dinner gluten-free

Quinoa and Kale Taco Casserole

January 18, 2015

Every food blogger has it. If they say they don’t, they’re lying. We dread it, actively avoid it and sometimes curse our way through the process when we’re presented with it.

We all have our most hated dish to photograph.

Quinoa and Kale Taco Casserole recipe for an easy and veggie-packed twist on a Mexican favourite.For some of us it’s meat and others it’s pancakes. But for me? It’s the dreaded casserole.

Ever noticed how few casseroles I have on here? There’s a reason for that. I HATE photographing casseroles. Oftentimes, I wish it were any other meal. Or at least not a dish that we eat at least once a week.

We’re big casserole fans in the maven household (or “hot dishes” if we’re acknowledging C’s Minnesotan roots – note he’s never called it this I’m just harping on him). They’re super convenient, you can pack them full of protein, veggies and carbs and they’re a great way to use up everything in your kitchen. You can combine everything but the kitchen sink into a casserole and it will taste good. But in photos? Well I’m not going to say what I think they look like.

Quinoa and Kale Taco Casserole recipe for an easy and veggie-packed twist on a Mexican favourite.Do you get the whole dish? Do you throw it in a smaller one? Do you overhead? HOW DO YOU CAPTURE THE LAYERS? C witnessed a very real emotional breakdown while shooting this recipe.

But it was too good not to share. I thought about keeping this Quinoa and Kale Taco Casserole recipe to myself and never letting these photos see the light of day but then I realized I was being a psychopathic perfectionist and that I’m pretty sure you’d forgive me once you tried the recipe.  I’m pretty sure I also need to forgive myself for being way too hard on yours truly.

Quinoa and Kale Taco Casserole recipe for an easy and veggie-packed twist on a Mexican favourite.We all have our most hated dish to photograph and we all have our bad days. Part of being a food blogger is accepting that you won’t have your best shoot everyday, and that’s okay. Unless you’re Dana who has never produced anything less than outstanding. God bless her.


Quinoa and Kale Taco Casserole

  • Total Time: 1 hour


  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 T chili power
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 green onions (white and greens only), chopped
  • 1 cup cooked corn (I used frozen)
  • 1 cup cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups chopped and stemmed kale
  • 1 cup hand-grated cheese (I used cheddar)
  • ¼ tsp chili flakes (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat a large pan over medium heat with olive oil.
  3. Top with ground beef and cook until browned (about 5 minutes). Remove.
  4. In a large casserole dish (9 x 13) add quinoa and chicken stock. Stir to combine.
  5. In a large bowl combine combine diced tomatoes and spices.
  6. Top quinoa-stock mixture with HALF of diced tomato mixture.
  7. Top with ground beef, bell pepper, green onions, corn, black beans and kale.
  8. Top with remaining half of diced tomatoes.
  9. Sprinkle cheese on top.
  10. Sprinkle with chili flakes if using.
  11. Cover casserole dish with top or with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes.
  12. Remove top or foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  13. Serve warm topped with avocado if desired.


  • Serving Size: 6

Quinoa and Kale Taco Casserole recipe for an easy and veggie-packed twist on a Mexican favourite.Are you ever too hard on yourself? What’s your least favourite dish to photograph?


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  • Reply
    Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment
    January 18, 2015 at 8:46 am

    Caserole dishes are hard to photograph. I am such a newbie to food photography, but I hate anything that does not have color. Like cauliflower or rice. They look so blah alone. Happy Sunday!

  • Reply
    Christine @ Ciao Veggie
    January 18, 2015 at 10:48 am

    For me it’s anything in the slow cooker! I can not make my crockpot pretty- the shadows are always weird because the food only goes up to the fill line and the bowl is black and argh so frustrating! I think that the best way to photograph them would be to let them sit out and cool down for a while so that when you take out a portion it’s stuck together a little more and the layers will maintain? But then it would be too cold to eat. It’s all very perplexing.

  • Reply
    June Burns
    January 18, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Ah, peh, that looks great to me! I, for one, can always appreciate a delicious and comforting meal like this one, no matter what it looks like.

  • Reply
    Gabby @ the veggie nook
    January 18, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    OMG yes, casseroles are terrrrible to photograph! You have done a lovely job here though and it sounds so tasty!

  • Reply
    January 18, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    You crazy girl, you are way too hard on yourself. Think about how the energy consumed in that breakdown could have been better spent. Um, you could have made three more casseroles and probably made them gorgeous. Speaking of, these photos came out great.

  • Reply
    Chelsea @ Chelsea's Healthy Kitchen
    January 18, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    These photos look great to me girl! But I know what you mean – some foods are just ridiculously hard to photograph nicely. I have trouble with chunky soups – everything just sinks to the bottom and they look so flat!

  • Reply
    Lindsay @ Shiny Love Affair
    January 18, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Yum! This looks great. And the photos turned out beautiful. I know what you mean though. I hate photographing soups. Hope you’re having fun on your trip!

  • Reply
    Les | Balanced Berry
    January 18, 2015 at 10:41 pm

    I think this looks awesome! Quinoa casseroles = the most delicious always. I’m such a newb at food photography, but love taking pictures of bright, vibrant foods. It’s way more fun!

  • Reply
    Hannah @ CleanEatingVeggieGirl
    January 19, 2015 at 9:57 am

    I bet this would still be amazing without the beef for a vegetarian version! I LOVE Mexican versions of quinoa dishes, and the fact that you added in kale is a major bonus.

  • Reply
    Mary Frances
    January 19, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Dana is something else. You both seriously rock, so don’t sell yourself short here.
    Ugh I feel you. This is one reason I’ve stuck with sweets because we make casseroles all the time (could it be easier? Throw it in and call it good!) You had me at taco. And kale. And avocado 🙂 I’m loving this! Photos and all!

  • Reply
    Sarah Pie
    January 19, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Yum! I make something like this-minus the kale and the casserole layering- on a regular basis, I’m going to have to try adding in one or both of those components next time. And shame on you for you photography freak out, these pictures look damn good 🙂

  • Reply
    January 20, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Casseroles rate right up there with slow cooker dishes…neither one photograph well.

  • Reply
    Nora (A Clean Bake)
    January 20, 2015 at 3:04 pm

    Oh man, I feel your pain! There is just no way to make a casserole look as good as it tastes, but I know this must be unreal because the photos are beautiful!

  • Reply
    January 20, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    My least favorite dish to photograph is soup. I actually talk about that on AGIT tomorrow. I tried making enchiladas but um, how does anyone EVER photograph enchiladas??

  • Reply
    hayley @healthyregards
    January 21, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    I am not good at photographing any food, lol, so I think this still looks delicious as I am sure it is!

  • Reply
    January 22, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    This is very true some dishes are simply camera shy and don’t like to be photographed!! One off the top of my head is soup!
    Well, I think this dish looks good and I bet it tastes great! xo Catherine

  • Reply
    Dani @ DaniCaliforniaCooks
    January 22, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    I struggle the most with soups! Maybe it’s the shadowing from the bowl?

    I think your dish looks really tasty! And especially cute all doctored up in that mini bowl with avocado.

  • Reply
    Nicole @ Foodie Loves Fitness
    January 26, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Well lady, you made this dish look pretty, despite that it’s a casserole – which I agree, are so freakin hard to photograph and make it actually look appealing!

  • Reply
    She Rocks Fitness
    February 2, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Yummy! I am always looking for quinoa recipes to make and especially ones like this so I can have leftovers for the whole week…I LOVE leftovers. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    September 7, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    Just to clarify–you don’t cook the quinoa first?

  • Reply
    December 3, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    I tried this out for dinner tonight and my boyfriend and I loved it!! So filling without all the guilt, and we have plenty of leftovers for later. This was the first recipe of yours I’ve ever tried and I’ll definitely give some other ones a shot now. Thanks for posting this!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Quick question – would you drain the 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes or is the liquid necessary to keep the recipe from being dry? I’d like to know before I try this one. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Reply
      Davida @ The Healthy Maven
      October 7, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      Liquid is necessary! Definitely don’t drain. would work totally fine for crushed or pureed as long as it’s a 28 oz can!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    One more question – would it work the same to use crushed or pureed tomatoes rather than diced (and if so, should they be drained, and should it be the same size/quantity)? I really dislike chunks of tomato so I try to avoid them whenever possible. Thanks for your help!

  • Reply
    October 30, 2016 at 1:23 am


  • Reply
    December 23, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    I love this recipe with the kale/quinoa and unique spices. So many great recipes on your site. thanks,Anna

  • Reply
    March 6, 2019 at 12:42 am

    Excellent recipe. So flavorful and satisfying. This one is a definite keeper. Next time I may add a bit more quinoa. I also added Swiss chard with the kale. Love it, thanks!

  • Reply
    Robyn Safran
    October 23, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    This recipe is a keeper. I have made it many time both with and without the ground beef. If I don’t add meat I just throw in extra beans and vegies. If you are not fond of kale I would encourage you to try it in this recipe. I chop my fairly well and it adds great texture and is not over powering. Truly if you ate it without knowing the ingredients you would love it! I am actually making four casserole for a church conference this weekend. I made it last year and everyone raved over how good it tasted. Thanks for sharing this great casserole!

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