Skillet Tater Tot Casserole is the Midwest classic made in one skillet and without condensed soup!
Speaking of my tater top stash…oh yes I did!
That is to say, this is happening right now. Tater Tot Casserole, or Hotdish as my neighbors to the north in Minnesota like to call it, has been officially updated – and upgraded – to skillet meal status. Oh yes, a rich and bubbly homemade sauce enveloping seasoned ground beef topped with the king of the frozen foods aisle – tater tots of course – is simmered then oven-crisped in just one skillet. Comfort food does not get any easier than this!
By the way can we quickly discuss how maddening it is that tater is spelled with an “er” instead of an “or”? I churned and burned through 3 bags of tater tots testing this recipe (fun fact – despite our Midwest upbringing neither Ben nor I had ever eaten tater tot casserole until this month…when I made it four times to perfect the recipe!) and it wasn’t until ripping open the third bag that I realized I’d been spelling it wrong my whole life. I quizzed Ben and a few friends and they were equally as surprised.
Anyway, Skillet Tater Tot Casserole!
Like I said, this dish is a Midwest classic. Eating it is like getting a big hug from your Mom. So satisfying and comforting. And, like the time I posted my Mom’s Maid Rite recipe, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a whole bunch of you who have never even heard of it before! You’re welcome. Go forth and spread the good word.
Now, usually Tater Tot Casserole calls for condensed soup mixed with ground beef and veggies, which is piled into a casserole dish then topped with tater tots (seriously cannot stop typing “tator” GAHH) and baked. I’m ditching the condensed soup because it’s usually not gluten-free, is full of unnecessary ingredients, and seriously my homemade sauce tastes so. much. better!
I’ve also made this dish in one skillet. From browning the ground beef, to making the flavorful sauce, to crisping up the tots in the oven, all you need is an oven-safe skillet. I used this 10-1/4″ cast iron skillet from Le Creuset – it’s my all-time favorite all-purpose skillet. If you need a holiday gift for the foodie in your life that they’ll be sure to use forever, get ‘em this skillet!
Skillet Tater Tot Casserole is going to become a staple for us on crisp fall and blustery winter (there, I said it) nights. It’s a meat and potatoes dish that’ll stick to your ribs but since it’s made with mostly homemade ingredients you can feel good about feeding it to your whole family. I certainly did…four times!
First thing’s first – pretend this is the orange, oven-safe cast iron skillet that you’re going to see in the rest of the pictures. The one time I made this dish with the intent to photograph the steps I was doing approximately 49 other things, including peeling hummus-slathered turkey off the kitchen floor courtesy of Lincoln letting know he was done with dinner. Good times!
Start by browning 1lb ground beef, seasoning with salt and pepper then drain and set aside.
Next melt 3 Tablespoons butter in the skillet over medium heat then saute 1 cup sliced mushrooms and 1 chopped shallot until the mushrooms are slightly tender, 3-5 minutes. Add 2 cloves minced garlic then saute for 1 more minute.
Then, sprinkle in 3 Tablespoons gluten-free or all-purpose flour (I used white rice flour) and whisk while cooking for 1 more minute.
Now slowly stream in 1-1/2 cups chicken broth and 1 cup milk (I used skim) while whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
Add 2 Tablespoons each gluten-free tamari or soy sauce and ketchup, and 1 Tablespoon worcestershire sauce then turn the heat up slightly to bring the mixture to a bubble, and then turn the heat back down to medium and simmer for just a few minutes until the sauce has slightly thickened. Resist the urge to let the sauce reduce down too much as it will reduce in the oven. It will feel watery but trust me – it’s just right!
Also add 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika to the sauce. This is my secret ingredient. The first several times I made this dish it was missing a little somethin’ somethin’ so I added my favorite spice of all time, smoked paprika, and it made all the difference. LOVE this stuff!
Stir the ground beef back into the sauce then remove the skillet from the heat and layer about 1lb tater tots on top. The precise amount will depend on how deep and wide your skillet is. You’ll want at least a 10″ skillet, but I also tried it in our big 12″ cast iron and it worked great too. Like I said, since the sauce is thin the tots will sink down a little bit but it’s fine!
Look for tots that bake in 20-25 minutes at 400 to 425 degrees and don’t use the “Extra Crispy” tots that Ore-Ida recently come out with as they’re smaller and will crisp up before the sauce has a chance to completely thicken. They are, however, amazing for general, non-Skillet Tater Tot Casserole consumption!
Pop the skillet into the oven then bake according to the time/temp indicated on the bag of tater tots. Let sit and thicken for about 5 minutes before serving up hot.
Skillet Tater Tot Casserole
1lb ground beef
salt and pepper
3 Tablespoons butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons gluten-free or all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk (I used skim)
2 Tablespoons gluten-free tamari or soy sauce
2 Tablespoons ketchup
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
2lb bag tater tots (not extra crispy)
- Preheat oven according to tater tot bag instructions. Brown ground beef in a very large, oven-proof skillet (at least 10″ – cast iron works great) seasoning with salt and pepper over medium-high heat. Drain then set aside.
- Turn heat down to medium, melt butter in skillet, and then add mushrooms and shallots. Season with salt and pepper then saute until mushrooms start to soften, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic then saute for 1 more minute. Sprinkle in flour then whisk to combine and cook for 1 minute. Slowly stream in chicken broth and milk a splash at a time, whisking to avoid lumps. Add tamari/soy sauce, ketchup, worcestershire sauce, and smoked paprika, turn heat up slightly to bring mixture to a bubble, then turn heat back down to medium and simmer until just slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes.
- Remove skillet from heat then stir in ground beef and arrange tater tots on top. Place skillet on top of a baking sheet (or place one on the rack below) then bake according to tater tot bag instructions. Let sit and thicken for 5 minutes before serving.
This dish will be a hit with the whole family – I mean the kids and kids at heart will adore the tater tots, while the rich and flavor-packed sauce is unbelievably satisfying. Enjoy, enjoy!