Easy Cowboy Casserole

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Cowboy casserole is an easy cheesy dinner that will satisfy even the most picky diners. 

picture of tater tot cowboy casserole in a glass baking dish
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Easy Cheesy Beef and Tater Tot Casserole

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a tater tots and beef, and this easy cheesy cowboy casserole is the best combination of those all-American flavors. 

One of the great things about casserole like this easy cheesy cowboy casserole is that they are quick to make, and can easily be made ahead and frozen for a quick and delicious dinner. 

The cowboy casserole is filling and delicious and stores easily. I highly recommend it as a mercy meal.

Check out my web story on this yummy and easy casserole.

picture of tater tot cowboy casserole in a glass baking dish

How to make Easy, Cheesy Cowboy Casserole

To make this recipe, you’ll need: 

  • Ground Beef – 80/20 ground beef is our favorite. It has a richer, beefier flavor than lower fat content ground beef. That number indicates the meat-to-fat ratio of that particular blend of ground beef. The first number is the percentage of beef, the second number is the percentage of fat included in the blend. 80/20 ground beef is the classic burger blend because it includes enough fat to provide extra flavor and 
  • Canned Corn – The canned corn is already cooked, so it will not be introducing a lot of water to your casserole. The sweetness and bite of the corn add great texture and flavor to the casserole. 
  • Tater Tots – Tater tots are a true American classic. They were originally developed by the Ore-Ida corporation in the 1950s to make use of potato trimmings. Americans consume 70 million pounds of tater tots a year, or approximately 3.7 billion individual tots. 
  • Cream of Mushroom Soup – Cream of mushroom soup is an American staple. The first commercially available cans were sold in 1934. It’s been called ‘America’s bechamel’ as the base for the soup is the same milk and white roux of butter and flour as the classic French “white” sauce. You can even make your own condensed-style Homemade Cream of Mushroom and Onion Soup.
  • Cheddar Cheese – Grated cheddar cheese brings both creaminess and cheesy cheddar flavor that brings the meat and potatoes together. 
  • Whole Milk – don’t use skim milk, it has too much water. The creamy sauce in this casserole needs the thick fat from whole milk. 
  • Sour cream – Sour cream is a great thickener for creamy casserole sauces. It provides a rich texture and pleasant tangy flavor that compliments cheese and bacon falvors well. 
  • Bacon – Bacon provides a satly, fatty pop of flavor and texture that really makes this casserole sing.
  • Onion Powder – Onion powder provides a depth of flavor that enhances the cheesy, creamy sauce, without the bite and perceived bite or sweetness from a fresh onion. 
  • Salt and Pepper – use a high-quality sea salt and freshly cracked pepper for the best flavor. 

Once you’ve gathered your ingredients, we will use the following method: 

  • Step 1 – Cook your bacon in a large skillet. Cut your raw bacon into lardons – small strips or cubes before you cook it. They will cook more quickly and more evenly that a full strip of bacon. Set the cooked bacon aside on a plate with paper towel on it to absorb any fat. Discard the bacon fat. 
  • Step 2 – Brown ground beef. In the same skillet, brown the beef and then drain any excess fat from the pan. I would recomed using a large cast iron skillet with deepsides for this. 
  • Step 3 – Add corn, mushroom soup, milk, half the cheese, sour cream and seasonings – Add the remaining ingredients, minus the tots and the remaining cheese, to the skillet with the ground beef. Cook for 3-5 minutes to combine the ingredients. 
  • Step 4 –  Assemble your the casserole. Add the mixture to a 9X13 glass baking dish and distribute evenly. Arrange the tater tots on top of the beef mixture in an even layer. Lastly, add the remaining shredded cheese on top of the tater tots.
picture of tater tot cowboy casserole in a glass baking dish

Tips and Tricks For Perfect Cowboy Casserole

Easy Cheesy Cowboy Casserole is super easy to make, but these tips can make it even easier. 

Bake uncovered. Since the tater tots need to crisp, bake this dish uncovered.

Add spices. If you’d like to kick this recipe up a notch, add chopped jalapeños, green chile, curry power, Montreal steak seasoning, or other herbs and spices you love.

Add vegetables. You can swap corn for another vegetable you love, or add broccoli, zucchini, bell peppers – anything you love the flavor of!

Stir in tomatoes. For a bit of a zippy zing, you can stir in a can of diced tomatoes.

picture of tater tot cowboy casserole in a glass baking dish

FAQs:

When is cowboy casserole done?

Cowboy casserole is done baking when the tater tots on top are crispy, crunchy, and browned and the casserole is hot and bubbly.

What temperature do I bake cowboy casserole?

This casserole should be baked at 350 degrees to crisp tater tots without drying out the ground beef mixture.

How can I store this casserole?

Leftovers may be stored in an airtight container for up to four days in the refrigerator – or frozen for up to four months.

picture of tater tot cowboy casserole in a glass baking dish

What to Serve With Cowboy Casserole

A rich, and filling casserole like easy cheesy cowboy casserole needs a fresh and crunchy side. I’d highly recommend my easy four ingredient coleslaw.

A nutrient rich side like creamy broccoli and cauliflower salad is also a great accompaniment to this dish to get some green in your meal!

You can also pair this casserole with a simple and delicious Crunchy Lemon Parmesan Salad!

For more easy salad recipes, find some of our most recent favorites here:

picture of tater tot cowboy casserole in a glass baking dish

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picture of tater tot cowboy casserole in a glass baking dish
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Cowboy Casserole

Cowboy casserole is a hearty, comfort food dish that combines ground beef, beans, cheese, and a layer of crispy tater tots, capturing the spirit of the Wild West in every bite.
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine American
Keyword casserole, cheddar cheese, ground beef, main dish, tater tot casserole, tater tots
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 8
Calories 487kcal
Author Courtney O’Dell

Ingredients

  • ½ pound ground beef cooked and crumbled
  • 1 cup canned corn drained
  • 1 can Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese shredded and divided
  • ¼ cup Monterrey jack cheese
  • cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • ½ cup bacon cooked and crumbled
  • 32 ounces tater tots
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped, to garnish

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a large pan, brown bacon, flipping occasionally, until browned and crispy, about 6 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside on a paper towel. Do not drain fat.
  • Add ground beef to pan with bacon fat, and brown and crumble ground beef. Drain off excess fat.
  • Stir in herbs and spices, condensed soup, milk, sour cream, 1/2 cheddar cheese, corn.
  • Combine well.
  • Add to pre-greased casserole dish.
  • Top meat mixture with tater tots.
  • Sprinkle with reserved half of cheddar cheese and jack cheese.
  • Bake until bubby and tater tots are crispy and browned – about 20-25 minutes.
  • Top with chopped cilantro or parsley as desired.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 487kcal | Carbohydrates: 42g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 58mg | Sodium: 1451mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g

About Courtney

Courtney loves to share great wine, good food, and loves to explore far flung places- all while masting an everyday elegant and easy style at lifestyle blog Sweet C’s Designs. Sweet C's devoted to finding the best food and drinks you'll want to make or find, around the world!

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