John Wayne Casserole

Mike tried this recipe on April 28, 2024

As you might expect, a dish named after a famous actor is bound to have a story behind it, and John Wayne Casserole is no exception.

Back in 1978, a 10-year-old girl named Cara Connery wanted to raise funds for cancer research. She had lost several members of her family to the disease, and was determined to find a way to help. She came up with the idea of creating a cookbook featuring the favorite recipes of celebrities, and with help from her mother sent letters to about 1,400 people asking them to contribute. She received responses from enough of her letters to publish “Cooking with Love from Cara and Her Friends” in 1979, with contributions from Alan Alda, Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo), President Jimmy Carter, Walter Cronkite, Golda Meir, Robert Redford, and many others… and of course, John Wayne.

The recipe in Cara’s cookbook, however, is very different from what we call a John Wayne Casserole today. His original recipe was basically an egg and cheese casserole topped with sliced tomatoes that did not contain any meat or a biscuit crust. It has a very different consistency and appeal, more akin to that of a breakfast or brunch type dish.

So, where did the casserole we know today come from?

For that, we have to go to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi. Or rather, their cafeteria. The staff came up with a completely different type of casserole that emphasizes a strong connection to Southwestern flavors. It is their version that most people recognize as John Wayne Casserole today.

But even with this knowledge, there are a myriad of variations in ingredients. Some of the variations will be listed in the notes on the recipe card… but basically, this recipe has enough leeway for anyone to “make it their own” to suit their family’s tastes. Even I made a couple of changes from the base recipe I used because it was more convenient for the ingredients I had on hand.

Adapted from She’s Not Cookin’

John Wayne Casserole

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 20 mins Cook Time 30 mins Rest Time 5 mins Total Time 55 mins
Cooking Temp: 350  °F Servings: 8
Best Season: Suitable throughout the year


A layered casserole dish with a Southwest taste, often attributed to John Wayne but in reality was developed by the cafeteria staff at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi, where the dish is nicknamed "The Duke".

Adapted from She's Not Cookin'



  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray the interior of a 9 x 13 casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

  2. In a medium bowl, combine Bisquick with 1 cup of water, and mix until it turns into a batter. Pour the batter into the casserole dish and spread evenly across the bottom. Set aside.

  3. In a large skillet, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat, breaking the meat into crumbles as it cooks. Drain off any excess grease, then add the taco seasoning and remaining 1/4 cup of water. Cook 3-4 minutes until the liquid thickens, then remove from heat. Pour the meat mixture into the casserole dish and spread evenly across the top of the batter.

  4. Return the skillet to the stove and add the onions and peppers. Cook on medium-high until the onions soften, about 3-4 minutes, then remove from heat and spread the mixture evenly on top of the meat. 

  5. Spread the Ro*tel in an even layer on top of the onions and peppers.

  6. In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, and 1 cup of shredded cheese. Mix thoroughly. Spread the mixture evenly on top of the Ro*tel. Top with the remaining cheese.

  7. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size 1 1/2 cups (about 12 ounces)

Servings 8

Amount Per Serving
Calories 571kcal
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 37.3g58%
Saturated Fat 15.1g76%
Cholesterol 142mg48%
Sodium 1073mg45%
Potassium 579mg17%
Total Carbohydrate 15g5%
Dietary Fiber 2.2g9%
Sugars 3.7g
Protein 41.5g83%

Calcium 269 mg
Iron 5 mg
Vitamin D 120 IU

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily value may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.


  • There are many variations possible with this dish. Some suggestions:
    • Add diced Jalapeno peppers to the onion and bell pepper
    • Top with sliced Jalapeno peppers or sliced tomatoes
    • Add Mexican-style corn as a layer
    • Increase the taco seasoning from 1 ounce to 2 (2 envelopes of seasoning) and add another 1/4 cup of water
  • Regular, mild, or hot taco seasoning can be used
  • If Bisquick is not available, canned biscuit dough can be substituted. Press the biscuit dough into a flat even layer across the bottom of the dish.
  • If Ro*tel is not available, use the following substitution:
    • 1 can petite diced tomatoes (15 oz), drained
    • 1 can green chiles (4 oz)
  • Serving suggestions:
    • Salsa
    • Sour cream
    • Sliced jalapeno peppers (on the side)
Keywords: John Wayne, casserole, Bisquick, ground beef, taco seasoning, Ro*tel, Rotel, bell pepper, onion, Cheddar cheese
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