Cowboy dinner is a hearty casserole of flavorful beef, corn and beans topped with soft, fluffy cornbread and a layer of cheese. So delicious!

This easy, comfort food casserole has been a family favorite for over 20 years! After that long, you know the recipe has to be a keeper!

Cornbread topped beef, bean, and corn mixture on white plate with fork.

Beef and Bean Layer

This casserole is made up of two parts. First is the beef and bean layer.

It couldn’t be easier! Ground beef and onion are cooked together before adding:

  • beans (pinto are my favorite for this recipe, but black, kidney or white beans work, too)
  • frozen corn
  • salsa

Important Note: choose a salsa that you love the taste of because the majority of flavor in the beef and bean filling comes from that ingredient!

Salsa, pinto beans, corn and beef in stainless steel pan.

Cornbread Layer

Next up is the cornbread layer! Taking notes from this favorite cornbread recipe, the cornbread topping is a one-bowl recipe that comes together fast.

Dry ingredients:

  • cornmeal
  • flour
  • sugar
  • baking powder + salt

Wet ingredients:

  • oil or melted butter
  • eggs
  • milk or buttermilk

Like any good cornbread, don’t over mix the batter! Mixing just until combined ensures the baked cornbread will be light and fluffy!

Whisk stirring cornbread batter in glass bowl.

Assembling Cowboy Dinner

Don’t blink or you’ll miss it (it’s so easy!).

  1. Beef and bean filling
  2. Shredded cheese
  3. Cornbread

The addition of cheese provides a delightful salty flavor boost as well as a creamy texture element between the filling and the cornbread. Don’t skip it!

Glass pan with beef, bean, and corn mixture; glass pan with cheese on top of beef mixture; glass pan with cornbread batter on top of casserole; glass pan with baked cornbread casserole.

A Weeknight Wonder

Simple and satisfying, this cornbread casserole may not win any gourmet food awards, but it is perfect for a super tasty weeknight meal.

It also makes a fantastic take-in meal! It is so family-friendly. I’ve brought it to many a new mom or friend in need over the years.

The filling isn’t overly saucy – it’s more “piecey” if that makes sense. We like it just as it is, but if you prefer a more saucy filling, add a cup or two of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (be sure to add salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste if needed).

PS: this cowboy dinner also makes a great dutch oven meal for camping and feels really quite appropriate with the chucwagon-vibe of the cornbread, beef and beans.

Glass 9X13-inch pan with beef, bean, corn, salsa and cornbread.

5-Star Reviews

Behold the other rave reviews for this casserole (so you don’t have to take just my word for it!).

Winnie says: Never expected to find an empty pan with a request to make it once a week. They loved it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

J. Wayne says: Been a family staple for years. Sometimes add a little more filling or a little less topping. Just depends on how adventurous we feel. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Chrissy says: A neighbor made this for us after I had my second baby. It’s been a staple in our house since, the moment the air gets brisk. I’ve made it for friends going through breakups or having babies. Ultimate comfort food! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tiann says: Thank you!  My whole family loves this recipe & I make it often! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fork taking bite of cornbread topped beef and bean casserole.

What to Serve With This:

5-Minute Skillet Broccoli
Sliced apples or other fresh fruit
Mexican chopped salad

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Portion of cornbread topped beef and bean casserole on white plate with fork.

Cowboy Dinner {Cornbread Beef and Bean Casserole}

4.58 stars (197 ratings)

Ingredients

Beef Mixture:

  • 1 ½ to 2 pounds ground beef or ground turkey
  • ½ cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 ½ cups salsa, store bought or homemade
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black, pinto, or white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 to 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Cornbread Topping:

  • ½ cup (85 g) cornmeal
  • 1 ½ cups (213 g) flour
  • cup (71 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • cup oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup milk

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 375. Lightly grease a 9X13-inch pan and set aside.
  • In a large 12-inch skillet set over medium heat, cook the ground beef, onion, salt and pepper, until the meat is fully cooked. Drain the grease from the pan.
  • Stir in the corn, salsa, and beans. Spread the beef mixture evenly in the prepared pan and set aside.
  • For the cornbread, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add the oil, eggs and milk. Whisk together until just combined (don't over mix).
  • Sprinkle the cheese over the beef mixture. Pour the cornbread batter over the top and spread evenly all the way to the edges.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes until the cornbread is baked through. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean and the top should spring back lightly to the touch. Let the casserole rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Serving: 1 serving, Calories: 477kcal, Carbohydrates: 43g, Protein: 29g, Fat: 21g, Saturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 110mg, Sodium: 1137mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 14g
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Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Recipe originally posted January 2011; updated November 2022 with new photos, recipe notes, etc.

Bean and corn cornbread-topped dinner on a white plate.