Slow Cooker John Wayne Casserole


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Slow Cooker John Wayne Casserole is made with tater tots with southwestern flair and lots of cheese!

I love making casseroles in the slow cooker if you want to try a few other great ones try my Slow Cooker Chicken Cordon Bleu or Chicken Enchilada Casserole recipes.

casserole in the slow cooker with bell pepper and tomato on top.

Not your average recipe today! I made this drool-worthy Slow Cooker John Wayne Casserole for dinner the other night. I’ve wanted to try an oven version of John Wayne casserole for years, but never got around to doing it. I thought, why not make it in the slow cooker?

The history on John Wayne Casserole and my changes

I don’t think John Wayne had anything to do with the casserole. I believe the name of this came about because it’s western themed, but still, this is a fun recipe to try.  The original John Wayne casserole recipe that I’ve found is made with biscuit mix, but one of the reviewers on said that she had a version of this casserole made with tater tots at a restaurant. BINGO! That’s how this recipe can be made perfect in the slow cooker,  with tater tots.

tater tot casserole in the slow cooker with cheese, bell pepper and tomatoes on top.

I have a beloved standard crockpot tater tot casserole recipe that I adore on my site, so I knew exactly how to assemble this new creation. I also make a chicken and bacon tater tot casserole that you must try too!

How to make John Wayne Casserole:

tater tots, ground beef, cheese, bell pepper, sour cream, and onion in front of slow cooker.

You will need:

  •  tater tots
  •  ground beef
  •  bell pepper
  •  onion
  •  sour cream
  •  taco seasoning 
  •  cheese
  •  salt, pepper, onion powder

I add the bag of tater tots to my slow cooker. Then I brown a pound of hamburger with bell pepper, onion, taco seasoning, and water, I pour that meat mixture over the tots.

ground beef in slow cooker with taco seasoning, bell pepper and onion.

Then I make a sour cream and cheese mixture with a bit of seasoning and spread that on top of the meat.

cheese and sour cream over ground beef in the slow cooker.

Cook on LOW for 4.5 hours, and topped with more cheese, I put the lid back on the slow cooker and the cheese melts in minutes.

John Wayne casserole in the slow cooker with bell pepper and tomatoes on top.

I like to serve this delicious casserole with tomatoes on top. When I say this meal was the bomb, I mean it! I was seriously licking my plate! Try it, you’ll love it!

john wayne casserole in an oval slow cooker with wooden spoon in it.

I want to do a shout-out to my favorite cheese company Tillamook. If you ever visit the Oregon coast you must visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory! We do it once a year. Tillamook was a sponsor at the Indulge Conference I went to recently. We arrived in our hotel room to find that Tillamook stocked our mini fridge with cheese! That was possibly the best gift ever.

wooden spoon in John Wayne casserole in the slow cooker.

Other wonderful Slow Cooker Ground Beef Recipes:

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Slow cooked casserole with ground beef, sour cream, melted cheese, tomato and bell pepper on top.

Slow Cooker John Wayne Casserole

4.84 from 12 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 8
A southwestern beefy casserole over tater tots.


  • 32 oz. bag tater tots, (frozen, not thawed)
  • 1 lb. ground beef,
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 oz. taco seasoning mix, (I use Lawry's)
  • water, add the amount of water to the meat that the taco mix says to add, 2/3 cup is what my packet said
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (divided, half in sour cream mixture and half on top at the end)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder

optional toppings

  • diced tomatoes
  • bell peppers


  • Spray a 6-quart oval slow cooker with non-stick spray. Add the tater tots down in an even layer, so there isn't a high spot.
  • In a large skillet, set over medium high heat, brown the hamburger, onions and bell pepper. When the meat is browned, drain the fat. Add the amount of water the taco packet says to add to the meat (my packet said to add 2/3 cup). Add the taco packet, and continue cooking and stirring until the meat and the seasoning has thickened.
  • Pour the meat mixture over the tater tots in the slow cooker.
  • In a medium sized bowl add the sour cream, salt, pepper, onion powder, and half of the cheese (this is about a heaping cup of shredded cheese, save the other half to top the casserole at the end.)
  • Spread this sour cream cheese mixture over the meat mixture in the slow cooker.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 4.5 hours, without opening the lid during the cooking time.
  • After the cooking time is up add the remaining cheese evenly over the casserole.
  • Cover and let the cheese melt, this will only take about 5-10 minutes.
  • To serve, top with diced tomatoes.
  • Enjoy!



This recipe is very mild if you desire a more spicy version try pepper-jack cheese or replacing the bell pepper with jalapeno.
Nutritional values are approximate. If you require a special diet, please use your own calculations. Values below are for 1/8 of the recipe.


Calories: 541kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Cholesterol: 96mg | Sodium: 1061mg | Potassium: 636mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1025IU | Vitamin C: 23.6mg | Calcium: 293mg | Iron: 2.5mg

Nutrition info is auto-generated. This information is an estimate; if you are on a special diet, please use your own calculations.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Lynne says:

    I added a can of refried beans to the mince and onions, and added a layer of fresh sliced leeks on top of the tater tots. Your cooking times were spot on for my slow cooker and the dish was a hit. It was delicious and I’ve added it to my book of ‘keepers’ to go on rotation. Thank you 🙂

  2. StephieD says:

    Such an amazing recipe!!! We loved it!! Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Stephie! I need to make this again soon.

  3. Vicky Hensley says:

    I am trying this today but I only have shredded hash browns, and had to substitute salsa for the taco mix and water.
    It is cold out and the Eagles game is on so I am too lazy to go to the store. Let’s see if it turns out ok!

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      Let us know how it turned out with the hashbrowns!

  4. Diane says:

    I made this John Wayne casserole and I was amazed at how crispy the tator tots got. I will use a low sodium taco seasoning next time. I loved this dish.

  5. Delores says:

    All your recipes look delicious . Do you have nutritional facts about the fat content of your recipes? Am trying to watch my Cholesterol intake

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      Hi, Delores. My newly added recipes now have the nutritional info. This is an older recipe. I am working slowly on getting them all updated.

  6. Annie says:

    I’ve made this several times – for family at home and for church pot lucks. It’s delicious, and everyone LOVES it every time!

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      so great to hear Annie!

    2. Anonymous says:

      can you do the same thing in skillet

  7. Debbie says:

    Thank you for a great recipe!
    I made this in the oven. I cooked it at 350 F for 45 mins covered with foil and then took the foil off and cooked it for 15 mins more. It was a little dry so next time I might add a can of diced tomatoes or rotels. The reason I cooked it so long was I wanted to make sure that a whole bage of tater tots got cooked in a 9×13 pan. But all in all it was really good.

  8. Annie Welsh says:

    Trying this tonight! Only had about a quarter bag of tater tots in the freezer, so I added some seasoned curly fries… figured potato is potato… Haha! I’ll see how it turns out!

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      How did this turn out? I’m so curious!

      1. Annie Welsh says:

        It turned out just fine! Didn’t cause anything to go wrong and the family enjoyed it!

  9. Patricia Ehn says:

    I am doing a low carb diet I wonder how it would be without tater tots?

  10. Sharon Davis says:

    my slow cooker quit on me last week so I’m making this in a 9X13 pan and will cook it in 1 hour I think!

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      I think so!