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Shipwreck Casserole is a vintage ground beef recipe that comes together easily with layers of hamburger, potato, kidney beans, onions and tomato soup. Zesty seasoning, bacon, cheese, and a buttery Corn Flake topping finish off the flavorful dish. It’s a simple make-ahead dinner that’s hearty, flavorful, and totally kid-friendly!

Side shot of Shipwreck Casserole with kidney beans on a blue and white plate and a fork
Table of Contents
  1. Shipwreck Casserole with Kidney Beans
  2. What is Shipwreck Casserole?
  3. Ingredients
  4. How to Make Shipwreck Casserole
  5. What to Serve with Amish Shipwreck Casserole
  6. Make Ahead
  7. Storage
  8. Shipwreck Dinner — Recipe Variations
  9. Tips for the Best Shipwreck Casserole Recipe
  10. Shipwreck Casserole Recipe

Looking for even more ground beef casserole recipes? Try this tamale pie, a pan of Mexican lasagna, this family-friendly bacon cheeseburger casserole with rice, the longtime favorite Johnny Marzetti casserole, and this old-school shipwreck casserole, too!

Shipwreck Casserole with Kidney Beans

The idea for this recipe comes from a blog reader named Diane, who has fond memories of her grandmother preparing a similar dish each fall. Diane couldn’t remember the specific measurements, but sent me a list of the ingredients to layer in a dish: sliced potatoes, onions, bacon, kidney beans and tomato soup. She called it “Autumn Dish” because her Gram prepared it for the Dime-a-Dish church suppers each fall. Since I love a good vintage casserole, I was intrigued! After a little bit more poking around, I ultimately discovered that this old-fashioned dish is commonly known as “Shipwreck Casserole” — and Diane isn’t the only one who grew up loving it!

What is Shipwreck Casserole?

There are many different versions of Shipwreck Casserole, but the basics remain the same: a layered hamburger potato casserole that often includes kidney beans, bacon, and tomato soup. Like many other vintage ground beef recipes, this dish has been adapted over time and tweaked by home cooks for generations. Some folks like to add rice, while others use cream of mushroom soup (like this) or sausage.

History

The origins of Shipwreck Casserole are unclear, but evidence of the dish dates back to cookbooks from the 1940’s. Legend has it that the casserole gets its name because it was originally prepared after a shipwreck, when sailors grabbed what food they could before abandoning the sinking vessel. This somewhat odd combination of ingredients came together in one dish and was then named “Shipwreck Casserole.”

Another theory (and probably the more likely assumption) is that the layered hamburger potato casserole gets its name because it’s messy, the ingredients tend to fall apart when served, and it looks like a disaster (or a “shipwreck”). Regardless of where the dish comes from, one thing is certain: this tomato soup casserole with ground beef, potatoes, kidney beans and bacon is an easy dinner that’s been loved for generations!

Overhead image of shipwreck dinner in a casserole dish

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need to make the layered hamburger potato casserole. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Ground beef: the foundation of the casserole. You can substitute with ground turkey or ground sausage, if you prefer.
  • Onion and garlic: for savory flavor.
  • Chili powder, kosher salt, oregano, cumin and cayenne: a zesty seasoning blend to spice up the ground beef casserole. Feel free to get creative, use your favorite seasonings, and make it your own.
  • Russet potatoes: peeled and thinly-sliced, the potatoes act as the “extender” that helps thicken and bulk up the casserole.
  • Kidney beans: one can of the drained and rinsed beans adds hearty texture and flavor to the dish. It’s similar to adding beans to a zesty pot of beef chili!
  • Bacon: cooked and crumbled for a rich, smoky touch.
  • Condensed tomato soup: two cans of this soup act as the binder for the casserole. It’s thick, slightly sweet, and balances the other savory ingredients.
  • Cheddar cheese: because every good casserole needs some cheese!
  • Crushed Corn Flakes cereal and melted butter: the crunchy topping to finish off the dish. You can substitute with French fried onions, crushed potato chips or tortilla chips, or buttered Ritz cracker crumbs.
Process shot showing how to make layered hamburger potato casserole with tomato soup and kidney beans

How to Cut Potatoes for Casserole

You do not need to boil the potatoes before you layer them in the dish. Instead, peel the potatoes and then slice them very thin (less than ¼-inch thick). You can do this carefully by hand with a sharp knife, or use a mandoline slicer to quickly and easily get the job done. Just remember to keep the potato slices very thin and even in width so that they cook through and become tender by the time the casserole comes out of the oven.

Thinly sliced potatoes on a cutting board

How to Make Shipwreck Casserole

This easy Shipwreck Casserole is a simple dish that you can conveniently prepare in advance. It’s cozy comfort food that the whole family will love!

Process shot showing how to make shipwreck casserole
  1. Brown the beef, onion and garlic in a skillet until the meat is no longer pink. Drain off the grease.
  2. Stir in the seasoning.
  3. Layer half of the potatoes, half of the beef mixture, half of the beans and half of the bacon in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  4. Pour one can of soup over top and spread to cover.
  5. Repeat the layers once more.
  6. Cover with foil and bake in a 350° F oven for 1 hour.
  7. Remove the cover, sprinkle the cheese and buttered Corn Flakes on top, then return to the oven for 10-15 more minutes. The casserole is done when the potatoes are tender, the cheese is melted, and the topping is golden brown.
Horizontal shot of a plate of shipwreck casserole

What to Serve with Amish Shipwreck Casserole

This tomato soup casserole with ground beef and kidney beans goes well with just about any of your favorite sides. Here are a few easy options to try:

Overhead shot of Shipwreck Casserole on a blue and white plate

Make Ahead

This is a great make-ahead dinner. You can assemble the entire casserole up to 24 hours in advance and keep it covered in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Before baking, allow the dish to sit on the counter and come to room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

You can freeze the casserole before baking. Wrapped tightly, the assembled casserole will keep in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Storage

Leftover ground beef casserole will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

To reheat the casserole: If reheating an entire casserole, cover the dish loosely with foil and bake in a 350° F oven until warmed through (about 20-30 minutes). Individual portions can be reheated in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Side shot of old fashioned shipwreck casserole on a blue and white plate with parsley garnish

Shipwreck Dinner — Recipe Variations

  • Any ground meat will work in this recipe. Instead of the ground beef, try ground turkey, ground pork, ground chicken or ground sausage.
  • Add More Veggies: feel free to include crisp-tender steamed, roasted, or sauteed broccoli, green beans, carrots, corn, or even frozen peas in the casserole.
  • Don’t have Corn Flakes? You can substitute with Ritz cracker crumbs, French fried onions, or even crushed potato chips or tortilla chips. I don’t recommend using plain bread crumbs, since they’re lacking in flavor.

Can you make Shipwreck Casserole in a Crock-Pot?

Yes! To prepare this casserole in a slow cooker, brown the beef, onion and garlic in a large skillet. Drain off the fat, and stir in the seasoning. Layer the ingredients in the Crock Pot as instructed. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-3 hours, until the potatoes are tender. Sprinkle the cheese on top and continue cooking just until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with crushed chips, crackers or Corn Flakes, if desired (the topping won’t get browned and crispy in the slow cooker, so you might prefer to omit this ingredient).

Square image of shipwreck casserole on a plate

Tips for the Best Shipwreck Casserole Recipe

  • Total baking time may vary depending on the type of casserole dish that you’re using and on how thinly you slice your potatoes. I use a mandoline to quickly and easily slice the potatoes very thin. This ensures that the potatoes are tender and cooked evenly after about 70 minutes. If you slice your potatoes thicker, you can increase the baking time as necessary. Just tent the dish loosely with foil if the top starts to get too dark before the potatoes are done.
  • Cooking for a Smaller Family? Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish. The baking instructions remain the same. You can even prepare the full recipe, but divide the ingredients between two 8-inch pans and freeze one casserole for later.
  • For an extra cheesy casserole, feel free to add 1 cup of grated cheese into the layers (not just on top). Any good melting cheese will work — cheddar, American, Monterey Jack, Colby, Gruyere, or Pepper Jack!
  • Garnish the casserole with fresh herbs (such as parsley, thyme, basil or oregano) for a bright, fresh touch. Sliced green onions would also be good.
Overhead shot of a hamburger potato tomato soup recipe called Shipwreck Casserole

More Ground Beef Recipes to Try

Side shot of Shipwreck Casserole with kidney beans on a blue and white plate and a fork

Shipwreck Casserole

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 6 – 8 people
Calories 528 kcal
Shipwreck Casserole is a vintage ground beef recipe that comes together easily with layers of hamburger, potato, kidney beans and tomato soup. Zesty taco seasoning, bacon, cheese, and a buttery Corn Flake topping finish off the flavorful dish!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ½ lbs. ground beef
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch cayenne
  • 1 ½ lbs. (about 3 medium) russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (less than ¼-inch thick)
  • 1 (16 oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 cans (10.75 oz each) condensed tomato soup, not diluted
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crushed Corn Flakes cereal mixed with 1 tablespoon melted butter

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish; set aside.
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the beef, onion and garlic until the beef is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the chili powder, salt, oregano, cumin and cayenne.
  • In the prepared baking dish, layer half of the potatoes to cover the bottom of the pan (overlapping some is fine). Season the potatoes with a little bit of salt and pepper. Top with half of the beef mixture, half of the beans and half of the bacon. Pour one can of soup over top. Repeat the layers once more, starting with potatoes (seasoned with salt and pepper), then beef, beans, bacon and soup.
  • Cover with foil and bake 1 hour. Remove foil, sprinkle the cheese and buttered Corn Flakes on top, and return to the oven (uncovered) for about 10-15 more minutes (or until the cheese is melted, the topping is golden brown, and the potatoes are tender). Garnish with fresh parsley just before serving.

Notes

  • Total baking time may vary depending on the type of casserole dish that you’re using and on how thinly you slice your potatoes. I use a mandoline to quickly and easily slice the potatoes very thin. This ensures that the potatoes are tender and cooked evenly after about 70 minutes. If you slice your potatoes thicker, you can increase the baking time as necessary. Just tent the dish loosely with foil if the top starts to get too dark before the potatoes are done.
  • Cooking for a Smaller Family? Cut all of the ingredients in half and bake the casserole in an 8-inch square dish. The baking instructions remain the same. You can even prepare the full recipe, but divide the ingredients between two 8-inch pans and freeze one casserole for later.
  • For an extra cheesy casserole, feel free to add 1 cup of grated cheese into the layers. Any good melting cheese will work — cheddar, American, Monterey Jack, Colby, Gruyere, or Pepper Jack!
  • Garnish the casserole with fresh herbs (such as parsley, thyme, basil or oregano) for a bright, fresh touch. Sliced green onions would also be good.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the casseroleCalories: 528kcalCarbohydrates: 62gProtein: 30gFat: 18gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 77mgSodium: 940mgPotassium: 1308mgFiber: 6gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 1043IUVitamin C: 22mgCalcium: 159mgIron: 13mg
Keyword: ground beef casserole, layered hamburger potato casserole, shipwreck casserole
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Janet Bradley says:

    Not a fan of Kidney beans, could I use any other kind of bean (preference would be some kind of white bean), Can’t. wait to try this recipe.

    Thanks, Jan

    1. Blair says:

      Absolutely, Jan! Any kind of bean that you enjoy will work well. Enjoy! 🙂

  2. Lisa says:

    I love the origins of this casserole! Could another condensed soup such as cream of mushroom or cream of chicken be used?

    1. Blair says:

      Hi, Lisa! Yes, I think either of those condensed soups would work fine. The creamy soup will just yield a casserole with a creamy sauce (rather than tomato-ey), and it won’t be as sweet since the tomato soup is so much sweeter than one of the cream-based soups. Let me know if you give it a try!