Tater tot casserole is made of ground beef, cheddar cheese, seasonings, and tater tots. You can create endless variations of this recipe by adding frozen vegetables or switching up the seasonings.
I believe that tater tot casserole is officially the first dish that I ever learned how to cook as an adult. This was a staple recipe in my 20s and I ate it about once a week.
What goes in this tater tot casserole recipe?
Tater tots - It doesn’t matter what brand of tater tots that you buy but I do recommend leaving them frozen until the last minute. They will be easier to arrange on top of the dish if they aren’t soft. This doesn’t impact the flavor. It just makes putting it all together a little bit easier.
Cream of mushroom soup - Often times you can interchange cream of chicken soup and cream of mushroom soup but this isn’t one of those instances. This recipe truly needs cream of mushroom. My tip is to make sure that you always have a few cans of each in your pantry. I like to add staples like this to my Amazon orders and just have them delivered.
Sauteed onions - When I was younger I didn’t saute the onions for this recipe but my goodness does it add such wonderful flavor. If you are in a hurry you can skip this step. Every time that I saute onions, whomever in the house finds their way to the kitchen to see what I am cooking. The smell alone makes everything so yummy.
Sauteed garlic - Just like with the onions this is an optional step but it is so worth it. Mincing garlic is a bit annoying if you are in a hurry in the kitchen. This is why we cheat a bit and keep minced garlic jars in the fridge. This saves us a nice chunk of time but fresh garlic is always best. The choice is yours here.
Sharp cheddar cheese - This cheese really compliments the dish well. Some people just prefer cooking with a milder cheddar and that is perfectly fine. However, I do suggest that you try this dish with a sharp cheese at least once. I suspect that you will be quite surprised at how it compliments the beef and tater tots in this recipe.
Ranch dressing mix - We use this so often in recipes and it adds a tasty flavor kick. If you don’t have any on hand, here is our homemade ranch mix recipe. When I discovered that I could mix in a few tablespoons of this mix here and there it really added a depth of flavor to dishes. It is well worth it in this one.
- 1 package of frozen tater tots
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2 c sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 small onion
- 1 T minced garlic
- 3 T ranch seasoning mix
- Cooking Spray
- Prep the ingredients – Shred the cheese, dice the onion and garlic.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a shallow 13 x 9 casserole dish with cooking spray.
- Brown the ground beef in a large skillet on medium high heat. Using your spatula, break up the meat into small pieces as it is cooking.
- Drain and rinse the ground beef.
- Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel. (Be careful it will likely still be warm.) Add the olive oil to the skillet and turn it back to medium high heat.
- Add in the onion and garlic. Stir often. Sauté until onions start to turn translucent.
- Turn temperature to medium low. Add the ranch seasoning mix and stir to combine.
- Add ground beef back to pan. Pour in cream of mushroom soup and stir to combine.
- Pour the mixture into the baking pan and spread around evenly.
- Sprinkle 1 ½ cup of cheddar cheese over mixture making sure to evenly coat.
- Arrange tater tots in rows across the top of the mixture.
- Bake for 30 to 45 minutes or until tater tots start to brown.
- Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
- Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is fully melted.
- Serve while hot!
- We keep a jar of minced garlic in our refrigerator. We use it so often and this makes life easier.
- If the mixture seems too thick to you, feel free to mix in ⅓ cup of milk.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 535Total Fat: 39gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 122mgSodium: 1191mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 35g
Tips on making tater tot casserole and variations
- Try different cheeses with this casserole. While sharp cheddar is our favorite cheese for this casserole you can experiment with a Mexican blend cheese or a Colby blend. Get creative with the cheeses and feel free to even add more in the bottom of the pan for a little surprise when people dig in.
- Considering adding a layer of frozen veggies to your tater tot casserole. Some people like to add frozen broccoli or frozen green beans. Add the frozen vegetables to the skillet and mix it right in before adding it to the baking dish.
- Back in the day when I had a long commute, I would make this dish in advance cover it and store it in the freezer. If you like to meal prep in advance this is a perfect dish for that. My tip is to pull it from the freezer and place it in the fridge before work in the morning. Then when you get home just pop it in the oven.
- Turn this into a single pan recipe by cooking it all in your cast iron skillet. You can fry up the meat and saute the onion and garlic in the same skillet. Then when everything is done and mixed, place the tater tots on top. Through the entire skillet in the oven and bake. This will reduce clean up time and cast iron skillets provide an extra layer of flavor. Plus this is a beautiful way to present your meal when it is done.
What to side to serve with tater tot casserole?
Tater tot casserole is a heavy meat and potatoes dish so the best sides to serve with would be light in nature. Here are our suggestions for the best side dishes.
Green salad - A simple green salad that includes romaine lettuce, cucumber, and some diced tomatoes. The best salad dressing to compliment the tater tot casserole would be a light vinaigrette.
Green beans - Simple green beans can complement this casserole quite well. Don’t be shy about popping open a can of green beans, heating them up and serving them. Sure you could saute them or even cook them with bacon.
Canned corn - You can do so much to spice up a can of corn. Corn complements the flavors of tater tot casserole so well. It is often my favorite go-to side dish. If you are in a hurry, pop up open the can, add some salt, pepper and a dash of sugar. Then just heat it up and serve.