Looking for ground beef recipe inspiration? Make this easy, kid-friendly nacho casserole

·5 min read

Ground beef is a much loved mealtime staple, and for good reason. It's predictable, customizable, uniquely adaptable to internationally inspired cuisine and can be cooked up in a flash. A fixture on most grocery shopping lists, it’s affordable, readily available (which is important these days) and generally enjoyed by both young and old members of the family.

Once you get ground beef home, it’s easy to turn it into something for any occasion. A chameleon in the kitchen, it boasts an uncanny ability to present itself as a weeknight meal solution, fancy party appetizer or star in hearty grub for game day.

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So why do we often stare down at that package of ground meat with zero inspiration? Or find ourselves making the same dishes over and over?

Meatballs, burgers, and meatloaf are fabulous, but even these well-loved dishes can get tiresome after a while. It’s called a “rut” and I’m here to catapult you out of it.

Lean ground beef is a healthy weeknight cooking hero.
Lean ground beef is a healthy weeknight cooking hero.

Ground beef recipe inspiration

Before we dive into my current favorite ground beef recipe, let's talk about some of the other quick, easy, crowd-pleasing meals you can make on any busy night with just a pound of meat and a handful of pantry ingredients.

Start by thinking globally. Consider a Mexican-inspired dish like beef chili, tacos, enchiladas and burritos. Or Italian dishes like classic Bolognese sauce, Italian wedding soup, baked ziti, lasagna and stuffed shells. East Asian-inspired recipes could include Korean beef bowls, sweet and sour meatballs or spicy ramen. Even South Asian flavors can be added to ground beef for the likes of a curried beef stew made with warming spices. Old school Americana recipes that use ground beef also abound, from patty melts with caramelized onions to individual meatloaves baked in a muffin pan or beefy loaded baked potatoes.

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Get crazy and make your own combinations of the flavors and cuisines your family enjoys most.

The recipe below is an excellent example of how one package of ground beef can be transformed into something truly unique and super easy. This casserole is essentially a commingling of nachos and lasagna made with seasoned ground beef layered with beans, salsa and tortilla chips and topped with sharp cheese.

The family-friendly dish does double duty as both a fast weeknight dinner and an excellent option for weekend movie and game nights.

Nacho beef casserole recipe

This recipe calls for seasoned black beans, which are canned beans in a savory sauce that’s been seasoned with garlic, onion and spices. If desired, you can use any of your favorite canned bean varieties, including chili beans. Seasoned beans in sauce will add flavor, so you don’t need to drain them before using. If you choose to make this recipe with regular canned beans, such as pinto, red, white, navy, kidney or black, be sure to rinse and drain them before using to remove excess starch and salt.

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray

  • 1 pound ground beef, any fat level

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

  • ½ teaspoon onion powder

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • ½ cup salsa of choice

  • ½ cup tomato sauce

  • 15-ounce can seasoned black beans, undrained (see note above)

  • 3 cups crushed tortilla chips, divided

  • 3 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend, divided

  • Optional toppings:

    • Sour cream

    • Avocado

    • Black olives

    • Green onions

    • Fresh cilantro

    • Fresh or pickled hot peppers, such as pepperoncini or jalapeño

Dinner feels like a party with ground beef nacho casserole.
Dinner feels like a party with ground beef nacho casserole.

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 13x9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.

  2. Brown the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat as it cooks. If necessary, drain away any excess fat.

  3. Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper to the beef in the pan and stir to coat. Cook for 1 minute, until the spices are fragrant.

  4. Fold in the salsa and tomato sauce. Fold in the black beans and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes and then remove the pan from the heat.

  5. Spread 1 cup of the chips on the bottom of the prepared pan. Top the chips with half of the beef mixture. Top the beef with another 1 cup of chips and 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese. Repeat layers, using the remaining beef, chips and cheese.

  6. Cover the pan with foil (to prevent sticking, spray the foil with cooking spray) and bake for 15 minutes.

  7. Remove pan from oven, remove the foil and return to oven to bake uncovered for 5 to 7 minutes more or until the cheese melts.

  8. Add desired toppings like sour cream, avocado, black olives and fresh cilantro or offer toppings on the side.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Easy ground beef recipe for nacho casserole is a weeknight winner