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When you hear casserole, you know it’s probably going to be something easy, cheesy, and comforting. But what images dance across that inner screen when you hear cowboy casserole?
Unless you’re a pioneer woman, you probably don’t have a gang of hard-working cowboys to feed. However, a passel of busy kids with hearty appetites is a different and very real possibility!
I reckon’ you and your family are going to love this ground beef and tater tots cowboy casserole—it’s delicious!
After a full day—and aren’t they all?!—I’m on the lookout for a quick and easy meal to fix. It’s got to be filling and something everyone will enjoy (no more multiple-choice dinners at my house) and it must be a dish that gets mama’s approval.
Baked cowboy casserole passes muster with everyone.
There are several versions of this dish so you also might hear this recipe called cowboy potatoes but since there is so much more than spuds in the ingredient list, I don’t think that moniker does it justice.
Ground beef, one of the cream soups, corn, cheese, and those favorite tater tots are the main ingredients here.
Onions, sour cream, tomatoes, garlic, and olives really bump the flavor up.
And as with most recipes, there’s room for experimentation. Substitute breakfast or Italian sausage for the beef, or double the recipe and include both.
And if your family likes ground turkey or venison, that will work too.
If one of your goals is to include more vegetables in your family’s diet, sneak in mixed veggies like carrots, corn, peas, bell peppers, and green beans.
You can also use almost any bean in this recipe. A can of pork and beans, northern, navy, or pinto beans pair well these ingredients.
Try adding barbecue sauce to a beef and bean combination. Include bacon and a topping of biscuits (the ready-made, tube version or a biscuit mix makes it quick) for another taste treat.
Take it south of the border by adding green chilies, salsa, or even a teaspoon of chili powder.
If you don’t have tater tots, thin slices of russet or Idaho potatoes work just fine but if you substitute the fresh potatoes you might want to sandwich some of them between layers of the beefy-soup mixture.
Since I’m such a fan of tater tots, I think it would be a shame to miss out on them but some days you just have to work with what’s in the pantry.
Although I haven’t tried it, I have seen pasta used in this recipe instead of potatoes.
Or you can top the whole thing with cornbread. A box of ready-made cornbread mix is a quick fix, too.
Which brings us to another possibility—swap out different soups for flavor variation. In addition to cream of mushroom soup you might want to try cream of celery, cream of potato, cream of chicken, or a cheddar cheese soup.
I love the taste sour cream and Colby Jack cheese bring to this dish, yet cream cheese or whatever cheese you have on hand can be substituted.
My recipe starts out stove top and finishes in the oven and that’s how I fix it most often but you can slightly adjust my directions and use a slow cooker, too.
If your crockpot is one of the stove top models used for browning, searing, and sautéing, you'll only have one pot to clean up afterword.
Something to consider, especially if you like to get dinner going first thing in the morning when time is really at a premium.
Getting hungry? I am! Fix this cowboy casserole and you won’t have to ring the dinner bell—they’ll be rounding up at the table before you can get there!
- ½ pound ground beef
- 1 15.25- oz can whole kernel corn drained
- 1 10 ¾- oz can condensed cream of mushroom soup undiluted
- 1 ¼ cup shredded Colby Jack cheese divided
- ⅓ cup 2% milk
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2 cups frozen tator tots
- ¼ cup Rotel tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon chives we used freeze dried because that's what we had on hand but fresh would be best!
- ¼ cup olives sliced *optional ingredient
- Turn on your oven to 425°.
- Shauna's Tip for the tator tots:
- Cover the bottom of your casserole dish with tator tots and place in the oven (while it's still cold and warming up). Leave them there until you are ready to assemble the casserole. Mine were cooked about ½ way when I pulled them out to put my casserole together. I put them on a plate while I put all of my other ingredients in the casserole dish and then added them back to the top before putting everything in the oven to finish cooking.
- In a medium skillet cook your hamburger over medium heat until browned. Remove from skillet and set aside on a plate. Drain the grease and lightly wipe most of the remaining grease out (you want to leave a little bit to cook your onions).
- Add your onions and garlic and cook until soft, about 4 minutes.
- Add your hamburger back to your skillet with the onions and garlic. Add ¼ cup of Rotel tomatoes, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and stir well. Let cook over medium heat until most of the liquid from the Rotel tomatoes has cooked off.
- Add your sour cream, cream of mushroom soup, drained corn, ½ of your cheese and milk. Stir well. Let cook until cheese is melted.
- Put your cheesy hamburger mixture in the bottom of the casserole dish. Add your olives and ½ of the remaining cheese.
- Add your layer of tator tots and press down a little bit to make sure they are stuck in the mixture just a little bit. Cover the top of the tator tots with your remaining cheese and chives.
- Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the cheese is all the way melted and you can see the casserole bubbling up on the sides and the middle just a bit.
- Serve and enjoy!
NOTE: This is actually the second time I've tested this recipe from Taste of Home for their Cowboy Casserole recipe from Donna Donhauser that was featured in a Casserole Recipe Cook Book. The first time I followed the directions and put my tator tots on the bottom of the casserole and they were soggy and not really that done. My hubby said the recipe was a "no-no" and no more tator tots under the food in the future, lol. The second time around I pre-cooked the tator tots while I was prepping everything else and added Rotel tomatoes, olives and more cheese. The result was fabulous!