Tater Tot Hotdish – A Minnesota Classic

Those of you who are not from Minnesota may not be familiar with the culinary masterpiece we Minnesotans call “hotdish.” Everywhere else in the world this food staple would be called a casserole, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It tastes just as good. However, I grew up calling it hotdish, so that’s what I will call it here.

I believe that the term originated from the old Lutheran church potluck suppers where someone may have asked what to bring and was told to please bring a hot dish (as opposed to a cold dish, salad, dessert, or some other dietary delight). It’s cold here in Minnesota, dontcha know, so I can see where a hot dish would be welcomed at such an event.

Just about any baked concoction using ground beef and cream of mushroom soup can be considered a hotdish, but the Tater Tot Hotdish seems to be the “it” hotdish here in Minnesota. My recipe below is how I make this quintessential Minnesota hotdish.

Diane’s Minnesota Tater Tot Hotdish
1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can French cut green beans, drained
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 bag Tater Tots (32 oz)

In a large pan over medium heat, brown the beef. When most of the red color is gone, spoon out excess fat (but leave some behind) and add the onion, celery, and garlic. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the beef is completely browned and the onions and celery are softened. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the soup, green beans, and salt and pepper.

Spread evenly into a 9 x 13 baking dish and cover with a layer of tater tots. Bake uncovered at 350° F for 30-45 minutes or until bubbling. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Step by Step Details

Your grocery list, excluding staples such as onions, garlic and celery, are just these four ingredients. You may use whatever brands you want, but be sure to get French Cut green beans. The regular ones just seem too thick.

I recommend using grass-fed beef instead of the supermarket commodity stuff. I have even used ground bison with terrific results.

Brown the ground beef in a large pan over medium heat, breaking it up into smaller pieces as it browns. I like to use my Dutch oven, as it is large enough to stir everything in later without spilling over. Once the beef is mostly browned, tilt the pot to one side and spoon out any excess fat, but not all of it: Leave about a tablespoon remaining in the pot. The goal is to leave enough fat to boost the flavor but not feel too greasy. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and continue cooking until they are soft and the beef is completely browned.

Stir in the soup and green beans; add salt and pepper to taste. If it seems dry, add 1/2 C or so of milk. Totally optional.

Pour this mixture into the baking dish and top with tater tots. I find you get more tater tots (the best part!) if you put them in nice, neat rows, even though it takes longer to do so. It also scores more points for presentation.

Place baking dish in the oven and bake uncovered until the tater tots are brown and crisp and the hotdish is bubbling, about 30-45 minutes. Remove and let cool for a good 5-10 minutes, or even longer. Remember: it’s called hotdish for a reason: It’s very hot! I know your house is filled with the enticing aromas of comfort food, and I realize that it’s really, really hard to resist those hot and crispy tater tots staring you down, but let it cool a bit before you dig in, or you will scald your mouth. And trust me, that’s not so comforting. Enjoy!

5 thoughts on “Tater Tot Hotdish – A Minnesota Classic

  1. This was amazing! Been looking for a recipe that had all the ingredients that I remembered in my Mom’s version (No Cheese!) and this sounded spot on.

    Made this for a friend that is a tater tot freak and had never heard of this before–I don’t think he took a breath at all while eating.

    My husband wouldn’t try any , more for us!


    1. Thanks for letting me know! My husband turned his nose up at it the first time I made it, and then he tried it. After his third helping, he was sold! Hope your husband comes around some day (for his sake)!


  2. TTHD is the perfect meal for a cold Minnesota night. (we had a month straight in Duluth last winter where it never got above -10) Every family has a slightly different recipe but ill throw in my .02 =)

    Ive found it needs 1 1/2 – 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup, and i add corn to mine. But i have to say id under no circumstance use canned green beans. blech. They have to be fresh. They bring a bit of texture back.

    Glad i found your blog =)


  3. I love learning new things!! I’ve never head it called a “hot dish” but my family makes up names for everything I make.. The “green stuff” pistachio pudding… “Pink stuff” champagne salad, “chicken stuff”.. well you get the idea! Gonna have to try this. 🙂


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