Mr. GFE and I both enjoy a good casserole and he is a huge fan of John Wayne. So when I saw John Wayne Casserole in a listing on All Free Casseroles Recipes, I had to take a look. The description began: “Here’s a Mexican casserole recipe that every cowboy will love, including the Duke himself.” Once I clicked on the link to see the recipe, I determined that All Free Casserole Recipes had come up with the John Wayne casserole name. The original recipe was actually called My Mom’s Mexican Casserole. I am pretty sure that the casserole recipe got a lot more views by affixing John Wayne’s name to it though!
To be honest, when I think of John Wayne, I think of hearty “manly” meals that don’t usually involve Mexican food, but the casserole looked really good. Still, I decided to give the recipe a go, creating my own simpler version—a gfe version made with simple pantry ingredients. So I skipped the canned Ranch style beans and opted for plain pinto beans. I omitted the cream of chicken soup. (Although Pacific Foods makes gluten-free cream of chicken soup and there are lots of homemade gluten-free versions of “cream of” soups, again, I wanted to keep things simple and use what I already had in my pantry.) I omitted the packaged taco seasoning mix (although there are plenty of gluten-free options, like this one), but I decided that I would salsa as my liquid, binder, and main flavoring in the recipe instead of as an optional ingredient and, therefore, I knew the taco seasoning would not be needed. (By the way, when I do need taco seasoning, I rely on a simple “make-as-needed” combination of chili powder, cumin, and garlic that I got from this cookbook years ago.) I knew the salsa would do the job I wanted, because my Enchilada Casserole includes salsa for the very same reason and it’s delicious.
This dish is a perfect one-pot meal—my personal fave! My aunt and I enjoyed it for lunch when she was visiting. Mr. GFE and I enjoyed it for dinner two nights. And I ate if for breakfast and/or lunch a few days. It was good every time! Enjoy!
- 1 pound lean ground beef (or turkey; I used ground venison), cooked and drained
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 can pinto beans, drained
- Most of a 10-12 ounce bag tortilla chips, mostly crushed (about 3½ cups or so, if you wish to measure; see notes)
- 1 can Ro-tel tomatoes, 10 ounces, drained (I used the one that included green chilies)
- 2 cups of salsa (I used ready-made medium-flavored salsa, but homemade salsa would be great)
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
- sour cream for serving (optional; we didn’t use sour cream)
- guacamole for serving (optional; I would have used it if I had had some!)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large skillet, brown meat with onions and drain off fat.
- Stir in beans, tomatoes, and salsa.
- Simmer over medium-low (or heat on medium heat stirring constantly) until everything is well combined and heated through. There will be some extra liquid; do not drain/discard. (The extra liquid will be absorbed by the tortilla chips and will soften them nicely.)
- Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.
- Put down a layer of crushed tortilla chips, followed by a layer of the meat/bean mixture (use half of the amount), then a layer of cheddar cheese (use half of the amount). Add one more layer of remaining ingredients.
- Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbly.
- Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Top with sour cream and/or guacamole, if desired. Enjoy!
When you add the meat/bean mixture over the tortilla chip layer, be sure to cover the chips all the way to the edges if you want them soft rather than crispy. Either way works fine, but I preferred the softer version, although the crispier version is shown here.
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