Welcome to a Midwestern classic! This easy tater tot casserole is made without "cream of" soup; it's completely homemade but super easy to whip up.
It includes loads of mixed veggies, lean ground beef in a savory sauce, a layer of gooey cheddar cheese and crispy tater tots on top.
You simply cannot go wrong with this classic, comfy casserole!
What is tater tot casserole?
Tater tot casserole: pretty much the most Midwestern casserole recipe in the history of the Midwest, am I right? If I sound upset about it, trust me - I am not.
I absolutely love tater tot casserole, and remember eating it periodically as a kid in the great state of Michigan.
Tater tots were a pretty regular item on our dinner menu, and you throw in a bag of frozen veggies, some ground beef and a can of "cream of" soup and voila!
You've got a traditional Midwestern meal.
But we've elevated the classic by making our own cream of soup (see below for super easy instructions!) and adding a ton of spices for flavor.
Here's how to make tater tot casserole
- Butter or oil. Used to saute the onion, beef and acts as the fat to make a roux (to thicken the sauce).
- Onion. Yellow or white, diced!
- Ground beef. I use lean ground beef, but whatever your favorite is will work here.
- Mixed vegetables. A 12-ounce bag of the frozen mix of green beans, carrots, peas and/or corn.
- Spices. Celery salt, garlic, onion and mustard powders, salt and black pepper.
- Flour. To make the roux and thicken the sauce (this is why you don't need "cream of" soup).
- Beef stock. This will thicken up as it cooks and add a ton of flavor to your casserole "sauce".
- Worcestershire. FLAVOR, my friends. You should always have a bottle in your fridge.
- Cheddar cheese. Shredded cheddar is the best option here.
- Tater tots. Grab a bag of frozen tater tots. You won't use the whole bag, but that's okay! You'll have tots for later.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat the oil or butter in a large stove-top casserole dish or large oven-safe skillet to medium.
- Add the onion and sauté 4-5 minutes or until soft.
- Add the ground beef and cook another 5-7 minutes or until browned, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks.
- Stir in the mixed vegetables and sauté another 2-3 minutes.
- Stir in the salt, mustard powder, celery salt, onion powder, garlic powder and black pepper.
- Stir in the flour until incorporated. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes, until thickened.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce (if using).
- Remove from the heat and flatten the beef mixture in an even layer.
- Sprinkle the cheddar cheese in an even layer over the beef mixture.
- Line with tater tots.
- Bake 20-25 minutes or until the tater tots are golden and crispy and the filling is bubbly.
- Let rest for 5 minutes, then scoop and serve.
How to make your own "cream of" soup
- I am not the biggest fan of "cream of" soups, as I don't like mushrooms and don't want to add another thing to my grocery list when I can simply make a very similar recipe using a few simple pantry/fridge items that I generally have on hand.
- Yes, there is a "formula" to do this! It just takes some fat (oil or butter), flour, stock and/or milk and the appropriate spices.
- In this case, I used just stock because I enjoy the beefy flavor for this dish and felt like it didn't need any milk.
- But if you'd like to use some milk for a creamier texture, I suggest swapping in ½ cup milk and just do 1 ½ cups of stock.
- Then, I whisk in salt, mustard powder, celery salt, onion and garlic powder and black pepper. It gives a rich "stock" flavor that accomodates the ground beef and veggies quite well.
- If you're really into the mushroom thing, go ahead and add a handful of chopped ones when you saute the beef.
- This formula results in a rich and luscious sauce that brings our entire casserole together - sans a can of "cream of" soup.
- For some reason, I feel excited and satisfied to have figured out how to achieve this. It works and it's delicious.
Tater tot casserole - to cheese or not to cheese?
As for the topping, we didn't generally add cheddar cheese to our tot casserole. But after living in Wisconsin where the motto is "add cheese", I decided to give it a try and was not disappointed.
But again, this is something you can customize - add more cheddar or don't add any at all. The world is your oyster.
The one ingredient we absolutely cannot forget, though, is the tots.
This time around I used frozen - as I usually do - but if you're up for a little challenge and some additional time in the kitchen, you could totally make homemade tots for this casserole.
I've made them with potatoes and I've also made them with cauliflower and both are absolutely delicious. Any tot is a good tot, in my opinion
Is it a casserole or hot dish?
Oh, and if you're a Minnesotan, go ahead and call this Hot Dish. Either way, it's scrumptious.
Delicious casserole recipes:
- Spaghetti Pie
- Chicken Parmesan Pasta Bake
- Tuna Noodle Casserole with Potato Chips
- Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza Casserole
- Chicken Taco Casserole
Tater Tot Casserole
Easy homemade tater tot casserole (no cream of soup!) with loads of veggies, lean ground beef and crispy tater tots.
- Prep Time: 15-20 mins
- Cook Time: 35-40 mins
- Total Time: 50 mins - 1 hr
- Yield: Serves 8
- Category: Entree
- Method: Stove-Top, Baking
- Cuisine: American
- 3 tablespoons oil or butter
- ½ medium onion, peeled and diced
- 1-pound lean ground beef
- 12-ounce bag frozen mixed vegetables
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher or sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
- ½ teaspoon each celery salt, onion powder and garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups unsalted beef stock
- Dash Worcestershire sauce (optional)
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- ~70-75 frozen tater tots (from a 32-ounce bag)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Heat the oil or butter in a large stove-top casserole dish or large oven-safe skillet to medium. Add the onion and sauté 4-5 minutes or until soft. Add the ground beef and cook another 5-7 minutes or until browned, breaking up the pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Stir in the mixed vegetables and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Stir in the salt, mustard powder, celery salt, onion powder, garlic powder and black pepper.
- Stir in the flour until incorporated. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the stock and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes, until thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce (if using). Remove from the heat and flatten the beef mixture in an even layer.
- Sprinkle the cheddar cheese in an even layer over the beef mixture. Line with tater tots. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the tater tots are golden and crispy and the filling is bubbly. Let rest for 5 minutes, then scoop and serve.
Cooking Tip: I use the Lodge cast iron casserole dish for this and many other stove-top to oven recipes. It's a lifesaver!
- Serving Size: ⅛ of recipe
- Calories: 357
- Sugar: 5g
- Sodium: 666mg
- Fat: 19g
- Saturated Fat: 5g
- Unsaturated Fat: 14g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 28g
- Fiber: 4g
- Protein: 19g
- Cholesterol: 46mg
Keywords: tater tot casserole, casserole, tater tots, tots, ground beef