Slow Cooker John Wayne Casserole


Pin Recipe

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

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:

Want to make more magic in your crockpot? Stay up to date and subscribe to my newsletter and follow along on Facebook, Instagram,Pinterest and YouTube.

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.

Made this recipe? Leave a comment below!

Other recipes you may like

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. Nanci says:

    This is our go-to Christmas Eve supper. I put it in the crockpot about 2, relax until Christmas Eve service at 5, come home and add the cheese, turn it off, let it sit until we’re ready to eat. Then we build a fire on the patio and make s’mores.

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      Such a great idea Nancy! Merry Christmas!

    2. Crystal says:

      Do you stir it at any point during the cooking time This looks delicious I want to try this

      1. Sarah Olson says:

        No, do not stir. It’s like a layered casserole.

  2. McCaff says:

    5 stars
    It was amazing! My wife and I had it for supper this evening. Great find!

  3. Anonymous says:

    5 stars
    Tried it today and we love it

  4. Julie Kemp says:

    5 stars
    My family loved it and as we talked about what was “missing’ my husband and son came up with they wanted to try it with some corn next time to give it a more of a “southwest” feeling. I’m game, first time making this I was nervous but it sure did sound good, it made it to the family approval list! With 5 of us it’s hard to please everyone, this one pleased all 🙂 Thank you for the idea

    1. Anonymous says:

      This recipe sometimes calls for a can of green chilies

  5. Lorie says:

    5 stars
    My family loves this recipe We also cook it in the oven if I don’t have time to put it in the crockpot

    1. Colette says:

      Lorie, whhat temp and time do you use in the oven? Thanks

    2. Kayla says:

      5 stars
      I LOVE this dish and have made it many times in the crock-pot. I’d like to try it in the oven since I plan on making this to deliver to a friend, and it would be much easier to send a casserole dish than my crock-pot. What temp and how long in the oven?

      1. Anonymous says:

        what is tater tot?

      2. Sarah Olson says:

        frozen potato balls that are deep fried.

  6. Arlene Cosand says:

    I notice that the recipe still says “single layer”. I’m confused.

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      That is some very bad wording on my part I will fix that. Put them down in an even layer so they are not high in one spot. Thank you for pointing that out.

  7. Rick R Keane says:

    Is there a substitute for the sour cream?

    1. Heather says:

      Nonfat greek yogurt is always a good sub for sour cream in recipes

  8. Brandy says:

    Can you change the setting to high and split the time in half?

    1. Sarah Olson says:

      You may be able to get away with 3 hours on high. Though I’d watch that the edges don’t burn.

  9. Michael Murphy says:

    @Kimberly – I’ve made this countless times and it’s always a big hit. I do kick it up a bit with a can of green chilies and some Franks Hot sauce but the basic recipe is really awesome. One son-in-law always asks me to make it for his birthday. Truth.
    Try the Alpine Chicken as well. Another winner.


    Love all the comments but has anyone actually made this??

    1. Brenda says:

      We have made several times. Instead of using the i use same amount of taco sauce.