Paleo Tex-Mex Casserole


Earlier this month on Facebook we all had a little chat about casseroles. They’re kinda tricky with Paleo since so many traditional recipes call for things like cream-of-whatever soups, cheeses, boxed stuffings or basically stuff that we don’t really eat anymore.  But my family likes them a lot so I’ve had to be creative in this department.  My Skillet Chicken Divan certainly was a winner, but it’s been a while since I’ve revisited this topic.

Happily Paleo Tex-Mex Casserole can now be added to my short, but proud, list of Paleo casseroles and one-dish meals that are family approved! This is LOADED with vegetables — like so many I actually thought that I might have missed the mark while I was prepping it.  But once everything has a chance to spend a little Q.T. in the oven together, it works perfectly!

1 – 1.5 pounds grass-fed ground beef
2 cups spinach
2-3 carrots, diced (about a cup)
1 parsnip, diced (about a cup and a half)
1 zucchini, diced (6″ zucchini/one cup)
2 cups diced bell peppers
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
14.5 oz can organic diced tomatoes
3 TBSP preferred Paleo-friendly fat (I used bacon grease)
1/3 cup taco seasoning (or make your own)
1/2 tsp sea salt
5 cups shredded sweet potatoes
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Optional garnish: fresh cilantro, sliced scallions, avocado and hot sauce

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees (Fahrenheit).

Chop, dice and mince all the veggies and garlic. Notice that the volume of veggies to meat in the recipe is astoundingly in favor of the vegetables!

Melt half of your fat of choice in a very large skillet or heavy-bottomed pan and add in all the veggies. Season with that 1/2 tsp of sea salt, toss together and cook these down until they are just about fork tender. Remove from the pan and set aside for later.

In the same pan, add in the other half of your fat and get it up to temp.  Crumble in the ground beef, top with taco seasoning (purchased or your own blend, whatever you are comfortable with), mix and brown.

While the ground beef browns, break out your grater. Now, grating is my all-time LEAST favorite chore in the kitchen, so this girl goes right to her Cuisinart food processor and shredder disk attachment.  Peel enough sweet potatoes to get you about 5 cups worth — I used 3 fairly large ones. Grate the sweet potatoes and set in a large mixing bowl.

Melt 1/2 cup of coconut oil and pour over the shredded sweet potatoes while warm, toss immediately! The coconut oil will start to solidify again as it cools, so work efficiently. Once the coconut oil is mixed well, sprinkle the sweet potatoes with the onion powder, chili powder and ground coriander. Mix together.

Add the cooked vegetables and the diced tomatoes back into the pan with the beef, mix carefully to bring everything together and cook for another 3 minutes or so… just to let all of the ingredients get to know each other for a second. Transfer all of this veggie-meaty goodness to a large casserole dish (I filled a 9″ x 13″ pan). Top with the seasoned, shredded sweet potatoes, cover with foil and pop this in the oven.

Bake at 375 degrees (Fahrenheit) for 20-30 minutes, then remove the foil and broil on low for 5 minutes — or until the sweet potatoes have browned and crisped up a bit.  Eyeball it. To serve, top with fresh cilantro and sliced scallions with some avocado and hot sauce on the side!

And when you’re staring down some leftovers, reheat and top with a runny fried egg! Makes a great breakfast, lunch or dinner!


* * * * *

Sometimes Paleo recipes use unfamiliar ingredients or specialty cooking tools. Here’s what I used for this recipe to make things go a little smoother:

Coconut Oil (find quality organic, unrefined oil here)

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37 thoughts on “Paleo Tex-Mex Casserole

  1. Robin

    I couldn’t stand the idea of hand shredding 5 cups of sweet potato, so i just pulsed it in the food processor. It worked really well. This was a huge hit. My husband asked me to put it in our regular dinner rotation.

  2. Renee

    This tasted great and I loved all of the veggies, but the sweet potato topping never got to the crunchy consistency that I expected. I cooked it for a few extra minutes but it wasn’t doing anything. Maybe a few minutes under the broiler?

    Here are the swaps I made based on what I had on-hand: home-grown chard instead of spinach, and a jar of roasted garlic/tomato salsa in place of the tomatoes and garlic. These were tasty additions, I think.

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  4. Staci Meads

    Tonight I tried this casserole with a couple of small changes. I omitted the parsnips since I didn’t have any on hand. I Added onions and used a mix of sweet potatoes and butternut squash. I think it turned out terrific and I heard zero complaints from my vegetable haters. In my house that’s a home run!

  5. Kristi Woody

    This is the absolute best Whole30 compliant recipe I’ve made so far!! My husband didn’t even try it, so I got to eat on it for several days, and I didn’t mind one bit :)

    I was worried after reading the comments that my sweet potatoes wouldn’t cook, but I had no problem. Maybe doing them in a food processor makes the difference? It makes them so thin that it doesn’t take much to get them cooked.

    Again, THANK YOU for this amazing recipe. I wish I knew you so I could give you a big bear hug.

    1. popularpaleo Post author

      LOVE! That’s a good point about the thinness the food processor shred disk creates… didn’t think about that. Did you put an egg on top of leftovers?? That was my favorite part :-)

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  7. Robyn Siegers

    I bet spaghetti squash would be very good on top of this in place of the sweet potatoes for those who do not like them.

  8. Kristin

    We made this tonight for a family with widely divergent diet preferences, and it was a big success! Necessary uh-oh substitutions were olive oil for coconut, nor did we have parsnips (and we forgot to put in the fresh spinach). The homemade taco seasoning was perfect and the sweetness in the sweet potatoes really came through. We put cheddar on half of the casserole and provided tortillas for the non-practicing :)

    Happily fed 5 adults with second helpings AND enough leftovers for everyone to have with the eggs tomorrow!

    Next time we might try adding onions, some chipotle chili powder in the taco seasoning, oh and definitely need that food processor (husband shredded potatoes by hand!). Great idea.

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    1. popularpaleo Post author

      Depends! I feed two adults and two children and there’s enough here for us to have seconds at dinner and for the grown-ups to have one meal the next day. Soooo 6-8 servings?

  10. Teresa

    I made this tonight and it is very good. I added onions, I assumed they would be in the recipe and diced some before I realized they were not in the ingredient list! I cooked mine for about 40 minutes and then used low broil to crisp up the topping a little. I will make it again and broil it just a little longer so it’s more crispy. Thanks!

    1. popularpaleo Post author

      I’m not a fan of texture that comes from thawing cooked vegetables, but if doesn’t bother you, go for it!

    2. Sara

      Aryn, Did you try it frozen? Has anyone else? It would be great to put together 2-3 of them while making dinner and freeze the extras.

  11. Allison

    We made this last night and were very pleased! I had to make a couple substitutions due to what’s available here in my little town in Malaysia (eggplant instead of zucchini, no parsnips), but still…yummy!!! I also had to cook mine longer than stated because of the sweet potato not cooking. Would it be better to put it on the bottom of the casserole? I know it wouldn’t get the browning crispy effect at the end (which we skipped anyway due to my husband “starving”).

    I’ll definitely be making this again!

    1. popularpaleo Post author

      Hey Allison! You’re the second person to mention the sweet potatoes not cooking… *sad face* I like them on top for a “crust” effect, but I’m concerned about cook time. How not done were the potatoes? I’m wondering exactly how essential that browning step is and if I need to include a comment about it in the recipe?

  12. Kathryn Riesenberg

    My sweet potatoes never cooked. Ok for me, but the boyfriend likes them more well done. Would it hurt to cook longer or pre-cook them?

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  14. Melissa

    Would a shredded butternut squash or another veggie work instead of sweet potatoes? I am allergic to them, but I’d love to try this :) Thanks!

    1. popularpaleo Post author

      I’m sure it would! If you give the squash a try, let me know how it turns out and I’ll edit the recipe to include it as an alternative :-)

    1. popularpaleo Post author

      Great question! I think fresh tastes better, but frozen should work. Just make sure to get all the liquid out of it before adding to the pan.

    1. popularpaleo Post author

      A LOT. I hesitate to do serving sizes for a number of reasons, both practical and philosophical. But if I had to guess, I’d say it’s a solid 8 servings, maybe a little more.

  15. Abby

    Very good! I’m a casserole nut since my parents are from the midwest, so I’ve missed them in my paleo diet. Nice work with this one!

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