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8 Ways to Make a John Wayne Casserole

Learn the story behind the classic casserole and see which version is your favorite!

By: Natalie Taylor, Editor,

When recipes are named after famous icons, the story behind it is often mysterious and occasionally has nothing to do with the celebrity. However, the John Wayne casserole does in fact have a real connection to the Duke himself! 

John Wayne Casserole Origin

In the late 1970s, a 10-year-old girl named Cara Connery, wanted to raise money to donate to the American Cancer Society. The idea was to publish a cookbook featuring celebrities’ favorite recipes, which she received by sending letters to celebrities. The book, called Cooking with Love, from Cara and her Friends, was published in 1979.

John Wayne contributed a Southwest-inspired egg casserole to Connery’s compilation cookbook. His recipe was a simple side dish featuring eggs, canned green chiles, and shredded cheese.

Evolution of the John Wayne Casserole Recipe

Later on, the recipe was turned into a main dish that included ground beef and a crust. According to an article from Mississippi Magazine, the recipe became popular at the University of Mississippi Medical Center cafeteria. It’s been a regular menu item at the Jackson, Mississippi center since the late 1990s and has even earned the nickname “the Duke.” The recipe does maintain the Southwestern flair of John Wayne’s original recipe, since it includes canned peppers, shredded cheese, and tomatoes.

Today, the recipe has evolved even further! While the University of Mississippi’s version was originally made with Bisquick dough crust, there are now several twists on this recipe. Crescent rolls, refrigerated biscuits, and even tater tots are used in new adaptations of John Wayne Casserole.

8 Ways to Make a John Wayne Casserole

Now that you've learned the history behind this comforting casserole, you can sample these casserole recipes and see which version you like the best!

  1. Bisquick John Wayne Casserole - This version adapts the University of Mississippi Medical Center cafeteria's recipe because it adds canned chiles and uses diced rather than sliced fresh tomatoes.

  2. John Wayne Casserole - This version does away with the biscuit crust altogether and used crushed tortilla chips instead, which adds to the Southwestern flair of the recipe. Ranch-style beans and canned cream soup makes this a wonderfully creamy casserole.

  3. The Duke's Biscuit Casserole - Instead of the classic Bisquick mix biscuit crust, this version uses a tube of refrigerated biscuit dough so it is even easier to assemble.

  4. Zesty Slow Cooker John Wayne Casserole - This John Wayne Casserole slow cooker recipe uses tater tots instead of biscuits! The fresh tomatoes are also served on top of the finished casserole, instead of being cooked with the casserole.

  5. John Wayne Tater Tot Casserole - Our Test Kitchen version features a layer of tater tots on the bottom and top of the casserole, instead of one biscuit layer on the bottom. Corn and canned chili is also used in our adapted recipe, which will save you the step of browning the ground beef.

  6. Classic John Wayne Casserole Recipe - If you would like to try a version that is very close to the University of Mississippi Medical Center's version, this is the one for you! You can choose between canned chiles and jalapeno peppers, depending on how much spice you want.

  7. Cattle Drive Casserole - This recipe doubles up on canned green chiles, so this is a great choice if you like spicy food. It also uses canned tomatoes, which means you can easily make this casserole all year long!

  8. Deep Dish Taco Casserole Recipe - This version makes a slightly smaller batch than the classic recipe, so it's great if you have a smaller family. You can also serve this recipe with sliced avocado and shredded lettuce, to make this into more of a Mexican casserole.

BONUS! John Wayne Casserole Recipe

Did you know that we've also adapted the John Wayne Casserole for the slow cooker? Check out this iconic casserole on our sister-site right here.

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