This John Wayne Casserole recipe is made from juicy taco beef, tender veggies, fiery chilies, sour cream, and a generous sprinkling of cheese baked over a flaky biscuit base. Make this classic casserole any night of the week, for a Tex-Mex-inspired meal with a cowboy kick!
Saddle Up With This Easy Cowboy Casserole Recipe!
If you love casseroles, wait until you bake up this bubbly, cheesy, beefy combination that’s jam-packed with Tex-Mex flavor. Like an Easy Taco Beef and Rice Skillet, this John Wayne casserole is made for weeknight dinners.
Brace yourself for a mouthwatering casserole made with layers of hearty filling baked over a flaky biscuit crust. It’s cheesy, packed with delicious ingredients, and perfect for family dinners and potlucks. Make it once and have leftovers for the week.
What Is a John Wayne Casserole?
So, who is John Wayne? And how did he end up with a casserole as his namesake?
Some may already recognize John Wayne as an American actor from Hollywood’s Golden Age. He was famous for his roles in Western movies – and a John Wayne casserole, fittingly, is a variation of a “cowboy casserole”!
This Southwest-style ground beef-and-biscuit casserole is made with taco beef, chilies, tomatoes, sour cream, and plenty of melty cheese. It’s said that John Wayne himself contributed the original recipe to a cookbook in 1979.
What You’ll Need
Let’s round up what you’ll need to make a savory, beefy John Wayne casserole. Below you’ll find a short overview of the easy-to-come-by ingredients, and be sure to check out the recipe card for the full recipe details.
- Ground Beef – Use lean ground beef for the best results. You can also make this casserole with ground turkey or ground chicken for an even leaner option.
- Onion and Bell Pepper – Sautéed onions and chopped yellow or red bell pepper create an aromatic flavor base for the ground beef filling.
- Taco Seasoning – Use your favorite brand of taco seasoning. Taco seasoning usually includes spices like paprika, cumin, and chili powder, and is readily available in most grocery stores.
- Tomatoes – This recipe uses Roma tomatoes, but feel free to use any variety you have on hand.
- Chilies – Canned green chilies offer loads of convenience and just the right amount of heat. You can also opt to use sliced jalapenos or another type of chili that you like.
- Bisquick Mix – Good ol’ Bisquick is a great shortcut when making the flaky biscuit layer.
- Mayonnaise and Sour Cream – The combination brings just the right hint of creaminess and tang when baked into this taco casserole. Plain Greek yogurt makes a good substitute for sour cream if needed.
- Shredded Cheese – Shredded cheddar and shredded mozzarella cheese bake up deliciously golden and bubbly.
How to Make a John Wayne Casserole
Have a comforting, bubbling cowboy casserole on the table in an hour or less! This John Wayne casserole is just as much a recipe of convenience as it is of flavor. Here’s how easy it is to make:
- Make the taco beef filling. Begin by sautéing diced onion and bell pepper in a skillet with a bit of oil, until softened. Next, add the ground beef to the skillet. Use a spatula to break apart any large clumps while frying the meat until browned and cooked through. Afterward, stir in the taco seasoning with a bit of water, then simmer to thicken.
- Make the dough. Make a quick dough by combining Bisquick and water, then spread this into the bottom of a greased casserole dish.
- Assemble the casserole. Add the ground beef to the casserole dish, and spread it over the dough. Top this with a layer of tomato slices and green chilies or jalapenos.
- Top with cheese. Next, you’ll mix up a topping of sour cream, mayonnaise, and shredded mozzarella, then spread this over the tomato layer. Finally, sprinkle over additional shredded cheese.
- Bake. Pop your John Wayne casserole into the oven at 325ºF for 35 to 40 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and the layers are hot throughout.
Tips and Variation Ideas
The beauty of most casseroles is in how effortless they are to make! Have your John Wayne casserole come out exactly to your liking every time with these helpful tips and tricks:
- If you don’t have Bisquick, refrigerated or frozen canned biscuit dough will also work for the base layer.
- Adapt the heat levels. Use mild chilies or leave them out altogether if you’d prefer a milder casserole.
- Use different meat. You can make this casserole with any variation of ground meat: ground turkey, chicken, or pork.
- Add more veggies. In addition to bell peppers and onions, add more veggies like diced carrots, zucchini, broccoli, or spinach.
- Use different cheese. Any melty cheese will work in this recipe! You can even sub in a Mexican cheese blend if you’d like.
- Use homemade taco seasoning. Season your ground beef filling with Homemade Taco Seasoning in place of a packet of store-bought.
What to Serve With a John Wayne Casserole
This beef casserole checks all the boxes for a meal on its own! However, if you’d like to “cowboy up” a weeknight dinner with additional sides, a creamy, cheesy John Wayne casserole is a perfect pairing with Crock Pot Corn Bread or Oven Roasted Potatoes. For an extra spicy kick, drizzle servings with 10-Minute Homemade Enchilada Sauce!
Storing and Reheating Leftovers
Store any leftover casserole in the fridge airtight for up to 3-4 days. Reheat portions in the microwave for a minute or two, or in the oven at 350ºF until warmed through.
Can I Freeze a Beef Casserole?
Absolutely! This John Wayne casserole freezes wonderfully, which also makes it ideal for making ahead of time. The baked and cooled casserole can be wrapped tightly, and then frozen for up to 3 months.
Thaw the casserole in the fridge overnight, and then reheat it in the microwave or oven as usual (you’ll need to use the oven when reheating a full casserole).
John Wayne Casserole
- 2 lbs ground beef
- ¾ cup water
- 1 onion
- 1 yellow or red bell pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 oz taco seasoning
- 2 Roma tomatoes
- 1 can green chili peppers 4 oz
- 2 cups Bisquick mix
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 1 cup shredded cheddar
- Prep your tools. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with oil. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Saute the veggies. Heat the oil in a large skillet, add chopped onion and chopped bell pepper and saute for about 5 minutes to soften.
- Add ground beef to the skillet. On medium-high heat cook the beef until the ground beef is fully cooked.
- Add water and taco seasoning to the skillet, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until it thickens.
- Combine Bisquick mix with water and make the dough. Spread the dough over the baking dish and press to the bottom.
- Spread the ground beef mixture over the dough layer. Add the layer of sliced tomatoes and green chili peppers.
- Make the sour cream layer. In a separate bowl mix mayonnaise with sour cream and a half mozzarella cheese. Spread that mixture over the tomato/chili layer.
- Top with cheese. Sprinkle with cheddar and remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Bake. Bake the casserole for 35-40 minutes in the preheated oven.