Minnesota tater tot hotdish, or hamburger tater tot casserole depending on who you're talking to, is a classic freezer friendly dinner recipe families have enjoyed for generations in the Midwest.
There's an ongoing debate between my Minnesotan husband and my Wisconsin-born self:
Is it a casserole or is it a hotdish??
20+ years of marriage and the debate rages on but when it comes to this hamburger tater tot casserole recipe, I'm willing to throw my man a bone and officially name it a Minnesota tater tot hotdish because if ever there was a classic midwestern recipe, this is it.
Why This is the Best Recipe
My husband and I both grew up eating cozy casseroles our moms made, but we both agree that this is the best Minnesota tater tot hotdish recipe because:
- SUPER Crispy Tater Tots: The tater tots bake to a perfect golden brown crispy top.
- NO Cream of Mushroom Soup: In fact, I made this recipe without cream of chicken soup or any canned soup but I pinky promise it is still super easy.
- Not Spicy: Fun fact, true Minnesotans think black pepper is spicy. If you find a tater tot casserole that includes anything more than that for seasoning, you do not have an authentic recipe.
- Freezer Friendly: This hotdish recipe is widely popular because you can make it ahead and freeze it if you want to. It's a great dish to stock your freezer with ahead of a busy season.
Home cooks in Minnesota have loved this recipe because of the easy list of ingredients you need to make it:
- Ground Beef: Hamburger meat is the official protein, but you could lighten it up with ground turkey or mix it up and use ground pork if you wanted to.
- Tater Tots: Because of course! You'll need a 2-pound bag of classic tots.
- Canned Green Beans: I recommend French style because we love the texture the thinner beans give.
- Canned Whole Kernel Corn: You could substitute frozen if you want.
- Onion: Shhh, don't tell my husband this is in there.
- Chicken Stock
- All-Purpose Flour
- Minced Garlic
- Dried Thyme
Prep the Ground Beef Filling
The first step is to prepare the ground beef filling for the casserole.
You'll want to use a heavy bottomed pot or skillet to brown the ground beef.
Add the ground beef, chopped onion, minced garlic, dried thyme, and salt and pepper to the pot.
Cook it over medium-high heat and crumble the meat as it browns.
Continue to cook until most of the moisture in the pot has evaporated, this will take about 20 - 25 minutes.
Add the flour to the beef mixture and stir it in. Cook for 1 minute or until the flour has been absorbed.
Add the milk and chicken stock and stir. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat.
Add the grated parmesan and the drained cans of green beans and corn. Stir it all together.
Make Ahead Tips
If you are making this recipe ahead for dinner, this is where you would pause.
Scrape the ground beef filling into a 9x13-inch baking dish.
You can cover it with aluminum foil and keep it in the fridge for up to 3 days.
I prepped this during my lunch hour so I could simply bake it for dinner later that night.
You'll want to wait to top it with tater tots just before baking so they don't thaw in the fridge but for full freezing instructions, see my notes below.
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
While the oven is warming up, line the frozen tater tots in neat and even rows over the entire surface of the hotdish.
You may not need the entire bag of tater tots.
Place the baking dish on a baking sheet in case the sauce bubbles over while it cooks.
Bake for 35 - 40 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling hot and the tater tots are a deep golden brown.
If you want to make the tater tot hotdish ahead and freeze it, be sure to let the ground beef filling cool completely first.
Once the filling is cool, line the tater tots on top of the baking dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 6 months.
Keep the casserole covered loosely with foil and bake it directly from frozen. Add 15 minutes baking time to the total time, then remove the foil and finish until completely warmed through.
While this is how I've always seen the recipe served in the Midwest, there are a few ways you could play with it:
Tater Tot Casserole with Peas: You could add frozen peas in addition to or in place of the green beans.
Hamburger Tater Tot Casserole with Cheese: You could add a bag of shredded cheddar cheese to the sauce in place of the grated parmesan.
Spicy Tater Tot Casserole: You could add a dash of cayenne or a few shakes of hot sauce to the milk sauce.
What to Serve with Tater Tot Hotdish
The whole point of serving a tater tot hotdish is that your whole meal is all in one baking dish. This recipe has everything you need for a cozy dinner!
P.S. If you are interested in Minnesota and want a fun book club pick, be sure to check out The Lager Queen of Minnesota!
Minnesota Tater Tot Hotdish
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef
- 1 onion chopped
- 4 teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon pepper
- 3 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock
- 1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese
- 1 (14.25 oz) can French style green beans drained
- 1 (15.25 oz) can whole corn drained
- 1 (2-pound) bag of frozen tater tots
Prepare the Beef Filling
- Add the beef, chopped onion, minced garlic, dried thyme, and salt and pepper to a heavy bottomed pot like a Dutch Oven. Cook over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat and stirring the ingredients together as it cooks. Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 25 minutes.
- Add the flour to the beef mixture and stir. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the milk and chicken broth and stir. Cook until the mixture is thickened, about 3 minutes.
- Remove the pot or skillet from the heat and add the grated parmesan cheese, drained green beans and drained corn. Stir to combine all the ingredients and transfer the beef mixture to a 9x13-inch baking dish.
- Make Ahead Tips: At this point you can let the mixture cool completely, cover with foil, and refrigerate the casserole for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 6 months. Once frozen, let it thaw in the fridge overnight before you plan to bake it.
Assemble and Bake the Casserole
- Preheat the oven to 450°F. If the casserole has been in the fridge, let it come to room temperature on the stovetop while the oven preheats.
- Arrange the frozen tater tots in neat rows over the entire top of the baking dish. Do not press them down into the beef mixture, just let the sit lightly on the top.
- Bake the tater tot casserole until the tater tots are a deep golden brown and the beef mixture is hot and bubbling, 35 - 40 minutes.
Save This Recipe to Your Recipe Box
Find this delicious recipe next time you visit by saving it to your very own recipe box on my site. All your favorites stored in one easy place!