John Wayne Casserole Recipe


John Wayne Casserole is a beloved American dish that has stood the test of time. Named after the iconic actor, John Wayne, this hearty casserole is packed with flavor and has been a favorite in households across the country for decades. If you’re looking for a delicious and satisfying meal that’s easy to prepare, look no further than John Wayne Casserole. In this article, we’ll delve into the history of this classic dish and share a mouthwatering recipe that you can try at home.

The Origins of John Wayne Casserole: While the exact origins of John Wayne Casserole are unclear, it is believed to have originated in the southern United States. Some say it was inspired by the rugged, hearty meals that were favored by cowboys, much like the characters portrayed by John Wayne himself. Others speculate that it was named in honor of the actor due to its bold flavors and hearty appeal.

Regardless of its origins, John Wayne Casserole has become a staple in many households, cherished for its simplicity and delicious taste. Over the years, countless variations of the recipe have emerged, each offering a unique twist on this classic dish.

The Recipe: Now, let’s explore a simple yet delicious recipe for John Wayne Casserole that you can easily prepare at home.


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup cornbread mix
  • 1 (4 ounce) can of diced green chilies
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional toppings: diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, sliced black olives


  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.
  2. In a skillet, brown the ground beef over medium heat until fully cooked. Drain any excess grease.
  3. Add the diced onion and bell pepper to the skillet with the ground beef, and cook until softened.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, cornbread mix, and diced green chilies. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Spread the ground beef mixture evenly in the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
  6. Pour the cream mixture over the top of the ground beef, spreading it out evenly.
  7. Bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the casserole is heated through and the top is golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.
  9. Garnish with optional toppings such as diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, and sliced black olives, if desired.

Serving Tips:

  1. Allow the John Wayne Casserole to cool for a few minutes after removing it from the oven before serving. This helps the flavors to meld together and makes it easier to cut into portions.
  2. Garnish the casserole with fresh toppings such as diced tomatoes, sliced green onions, or sliced black olives for added flavor and visual appeal.
  3. Serve the casserole alongside your favorite side dishes, such as a crisp green salad, steamed vegetables, or garlic bread, to create a well-rounded meal.
  4. For a festive touch, consider serving the casserole at potlucks, family gatherings, or game day parties. It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser!

Storage Tips:

  1. If you have leftovers, allow the casserole to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. This helps prevent condensation from forming and keeps the casserole from becoming soggy.
  2. Store the leftover casserole in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Make sure to label the container with the date to keep track of its freshness.
  3. To reheat the casserole, simply place individual portions in the microwave or oven until heated through. You can also reheat the entire casserole in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 20-25 minutes, or until warmed to your liking.
  4. If you prefer to freeze the casserole for later use, wrap it tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap before placing it in a freezer-safe container. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.
  5. When ready to enjoy, thaw the frozen casserole in the refrigerator overnight before reheating it according to the instructions above. This helps maintain the texture and flavor of the dish.

Variations of John Wayne Casserole Recipe:

  1. Tex-Mex Twist:
    • Replace the ground beef with cooked and shredded chicken or turkey.
    • Add a packet of taco seasoning to the cream mixture for a flavorful Tex-Mex flair.
    • Mix in a can of drained and rinsed black beans and a cup of frozen corn kernels for added texture and taste.
    • Top the casserole with sliced jalapeños and a drizzle of salsa before baking.
  2. Vegetarian Option:
    • Omit the ground beef altogether or substitute it with plant-based ground meat alternative.
    • Increase the amount of diced vegetables such as bell peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms for a hearty vegetarian version.
    • Use vegetable broth instead of cream of mushroom soup for the cream mixture.
    • Consider adding a layer of cooked quinoa or lentils for extra protein and fiber.
  3. Italian-Inspired Variation:
    • Swap the cream of mushroom soup for cream of chicken or cream of celery soup.
    • Use Italian sausage instead of ground beef and add Italian seasoning to the cream mixture for an Italian twist.
    • Incorporate diced tomatoes, fresh basil, and minced garlic into the ground beef mixture.
    • Top the casserole with shredded mozzarella cheese and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan before baking.
  4. Breakfast Casserole Version:
    • Prepare the casserole with breakfast sausage or bacon instead of ground beef.
    • Add sautéed onions, bell peppers, and spinach to the meat mixture.
    • Whisk together eggs and milk, then pour it over the meat and vegetable layers.
    • Sprinkle shredded cheese on top and bake until the eggs are set and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  5. Low-Carb Option:
    • Replace the cornbread mix with a low-carb alternative such as almond flour or coconut flour.
    • Substitute sour cream with Greek yogurt for a higher protein content.
    • Use cauliflower rice instead of corn kernels to reduce carbohydrate intake.
    • Consider adding chopped broccoli or cauliflower florets to the casserole for extra nutrients and fiber.
  6. Buffalo Chicken Variation:
    • Use shredded cooked chicken breast tossed in buffalo sauce as the base layer.
    • Mix cream cheese and ranch dressing into the cream mixture for a tangy flavor.
    • Top the casserole with crumbled blue cheese and sliced green onions before serving.

These variations offer a creative twist on the classic John Wayne Casserole, allowing you to customize the recipe to suit your taste preferences and dietary needs. Experiment with different ingredients and flavor combinations to create a casserole that’s uniquely yours!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) about John Wayne Casserole:

  1. What is John Wayne Casserole?
    • John Wayne Casserole is a classic American dish named after the iconic actor, John Wayne. It typically consists of layers of ground beef, onions, bell peppers, a creamy sauce, and a cornbread topping, baked to perfection in a casserole dish.
  2. Can I use ground turkey instead of ground beef in this recipe?
    • Yes, you can definitely substitute ground turkey for ground beef in the John Wayne Casserole recipe. It’s a great option for those looking to reduce their red meat intake or for a lighter alternative.
  3. Can I make John Wayne Casserole ahead of time?
    • Yes, you can prepare the casserole ahead of time and refrigerate it before baking. Simply assemble the layers in the baking dish, cover it tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. When ready to bake, remove it from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature before baking as directed.
  4. How do I know when the casserole is done baking?
    • The casserole is done baking when the top is golden brown and the edges are bubbling. You can also insert a toothpick into the center of the casserole – if it comes out clean, the casserole is ready.
  5. Can I freeze John Wayne Casserole?
    • Yes, you can freeze John Wayne Casserole for later enjoyment. Simply wrap the cooled casserole tightly in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, then place it in a freezer-safe container or bag. It can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.
  6. How can I make this casserole spicier?
    • To add some heat to the John Wayne Casserole, consider incorporating diced jalapeños or green chilies into the cream mixture or topping the casserole with a drizzle of hot sauce before serving.
  7. Can I make John Wayne Casserole without cream of mushroom soup?
    • Yes, if you prefer not to use cream of mushroom soup, you can substitute it with cream of chicken, cream of celery, or even homemade white sauce. The choice of soup will alter the flavor slightly but will still result in a delicious casserole.
  8. Is it possible to make John Wayne Casserole gluten-free?
    • Yes, you can make a gluten-free version of John Wayne Casserole by using a gluten-free cornbread mix or by making your own cornbread from scratch using gluten-free flour. Ensure that all other ingredients are gluten-free as well.
  9. Can I add extra vegetables to the casserole?
    • Absolutely! Feel free to customize the casserole by adding extra vegetables such as diced tomatoes, corn, spinach, or mushrooms to the ground beef mixture. It’s a great way to sneak in some additional nutrients and add more flavor and texture to the dish.
  10. What are some serving suggestions for John Wayne Casserole?
    • John Wayne Casserole pairs well with a variety of side dishes, including green salads, steamed vegetables, garlic bread, or even a bowl of chili. It’s a versatile dish that can be enjoyed on its own or as part of a larger meal.


John Wayne Casserole is a classic dish that continues to captivate taste buds with its rich flavor and hearty ingredients. Whether you’re cooking for a family dinner or hosting a gathering with friends, this timeless recipe is sure to be a hit. Give it a try and experience the irresistible taste of John Wayne Casserole for yourself!

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