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Cowboy Casserole Recipe – How to Make it in 16 Simple Steps

If you are looking for a casserole that brings to mind the flavors of tacos and uses up random leftover ingredients in your kitchen, our recipe for Cowboy Casserole is the perfect choice. You can use tortilla chips, vegetables, beans, and bit of ground beef to create a family favorite.

A close look at a cheesy Texmex cowboy casserole.

Have you ever unearthed half of a bag of stale tortilla chips from the back of the pantry? What happens if you find a partial jar of salsa in the fridge and a bit of leftover corn from dinner last night? Don’t toss these seemingly random ingredients in the trash! You can utilize these odds and ends from your kitchen to make a new dinner for your family called Cowboy Casserole.

A close look at a cheesy Texmex cowboy casserole.

Cowboy Casserole Recipe

April Freeman
Loaded with the nutrition of corn, beans, salsa, cheeses, and ground beef, this recipe for Cowboy Casserole is nutritious and delicious. This casserole will appeal to everyone in the whole family with its tasty Southwestern flavors and textures.
Prep Time 20 mins
Baking Time 35 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Cuisine American
Servings 6 Servings


  • 9-Inch Casserole Dish
  • Medium-Sized Skillet
  • Spatula


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spray a two-quart casserole or a nine by a thirteen-inch baking pan with cooking spray and set it aside.
  • In a medium-sized skillet, brown the ground beef and chop it with a spatula until it is broken up into small bits.
  • Drain the fat from the meat and add the garlic powder, cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt, and onion powder. Drain the liquid from the cans of corn and black beans. Stir the one cup corn, the can of black beans, and the salsa into the skillet with the ground beef.
  • Return the pan to the heat to warm this mixture for a few minutes. After the mixture is warm, take the pan off of the heat and set it aside.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the cottage cheese and the sour cream until they are completely blended.
  • Reserve ½ cup of the tortilla chips and put the remaining five cups of the tortilla chips in a large zip-top storage bag and crush them with a meat mallet or rolling pin. They do not have to be crushed into a powder. It is perfectly fine if some larger chunks remain.
  • Take half of the crushed chips and line the bottom of your prepared pan. Top this with half of the meat, beans, and corn mixture.
  • Create the next layer by scooping small dollops of the sour cream/ cottage cheese mixture over top of the meat mixture.
  • Gently, with the back of a spoon, spread half of the cottage cheese and sour cream in a thin layer. Top this with one cup of the shredded cheese.
  • Create a new later of tortilla chip crumbs, followed by the remaining meat and another layer of the cottage cheese and sour cream. Do not put the final layer of cheese on top.
    The cooked ingredients are placed in a casserole dish and topped with cheese.
  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil or, if your casserole dish has a lid, put the lid on top of it. Put the covered pan in the oven and bake it for about 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and take off the covering.
  • Sprinkle the reserved cheese on top of the casserole and top the cheese with a scattering of black olives.
  • Take the reserved tortilla chips and put them around the outer edge of the casserole dish standing them on edge to create a decorative edging to the casserole.
  • Return the casserole to the oven and bake it for about five more minutes to melt the cheese topping and lightly toast the tortilla chips. Pay attention to the casserole so that you do not scorch the tortilla chips.
  • Take the casserole out of the oven and let it sit for about ten minutes before scooping it into bowls to serve it.
    A freshly-baked cowboy casserole.


The cowboys of the Southwest would have never thrown food away. In fact, the cook on a cattle drive definitely would have been a fan of this recipe. It can use all kinds of leftovers that you have in your kitchen. If you have a tomato that is getting a little wrinkled on the skin or some green onions that are starting to wilt, you can toss them into the casserole as well.
Use up that half of bell pepper that has been languishing in the crisper box and the remainder of the black olives from homemade pizza night. Any ingredient that seems like it might fit in a Tex-Mex dish can be stirred into the skillet along with the corn, beans, and salsa.
Most families love taco night and this recipe for Cowboy Casserole gives the taste of tacos in an easy to make a casserole. You can assemble the casserole the night before or the morning before you want to serve it. Just stop the assembly before you add the final sprinkle of cheese, the olives, and the tortilla chip garnish.
Cover the casserole with foil or a lid and stash it in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it at dinner time. When dinner is on the horizon, pop the whole dish in the oven and bake it for about 40 minutes. You will need a little bit of extra time since you are starting with a cold casserole. After the timer goes off, top it with the rest of the cheese and the reserved tortilla chips.
Keyword Cowboy Casserole, Recipe, Side Dish

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