This tater tot hotdish recipe is a quick, no-fuss comfort food dinner that’s made with layers of beef, cheese, veggies, and, of course, tater tots! We took the classic recipe and gave it a little twist for an ultra-creamy texture without the need for canned soup. Easy and delicious, it’s one meal that’s always guaranteed to please!
What Is a Hotdish?
A hotdish is a one-dish meal popular in the Midwest but especially prevalent in Minnesota. Hotdish recipes come in many forms but always contain three basic components – a starch, a protein, and a vegetable. All of the ingredients are layered on top of each other and bound with creamy sauce.
Origins of the Hotdish
Hearty and affordable, hotdish recipes were created with the intention of being a quick and easy way to feed labor workers without breaking the bank.
The word “hotdish” first appeared in a Minnesotan cookbook published by the Grace Lutheran Ladies Aid in the 1930s. This version used hamburger meat, elbow macaroni, and peas. Over the years the recipe evolved, and incorporated a binding ingredient. This version especially took off when Campbell’s soup released their condensed cream soup in 1934. Later, when frozen tater tots were sold on shelves, they were used to replace the macaroni, and the dish was complete!
Today, although there are competitions to determine who has the best hotdish all across the Midwest, the dish remains largely unchanged.
Hotdish vs Casserole
The two terms are often used interchangeably (by people outside of the Midwest), but hotdish recipes and casseroles are not the same! You see, all hotdishes are casseroles, but all casseroles are not hotdishes.
The largest differences exist in the fact that casseroles can contain pretty much any ingredient you have on hand whereas hotdishes are made with just a few required staples. Additionally, casseroles are the dish used to cook with, and hotdishes are the meal itself.
Furthermore, casseroles can be served as a breakfast, main dish, side dish, or even dessert, but hotdishes only exist as a complete meal. Finally, casseroles are almost always made with a variety of ingredients that are stirred together in a dish. Yet, hotdishes are made with clean layers of ingredients bound only by the liquid poured on top.
Tater Tot Hotdish Ingredients…with a Twist!
Typically tater tot hotdish recipes are made with canned mushroom soup or cream of chicken soup, but we aren’t huge fans of either. So, we used a flour mixture to achieve the same taste and an even creamier texture! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Flour – We used standard all-purpose flour, but a 1:1 gluten-free all-purpose flour would work too.
- Milk – For the richest taste, we highly recommend whole milk.
- Beef – We used 88% lean ground beef for a little extra flavor, but any percentage you have on hand is totally fine.
- Seasonings – Garlic, paprika, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper enhance the flavors of this dish making it savory and delicious.
- Worcestershire Sauce – To add extra depth and a bit of tang.
- Vegetables – We include portobello mushrooms, pimento peppers, onions, and green beans!
- Cheese – We like Gouda best, but any cheese will do.
- Tater Tots – The final touch! Just pick up your frozen bagged variety from the store.
As long as you’ve got the basic ingredients down, feel free to make this hotdish recipe your own! Some common variations include:
- Swapping out the beef for ground turkey
- Adding broccoli, frozen peas, mixed vegetables, or corn
- Using a different shredded cheese like Cheddar
- Replacing the flour and milk with canned condensed soup
How to Make the Best Tater Tot Hotdish Recipe
Hotdishes are famous for being so ridiculously easy to make, and our version is no different! Follow the steps below, and dinner will be ready in minutes.
- Preheat: Turn the oven to 400° Fahrenheit.
- Brown the meat: Place the beef in a deep pot on medium-high heat, and cook until it has browned and is no longer pink, breaking it up with a spatula. Once the beef has been browned, add the onions, garlic, and seasonings to the pot, stirring to combine.
- Add ingredients: After 1-2 minutes, add the chopped mushrooms and flour to the mixture, and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to medium, and stir in the milk until it is well incorporated and thickened. Stir in the pimento peppers, green beans, and cheese.
- Bake: Transfer the mixture to a 13×9 baking dish, and layer the frozen tater tots on top. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the tater tots are golden brown and crisp!
If you really want to embrace the culture of the Midwest, double this recipe, and split it into two dishes. If you don’t plan on eating leftovers throughout the week, they can easily be frozen for later!
Fridge: Cover the casserole dish with foil, or place leftovers in an airtight container, and they’ll stay fresh for up to 5 days.
Freezer: Store leftovers in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months.
Reheat: When you’re ready to eat, reheat thawed leftovers covered in the oven at 350° Fahrenheit for 10 minutes or until the hotdish is heated through and the tater tots are crisp. Or, cook your hotdish uncovered straight from the freezer for 50-60 minutes.
For a quick option, you could also pop thawed leftovers in the microwave for about 30 seconds, but the potatoes won’t be quite as crisp.
More Comfort Food Weeknight Dinners You’ll Love
Looking for more easy recipes to feed your family in a pinch? Check out these staple meals.
- Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or dinner, this Greek Breakfast Casserole is easy to make, full of savory flavor, and so delicious!
- Made with lots of veggies and full of protein, this One Pot Cajun Pasta is the perfect filling option for a light and quick dinner.
- This One Pot Healthy
Spaghettiis loaded with veggies and protein and ready in just 15 minutes!
- Inspired by the classic Hamburger Helper, this One Pot Cheeseburger Pasta is tastier and more nutritious than anything you’ll find in a box.
The Best Tater Tot Hotdish Recipe
- 2 pounds 88% lean ground beef
- 1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons oregano
- 1 ½ teaspoons thyme
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 6 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms (chopped)
- 5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups whole milk
- 4 ounces canned pimento peppers (drained)
- 1 cup frozen thawed green beans
- ½ cup Gouda cheese or shredded cheese of choice
- 1 32-ounce bag frozen tater tots
- In a deep pot, brown the beef on medium-high heat, breaking it up with a spatula.
- Once the beef is cooked and no longer pink, add in the onion, garlic, seasonings, and Worcestershire. Sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped mushrooms and flour to the pot, and continue to sauté for 2-3 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to medium, and stir in the milk for 1-2 minutes or until it is well incorporated and begins to thicken. Stir in the pimentos, green beans, and cheese.
- Transfer the ingredients to a 13x9 baking dish, and layer the tater tots on top.
- Bake uncovered for 40-45 minutes or until the tater tots are golden brown and crisp.
- Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.