How to Make Railroad Pie (aka Ground Beef Cornbread Casserole)

Updated: Sep. 19, 2023

The southwest flavors in this supper make it a favorite with everyone. Make Railroad Pie with ground beef and just a few pantry items.

Love Tex-Mex-inspired dishes?  Then Railroad Pie is right up your alley.

What Is Railroad Pie?

You might know this dish by other names, like cowboy casserole or tamale pie. It’s an easy casserole made with a layers of seasoned ground beef, pinto beans and diced tomatoes, all baked under a blanket of cornbread batter.

One of the best things about this dish, besides the fact that everyone will love it, is that you can add your own twists. Fold in more veggies like corn or bell peppers, make it spicy with cumin and cayenne or try it with ground turkey. Whatever southwest ingredients you and your family love are fair game for this casserole.

How to Make Railroad Pie

Styled Railroad Pie Nancy Mock For Toh Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

The recipe takes about 40 minutes to make and makes 4-6 servings.


Ingredients For Railroad Pie Nancy Mock For TohNancy Mock for Taste of Home

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can Ranch-style beans, drained (see note below)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes or Ro-Tel diced tomatoes with chiles
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

For the cornbread:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or 2% milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup diced jalapenos or diced green chiles (optional)

Editor’s Note: Ranch-style beans are pinto beans in a seasoned tomato sauce. If your store doesn’t have these, you can substitute canned pinto beans.


Step 1: Cook beef and onions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray an 11×7-inch or 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick spray.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat; crumble the ground beef and add the diced onions. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and black pepper into the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the beef is browned. Pour off any excess grease.

Step 2: Simmer the mixture

Cook Mixture For Railroad Pie Nancy Mock For Toh Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Add to the pan the beans, diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder; stir everything together. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer the mixture for about five minutes. Add another dash of salt and pepper to taste. Remove the pan from the heat and spoon the beef mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.

Step 3: Make the cornbread batter

Cornbread Batter For Railroad Pie Nancy Mock For TohNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Add the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt to a medium bowl, and blend them together. Add in the egg, buttermilk and vegetable oil. Stir the ingredients just until they come together. Fold in the diced jalapenos.

Step 4: Assemble and bake

Layer And Bake The Railroad Pie Nancy Mock For Toh Nancy Mock for Taste of Home

Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the ground beef mixture, then spoon the cornbread batter into an even layer over the top. Bake the casserole for 15-20 minutes until the beef and cheese are bubbling and the cornbread is baked through. Serve slices of Railroad Pie immediately with sour cream and salsa.

Tips for Making Railroad Pie

Serving Tips For Railroad Pie Nancy Mock For TohNancy Mock for Taste of Home

Can I make ground beef cornbread casserole in a cast-iron skillet?

Yes, and it saves a pan too: you can cook the filling and bake the casserole all in the same cast iron skillet. Use a large size—twelve inches or larger—to have enough room for everything.

Can I swap ground beef for ground turkey?

Absolutely. Substitute lean ground turkey for the beef, and add a little vegetable oil to the pan when browning the turkey. This and the diced onions will help keep the meat moist as it cooks.

Can I use a boxed cornbread mix?

It’s easy to mix up cornbread batter from scratch, but boxed mixes like Jiffy can be used instead. Just prepare the mix according to the directions, fold in the diced chiles and add it to the casserole as directed.

Can I make Railroad Pie in advance?

This is an excellent make-ahead dish. Bake the casserole as directed, allow it to cool, then tightly cover the pan. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days, or it can be frozen for up to three months. To reheat, first let frozen casseroles thaw in the fridge. Cover the pan with foil and bake in a 400° oven for about 30 minutes.