Tater Tot Casserole is a staple, kid-friendly recipe in my kitchen. This easy hotdish recipe is simply the best because it is loaded with ground beef, corn, cheese, and crispy tater tots. Here in Minnesota, we refer to this meal as a tater tot hotdish but whatever you call it, don’t you dare skip out on the last ingredient because it makes all the difference….
What I Love About This Easy Tater Tot Casserole Recipe
In the spirit of being totally open and honest with you, I present to you the first recipe in all the years of my blog history, that uses a condensed soup: Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole. While I am not a huge fan of this prepared product, I do appreciate the aid it gives to those who are just learning to cook, like my children. My kids like to use these soups in some of their favorite recipes because it makes dinner fairly simple for them in the preparation process.
Yes, my kids cook…and often. They make dinner a few nights a week. If I allowed them to, they would make this Tater Tot Casserole every week. No doubt that this recipe is definitely kid-friendly!
Although, since we are Minnesotans, I should really re-title this as a Tater Tot Hotdish recipe. Not sure why, but you don’t call these “casseroles” up north and I still find that weird. It took me years of living in the land of 10,000 lakes to figure out what the heck a hotdish was!
What is Tater Tot Casserole Made of?
Like most recipes, a tater tot casserole is made using an endless variety of ingredients. However, the following foods are most often found inside this midwest classic recipe. They are listed in the order they are layered, beginning at the bottom of the 9×13″ casserole dish and working up:
- Ground Beef – seasoned and browned hamburger is the standard protein choice for the base of a tater tot casserole recipe.
- Canned Corn or Green Beans – the choice of which canned vegetable to use in the recipe is solely a personal preference. The original Minnesota recipe was made with green beans.
- Cream of Mushroom Soup – condensed soup is added to the casserole right out of the can. It adds creaminess to the finished dish, as well as the addition of a bit of mushroom flavor to the sauce.
- Sour Cream – while not all tater tot casserole recipes include sour cream, they should. This addition helps add depth of flavor to the sauce so the condensed soup doesn’t struggle on its own.
- Shredded Cheese – use the cheese as the gooey layer between the tater tots and the ingredients on the bottom. It’s that special touch other recipes don’t have.
- Frozen Tater Tots – the tater tots stay frozen until right before the dish goes in the oven. Keeping them frozen helps the tots from falling apart inside the casserole as it bakes.
How to Make the Best Tater Tot Casserole
What makes any recipe “the best” is completely subjective to each individual. However, listed below are some tips to make your version the best tater tot casserole in the neighborhood!
- Use a quality 80/20 ground beef
it’s easy for the beef to lose its distinctive flavor among all the ingredients. Be sure the fresh hamburger has enough fat to provide that flavor, and the quality of the ground beef doesn’t include fillers or additives.
- Select a sharp cheddar cheese
while any type of cheese would work fine in this recipe, sharp cheddar has some personality and tang that will really shine in this recipe. Don’t let the cheese hide under the other ingredients.
- Utilize the broiler
once the casserole finishes baking, give the tater tots a bit of extra crunch by sticking the whole pan under the broiler for just a minute or two. Watch the tots closely because they can make the jump from crispy to burnt very quickly. Once they perfectly toast on top, sprinkle a bit more kosher salt over the top of the finished meal.
Tater Tot Casserole FAQs
Absolutely! In fact, the original tater tot casserole recipe, that came out of Minnesota in 1956, included green beans. So really, replacing the corn in the casserole with green beans is a way to honor the founding midwest recipe. Just remember, to truly honor the Norweigan heritage of the Minnesota recipe, it is no longer a “casserole.” It has transformed into a tater tot “hotdish” with green beans.
When choosing side dishes to serve with this easy casserole, keep that same simple theme in mind. Since the entreé includes a protein, vegetables, and carbohydrates all in one, a complicated side dish would only compete with casserole instead of complimenting it. Here are a few suggestions:
Roasted fresh vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, or zucchini
Green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Fresh fruit salad
Butternut squash or spaghetti squash
Yes, you can successfully freeze hamburger tater tot casserole! In fact, this recipe is the freezer meal of all freezer meals! The go-to recipe most home cooks use when they first explore the world of freezer cooking. Unlike other recipes, a tater tot casserole retains both its texture and flavor once frozen.
And, good news. No need to alter the recipe for a frozen version. Simply follow the recipe as written, then wait to bake the finished casserole until it is time to serve. Tightly cover the pan first with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Doing this keeps the tater tot casserole fresh for 4-5 months in the freezer.
To keep your favorite 9×13 baking dish free from the freezer, be sure to grab some quality aluminum pans with lids to use instead. Don’t go for the cheap ones or you’ll end up with tater tot casserole all over the floor.
When it is time to bake the casserole, remove the plastic and foil from the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes. Or, thaw it for a few days in the refrigerator before baking, adding about 10 extra minutes to compensate for the cold temperature of the ingredients.
How to make tater tot casserole ahead of time?
Go head and make this cheesy casserole 3-4 days before you need it. The finished dish won’t lose any quality from the longer stay in the fridge. Follow the directions listed in the recipe, stopping before baking. Cover the 9×13 baking dish tightly with foil to keep it from drying out. You’ll need to add about 5 -10 minutes to the bake time to compensate for the casserole starting off cold when it goes into the oven.
Can I use ground turkey as a substitute for the ground beef?
Technically, any ground protein would work in this cheesy casserole, but it is difficult to achieve the same level of flavor from ground turkey, chicken, or pork as you do from beef. If you make this substitution, be sure to use a higher fat version of the ground turkey. That extra fat will equal flavor inside the finished dish.
Can I use frozen corn or green beans instead of canned?
This substitution is just fine, as long as you reduce the amount of milk from the amount written in the recipe. Use 2 tablespoons less because the frozen vegetables will release more water than their canned counterparts when baked. And, no one wants watery tater tot casserole.
Cheesy Tater Tot Casserole Recipe VIDEO
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- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or ground turkey
- 1 can corn or green beans, drained
- 3/4 C low fat sour cream
- 1 can low fat cream of mushroom soup
- 3/4 C skim milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 lb bag tater tots
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick spray.
- Heat a large skillet on high and add your ground beef or turkey. Season with the salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder. Cook on high, breaking it up into pieces as you go until the meat is completely cooked.
- Add the sour cream, soup, milk and corn or green beans. Mix until combined.
- Pour mixture into the 9×13 pan. Top with the shredded cheese.
- Add the tater tots to the top. Bake for 40-45 minutes until hot and bubbly. Sprinkle a bit of salt over the tater tots when you take the casserole out of the oven.
**For a freezer meal, prepare as instructed but do not bake. Freeze, well wrapped. To cook it, bake at 350 for 60 minutes if frozen, or as instructed if thawed.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: American
- Serving Size: 1/8 th
- Calories: 461
- Sugar: 5 g
- Sodium: 1273 mg
- Fat: 25 g
- Saturated Fat: 8 g
- Unsaturated Fat: 5 g
- Trans Fat: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 34 g
- Fiber: 3 g
- Protein: 25 g
- Cholesterol: 80 mg
Keywords: easy casserole recipe, hot dish recipe, tater tot casserole