Tater Tot Hotdish

4.92 from 25 votes
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You know you’re in Minnesota, or the Dakotas, when you make a tater tot hotdish. This is a classic potluck casserole with endless variations. My version is a venison hotdish with wild mushrooms, but I’ll give you options for an easier, store-bought hotdish, too.

A casserole dish of tater tot hotdish with a plate of the meal alongside.

I lived in Minnesota years ago, and have recently moved back, so I am immersing myself in All Things Hotdish. I can tell you, there are as many variations as there are cooks named Ole or Lena. But the general consensus is that tater tot hotdish is a universal favorite.

It touches all the bases: Meaty, fatty, creamy, cheesy, crunchy, starchy… and if you add vegetables, well there you go. The only thing a tater tot hotdish lacks is acidity, and for that you can add a splash of vinegar, hot sauce, or, as one of my North Dakota friends prefers, ketchup.

OK, I can hear you: Hank, how on God’s Green Earth can you stoop to making a tater tot hotdish? It’s true I am better known for more gourmet dishes like duck a’lorange or something off the wall, like Sierra Spring. But I have a comfort food side to me, too.

Still, I gotta be me. So this is a venison hotdish. Yes, you can use any ground meat: beef, pork, a mixture, ground goose, you name it.

Also, I loathe canned cream of mushroom soup. Sure, you can substitute my homemade cream of mushroom soup with one or even two cans of the gloppy stuff, but I make it from scratch with wild mushrooms and cream. I prefer using birch boletes and morels, but most mushrooms will work.

The presence of vegetables in a tater tot hotdish is, well, hotly debated. I like frozen peas, but frozen green beans are also very common, as is the “medley” of peas, carrots and corn you see in freezer sections everywhere. You do you.

A serving of venison hotdish on a plate with a beer.

Making Tater Tot Hotdish

Making a venison tater tot hotdish is super simple:

  • Cook the meat with onions, garlic and some herbs, maybe celery and a few mushrooms if you want to go crazy.
  • Simmer dried mushrooms a minute or two to rehydrate them. Save the water and roughly chop the shrooms. Puree them with a little soaking water with cream and salt and you’re good. Stir into the meat mixture.
  • Top with as much or as little shredded cheese — I used colby jack — as you want, then dot with the tots. Bake. Eat.

As for placement, I prefer my tots in a tater tot hotdish to be on top, so they get crispy. I have seen some versions placing the tots at the bottom, or even the middle. But I don’t like soggy tots, do you?

You’ll notice fresh parsley on top. Again, I gotta be me. I like fresh herbs, but if they scare you, skip them.

A serving of tater tot hotdish, ready to eat.

Storing and Serving

Generally speaking, you serve a venison hotdish as part of a potluck, so there will be lots of other dishes around. But if you are serving it as a solo main course, a simple salad would be enough. After all, there’s meat, vegetables and starch in the one casserole dish.

Once made, a hotdish will keep a week in the fridge.

You also can freeze a tater tot hotdish easily, either before or after baking. I prefer after, so you just heat and eat later. Easiest method is to bake the hotdish, then cool, then cover with plastic wrap and freeze. This works for a few days. Add a layer of foil over the plastic wrap for longer freezing.

Or you could dish out servings and freeze in lidded, plastic containers.

If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.

A serving of tater tot hotdish, ready to eat.
4.92 from 25 votes

Tater Tot Hotdish

An Upper Midwest classic, this recipe works with any meat, not just venison, and you can either use canned cream of mushroom soup, or make your own, which is easy.
Course: lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 2 pounds ground venison (or other meat)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 ounce dried mushrooms (about 2 handfuls)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons marjoram or savory or thyme, divided
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 ounces frozen peas, or other frozen vegetables
  • 6 ounces shredded cheese
  • 32 ounces tater tots
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)


  • Brown the ground venison in a large pan; use a little oil if the grind has no extra fat. After it has mostly browned, add the celery and chopped onions and keep cooking until the meat is nicely browned and the onions are soft, about 8 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a boil and add the dried mushrooms. Turn off the heat and let them soak.
  • Add the chopped garlic and some salt to the pan with the meat and onions. Cook this over medium-low heat for about 2 minutes, stirring well.
  • Fish out the mushrooms, squeeze them to remove excess moisture and chop roughly. If the soaking water is full of debris, strain it. If not, pour about 1/3 into the pan with the meat and onions. Bring this to a boil.
  • Add half the marjoram and mustard to the meat mixture and boil this down until it's mostly dry.
  • While this is happening, preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the mushrooms, another 1/3 of the soaking water, the other half of the marjoram, a pinch of salt and black pepper, and the cream into a blender and puree. If it's too thick, add a little more soaking water. Taste it and add more salt if need be. Pour this into the pan with the meat, add the peas and stir well.
  • Pour all this into a casserole dish; a typical 9×13" works well. Spread it evenly. Add a layer of grated cheese over everything, as thick as you want. Then arrange tater tots to cover it all, pressing in a little. Bake for 45 minutes uncovered.
  • Take it out of the oven, let it cool a bit before serving, ans sprinkle with parsley, if using.


If you don’t want to make your own cream of mushroom soup, simply use 1 or 2 cans of the stuff. I don’t love it, but many do. 


Calories: 595kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 141mg | Sodium: 741mg | Potassium: 857mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 835IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 170mg | Iron: 5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

4.92 from 25 votes (9 ratings without comment)

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  1. I grew up on casseroles with a mother that was NOT a good cook and I have refused to make them as an adult. My partner however loves them, and in a decade, I have made him one. He’ll be home Saturday from waterfowl hunting and I am going to surprise him with your Hot Dish. (Thankfully I have an unholy love of tater tots!) And when Partner asks how/why, I will absolutely tell him that you are to thank!

  2. Hank I always love your recipes and you are my go to source when I try something different. I don’t see any contradiction at all in doing some “comfort food” recipes that will be a quick fix at hunt camp. Best wishes for the new year!

  3. This looks great and a dish I know my family would love! However, as a fan of your recipes and writing who lives in England, could you please explain what the heck are ‘tater tots’? We don’t have them here.( I can more or less guess, but it would be good to know exactly.)
    Thank you.

      1. Thanks Hank- I’ll do some investigating now and see what I can find.
        All the best

  4. Interesting variation on the theme. I smiled when I saw the can of Hamm’s beer in the photograph.
    Welcome back to Minnesota.

  5. This is one of our favorite recipes. I don’t make it often now that my son is an adult. I do use cream of mushroom soup in the can. It’s really the only way I like that soup any more. I use canned green beans as my vegetable. The only way my family will eat green beans without groaning (the weird thing is we all hate green bean casserole – go figure). Glad to see it here.

  6. Brilliant pairing with a Hamm’s (from the can). Grain Belt would also be appropriate. I’d reccommend pairing with Summit Brewing’s Dakota Soul if you want to go upscale.

  7. Thank You Hank ! Tater Tot Hot Dish is comfort winter food staple in our family. My husband loves it and so do I. I’ve been using the sodak ranch kid’s venison breakfast sausage lately since there is a lot in the freezer. I’m allergic to MSG which is in cream of mushroom soup … also cream of chicken and cream of celery so I try to find the no MSG version but sometimes not available 🙁 I will definitely try your homemade cream of mushroom !!! We don’t mix the soup into the meat. 9×14 casserole greased w duck fat, then meat/onion and then layer of veg of choice, and spread the soup mix over that. Our frozen veggies are 10 oz bags and sometimes I use a bag of corn and a bag of beans. 2 bags for 2 lbs meat. No cheese … that must be a MN thing ? Parsely is always welcome if I have fresh. Thank YOU for soup idea !

    1. If you can find it, Amy’s Natural foods has an organic cream of mushroom soup that is pretty good and does not contain MSG. Amazon carries it and you can often find it in the grocery store.

  8. Planning on giving this a shot this weekend. Looks great and I think my kids will really enjoy it. What’s your thoughts on substituting fresh oyster mushrooms? I have access to way too many of them this time of year but struggle finding uses for them. Thanks as always!

  9. Tater tot hot dish was a staple in our house when I was growing up in MN. Loved it as a kid and love it as an adult. It was a regular on my menus when I had my own kids. I still make it on a regular basis.

  10. Really nice photos. Especially like the one with the single can of Hamms. For reasons that are too boring to explain, I’ve been looking for a potato hamburger casserole. Lots of good flavors here and especially like that tablespoon of dry mustard which always adds an amazing layer of flavor. Thanks for this idea.

    1. The photo with the can of Hamm’s is great. I love the retro artwork on the can. Hamm’s beer has become nearly unobtainable in northern CA in the last 18 months. Shame.
      On to the potato hamburger hotdish. I bet I have at least a dozen variations on that theme in the cookbook of my relatives’ recipes (on my mom’s side- she was from NoDak (the Muscha family cookbook)). I’ll peruse that tome. If you have specific flavors you recall, that will help with winnowing.

  11. What’s not to like? Tasty, filling, nutritional (for the most part), easy and good leftover.

    It seems that we’ve kind of gotten away from the gatherings where you’re asked to, “bring a dish to pass.” It was always fun to see what showed up.

  12. Right up my alley, Hank. I’ve always been confused by the term Hot Dish. Is it a casserole in general? Does it contain specific ingredients or layers? Do tell.

    1. Donna: It’s largely a Minnesota term, also the Dakotas. A casserole in Missouri might be a hotdish in Minnesota.