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Chili Cheese Potato Casserole…. craving Del Taco Chili Cheese Fries

This is a tweaked homemade version of Del Taco’s Chili Cheese Fries. As written this makes 2-8×8 or 1-9×13 pans.

2 pounds krinkle cut french fries or tater tots
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 onion, diced
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5oz. can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 1/2 T. chili powder
2 t. cumin
2 t. garlic powder
1 t. salt
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
2 T. butter or margarine
2 T. flour
1 1/3 c. milk
2 c. shredded cheese, separated
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Pack the frozen potatoes tightly into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. This needs to be a pan that is not too deep or the frozen potatoes will have a hard time cooking thoroughly.

2. In a large skillet, brown ground beef and onion. Drain. Add tomato sauce and crushed or diced tomatoes. Stir in chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes.
3. While the chili simmers, melt 2 T. butter in a small saucepan. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in milk, bring to a boil and simmer until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 c. cheese. Stir until cheese is completely melted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour cheese mixture over top of potatoes… in case potato mxiture separates slightly while freezing.  Then layer meat mixture evenly over top. 

4. Cover with foil; freeze at this point if not cooking right away.
To serve: Defrost completely in the refrigerator. Uncover and bake at 350° (if in a dark metal or glass pan) or 450° (if in a reflective aluminum pan) for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and it is cooked through.
****You could even top with some extra grated cheese last few minutes of baking if you wish.  If you are really in the mood to add some extra nutrition…. dice up some scallions or yellow onions, chop some tomatoes, and maybe even a dollop of sour cream to top each individual portion.  It’s a way for each family member to personalize their dish.

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