This Easy Cornbread Cowboy Casserole is a comforting and hearty dish that combines the rich flavors of a ground beef and ranch style beans mixture with a classic cheesy cornbread topping. This cowboy casserole recipe is a hearty meal and is perfect for busy weeknights or a weekend gathering with friends.
It's casserole season! I love serving these easy one pan dishes when the weather turns cooler. From Enchiladas, to Creamy Seafood Tetrazzini, to a good old fashioned Lasagna, casserole recipes are the way to go during the winter months, IMO. They're simple to make, you can typically make them ahead of time if needed, and they're usually pretty easy to freeze for later.
Cornbread Cowboy Casserole is one of my favorite recipes and feels like the ultimate fall dish. A chili-like beef and bean mixture is topped with a moist on the inside, crispy, golden brown on the outside cornbread. It's a delicious meal that my whole family adores and asks for on repeat.
Why This Recipe Works
This Cornbread Cowboy Casserole is a favorite for several reasons.
- Simple ingredients. The recipe list for this delicious dish is pretty straight-forward. In fact, you should be able to readily find everything you need from your local grocery store, if you don't already have it at home.
- Make ahead. This is a great make ahead meal. You can prepare the whole thing then just reheat in the oven or microwave when you're ready to serve it.
- Easy recipe. I used a small round dutch oven to make this dish, making it (almost!) a one-pot meal. Just prepare the beef mixture in the pot, top with your cornbread batter, then transfer it to the oven!
- Freezer friendly. This is one of many freezer meals that I add to the freezer at the beginning of fall. It freezes beautifully and is so nice to be able to just pull out and pop into the oven for an easy meal.
- Delicious. Did I mention this is a damn good casserole? This hearty cowboy cornbread casserole is the ultimate comfort food and is perfect for an easy dinner or barbecue. (Better yet - eat it around a campfire for some real cowboy flair!)
As I said earlier, the ingredients here are fairly simple:
- Ground beef. I used a lean beef here - 90/20 - since I didn't want too much fat lurking in the beef mixture.
- Peppers, garlic and onions. Choose whatever color peppers you have on hand - I used red. For the onion, I wanted a bit of a mellow taste so I went with a yellow onion, which tends to be a bit sweeter than white or red.
- Pinto beans. Feel free to sub out other types of beens here. Black beans would also work well.
- Corn. Fresh sweet corn, frozen or canned work. I just used a can.
- Rotel tomatoes.
- Taco seasoning. This gives the dish a feeling of a Mexican cornbread casserole and adds tons of flavor and spice.
- Shredded cheese.To add to the cornbread mixture.I used cheddar, but try pepperjack cheese for an added kick to the cornbread topping!
- Cornbread mixture. I made my own (see the instructions in the recipe card for a full list of ingredients and instructions). BUT, you could save time and make it easy by just something like a jiffy cornbread mix from the grocery store.
- Toppings! You can eat it as is and it's delicious, but any toppings you might add to tacos or chili would also work here. Think sour cream, salsa, jalapeños, avocado, cilantro - you get the idea!
How To Make Cornbread Cowboy Casserole
Making the dish is pretty easy. Here's the step-by-step instructions for how I made this cowboy cornbread casserole recipe in a dutch oven.
- Brown the beef and saute the peppers and onions. In your dutch oven, or a large skillet over medium heat, sauté the diced onions, red bell pepper, and ground beef. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the beef is browned, the onions are translucent, and the peppers have softened. Drain any excess fat.
- Add the rest of the beef mixture ingredients. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute, then remove from heat. Mix in the Rotel tomatoes, pinto beans, corn, and taco seasoning and spread evenly across the dutch oven. If not using a dutch oven, you can transfer the meat mixture to a prepared baking dish.
- Make the cornbread topping. While the ground beef mixture is cooking, prepare the cornbread batter. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients for the cornbread. In a separate bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour the milk mixture into it. Mix until just combined, avoiding over-mixing, and gently fold in the cheddar cheese.
- Assemble the casserole. Carefully spoon the cheesy cornbread batter over the top of the meat mixture, ensuring it covers the entire surface.
- Bake! Bake the casserole for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cornbread comes out clean.
Variations or Substitutions
There are lots of ways you could customize this dish to make it unique:
- Swap the protein. For a leaner option, swap ground beef with ground turkey, or omit it all together for a vegetarian casserole dish..
- Use a chili as the base. This Ground Pork Chili would be an amazing variation topped with the cornbread.
- Adjust the spice. Raise or lower the spiciness by modifying the amount of taco seasoning or by adding chili powder for extra heat. You could also add chopped jalapeno to the cornbread mixture for a spicier cornbread topping.
- Change out the beans. Experiment with different types of beans like black beans or kidney beans for a change in flavor and texture. You could even try using chili beans or seasoned baked beans for some added spice!
- Used a boxed cornbread mix. To save time, use a box of cornbread mix, such as Jiffy corn muffin mix, for the topping instead of making it from scratch.
- Add more veggies! Enhance the dish with additional veggies, such as green chilies or bell peppers, to add more color and flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely, you can assemble the casserole in advance, cover it with foil, and store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake it. It's a convenient option for meal planning.
Your favorite toppings for chili or tacos can also be used on this dish! You can serve this easy ground beef casserole with, pico de gallo, green onions, olives, avocado, guacamole, jalapeños, cilantro, or a dollop of sour cream served on top. Try a drizzle of barbecue sauce for extra flavor.
Leftover Cowboy Cornbread Casserole can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Yep! Place the cooled casserole in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat in the oven at 375, covered, when you're ready to enjoy it again.
This easy cowboy dinner is the perfect meal for your busy weeknights! If you try my Cornbread Cowboy Casserole, let me know what you think in the comments below. And don't forget to tag me with a pic @frontrangefed on Instagram - I love to see your creations!
More Easy Casserole Dishes
- Creamy Seafood Tetrazzini With Shrimp
- Easy 5-Ingredient Cheesy Chicken Hashbrown Casserole
- Lazy Lasagna With Frozen Cheese Ravioli
- Healthy Spinach Feta & Rice Casserole
- Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
Easy Cornbread Cowboy Casserole With Beef And Beans
For the meat filling
- 1 ⅓ lb lean ground beef
- 15.25 oz canned corn
- 15.5 oz canned pinto beans
- 10 oz can Rotel
- 1 cup yellow onion diced
- 1 cup red bell pepper diced
- 1 cloves garlic minced
- 1 oz taco seasoning
For the cornbread topping
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 5 tablespoon unsalted butter melted
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- sour cream
- green onions
- jalapeno peppers
- Preheat your oven to 375. If using a dutch oven, proceed to step 2. If using a baking dish prepare prepare the dish by spraying it with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, red pepper and ground beef and cook for 5-6 minutes, until the beef is browned and cooked through, the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft. Drain well.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, then remove from heat. Stir in the Rotel, beans, corn, and taco seasoning, and spread evenly into whatever dish you're baking the casserole in.
- While the beef is cooking, mix up the cornbread batter. Whisk the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl until fully combined. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs and butter. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and slowly pour the milk mixture into the center. Whisk well to combine (don’t over-mix!), and gently fold in the cheese.
- Carefully spoon the cornbread batter over the top of the beef base, spreading it to the edge of the skillet so that they are completely covered.
- Bake the casserole for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the cornbread comes out clean. The cornbread should be crispy on the top and golden brown in color.
- Garnish the dish with cilantro, and serve with sour cream, salsa, jalapeno slices or hot sauce.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to three days in the refrigerator.
- Make it vegetarian by subbing out the beef for extra beans or veggies.