Cowboy Casserole

published Jan 5, 2022
Cowboy Casserole Recipe

This ultra-comforting casserole is packed with lots of melty cheddar and topped with a crispy layer of tater tots.

Serves6 to 8

Prep12 minutes

Cook40 minutes

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Cowboy casserole (a casserole with ground beef and other ingredients, topped with tator tots and melted cheese
Credit: Kelli Foster

When it comes to ultra-comforting, crowd-pleasing bakes, there is nothing better than a cowboy casserole. And as we roll into winter, this is a dish you’ll definitely want to keep on repeat in your meal plan. It’s hearty and creamy, packed with lots of melty cheddar and topped with a crispy layer of tater tots. Best of all, it comes together with a short list of basic pantry and freezer ingredients. 

What Is a Cowboy Casserole?

Cowboy casserole is a totally irresistible, family-friendly dish. It’s layered with seasoned ground beef, a creamy tomato sauce, corn, black beans, and plenty of melted cheese, and it’s topped off with a blanket of crispy, golden tater tots. 

Credit: Kelli Foster

Key Ingredients in Cowboy Casserole

  • Ground beef
  • Taco seasoning 
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Sour cream
  • Black beans
  • Frozen corn
  • Sharp cheddar cheese
  • Tater tots

Can I Make It Ahead?

You can prep and cook some of the components in advance, although the casserole is best when baked right before eating. Here’s how you can get a head start.

  • Thaw frozen corn.
  • Grate cheese.
  • Cook ground beef, adding diced tomatoes and sour cream.

Cowboy Casserole Recipe

This ultra-comforting casserole is packed with lots of melty cheddar and topped with a crispy layer of tater tots.

Prep time 12 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 2 cups

    frozen corn kernels

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 2 cloves


  • 8 ounces

    sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)

  • 1 (about 15-ounce) can

    black beans

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 1 pound

    lean ground beef

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 (1-ounce) packet

    taco seasoning mix

  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can

    fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juices

  • 1 cup

    sour cream

  • 32 ounces

    frozen tater tots


  1. Thaw 2 cups frozen corn kernels at room temperature (1 to 2 hours) or according to package instructions.

  2. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF. Meanwhile, dice 1 medium yellow onion and mince 2 garlic cloves. Grate 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese (about 2 cups) on the large holes of a box grater. Drain and rinse 1 (about 15-ounce) can black beans.

  3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add 1 pound lean ground beef, season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, and 1 (1-ounce) packet taco seasoning mix. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 3 minutes.

  4. Remove from the heat. Add 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes with juices and 1 cup sour cream, and stir to combine.

  5. Transfer the beef mixture to a 9x13-inch baking dish and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with the corn and black beans. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Arrange 32 ounces tater tots in a single tight, even layer on top of the cheese.

  6. Bake until the tater tots are golden brown and the casserole is bubbling, about 35 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake until melted, about 5 minutes more.

Recipe Notes

Gluten-free: To make this recipe gluten-free, make sure to use gluten-free taco seasoning.

Make ahead: The ground beef mixture can be cooked, and the tomatoes and sour cream added up to 1 day in advance. Cool completely and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to assemble the casserole. The casserole may need a few extra minutes baking time.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days.