John Wayne Casserole Recipe

John Wayne Casserole pieces on plates

The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 59 mins
Rest Time: 5 mins
Total: 79 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
718 Calories
44g Fat
36g Carbs
43g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 718
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 44g 57%
Saturated Fat 18g 89%
Cholesterol 147mg 49%
Sodium 1146mg 50%
Total Carbohydrate 36g 13%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 43g
Vitamin C 56mg 279%
Calcium 309mg 24%
Iron 5mg 29%
Potassium 771mg 16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

John Wayne casserole is a delicious mix of ground beef, vegetables, pickled jalapeños, and cheese, all layered atop a biscuit crust. According to cooksinfo.com, this casserole gets its name because “Wayne directly contributed the recipe to a 1979 cookbook titled, “Cooking with Love from Cara and Her Friends”, compiled by Cara Connery. It is unknown where Wayne got the recipe from.” However, what is now known as John Wayne casserole is quite different from the original recipe. It drops the eggs and adds a biscuit crust and ground beef but keeps the original southwestern inspiration by including the pickled jalapeños, tomatoes, and cheese.

"The John Wayne casserole made a great-tasting, satisfying everyday meal. It was easy to put together and bake, and the flavors were excellent. The jalapeno peppers flavored the sour cream, and you could replace them with mild peppers if you prefer less heat. I'll probably cut back to a smaller can of tomatoes when I make it again. " —Diana Rattray

John Wayne Casserole/Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray

  • 1 (16-ounce) can large biscuits

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 pounds ground beef, preferably 85% lean

  • 1 (1-ounce) packet taco seasoning

  • 1/3 cup water

  • Kosher salt, as needed

  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced

  • 1 medium green bell pepper, sliced

  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 8 ounces shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided

  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced jalapeños

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    John Wayne Casserole ingredients in bowls

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350 F. Spray a large baking dish generously with cooking spray.

    Greased baking dish

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  3. Place the biscuits in a single layer in the baking dish, pressing them together to create one layer of dough.

    Biscuits in the baking dish

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  4. Transfer to the oven and bake until golden, about 12 minutes.

    Baked biscuits in a baking dish

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  5. While the biscuits bake, add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large heavy-duty skillet over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add the ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally until no longer pink, about 10 minutes.

    Ground beef in a pan

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  6. Drain most of the excess fat from the skillet. Add the taco seasoning, water, and salt to taste. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the water evaporates, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

    Ground beef cooking in a pan

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  7. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet. When the oil shimmers, add the onions, bell peppers, and salt to taste. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until tender, about 10 minutes.

    Peppers and onions cooking in a pan

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  8. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are warmed through, about 3 minutes. Set aside.

    Tomatoes, peppers and onions cooking in a pan

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  9. Combine the sour cream, half the cheddar, and the jalapeños in a medium bowl.

    Sour cream, half the cheddar, and jalapeños in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  10. Layer the ingredients evenly on top of the baked biscuit crust in this order; ground beef, onion-pepper-tomato mixture, sour cream-cheddar mixture, then top with the remaining cheese.

    Ground beef, onion-pepper-tomato mixture, and sour cream-cheddar mixture in a baking dish

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  11. For two layers, divide the mixtures in half, layer twice as directed above, leaving the cheese for the top layer only.

    Cheese on top of the casserole mixture in the baking dish

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  12. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown slightly, about 20 minutes.

    John Wayne Casserole in a baking dish

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  13. Remove from the oven, let sit 5 minutes, and serve.

    John Wayne Casserole on a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

Recipe Tip; Make Ahead

This is a great make-ahead casserole that can be frozen fully baked (be sure to use a foil baking pan to be safe going from freezer to oven). Once baked, cool completely, then tightly wrap in plastic. Freeze for up to three months. Reheat in a 350 F oven until warmed through.

Recipe Variations

  • For a tangier topping, replace 1/2 cup of the sour cream with mayonnaise.
  • Replace the ground beef with ground turkey.
  • Instead of canned tomatoes, arrange a layer of sliced tomatoes—about 2 to 3 fresh tomatoes—over the ground beef layer.


How to Store and Freeze

  • Refrigerate leftover casserole in a covered container within 2 hours of preparing, and eat within 3 to 4 days.
  • To freeze, transfer leftovers to a freezer container and label with the name and date—freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.