Taco Tater Tot Hotdish Recipe (Taco Casserole with Tater Tots)

Serving of taco hotdish on a plate, with casserole in background.

We take the classic Minnesota hotdish and amp it up, Texas-style! This Taco Hotdish Recipe takes taco meat, spicy cheese condensed soup, and tater tots, and combines them together for a southwest dish that is perfect for any potluck or family gathering!

Taco casserole with tater tots, served on a plate with avocado, jalapeno, and cilantro.

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What is Hotdish?

You may call this recipe a casserole, but in Minnesota it is a called “hotdish.” No one really knows why. Though hotdish is a popular potluck recipe, so perhaps the dish got its name when potluck organizers asked people to “bring a hot dish.” Somehow the name caught on and it is now iconic to Minnesota.

Hotdish typically includes a protein, vegetable, some sort of condensed soup, and a starch. One popular recipe layers ground beef with peas and carrots topped with cream of mushroom soup and tater tots.

I decided to put a Texas twist on this classic Minnesota dish. We take taco meat and pour a queso-like cheese soup over the top to make a spicy, creamy casserole. In keeping with a traditional hotdish, this taco casserole recipe is then topped with tater tots.

Flatlay of all of the ingredients used in taco hotdish, with ingredients labeled.

How to Make Taco Hotdish

Step One: Brown Ground Beef

  • Taco hotdish begins just like any beef taco recipe, by browning the meat. I like 85% lean/15% fat so that it has the most flavor, but a 90% lean would work fine as well.
  • In the photo below you can see just a small amount of pink. When your beef browns to this point, drain off any excess fat and you are ready to add in the vegetables.
Pan of ground beef.

Step Two: Saute Vegetables

  • Add chopped onion and red bell pepper, minced garlic, and taco seasoning to the beef. Stir the vegetables into the meat and cook for a few minutes, until they are soft.
Onions, red bell pepper, garlic, and seasonings are added to the pan of ground beef.
Onion

Step Three: Make From-Scratch Condensed Soup

  • I like to make soup from scratch when I can. Except for cream of mushroom soup…somehow I always like that better from the can. If you prefer using whole ingredients, follow these steps to make your own from scratch soup concentrate. But if you are looking for a shortcut, 2 cans of Campbells Cheddar Cheese soup is a fine substitute.
  • The homemade soup concrentrate is almost exactly like making a cheese sauce. Melt butter, then stir in some flour and cook for a minute. Add in the dry mustard and milk, and cook it while whisking, until it has thickened. Super easy! And I think it tastes way better than the can.
  • Next, stir in a can of Rotel. This gives it that nice Tex-Mex spice! I use “original” but if you are sensitive to spice then you can use the “mild.”
Rotel and cheese sauce mixed together.

Step Four: Layer in Casserole Dish

  • Spray a 9×13 casserole dish with nonstick spray.
  • Spread the taco meat evenly over the bottom of the dish.
  • Pour the cheese soup mixture over the top.
  • Finish with cute little rows of tater tots. By the way, Ore-Ida tots are fine, but I really love Alexia Garlic & Black Pepper Tater Tots for taco hotdish!
Layers of hotdish. Left is taco meat, on the right is with the cheese layer.

Step Five: Bake and Serve

  • Cook the casserole at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. It is ready when the tots are brown and crisp, and the casserole is heated through.
  • In our house, we serve this taco casserole with jalapenos and avocado. You can add some sour cream and salsa, too!
9x13 casserole pan filled with taco hotdish. Cilantro and jalapenos in the middle, and a spoon cut into casserole.

What to Serve with Taco Hotdish

Hotdish is designed to be a one-pan meal! It has protein, vegetables, dairy, and starch all in one recipe. So it is completely acceptable to just serve this recipe and nothing else. However, I feel obligated to have variety on my table. So here are some ideas of things that go well with a taco tater tot casserole.

  • Mexican rice: Any Mexican rice would pair well! For our Minnesota state dinner with enjoyed our taco hotdish with Mexican Wild Rice because wild rice is the state grain!
  • Refried Black Beans would balance the dish nicely
  • What meal is complete without leafy greens! Have a side salad with an avocado-cilantro dressing!
  • Finish off your meal with this Skillet Apple Crisp! The warm cinnamon and the sweetness of the apples are especially delicious after a spicy meal. Plus, apples are the state fruit for Minnesota!

Tips and FAQs

Can I make a smaller recipe of taco hotdish?

This recipe can easily be halved and cooked in a 9×9 pan. Cooking time will adjust to 25-30 minutes.

How do I store hotdish?

Hotdish can be covered and stored in the refrigerated for 3-4 days. For best results, reheat at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the casserole reaches an internal temperature of at least 140 degrees.

Hotdish leftovers can be microwaved, but the tater tots will not be crispy.

Can taco casserole be frozen?

The taco meat portion of this casserole can be frozen for up to 3 months. To use, thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours prior to assembling with the other casserole ingredients.

The entire casserole can also be frozen for up to 3 months, though the texture will be a little different than when it is freshly made. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to cook, cover the top with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook an additional 10 minutes, or until the tater tots are browned.

Related Recipes and Links

Plate of taco casserole with tater tots, topped with avocado, cilantro, and jalapeos. Pan of hotdish in background.

If you like this recipe, please share it with your friends! And once you taste it, let me know your thoughts by providing a review.

9x13 pan of taco hotdish.

Taco Hotdish Recipe

A classic Minnesota recipe with a Texas twist. This taco hotdish is a spicy crowd-pleaser!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Calories 416 kcal

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1.5 pounds ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • 1 small onion (about 1 cup chopped)
  • 1 small red bell pepper (about 3/4 cup chopped)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 6 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teasspoon dry mustard
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 can original Rotel Use mild if you are sensitive to spice
  • 1 bag (32 ounces) tater tots I use 1 1/2 bags of Alexia potato puffs
  • avocado and sliced jalapenos, to serve

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
  • Finely chop onion and pepper. Peel and mince garlic.
  • In a large skillet, cook ground beef over medium heat. Cook until beef pink is almost gone. If there is a lot of grease then drain some off, leaving about a tablespoon in the pan.
    Add taco seasoning, onions, peppers, and garlic. Continue cooking until the beef is no longer pink, and the vegetables are soft. Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add in flour and whisk for one minute.
    Add salt, mustard, and milk, and whisk until smooth. Whisk frequently while cooking over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken.
    Remove from heat and add cheddar cheese to the pan. Whisk until the cheese is melted.
    Mix in one can of Rotel.
  • Spoon beef into greased 9×13 pan and spread out to cover the bottom in an even layer.
    Pour the soup mixture evenly over the beef.
    Top with a layer of frozen tater tots.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, until casserole is heated through and the tater tots are browned.
    Serve with desired toppings.

Notes

The nutritional facts provided are only estimates. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

Nutrition

Calories: 416kcalCarbohydrates: 27gProtein: 16gFat: 28gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 69mgSodium: 605mgPotassium: 509mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 588IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 149mgIron: 2mg
Keyword midwestern, potatoes, potluck, serves a crowd
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