Southwestern Ground Beef Casserole Recipe

Layered John Wayne Casserole pieces with melted cheese topping 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)
744 Calories
48g Fat
35g Carbs
43g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 744
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 48g 61%
Saturated Fat 19g 93%
Cholesterol 148mg 49%
Sodium 920mg 40%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 43g
Vitamin C 56mg 279%
Calcium 413mg 32%
Iron 6mg 31%
Potassium 747mg 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.)

Also known as John Wayne casserole, this dish is a delicious mix of ground beef, vegetables, pickled jalapeños, and cheese, all layered atop a biscuit crust. This recipe is quite different from the original: It contains no eggs and adds a biscuit crust and ground beef but keeps the original southwestern inspiration by including the pickled jalapeños, tomatoes, and cheese.

Note: This recipe was renamed because the Hollywood actor it was originally named for had publicly expressed racist views not aligned with Dotdash Meredith values.

"This 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


  • 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.

    Ingredients for John Wayne casserole recipe gathered

    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.

    Well-greased white rectangular 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 fitting snugly in a single layer in a rectangular baking dish

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

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

    Golden-brown baked biscuits in the 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.

    Lightly browned ground beef in a large skillet

    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.

    Browned, seasooned ground beef in a large skillet

    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.

    Sliced peppers and onions being sauteed in a large skillet

    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 stirred into peppers and onions in the skillet

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

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

    Sour cream, cheddar, and jalapeños stirred together 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.

    Sour cream mixture topping layered casserole in the 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.

    Casserole evenly covered with grated cheddar cheese

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

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

    John Wayne casserole with melted cheese topping in a baking dish

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

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

    Piece of layered John Wayne casserole on a white fluted plate next to baking dish filled with the casserole

    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.