If you want a hearty meal that will both feed and wow your crowd come dinnertime, look no further! Cowboy Casserole topped with cheesy tater tots is a kid-friendly dinner that’ll have everyone lining up for seconds!
WHAT IS COWBOY CASSEROLE?
It’s an easy-to-make casserole perfect for the whole family! With the help of quick-cooking ground beef and prepared vegetables, you can have this casserole on the table in no time, making it perfect for both weeknight dinners and feeding a crowd for any occasion! The bottom layer is fully loaded with a mix of flavorful ground beef chili, tater tots, corn, and onions, all to be topped off with a layer of crispy, cheesy tater tots.
COWBOY CASSEROLE INGREDIENTS
The beefy base of your Cowboy Casserole is very similar to the makeup of a homemade chili…only this chili comes together in less than 15 minutes and is extremely easy to make. It consists of:
- Ground Beef
- Chili Spices (chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper)
- Canned Tomatoes
- Beef Broth
Once your chili has come together nicely, it’s time for some savory add-in’s:
- Cheddar Cheese
- Sour cream
And, last, but certainly not least…
- Tater Tots!
All of these ingredients come together to create one incredibly flavorful comfort food casserole that the men, women, and yes, even the pickiest of children will adore!
HOW TO MAKE COWBOY CASSEROLE
Cowboy Casserole is easy to make and requires very little prep. Aside from chopping an onion, it’s mostly just a little sauteeing here and there, followed by a bake in the oven!
- Brown seasoned ground beef. Remove from pan.
- Cook onion in pan. Add beef, crushed tomatoes, beef broth, and corn.
- Add cornstarch. Simmer to thicken.
- Remove from heat. Add sour cream and Cheddar and stir.
- Combine in casserole dish with half of the tater tots.
- Top with remaining tater tots. Bake 25 minutes.
- Add remaining cheese. Bake 10 minutes more.
A BEEF SAUCE FIT FOR A COWBOY
The seasoning used for the ground beef is very similar to those used for making chili. They are absolutely perfect for Cowboy Casserole! It is a simple mix of chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
The meat and seasoning go into a large sauté pan and the beef is cooked until browned. After the meat is cooked, transfer it to a bowl with a slotted spoon and remove the excess grease (if desired), but not all of it! You’ll need some of it to cook your onion.
YOU’VE GOT OPTIONS…
The onion only needs a short period of time in the skillet before it’s joined by its accompaniments: Crushed tomatoes, corn, and beef broth. If you can find fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, they will add a great deal of flavor and savoriness to your casserole, but you can still make a stellar casserole without it.
The corn adds a subtle sweetness to the casserole, but if you wish, this ingredient can be omitted altogether. Feel free to use canned or frozen corn. If you choose to use canned corn, be sure you drain it before adding it to your casserole. If using frozen corn, it can be added while frozen — no problem.
Note, this Cowboy Casserole Recipe calls for low-sodium beef broth. If you cannot find low-sodium broth, you’ll need to omit the quantity of salt called for in this recipe, and rather add the salt to taste after the beef mixture has come together on the stovetop.
CORNSTARCH FOR THICKENING
Next, you’ll combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl. This mixture is called a slurry. The slurry serves as the thickener for your Cowboy Casserole. It creates a thick and velvety sauce and helps the casserole to stay together when serving. In order for the slurry to do its job, it must first come to temperature and simmer briefly. Your beef mixture will be thickened in a matter of 3-4 minutes.
The last additions to the beef base are sour cream, Cheddar cheese, and half of the tater tots. If you do not wish to add sour cream, this ingredient can also be omitted, but it does help to cut through some of that savoriness and also adds a welcomed note of acidity to the casserole.
BAKE UNTIL BUBBLY
The ingredients are added to the casserole dish and topped with the remaining tater tots. Then, it’s off to the oven. All of the flavors and ingredients in the base of the casserole will begin to meld, and the tater tots on top will crisp up beautifully.
The last step is to top it off with the remaining Cheddar cheese and return to the oven just until melted and bubbly.
YOU CAN MAKE IT AHEAD!
Casseroles that can be made in advance can be a major life-saver on busy weeknights. To make your Cowboy Casserole ahead of time, the night before or the morning of, simply prepare the casserole up to the point of sending it to the oven. Rather than baking it, cover it with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate until you’re just about ready to bake it.
You can either set your casserole out 3o minutes prior to baking to remove some of the chill, or you can add 10 minutes to the first indicated bake time. So rather than baking it for 25 minutes (before adding the cheese), you’ll bake it for 35 minutes, then add the cheese and bake 10 minutes more as directed. So just to recap:
- Follow the recipe up to the point of baking. Cover and refrigerate.
- Set out 30 minutes prior to baking or add 10 minutes to the cook time.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH COWBOY CASSEROLE
Cowboy Casserole is hearty enough to be served on its own without having to whip up any extra side dishes. However, if you’re looking to add on to your dinner menu, any of the following side dish items would pair wonderfully with Cowboy Casserole:
The flavor in this casserole is outstanding, and you’ll find it just as good the next day as it was the first. In fact, it is a dish that our family actually looks forward to eating leftover! The combination of an easy ground beef chili topped with cheesy tater tots is tough to beat, and this Cowboy Casserole Recipe is sure to become a new family favorite. Please, enjoy!
5 MORE DINNER CASSEROLES YOU’LL LOVE
- Tex-Mex Beef Enchiladas are easy baked in a casserole dish and topped with a perfect enchilada gravy and melty cheese!
- Homemade Chicken Pot Pie features a delicious, savory filling of juicy chicken, tender vegetables, and a creamy gravy enclosed in a double-layer of flaky pie crust.
- Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti is loaded with bell peppers, onions, chicken, and spaghetti and smothered in a savory, homemade cream of mushroom sauce.
- Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole is an American classic featuring chicken, broccoli, rice, melty Colby Jack cheese and a crunchy Cornflake topping.
- King Ranch Casserole is a hearty stacked enchilada casserole featuring shredded chicken, corn tortillas, hearty vegetables, cheese, and a creamy Tex-Mex sauce.
An easy Cowboy Casserole Recipe loaded ground beef, tater tots, and cheese! Perfect for weeknight family dinners and feeding a crowd.
- 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
- 1 1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
- 1 cup corn
- 1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 2 1/4 cup freshly grated Cheddar cheese
- 1 (32 ounce) package of frozen tater tots
Preheat the oven to 375° and have ready a greased 9x13" casserole dish.
Add to ground beef, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Break apart the meat, blending in the spices and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often.
Use a slotted spoon to transfer the beef to a bowl and set aside. Turn off the heat and carefully, spoon out all but a thin layer of grease and discard. Resume medium-high heat setting, add the diced onion and sauté 3-4 minutes, until softened.
Add the beef back into the pan, along with crushed tomatoes, beef broth, and corn. Bring to a simmer.
In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water, and stir into the beef mixture. Simmer 3-4 minutes until thickened. Turn off the heat and stir in sour cream and 1 cup of Cheddar cheese.
Add half of the tater tots to the prepared casserole dish and pour over the beef mixture. Stir to combine. Top with the remaining tater tots and bake for 25 minutes, uncovered.
Add the Cheddar cheese and bake for 10 minutes more. Allow to cool slightly, serve, and enjoy.