The Cozy Cook

Tater Tot Casserole

Tater Tot Casserole is a classic comfort food made with a flavorful beefy base, canned or frozen vegetables, an optional addition of cream of mushroom soup, cheese, and crispy tater tots. It’s easy to make ahead of time, freezer friendly, budget friendly, and a great way to feed a crowd!

A spoon scooping up tater tot casserole with ground beef, corn, and crispy tater tots.

When it comes to easy comfort foods, there’s nothing better than tater tot casserole. Especially this recipe. You’ll never taste one quite like this. Check out the ingredients compared to others out there. This can be made completely from scratch, with an optional addition of cream of mushroom soup to keep it traditional. 

Scroll down to see what makes my casserole different from all the rest out there.

What is Tater Tot Casserole

  • Tater Tot Casserole originated in the Midwest United States. It’s also referred to as “Tater Tot Hotdish”, or even just  “Hotdish”.
  • “Hotdish” is a combination of starch, meat, canned or frozen vegetables, and canned soup that are all baked together in one dish
  • “Tater Tot Casserole” specifically includes ground beef, vegetables, canned soup, and tater tots.
  • It’s easy to make, budget friendly, and great for feeding a crowd.

My Tater Tot Casserole

  • I like to make my tater tot casserole a bit differently than most recipes I’ve seen. It’s still super easy, but has much more depth of flavor to it than just ground beef, seasoning, and canned soup. In fact, the canned soup is completely optional in this recipe.
  • I took inspiration from my easy shepherd’s pie, homemade sloppy joes, and my brown gravy recipe to create a beefy base that is FULL of flavor. Top it off with corn (or your veggie of choice), cheese, and tater tots.
  • When I say that this beefy base is full of flavor, I’m talking ketchup, mustard, tomato paste, onions, garlic, bell peppers, and a homemade gravy with simple seasonings.
  • This is baked at the perfect temperature to ensure super crispy tater tots on top of this delicious casserole.

How to Make It

See recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

Cook/crumble ground beef and onions until cooked through. Add garlic and bell peppers and cook for 2 minutes. Drain grease. 

Mix in salt/pepper, ketchup, yellow mustard, and tomato paste. Sprinkle in flour and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes.

A skillet with ground beef, onions, and peppers topped with flour.

Add the beef broth/seasoning mixture in small splashes and use a silicone spatula to “clean” the bottom of the pot, as this will add more flavor to the sauce.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Let it thicken and reduce for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 

Ground beef in a gravy sauce being reduced for Tater Tot Casserole

Top with corn, then with cheese. 

Ground beef topped with corn and cheese to make Tater Tot Casserole.

Add tater tots in an even layer on top. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and add additional ½ cup cheese. Bake 5 more minutes.

Optional: Garnish with chives and crispy bacon or bacon bits prior to serving.

Tater Tot Casserole before and after being baked. 

Make Ahead Method

Refrigerator (up to 2 days ahead):

  • Prepare the filling, add the vegetables, and add the cheese. Don’t add the tater tots. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
  • Cover and bake it at 375° for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and add frozen tater tots.
  • Bake it uncovered for 40 minutes. Sprinkle additional 1/2 cup cheese, bake for 5 more minutes. Serve.

Freezer (up to 3 months ahead):

  • Prepare the filling, add the vegetables, and add the cheese. Don’t add the tater tots. Cover, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Let it thaw overnight in the fridge. Cover and bake it at 375° for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and add frozen tater tots.
  • Bake it uncovered for 40 minutes. Sprinkle additional 1/2 cup cheese, bake for 5 more minutes. Serve.

Pro Tips

  • Don’t bake this any higher than 375°, otherwise the base gets too hot/bubbly and the tater tots sink down into it. (Trust me. 🥴)
  • To control the sodium: Use low sodium broth and soy sauce. The bouillon can be omitted as well, but it does add a nice depth of flavor.
  • Bell Peppers aren’t traditionally included in tater tot casserole but they add a nice flavor and texture to the recipe. Feel free to omit if preferred.
  • Canned or frozen green beans or mixed vegetables can also be used instead of corn.
  • Ground turkey can be used instead of ground beef.
  • A variety of cheeses work well in this recipe. Feel free to experiment. Monterey Jack would be an excellent choice as well as some Parmesan or Mozzarella.

Storage

  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

Tools For This Recipe

(Amazon affiliate links)- Check out all of my kitchen essentials here.

  • This is the skillet I used in this recipe, (and in 90% of my recipes). It’s pricey, but it conducts heat really well and is oven safe. The size is perfect and the quality is great.
  • Better Than Bouillon is my brand of choice for broth. Add 1 tsp. of it with 1 cup of water to create 1 cup of broth. It’s easy to customize the amounts that you need to cook with and it takes up very little storage space in the fridge.

Try These Next

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A spoon scooping up Tater Tot Casserole from a skillet with crispy tater tots and ground beef with corn.

Tater Tot Casserole

4.67 from 3 ratings
Tater Tot Casserole is a classic comfort food made with a flavorful beefy base, canned or frozen vegetables, cheese, and crispy tater tots. Make it with or without canned soup!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Ground Beef
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 cup bell peppers, diced- any color
  • 2 teaspoons Ketchup
  • 3 teaspoons Yellow Mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 2 ½ cups Cheddar Cheese, separated
  • 32 oz. Tater Tots, frozen

For the Gravy/Sauce:

  • 2 cups Beef Broth
  • 1 chicken bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon Soy Sauce
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder

Optional

  • 10.5 oz. low sodium cream of mushroom soup

Instructions

Prep Work:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Combine the gravy/sauce ingredients and set aside. (2 c. beef broth, chicken bouillon, 1 tsp. soy sauce, 1 tsp. onion powder, and ½ tsp. garlic powder.) Set aside.

Prepare the Beef Mixture:

  • Cook/crumble the ground beef with the onions over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through. Add minced garlic and bell peppers. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Drain grease well.
  • Season lightly with salt/pepper, ketchup, yellow mustard, and tomato paste. Stir to combine.
  • Sprinkle flour over the meat mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 2 minutes, until you can no longer smell flour.
  • Add the beef broth mixture in small splashes and use a silicone spatula to “clean” the bottom of the pot, as this will add more flavor to the sauce. Don’t add the liquid too quickly in order to keep the base nice and thick.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Let it thicken and reduce for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  • Optional: Spread cream of mushroom soup over the top of the beef if preferred.

Assemble Casserole/Bake

  • If your skillet isn’t oven safe, transfer to a lightly greased 9 x 13 casserole dish. Top with corn, then with 2 cups of the cheese.
  • Top with an even layer of frozen tater tots.
  • Bake for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and add additional ½ cup cheese. Bake 5 more minutes.
  • Optional: Garnish with chives and crispy bacon or bacon bits prior to serving.

Notes

Pro Tips
  • Don't bake this any higher than 375°, otherwise the base gets too hot/bubbly and the tater tots sink down into it. (Trust me. 🥴)
  • To control the sodium: Use low sodium broth and soy sauce. The bouillon can be omitted as well, but it does add a nice depth of flavor.
  • Bell Peppers aren't traditionally included in tater tot casserole but they add a nice flavor and texture to the recipe. Feel free to omit if preferred.
  • Canned or frozen green beans or mixed vegetables can also be used instead of corn.
  • Ground turkey can be used instead of ground beef.
  • A variety of cheeses work well in this recipe. Feel free to experiment. Monterey Jack would be an excellent choice as well as some Parmesan or Mozzarella.

Make Ahead Method
Refrigerator (up to 2 days ahead):
  • Prepare the filling, add the vegetables, and add the cheese. Don't add the tater tots. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
  • Cover and bake it at 375° for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and add frozen tater tots.
  • Bake it uncovered for 40 minutes. Sprinkle additional 1/2 cup cheese, bake for 5 more minutes. Serve.
Freezer (up to 3 months ahead):
  • Prepare the filling, add the vegetables, and add the cheese. Don't add the tater tots. Cover, label, and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Let it thaw overnight in the fridge. Cover and bake it at 375° for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and add frozen tater tots.
  • Bake it uncovered for 40 minutes. Sprinkle additional 1/2 cup cheese, bake for 5 more minutes. Serve.
Storage
  • Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave or baked at 350 in a lightly greased/covered casserole dish until heated through. (Amount of time depends on serving size.)

Nutrition

Calories: 627kcal, Carbohydrates: 52g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 33g, Saturated Fat: 14g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 13g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 96mg, Sodium: 1412mg, Potassium: 962mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 1308IU, Vitamin C: 47mg, Calcium: 384mg, Iron: 4mg

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5 comments on “Tater Tot Casserole”

  1. Love this casserole but I make mine the lazy way. Bottom layer cream of mushroom soup, over that 1 1/2 pounds 93 (or more percent)  lean ground beef uncooked then season as you like. I just use s/p garlic, veg all cans (2 for 9X13) then another layer of mushroom soup top off with tater tots. Very lazy way but works for us. We don’t use cheese. Don’t use too fatty of beef because it’ll taste too oily. Then you’d have fun trying to drain it. 
    350 degrees for an hour or so. 

  2. The ultimate comfort food for a cold snowy night. The recipe is easy to follow and the ingredients affordable, and gave us 2 meals worth! Next time I’ll freeze half since it’s pretty hearty. We live at 9,800 feet so I often have to adjust recipes, so next time I know I need to add some more flour to help thicken or omit the cream soup (my tater tots turned a little mushy). Family loved this dish and will definitely make again. Just such a cool idea with the tater tots and the beef flavoring is great. 

  3. The whole family inhaled this! The beef base has so much flavor. I chopped up some bacon and sprinkled it over the top and it was extra delicious. I also used cream of mushroom soup and frozen vegetables that I had leftover in the freezer. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Hey Bridget! I am so happy to hear that you and your family enjoyed it! I always get tempted just to eat the filling before I let the tots bake on top, hahaha! Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this review, I really appreciate it! -Stephanie

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