I could’ve even added verde to the rice before the final bake and it would’ve been been fabulous!

        Thanks for all your amazing recipes Tieghan! Literally you have given me so many cooking skills it’s wild.

        1. Thanks so much for sharing your feedback Morgan! So glad to hear that you enjoyed this dish and I appreciate your kind message:) xx