Tex-Mex Lasagna

Tex-Mex “Lasagna” (also known as “Mexican Casserole” or “Mexican Lasagna”) is called such because like the Italian lasagna we know and love, the Tex-Mex version is a baked casserole dish comprised of layers. Only in true Tex-Mex fashion, we are using corn tortillas in place of lasagna noodles, salsa instead of sauce, beans in place of béchamel, and mild cheddar and jack instead of ricotta and Parmesan. As you can imagine, it is a filling dish with all the makings of enchiladas, tacos, and tostadas in one place. Perfect with guacamole and sour cream. Great for potlucks and large gatherings of hungry people.

Tex-Mex Lasagna Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 lbs ground turkey or ground beef
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • Salt
  • 1 14-oz can pinto beans, rinsed in cold water and drained (or you can cook your own pinto beans from scratch)
  • 2 teaspoons bacon fat (can substitute olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Salt
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, preferably Muir Glen "Fire Roasted"
  • 1 7-oz can diced green Anaheim chiles
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 8 oz)
  • 2 cups coarsely grated mild cheddar cheese (about 8 oz)

Extras

  • Sour cream
  • Avocado
  • Cilantro
  • Iceberg lettuce

Method

1 Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large cast iron frying pan on medium high heat. Add the ground meat, breaking it up as you add it. Sprinkle with salt. Sprinkle on the chile powder, cayenne, cumin, and coriander. Increase the heat to high. Add another 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Do not stir the meat unnecessarily. Allow it to brown on one side, and then stir it so the other side can be browned. As soon as the meat is browned, remove the pan from the burner. The meat will continue to cook in the heat of the cast iron pan. Once you are sure that the meat is cooked through, use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pan to a bowl. Set aside.

2 While the meat is cooking, heat bacon fat in another frying pan on medium high. Add the rinsed, drained cooked pinto beans to the pan. Mash gently with a potato masher (careful if you are using a stick-free pan not to scratch the surface of the pan). Stir in enough water so that the beans are easily thinly spreadable, about a half a cup. Salt to taste. Remove from heat and set aside. Note you could skip this step by using canned refried beans than have been thinned with water. We have found that the canned refried beans do not taste as good as rinsed canned whole beans that have been refried on the stovetop. Best is to make the beans from scratch but not everyone has time for that.

3 Once the meat is done cooking, and has been removed from the pan in step 1, add another Tbsp of olive oil to the pan and heat to medium. Add the onions and chopped bell peppers, cook until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for an additional 1 minute. Add the diced tomatoes, green chilies and oregano. Bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes while you prepare the tortillas.

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4 In a 9-inch skillet, heat 1/2 cup olive oil on medium high heat until it is sizzling hot, but not smoking. Cook the tortillas one at a time, for 5 seconds on each side, so that they soften, but don't get crisp. Remove with tongs and place on a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

5 Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly oil a 13x9x3-inch glass or ceramic baking dish.

6 In baking dish arrange 4 tortillas in one layer, overlapping slightly (tortillas will not cover bottom completely). Spread half of bean mixture evenly over tortillas in dish and top with half of meat mixture. Sprinkle one third cheese over the meat and spread half of the sauce over the cheese.

Repeat layering of tortillas, beans, meat, cheese, and sauce and top with remaining 4 tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese over tortillas. Bake casserole on the middle rack in the oven for 35 minutes, until the casserole is heated through and the cheese is completely melted and bubbling. Let the casserole stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Serves 8. Serve with sour cream, chopped avocado, chopped cilantro, and thinly sliced iceberg lettuce on which has been sprinkled vinegar and salt.

29 Comments

  1. CJ McD

    Elise, this is a family favorite! Thanks for the post. We call it enchilada lasagne, because I make it with enchilada sauce instead of salsa and have the beans on the side.

    Now I’m going to have to make a big pan, then kick back and watch the superbowl.

    …wow, you’ve really been an inspiration this past week with all the Tex-Mex recipes. Thank you!

  2. Sondra

    This is an incredible dish…I actually make mine with shredded chicken instead of ground beef/turkey and omit frying the tortillas(makes up for the extra cheese I use). I also add some sliced jalapenos as my husband likes his food nice and spicy! Thanks for the recipes and try to stay warm!

  3. Lisa (Homesick Texan)

    I love to make this, it’s so easy and and delicious. It tastes even better the next day (I’ve been known to eat it cold for breakfast). And there are endless variations as well–different salsas, fillings, etc. I never had a name for it, but I think Tex-Mex lasagna sums it up perfectly.

  4. sg

    Some folks thought I was a little wacky when I told them I make a dish called “enchilasagna”! I’ll definitely have to give your version a try – looks fablous.

  5. ha3rvey

    Awesome… I’ve made a vegetarian version of this casserole? many times. I can see I need to increase the amount of cheese I use. :)

  6. Marc

    Tortilla casserole is a great thing — variations without end, it freezes reasonably well, and tastes great. In fact, I’m making a tortilla casserole tomorrow night (chipotle tomato sauce, steamed greens, Monterey Jack cheese, and one other filling TBD).

    Here’s how I pre-treat the tortillas if you don’t want to have the mess and annoyance of frying: preheat the oven to 300 F, brush each side of a tortilla with oil, and make stacks of three or four tortillas on a cookie sheet. The cookie sheet goes into the oven for about 10-15 minutes.

    Or, don’t do anything to the tortillas, and they will disintegrate and make a “tortilla-vegetable pudding.”

  7. Barb

    This is one of my favorites too. For a vegetarian version I saute diced sweet potatoes in the seasonings. I also like mushrooms in it.

  8. Diane

    This tastes better if you use enchilada sauce instead of salsa. Also, there is no need to soften tortillas as you will not be working with them like you would if you were making rolled enchiladas or tacos. I just tear the tortillas into pieces since they soak up all the sauce and become soft. This makes the preparation time really quick! I usually make them without any meat at all or if I use meat, it is always chicken. Another good addition is green olives

  9. Elise

    The great thing about this dish is that you can tailor it to exactly what you want – more or less or beans, different types of sauce, choice of turkey, beef, or chicken, Anaheims or jalapeños. Thanks everyone, for your comments!

    Diane – I must disagree about the softening of the tortillas. Unless you completely smother the top of the casserole with cheese, the exposed tortillas will dry out too much in the oven. Also, the flavor of the corn tortillas benefit greatly from being re-cooked with some oil. It makes a huge difference.

    Regarding enchilada sauce or salsa, the sauce recipe I give here is very similar to the sauce we use when we make our enchiladas. It is essentially cooked salsa. If by “enchilada sauce” you are referring to canned sauce, I think that’s basically a red-chili sauce, not tomato based. I could see how using this sauce would also be quite delicious.

  10. MaryLou

    Oh my, that was a great recipe.My husband loves mexican food and he loved this one.He kept asking me if dinner was ready cause he could smell it cooking. It’s a keeper. I can see i’ll be making this alot.
    Thanks so much for an awesome meal.

  11. Amy

    Mmm, made this last night and both my husband and I loved it! I couldn’t find regular corn tortillas in our area, so I tried using Charras “as-is”, which worked pretty well. I also substituted the chilis in the recipe for some homegrown banana and jalapeno peppers I’d pickled last summer. This recipe also made me discover how easy it is to make your own refried beans. Cheaper, too!

  12. James W

    I cooked this last night. If you’re a fan of Mexican food then you’ll love this. It’s simple, unpretentious and tasty. Excellent stuff.

  13. SUSAN VAN DER LINDE

    I said I would never cook again if this recipe didn’t turn out. Well I’m still cooking. It was fantastic! Had company for dinner; it was a big hit.

  14. Pat in Washington

    I do a LOT of cooking and not always as successful as this. :) My husband says Tex-Mex Lasagna is definitely a ‘keeper’. Thanks so much for the recipe.

  15. Penny

    This is definitely something I plan to try. I made enchiladas for the first time some weeks ago, and they were delicious but I love the idea of not having to roll each one up.

    The one thing I might add is that with some advanced notice but not too much more effort, you can subsitute delicious shredded beef. Browning(a nice dark scald), then crock potting a hunk of chuck roast in a couple of cups of broth, 3 or 4 TBSP cider vinegar and your preferred seasonings for a few hours makes the most satisfying, tender, tasty shredded beef. I use the broth to deglaze the skillet after browning to gather the good bits. Then all of it goes into the crock. Also, after the meat is falling apart, I add a litle cornstarch to the remaining juices so that it becomes a sauce that clings to the meat better. I can’t waste all that flavory goodness! I haven’t actually bought ground beef in months because every time I plan to make a recipe calling for ground beef, I end up choosing a chuck roast instead. It takes tacos, enchiladas, and even chili to a different level. Saves well in the freezer too, if you want to plan for less fuss with the next meal.

    Having visited your website many times (so good!), I already have a plan. I think I’ll make this along with your recipe for spanish rice. Gee, I guess I’ve been very much in the mood for Mexican food lately.

  16. Kasha

    Hey, I am new to this site..But

    my mom makes the same recipes but uses tortilla chips instead. It doesn’t come out soggy and it saves her a step w/ the frying (I double checked with her).

    This is delicious though…Love this website…No more food network searching

  17. Mar

    Here in Detroit, in Mexicantown they serve a similar dish called a “Mexican Sandwich”. It’s a huge flour tortilla with a layer of beans, then another tortilla and rice, one more tortilla and then stewed beef chunks in sauce smothered with cheese.

    When I make my own version at home, I cook it in a casserole dish in a sort of lasanga way. And for the beef, I use stew meat and cook it in 1 can of enchilada sauce and 1 can of beer, covered, until so tender it flakes apart.

  18. steph (whisk/spoon)

    Wanted to tell you that I made this last night (just polished off the leftovers for dinner tonight)–it’s super flavorful and delicious! I totally forgot to buy ground turkey at the store, so I adapted it for a veggie version…put the spices into the sauce instead, and scattered on some canned chickpeas in place of the meat. So satisfying!

  19. Becky

    This is definitely a hit with everyone. Don’t let the lengthy recipe fool you, this becomes easier and is less time consuming each time you make it. I substitute a can of Spicy Fat-Free Refried Beans for the pintos and use a package of taco seasoning in place of the spices. That alone shaves some time off of making this dish.

    Great recipe, thanks!

  20. Ginger

    Could this be prepared a day ahead and placed in the refigerator, and then baked the next day? How long do you think it would need to bake? Thanks for the recipe!

    That would be easy enough to do. Just bake it until it is heated through and the cheese is melted. ~Elise

  21. Jill

    This was very good! In addition to the fresh garlic, I did add 1 tsp garlic powder. Also added fresh cilantro about 2 TBS chopped. Will make again and try it with shredded chicken or pork…thanks for sharing your recipe!!!

  22. Carol

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am gluten free and have been missing lasagna for a while now. I love enchiladas, too, but admit to only making them once a year or so – too labour intensive! This combines the best qualities of both. And if I assemble it at home, and take it to my sister’s, I can sneak it past my “I hate beans in anything” nephew – he’ll eat refritos if he didn’t see them go in the dish. Thanks again!

  23. Liane

    I doubled the recipe for this and layered it in my 14×16 roasting pan to feed a hungry group of 16. So fun to fill that thing with deliciousness! I loved my mom’s enchilada casserole growing up but she used things like tomato paste, taco seasoning from a pouch, other things like that. I was so astounded that the spice mixture was reminiscent of those taco pouches, but sooo much better. That spice mix is a keeper! I didn’t have time to fry the tortillas but if I make this recipe again, I will try that if I can squeeze it in. Also used shredded cooked chicken (from your beer can recipe!) and added some corn. This is a great recipe for good, solid comfort food that tastes fresh. Love it!

  24. Heather

    Two questions: Can you use flour tortillas with this, or do they have to be corn (I ask cause flour are what’s in the fridge). Also, how is the spice of the peppers? Is there a milder substitute or should I just leave them out?

    You could try it with flour tortillas. I’ve only made it with corn tortillas as directed. Regarding the peppers, Anaheim green chiles are fairly mild. They’re important for the flavor of the dish, so I wouldn’t leave them out entirely, but you should taste them and cut back the amount to a spice level you feel comfortable with. They’re not nearly as hot as a jalapeno. ~Elise

  25. Priscilla

    Excellent dish! I just did a couple things different. I used bison instead of beef. I added black beans with the pintos, used salsa instead of the tomatos (all out), and added some frozen corn. I love the spices! I’ve never used coriander before. I usually just skip over it in recipes. So I was hesitant to use a whole tablespoon but it was excellent. My husband stuffed himself at dinner tonight!lol! My girls liked it too. Thank you for the great recipe!

  26. cristina robison

    Another delicious casserole. It came out very good and the older kiddoes enjoyed it. If they like enchiladas they’ll enjoy this. I used ground turkey.

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