How To Make the Easiest Tater Tot Casserole

updated Jan 21, 2020
Tater Tot Casserole

This hearty casserole easily feeds a hungry crowd and is an all-in-one protein, vegetables, and tots.

Serves12

Prep30 minutes

Cook25 minutes

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Tater tot casserole is the best family meal you aren’t making yet. The Midwestern casserole provides the unbeatable satisfaction of crispy tater tots layered over a creamy, beefy filling studded with sweet and tender vegetables. And, contrary to what you might have grown up on, it doesn’t have to be made with canned soup.

This hearty dish easily feeds a hungry crowd and offers protein, vegetables, and, most importantly, tots — all in one dish. It takes just 20 minutes to get it in the oven, leaving you with more time to spend helping with homework or playing with the kids before dinner is ready. Here’s the easiest version of tater tot casserole we know.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Our Easy Tater Tot Casserole Skips the Canned Soup

Traditional tater tot casseroles, or hotdishes, as they’re often called, are a mix of condensed soup, canned or frozen veggies, and a starch, which forms the crispy layer on top (and in many cases, this starch is tater tots). Our version keeps the frozen vegetable shortcut (no chopping!) but opts for a packet of soup mix instead of a can of mushroom soup, which keeps everything just as easy but packs in way more flavor. And, just like the classic casseroles, everything is baked together in one dish.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

3 Key Steps for Tater Tot Casserole

1. Use onion soup mix to flavor the beef. To eliminate the need for canned soup and take away the extra step of cooking fresh onions, we turned to an envelope of soup mix. When added to the browned beef, the soup mix flavors the gravy that coats the beef and vegetables.
2. Make a pan gravy. Adding just a little flour to the beef will thicken the broth and milk mixture, creating a creamy gravy that holds this casserole together.
3. Bake until bubbly and golden. Once the beef and gravy are transferred to the casserole dish, top with frozen tater tots and bake until the gravy is bubbly and the tots are tender but crisp.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Serving Tater Tot Casserole

Tater tot casserole is classic comfort food, meaning it should be scooped into and eaten from bowls. My kids love it with ketchup, but chopped green onions, parsley, or even a splash of hot sauce are welcome, too.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Tater Tot Casserole

This hearty casserole easily feeds a hungry crowd and is an all-in-one protein, vegetables, and tots.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Serves 12

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 2 pounds

    lean ground beef

  • 3/4 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 (1.4-ounce) packet

    dried onion soup mix, such as Lipton's

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 cup

    low-sodium chicken or beef broth

  • 2 cups

    whole or 2% milk

  • 12 ounces

    frozen mixed vegetables, such as peas, carrots, and green beans

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    frozen tater tots (24 ounces)

  • Thinly sliced scallions or chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving (optional)

Equipment

  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • 9x13-inch baking dish

  • Large skillet

  • Spatula or wooden spoon

  • Chef's knife and cutting board

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven and grease a 9x13-inch baking dish. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 400°F. Coat a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

  2. Brown the beef. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, breaking it into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 8 minutes.

  3. Season the beef and add the flour. Sprinkle the beef with the flour, onion soup mix, and garlic powder. Stir to coat and cook until the flour is mostly moistened, 1 to 2 minutes.

  4. Add the vegetables and make the sauce. Add the vegetables and broth, then scrape up any flour stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the milk and cook for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. Don’t worry if the sauce isn’t thickened; it will cook and thicken in the oven.

  5. Move to the casserole dish and top with the tots. Transfer the beef mixture to the prepared baking dish and smooth into an even layer. Top with the tater tots.

  6. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Bake until the tots are browned and the filling is bubbly, 40 to 45 minutes.

  7. Cool 15 minutes and serve. Cool the casserole for 15 minutes before topping with scallions or parsley and serving.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.