Mexican Lasagna

This Mexican Lasagna recipe is a spectacular twist on lasagna and one of my favorite recipes EVER – it is guaranteed to become a new repeat family favorite!

If you love Mexican food, you will LOVE this Mexican Lasagna recipe!  It’s rich, satisfying, comforting, flavorful, cheesy, saucy and plain scrumptious!  To make this Mexican Lasagna recipe, juicy meat, creamy beans and sweet corn are enveloped in the BEST bold, smoky, quick and easy homemade enchilada sauce then  layered between tender lasagna noodles, a creamy salsa verde spiked sour cream/cream cheese filling and both cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese then baked to bubbling perfection to create a mountain of hot, meaty, cheesy, fiesta in each satisfying bite. This Mexican Lasagna recipe is always a crowd-pleaser, can be prepped in the morning and baked at night, made in mass quantities, and/or frozen for later for the ultimate make-ahead dinner.   It also makes terrific leftovers – should you be so lucky.

showing how to serve Mexican Lasagna recipe by scooping up slice with a spatula

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MEXICAN LASAGNA RECIPE

PLEASE MAKE THIS MEXICAN LASAGNA RECIPE! I don’t beg often so when I do, I hope you embrace my pleas.  This Mexican Lasagna recipe is one of my favorite recipes to come out of my kitchen – ever!  Yes, it is a little more time consuming than a skillet dinner, but is worth every last second and wasted seconds in between.  Your entire family will be licking their plates, fighting for the leftovers and begging you to make it again and again. 

There are many Mexican Lasagna recipes out there, but few of them actually use lasagna noodles, instead they use tortillas which, to me, translates into Mexican Casserole or Enchilada Casserole and not lasagna (don’t worry I have a separate recipe coming your way for that). Instead, this Mexican Lasagna uses actual lasagna noodles which gives it superior texture – after all, is there anything as satisfying as biting into stacks of al dente lasagna noodles smothered in rich, cheesy, meaty sauce?  Maybe only when smothered in rich, cheesy, meaty, enchilada sauce.   

And because I could go on and on about this Mexican Lasagna recipe, I’ll limit myself to just a few bullet points illustrating my love:

  • Family friendly.  This Mexican Lasagna is a homemade crowd pleaser.  EVERYONE, even the pickiest eater, will be obsessed!
  • The BEST homemade enchilada sauce.  Mexican Lasagna is only as good as the sauce it is bathed in, and that of course, means my homemade enchilada sauce.  It is truly spectacular.  I just shared it last week in my chicken enchiladas and it’s already getting rave reviews. It’s layered with Mexican seasonings plus a hint of cocoa powder, sugar and a pinch of cinnamon (to mimic Mexican chocolate) to create a deeply complex flavor profile that’s rich, bold, smoky and 100% drool worthy.  The sauce is not only spectacularly tasting, but quick, easy, make ahead and freezer friendly.  Once you taste enchilada sauce, you won’t want to live without it or go back to the store-bought kind again! 
  • Shortcut soaked noodles. There is no need to settle for no boil noodles OR to boil your classic noodles!  This Mexican Lasagna recipes uses classic noodles that are soaked in hot water instead of boiled for ease and the perfect texture every time.
  • ONE step filling. The beef is browned then all of the enchilada sauce ingredients are added plus the diced tomatoes, beans, corn, green chiles, and olives to simmer together for maximum flavor and ease. No tediously layering the individual components.
  • Flavorful creamy filling.  Instead of using ricotta cheese and sour cream like I do in my traditional Lasagna recipe, I swapped the ricotta for cream cheese to create a lusciously creamy filling then spiked it with salsa verde to create the requisite balancing tanginess to cut through the rich, robust enchilada sauce.  You will want to like the bowl.
  • Pantry friendly.  This Mexican Lasagna recipe uses pantry friendly ingredients, so keep them stocked and you can be basking in pure south of the border comfort food any night of the week.
  • Versatile.  You can follow this Mexican Lasagna recipe as written, or mix it up with different beans, different veggies such as corn/zucchini/bell peppers, swap the cheese and even make it with ground turkey or rotisserie chicken!
  • Make ahead.  This Mexican Lasagna can be completely assembled up to two days ahead of time then just popped in the oven at dinnertime.  Dinner never tasted so good or so easy.
  • Feeds a crowd.  This Mexican Lasagna makes such a hearty casserole so it can satisfy your entire family at a fraction of the price of dining out.  It is also great for crowds, dinner parties, company, meal planning or leftovers.  There is just two at our house, so we LOVED every last leftover bite. 
  • Freezer friendly. You can prep this Mexican Lasagna recipe specifically to freeze or double the recipe and enjoy one casserole now and freeze one for later. 

WHAT Sauce SHOULD I USE for Mexican Lasagna?

Let’s jump right into what makes this the BEST Mexican Lasagna recipe.  It’s all about the sauce.  And let’s be honest, not all sauces are created equal; store-bought sauces are all too often bland, watery, too tomato-y, and lacking depth – but not this sauce! It’s bursting with bold, rich smoky south-of-the-border depth with a hint of mole flair. The ingredient list might look lengthy, but they are pantry friendly, dump and simmer ingredients.  You will need:

  • Chili powder:  is where most of the flavor comes from so please use a quality brand such as McCormick.  Note that American chili powder is NOT cayenne pepper which it can sometimes be confused for internationally.  Chili powder is a blend of seasoning and 8X less spicy than cayenne pepper.
  • Seasonings:  In addition to chili powder, the enchilada sauce is seasoned with ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, ground coriander, smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt and cayenne pepper.  They all work together to create a deep, satisfying complexity.
  • Tomato paste:  adds the signature tomato flavor and slight tanginess.
  • Flour:  is used to make a roux with the oil/butter to thicken the sauce.  You can use all-purpose flour or all-purpose gluten free flour.  
  • Chicken broth: forms the base of the sauce.  You may substitute with vegetable broth but it is not as flavorful.
  • Cocoa Powder + sugar:  this is an easy substitute for Mexican chocolate which I’m pretty sure most of you don’t keep stocked.  It adds a depth of flavor you will LOVE.
  • Apple cider vinegar:  awakes the flavors of the sauce.  You may substitute with distilled white vinegar.
showing how to garnish Mexican Lasagna recipe with a top view of the lasagna with tomatoes, olives and cilantro

CAN I USE VEGETABLE BROTH INSTEAD OF CHICKEN BROTH?

You may use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth but it doesn’t deliver the same level of flavor. If you do decide to use vegetable broth, make sure to use low-sodium vegetable broth and salt to taste.

What else do I add to Mexican Lasagna?

The Mexican Lasagna is loaded with juicy beef, tomatoes, beans, corn, olives and green chilies.  This satisfying cast of characters are added directly to the enchilada sauce so the instantly are pumped with flavor and save you from extra layering.  You will need:

  • Ground beef.  I recommend using 85-90% lean Angus beef for the best flavor.  Angus meat is known for being more tender, marbled, and flavorful than regular beef. 
  • Aromatics:  the complexity of the flavor profile begins with the aromatics.  You will need 1 chopped yellow onion and 4-6 garlic cloves. 
  • Fire roasted diced tomatoes.  Are located next to the traditional diced tomatoes. Fire roasted tomatoes are NOT spicy – the fire simply means they have been roasted which gives them a complex smokiness. If you can’t find fire roasted diced tomatoes, then traditional diced tomatoes work just fine.
  • Beans:  I LOVE the addition of pinto beans to create irresistible creamy textural interest that complements the Mexican Lasagna without fighting it.  You may also substitute with black beans but they don’t offer the same creamy satisfaction.  If you choose black beans, I would add them to the sauce earlier with the diced tomatoes so they have time to simmer and soften a bit.  
  • Corn:  I prefer frozen sweet corn as opposed to canned as frozen corn is packaged at peak sweetness, but you can substitute canned if that’s all you have on hand.
  • Olives:  I am not a huge fan of olives but I think they are awesome in this Mexican Lasagna recipe.  You will need one 6. oz. can chopped black olives or you can go wild and use two cans.
  • Chopped green chiles: these come from a can and add a subtle tang. Take care you choose MILD chopped green chiles because the hot can is HOT. Mild green chiles, however are more tangy than hot so you don’t have to worry about them making your lasagna spicy.  

What is in Mexican Lasagna Filling? 

Just like traditional lasagna requires the contrasting creamy ricotta filling to cut through the rich Bolognese, Mexican Lasagna rejoices with a creamy respite made with sour cream, cream cheese and salsa verde: 

  • Sour Cream: cuts through the rich meaty sauce with its slightly tangy undertones.  Full fat sour cream boasts more flavor than nonfat, but I’m sure nonfat would still work great sandwiched in between the layers. For full disclosure, I have not tried the filling with Greek Yogurt but I think it would also work great.
  • Cream cheese:  thickens the sour cream and creates an extra creamy filling.  As far as nonfat, same as above, full fat has more flavor but nonfat will work as well.
  • Salsa verde:  pumps up the creamy filling with a punch of bright, citrusy, tanginess to both complement and balance the enchilada sauce. You can use my amazing Homemade Salsa Verde recipe or store bought, such as mild Herdez.  If you need ways to use up your leftover salsa verde, try my readers favorite salsa verde honey lime chicken enchiladas, crockpot salsa verde honey lime chicken, salsa verde macaroni and cheese, enchiladas verdes or crockpot salsa verde chicken tortilla soup.

WHAT ARE THE BEST NOODLES FOR MEXICAN LASAGNA?

No boil lasagna noodles or classic lasagna noodles?

No Boil Noodles.  Just Say No to No Boil Noodles.  No boil lasagna noodles are definitely alluring without the extra step of boiling noodles and dealing with clumping, tearing boiled noodles.   No boil lasagna, noodles, however, are too thin, in my opinion, against the thick, robust sauce and layers of luscious cheese filling.  No boil noodles also tend to bake up chewy instead of tender and you run the unpalatable risk of crunchy, noodles if they are not adequately submerged in the sauce.

Classic Noodles.  What if I told you, you can use classic noodles without boiling them?  Without the slipping, sticking and tearing?  Well, you CAN!  We soak our classic noodles in hot water while the enchilada sauce is simmering.  They emerge softened and super easy to work with without the risk of tearing.  The softened noodles cook completely in the lasagna for the perfect texture every single time. Life changing!

Can I use tortillas instead of noodles?

Absolutely!  While I created this Mexican Lasagna specifically with lasagna noodles in mind, you can also swap them out for corn tortillas.  For my chicken enchiladas and  taco recipes, I highly recommend La Tortilla Factory corn tortillas because they are thicker and don’t tear, BUT for stacked Mexican casseroles, I find them a little too thick.  Instead, save your money and quality tortillas for when they’re not smothered in sauce and use any corn tortillas from your grocery store.   

up close of a slice of Mexican lasagna with noodles being scooped out of the pan

WHAT KIND OF CHEESE SHOULD I USE for Mexican Lasagna?

I love the combination of both sharp cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese.  Sharp cheese cuts through the earthy enchilada sauce and offers a distinct flavor contrast whereas Monterrey Jack is milder so it complements the sauce and offers hints of creamy, buttery flavor.  Monterrey Jack also melts beautifully to create a creamier filling.

Please use freshly grated cheeses because pre-shredded packaged cheeses use anti-clumping chemicals which prevent them from melting as well. 

HOW SPICY IS MEXICAN LASAGNA?

This Enchilada Sauce recipe is not spicy, just flavorful.  Even with the cayenne pepper it should be just fine for little ones.

HOW TO MAKE MEXICAN LASAGNA

Here’s a snapshot of How to Make Mexican Lasagna:

  • Soak lasagna noodles
  • Cook beef and make enchilada sauce
  • Make creamy sour cream/cream cheese filling
  • Assemble lasagna
  • Bake
  • Cool
  • Enjoy!

Let’s break each step down:

SOAK LASAGNA NOODLES

  • Add the classic lasagna noodles to a long dish, such as a 9×13 pan or bread pan and cover in hot water.  There is no need to boil water, hot tap water will do just fine.  Take care the noodles are completely submerged in water.  Let them soak while you prep the lasagna – at least 30 minutes.
showing how to make lasagna recipe by soaking noodles in hot water in  long glass dish

COOK BEEF AND MAKE ENCHLADA SAUCE

  • Brown beef and onions in Dutch oven or large skillet until almost cooked through.  Sprinkle in flour/seasonings mixture and cook for two minutes.  Reduce the heat to low and stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for one minute.
  • Stir in chicken broth, diced tomatoes, green chiles, cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon. 
  • Bring the sauce to a simmer and continue to simmer, stirring often, until it thickens, 10-15 minutes.  After the sauce has thickened, stir in apple cider vinegar, beans, corn, olives and remove from heat.
showing how to make Mexican Lasagna recipe by warming beans,corn and olives in a large skillet with the beef and sauce

MAKE CREAMY FILLING

  • While sauce is simmering, whisk sour cream, cream cheese and salsa verde together in a medium bowl.  I typically soften the cream cheese in the microwave then just add all the ingredient the same bowl. 
  • Combine cheeses in a separate bowl; set aside.

HOW TO LAYER LASAGNA

These layers create a perfectly balanced lasagna for the ultimate bite after bite after bite…

  • Spread 1 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of the lightly greased 9×13 pan (layer will be thin).
showing how to make Mexican Lasagna by layering the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish with 1 ½ cups of meat sauce
  • Make a layer of lasagna noodles by placing 4 noodles lengthwise and part of a 5th noodle on top to cover. Take care you pat your noodles dry after soaking before layering.
showing how to make Mexican Lasagna by layering meat sauce with lasagna noodles
  • Spread ¾ cup Cream Filling evenly over top.
showing how to make Mexican Lasagna recipe by layering lasagna noodles with creamy sour cream layer
  • Top with 1 cup combined cheeses.  
showing how to make Mexican Lasagna recipe by topping creamy layer with shredded cheese
  • Repeat layers using two cups meat mixture (instead of 1), 4+ noodles, ¾ Creamy Filling and 1 cup cheeses two more times for a total of 3 complete layers.
  • To finish, top with remaining meat sauce followed by remaining cheese. 
showing how to make Mexican Lasagna recipe by finishing layers with one layer of meat sauce and shredded cheeee

HOW TO BAKE LASAGNA

  • Cover the baking pan with aluminum foil. If you leave your lasagna uncovered in the oven, it will become dry.
  • Bake lasagna at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the foil and bake an additional 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and heated casserole is heated through. 
  • Remove pan from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. This will allow the lasagna to set and to cool slightly in order to create cleaner slices.
  • Garnish with fresh tomatoes, olives, avocados, cilantro and sour cream if desired. 

TIPS AND TRICKS for the BEST MEXICAN LASAGNA

  • INTERNATIONAL WARNING:  American Chili powder is a blend of chilies, cumin, garlic powder, and herbs with a ratio of one-part cayenne to seven parts the other spices.  Chili powders sold in other parts of the world, however, are 100% cayenne pepper and 8X hotter than chili powder! So, please use American-style chili powder to make this recipe or your mouth will be on FIRE!
  • Pre-measure seasonings.  Measure out seasonings before you start cooking.  You will want to add the seasonings all at once with the flour – and since there are quite a few -it is helpful to measure them out first so you don’t have to stop and overcook the beef.
  • Don’t skip cocoa!  The sugar, cocoa powder and the cinnamon (simulating Mexican chocolate) really enhance the authentic enchilada sauce recipe so please don’t skip them!
  • Use MILD green chiles. Chopped green chiles and add a subtle tang but are not spicy unless you accidentally purchase the ones labeled “hot.”  Learn from my mistake and double check that your can says “mild.”
  • Control consistency.  For a thicker meat sauce, simmer the sauce longer to reduce and thicken.  If you want thinner sauce, simply don’t simmer the sauce as long.  If you’re past that point, stir in chicken broth or water a little at a time until you reach desired consistency.
  • Customize ingredients.  You can customize the add-ins with any vegetables you like (see ideas to follow) or other add-ins such as pickled jalapenos.
  • Toppings!  Top your Mexican Lasagna with all or some of your favorite toppings such as sour cream or Greek yogurt (highly recommend), cilantro, jalapenos, avocados, tomatoes, black olives, etc.
showing how to make Mexican Lasagna by letting it cool for 15 minutes before servings

MEXIAN LASAGNA RECIPE VARIATIONS

We love this Mexican Lasagna recipe as written, but feel free to make it your own with any add-ins.  Just keep in mind that while you can omit any add-ins such as corn, you can’t just add additional ingredients – you need to swap them or it will throw off the saucy ratio.  For example, you can can’t just add zucchini but you can swap zucchini for corn. 

  • Swap protein: You can use ground turkey or ground chicken. You can also use shredded rotisserie chicken and stir it in at the end once the sauce has thickened.
  • Swap beans: swap the pinto beans for black beans or replace them with layers of refried beans.
  • Add vegetables:  zucchini, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, jalapenos, etc. – pick your favs!  You will want to swap some of the meat for extra veggies.
  • Swap cheese.  Use more or less cheese – and when I say “more or less,” I, of course, mean more. You can also swap the type of cheese but be aware this will change the flavor profile.  If you love spicy, consider using Pepper Jack cheese.
  • Spice it up.  If you love heat, you have a few options to spice up it up:  1) add additional cayenne pepper to the sauce, 2)  add hot sauce to the sauce, 3) add chopped, pickled jalapenos to the filling, 4) add minced chipotle peppers to the filling 5) swap the Monterrey for Pepper Jack.  Alternatively, you can allow everyone to control the spice level of their own portion by passing around a bottle of hot sauce.
showing how to top Mexican Lasagna recipe by adding sour cream, olives, tomatoes and cilantro to a piece of lasagna on a plate

WHAT TOPPINGS FOR MEXICAN LASAGNA RECIPE?

This Mexican Lasagna is intoxicating all on its own but as is the case with all Mexican food, whether it’s tacos, burritos, fajitas, tortilla soup, or enchiladas, they are even better with  toppings!  It’s fun to create a topping bar and then let everyone pile on their favs.

TOPPING IDEAS:

  • More olives!  I purchase two cans of olives and use one for topping. 
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt:  the bright tangy creaminess cuts through and compliments the earthy flavor profile.
  • Tomatoes: quartered cherry tomatoes or seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes or skip the plain tomatoes and use pico de gallo.
  • Pico de gallo:  is fresh tomato salsa that adds a vibrant, punchy freshness.  You can use my homemade pico de de gallo recipe or store bought. You can make the pico de gallo ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Cilantro:  if you skip the pico de gallo, you can load on fresh cilantro and tomatoes instead for a fresh, zesty flair.
  • Avocados: chopped or sliced avocados.
  • Guacamole:  use my homemade guacamole recipe (amazing!), your favorite recipe or even use store bought.
  • Lettuce:  shredded iceberg or Romaine lettuces offers a delightful contrasting crunch.
  • Hot Sauce: pass around the hot sauce so individuals can customize the heat.

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH MEXICAN LASAGNA RECIPE?

This Mexican Lasagna recipe is the main event and doesn’t need much of a supporting cast, but I always love serving it with a green salad and some sort of fruit. Here are a few side ideas:

up close of a piece of lasagna on a spatula being served

CAN I MAKE MEXICAN LASAGNA IN ADVANCE?

Yes!  This Mexican Lasagna is the perfect make-ahead meal to either refrigerate and bake the next day or to assemble and freeze.

  • Assemble and refrigerate. You can make and assemble the entire lasagna a day in advance and refrigerate (without baking).  I actually think the lasagna tastes better this way because the flavors have more time to develop and meld.
  • Make sauce in advance. You can make the meaty sauce complete with all the add-ins up to 3 days in advance and refrigerate it or freeze it for up to 3 months.  If you use cold sauce in your lasagna, you will need to bake your lasagna an addition 15 minutes or so.
  • Make creamy filling.  You can whisk all of the creamy filling ingredients together, cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

HOW TO REHEAT MEXICAN LASAGNA?

This Mexican Lasagna recipe keeps and reheats well both in the oven and in the microwave:

  • OVEN:  cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
  • MICROWAVE:  reheat individual servings in the microwave by transferring to a microwave safe plate and microwaving for 90 seconds.  Continue to microwave at 30 second intervals until heated through.

CAN I FREEZE MEXICAN LASAGNA?

Yes! You can freeze Mexican Lasagna that is baked or unbaked.  Freezing homemade lasagna is a great way to enjoy a bake-and-eat dinner any night of the week without any prep!  For best results, I recommend freezing unbaked lasagna, but both methods will work.

HOW TO FREEZE UNCOOKED LASAGNA

  • Assemble Mexican Lasagna according to recipe directions in a freezer safe dish.
  • Cover lasagna tightly all around the dish with 2 layers of plastic wrap.
  • Cover the lasagna tightly with one layer of aluminum foil.
  • Label lasagna.
  • Place evenly in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to bake, place lasagna in the refrigerator 48 hours ahead of time to thaw completely.
  • Remove plastic wrap and cover tightly with foil.
  • Bake lasagna according to directions, adding an additional 10-15 minutes.
up close of a slice of Mexican Lasagna showing the different layers

HOW TO FREEZE COOKED LASAGNA

You will only want to freeze cooked lasagna if you are freezing leftovers, otherwise, it is better to freeze before baking. 

  • Bake Mexican Lasagna according to directions in a freezer safe dish.
  • Let cool on the counter for one hour.
  • Cover lasagna with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill completely before freezing (this will prevent an unpleasant texture).
  • Cover lasagna tightly with a second layer of plastic wrap all the way around the dish.
  • Cover the lasagna tightly with one layer of aluminum foil.
  • Label lasagna.
  • Place evenly in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to bake, place lasagna in the refrigerator 48 hours ahead of time to thaw completely.
  • Remove plastic wrap and cover lasagna tightly with foil.
  • Bake entire lasagna according to directions, adding an additional 10-15 minutes.

HOW TO FREEZE INDIVIDUAL SERVINGS OF LASAGNA

  • Bake Mexican Lasagna according to directions.
  • Let lasagna cool completely then slice into individual servings.
  • Freeze lasagna in freezer safe plastic bags.
  • To reheat, remove servings from the bag to a baking sheet.
  • Bake individual servings at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.

HOW TO COOK LASAGNA FROM FROZEN

  • Remove plastic wrap from lasagna and cover tightly with foil.
  • Bake lasagna covered at 350 degrees F for 1 ½ hours.
  • Uncover and bake an addition 15-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

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showing how saucy Mexican Lasagna recipe is by taking a bite with a fork

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Mexican Lasagna

This Mexican Lasagna recipe is rich, satisfying, comforting, flavorful, cheesy, saucy and plain scrumptious! To make this Mexican Lasagna recipe, juicy meat, creamy beans and sweet corn are enveloped in the BEST bold, smoky, quick and easy homemade enchilada sauce then layered between tender lasagna noodles, a creamy salsa verde spiked sour cream/cream cheese filling and both cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese then baked to bubbling perfection to create a mountain of hot, meaty, cheesy, fiesta in each satisfying bite. This Mexican Lasagna recipe is always a crowd-pleaser, can be prepped in the morning and baked at night, made in mass quantities, and/or frozen for later for the ultimate make-ahead dinner. It also makes terrific leftovers – should you be so lucky.
Servings: 12 servings
Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes

Ingredients

Meat Filling

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder NOT cayenne pepper (see notes)
  • 1 tsp EACH ground cumin, garlic powder, ground coriander, salt
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper will not make it spicy
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 3 1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14.5 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes, with juices
  • 1 4 oz. can mild chopped green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained may sub black beans
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen sweet corn no need to thaw
  • 1 6 oz. can chopped black olives drained
  • 1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Layers

  • 15 regular lasagna noodles NOT no boil
  • 2 cups freshly grated Monterrey Jack cheese
  • 2 cups freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese

Creamy Filling

  • 1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese softened
  • 1/2 cup mild salsa verde I like Herdez
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • SOAK NOODLES: Place lasagna noodles in the bottom of a long pan. Pour hot tap water over the noodles until they are submerged. Let them soak while you prep the filling – at least 30 minutes. Agitate the noodles with your hands occasionally to prevent them from sticking together.
  • PREP: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a deep 9X13-inch pan; set aside. Whisk together the flour and all Meat Filling seasonings (through cayenne pepper); set aside.
  • COOK BEEF: Brown beef and onions in a Dutch oven or very large skillet until almost cooked through. Sprinkle in flour/seasonings mixture and cook for two minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for one minute.
  • FILLING INGREDIENTS: Stir in chicken broth, diced tomatoes, green chiles, cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon. Bring the sauce to a simmer and continue to simmer, stirring often, until thickened, 10-15 minutes. After the sauce has thickened, stir in beans, corn, olives and apple cider vinegar then remove from heat.
  • CREAMY FILLING: Meanwhile, whisk all of the Creamy Filling ingredients together in a medium bowl, set aside. Combine cheeses in a separate bowl; set aside.
  • ASSEMBLE: Spread 1 cup of meat sauce in the bottom of the prepared pan (layer will be thin). Place 4 noodles lengthwise and part of a 5th noodle on top to cover. Spread ¾ cup Cream Filling evenly over top followed 1 cup combined cheeses. Repeat layers using two cups meat mixture, 4+ noodles, ¾ Creamy Filling and 1 cup cheeses two more times for a total of 3 complete layers. To finish, top with remaining meat sauce followed by remaining cheese.
  • BAKE: Cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered for an additional 20 more minutes or until the cheese is melted and casserole is heated through. Remove pan from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with fresh tomatoes, olives, avocados, cilantro and sour cream if desired.

Notes

Tips and Tricks

  • How spicy is t? This Mexican Lasagna is not spicy, just flavorful.  Even with the cayenne pepper it should be just fine for little ones.
  • INTERNATIONAL WARNING: American Chili powder is a blend of chilies, cumin, garlic powder, and herbs with a ratio of one-part cayenne to seven parts the other spices.  Chili powders sold in other parts of the world, however, are 100% cayenne pepper and 8X hotter than chili powder! So, please use American-style chili powder to make this recipe or your mouth will be on FIRE!
  • Can I use tortillas? While I created this Mexican Lasagna specifically with lasagna noodles in mind, you can also swap them out for corn tortillas.  Use regular grocery corn tortillas and save your money and quality thick tortillas for when they’re not smothered in sauce.
  • Customize vegetables. You can customize the add-ins with any vegetables you like such as zucchini, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, jalapenos, etc. (see ideas in post).  You will want to swap some of the meat for extra veggies or it will throw off the sauce ratio.
  • Swap beans:   You may substitute the pinto beans with black beans but they don’t offer the same creamy satisfaction.  If you choose black beans, I would add them to the sauce earlier with the diced tomatoes so they have time to simmer and soften a bit.  
  • Swap protein: You can use ground turkey or ground chicken. You can also use shredded rotisserie chicken and stir it in at the end once the sauce has thickened.
  • Pre-measure seasonings. Measure out seasonings before you start cooking.  You will want to add the seasonings all at once with the flour – and since there are quite a few -it is helpful to measure them out first so you don’t have to stop and overcook the beef.
  • Don’t skip cocoa! The sugar, cocoa powder and the cinnamon (simulating Mexican chocolate) really enhance the authentic enchilada sauce recipe so please don’t skip them!
  • Control consistency.  For a thicker meat sauce, simmer the sauce longer to reduce and thicken.  If you want thinner sauce, simply don’t simmer the sauce as long.  If you’re past that point, stir in chicken broth or water a little at a time until you reach desired consistency.
  • Toppings! Top your Mexican Lasagna with all or some of your favorite toppings such as sour cream or Greek yogurt (highly recommend), cilantro, jalapenos, avocados, tomatoes, black olives, etc.

How to Make Ahead

This Mexican Lasagna is the perfect make-ahead meal to either refrigerate and bake the next day or to assemble and freeze.
  • Assemble and refrigerate. You can make and assemble the entire lasagna a day in advance and refrigerate (without baking).  I actually think the lasagna tastes better this way because the flavors have more time to develop and meld.
  • Make sauce in advance. You can make the meaty sauce complete with all the add-ins up to 3 days in advance and refrigerate it or freeze it for up to 3 months.  If you use cold sauce in your lasagna, you will need to bake your lasagna an addition 15 minutes or so.
  • Make creamy filling.  You can whisk all of the creamy filling ingredients together, cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

HOW TO REHEAT

This Mexican Lasagna recipe keeps and reheats well both in the oven and in the microwave:
  • OVEN:  cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
  • MICROWAVE:  reheat individual servings in the microwave by transferring to a microwave safe plate and microwaving for 90 seconds.  Continue to microwave at 30 second intervals until heated through.

HOW TO FREEZE UNCOOKED LASAGNA

  • Assemble Mexican Lasagna according to recipe directions in a freezer safe dish.
  • Cover lasagna tightly all around the dish with 2 layers of plastic wrap.
  • Cover the lasagna tightly with one layer of aluminum foil.
  • Label lasagna.
  • Place evenly in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to bake, place lasagna in the refrigerator 48 hours ahead of time to thaw completely.
  • Remove plastic wrap and cover tightly with foil.
  • Bake lasagna according to directions, adding an additional 10-15 minutes.

HOW TO FREEZE COOKED LASAGNA

You will only want to freeze cooked lasagna if you are freezing leftovers, otherwise, it is better to freeze before baking. 
  • Bake Mexican Lasagna according to directions in a freezer safe dish.
  • Let cool on the counter for one hour.
  • Cover lasagna with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill completely before freezing (this will prevent an unpleasant texture).
  • Cover lasagna tightly with a second layer of plastic wrap all the way around the dish.
  • Cover the lasagna tightly with one layer of aluminum foil.
  • Label lasagna.
  • Place evenly in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  • When ready to bake, place lasagna in the refrigerator 48 hours ahead of time to thaw completely.
  • Remove plastic wrap and cover lasagna tightly with foil.
  • Bake entire lasagna according to directions, adding an additional 10-15 minutes.

HOW TO FREEZE INDIVIDUAL SERVINGS 

  • Bake Mexican Lasagna according to directions.
  • Let lasagna cool completely then slice into individual servings.
  • Freeze lasagna in freezer safe plastic bags.
  • To reheat, remove servings from the bag to a baking sheet.
  • Bake individual servings at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes.

HOW TO COOK LASAGNA FROM FROZEN

  • Remove plastic wrap from lasagna and cover tightly with foil.
  • Bake lasagna covered at 350 degrees F for 1 ½ hours.
  • Uncover and bake an addition 15-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
 

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20 Comments

  1. Norma says

    Making right now. You have apple cider in the ingredients, but apple cider vinegar in directions. I’m guessing it’s the vinegar but would like to be sure.

    • Jen says

      THANK YOU for catching that, I’ll fix it right away. Yes, it should be vinegar.

      • Dawn says

        I just made this for dinner tonight. I used ground Turkey and Italian sweet sausage.
        I actually had corn on the cob left over from last nights dinner. So that was the side Vegetable tonight with salsa and chips like you suggested.
        Thank you so much you never steer me wrong. Plus I have left overs I can take to work Monday for my lunch.

        • Jen says

          Thanks so much for taking the time to comment Dawn, I’m so happy you enjoyed it! Your entire meal sounds tasty!

  2. Kristi Gomez says

    It won’t allow me to pin the recipe.

    • Jen says

      It’s working on my end so I’m not sure what to tell you – sorry!

  3. Rachel says

    This could not have been more delicious! My family devoured this!! Thank you so much for yet another wonderful recipe! This one may be one of my all-time favorites!!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I am stoked it’s one of your all time favorites too – that makes me so happy! Thank you so much Rachel!

  4. Phyllis Provo says

    Made this yesterday and had it today and…oh my…this is absolutely delicious! A lot of work to put together, but well worth it. Thank you, Jen. This is definitely a keeper.

    • Jen says

      Thank you Phyllis! I’m so happy you loved as much as us and that it was worth the effort!

  5. Stephanie says

    I loved your homemade enchilada sauce w/ chicken enchiladas so much, I was excited to make this too! I made this last week for the family and we all loved it, so good. I did add 1 teaspoon of onion powder to the sauce/meat mixture so that it was identical to your enchilada recipe. When in a what to make for dinner rut…. your recipes are the first I go to. Thank you and keep them coming.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Stephanie, I’m so pleased you loved this Mexican Lasagna too! The only reason I didn’t use onion powder is because I use a real onion with the beef – but that doesn’t mean you can’t use both! Thanks for making my recipes and taking the time to comment!

  6. Nausheen says

    I am a hardcore Mexican food fan. And even though it is originally an Italian recipe, I am sure it will be to my preference made this way.

    • Jen says

      I can’t wait for you to try it, SO good!

  7. Jang says

    This was delicious! Changes I made/would make are: I used Barilla flat no-cook lasagna noodles, and (like my regular lasagna) I added extra tomato products to the sauce so the noodles will have enough liquid (in this case something I’d accidentally opened–15 oz stewed sliced tomatoes). I used 1 lb beef with 1/2 lb Morning Star Farms crumbles. Next time I would try 1/2 green olives, 1/2 black olives. It was exactly what I was looking for–a traditional lasagna with a Mexican twist! Will be making again. Often!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Jang for your awesome review, I’m so happy to hear it will be a repeat favorite!

  8. Ginny Dobmeier says

    I love your site and frequently share your recipes with my friends. This Mexican Lasagne recipe is incredible, the rich flavors. It was an instant hit with my family. Keep them coming! Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment Ginny! I’m honored you and your family are loving my recipes. This Mexican Lasagna is one of my personal favorites, so I especially love hearing it was a hit!

  9. Lisa says

    This is AMAZING! I used a one-pound box of noodles because I didn’t want to save 4 lasagna noodles, which allowed me to do 4 layers instead of 3. My husband could not stop eating it, and even my 10 and 6 year olds (who are typically not into things with that many ingredients) loved it! My son had 3 helpings, my daughter had 4! I was a little concerned by the amount of ingredients, but it was so worth the time and effort! I did have a slight issues with some of my noodles sticking together in spots, but I was able to make it work. Thanks for the family-favorite recipe!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m so pleased you made and loved this Mexican Lasagna because it is one of my favorites! I love that it is a new family favorite! Thanks Lisa!