Tater Tot Cowboy Casserole

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Cheesy one-pan Tater Tot Cowboy Casserole is hearty gluten free comfort food! It’s packed with ground beef and a creamy tomato sauce made in the same skillet, with plenty of cheddar cheese and loads of crispy tater tots on top.

A plate of tater tot cowboy casserole on a blue napkin with the pan of casserole in the background.

Why You’ll Love This Cowboy Tater Tot Casserole

  • Cuisine Inspiration: American
  • Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop, Oven
  • Dietary Info: Gluten-free
  • Skill Level: Easy

I’m a big fan of a one-pan meal and this cowboy tater tot is a perfect example of how easy it can be to make dinner without a lot of fuss. However, my little guy is not a big casserole fan. That is, unless I make a casserole topped with tater tots, like my Tater Tot Shepherd’s Pie. I took that basic idea, gave it a slightly spiced and cheesy twist and he devours every bite, as do the rest of us.

Hearty ground beef is cooked with savory mushrooms and swirled into a creamy tomato sauce that’s punched up with corn for pops of color and texture. You cook the meat and make the sauce in the same skillet, keeping cleanup a breeze. The tater tots on top add an extra layer of flavor and crunch. Here’s why this recipe will quickly become a family favorite:

  • Easy comfort food. Say the words “tater tots” and you’re sure to get rave reviews! The creamy sauce, melted cheese, cozy ground beef, and of course, the tater tot topping make this a wonderful meal for any night when you need something comforting.
  • Gluten-Free. If you keep to a gluten-free diet you won’t have to make any substitutions to this casserole because all of the ingredients are already gluten-free. Make sure to check the package of tater tots to ensure they are free of gluten. Ore-Ida is a safe brand.
  • Fast. Prep time for this cowboy casserole recipe takes 5 minutes, and you’ll let the oven do the rest of the work of baking it to perfection, so it’s a nice choice for busy weeknights.
A wooden serving spatula scoops out tater tot cowboy casserole from a pan.

What You’ll Need

Here’s the ingredients list for this cowboy casserole recipe. Don’t forget to check the recipe card at the end of this post for the full ingredient amounts.

  • Ground Beef: I use lean ground beef in this recipe.
  • Onion: Use a yellow or red onion.
  • Butter: Salted or unsalted butter is fine.
  • Mushrooms: Use white or cremini mushrooms.
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Cornstarch: To help thicken the casserole.
  • Milk: Whole milk or 2% milk works fine.
  • Tomatoes: I use a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes in this recipe.
  • Corn: Frozen corn keeps things easy; fresh is also great.
  • Cream Cheese: Light or regular block cream cheese is fine.
  • Greek Yogurt: Or substitute sour cream.
  • Cheddar Cheese: I love sharp cheddar cheese but any variety will work.
  • Tater Tots: Pick up a bag of frozen tater tots to use in this dish, checking out the list of safe brands in my article Are Tater Tots Gluten Free?
  • Parsley and Scallions: To garnish, if you like.
The ingredients for tater tot cowboy casserole are shown with text labels: tomatoes, corn, mushrooms, onion, tater tots, milk, butter, beef, salt and pepper, Greek yogurt, cheddar cheese.

How to Make Tater Tot Cowboy Casserole

Follow along with my photos below to guide you through making this cowboy casserole recipe. The detailed instructions will be in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  • Prepare. Preheat the oven to 400°F and grease a 9×13 inch pan.
  • Brown meat. Cook the ground beef and onion until the meat is browned, then set aside.
  • Add mushrooms. Melt butter and add the mushrooms. Stir and cook the mushrooms for a few minutes.
  • Saute garlic. Return the beef and onion to the skillet plus the garlic and saute.
  • Add remaining ingredients. Stir in the cornstarch, milk, tomatoes, corn, cream cheese, Greek yogurt, and 1⁄2 cup of the cheese.
  • Assemble. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish.
  • Top the casserole. Top it with tater tots and the remaining cheese.
  • Bake. Cook the casserole for 20-25 minutes.
  • Finish. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar cheese over the top and bake until melted. Garnish with parsley and scallions, if desired.
A cooked pan full of tater tot cowboy casserole topped with melted cheese.

Tips & Variations

This is a wonderfully hearty and savory casserole, perfect to make just as the recipe is written. You can also experiment with adding more vegetables or try a different kind of meat.

Here are a few variation options plus some tips to help you make this recipe:
  • Add vegetables. I love to add a few cups of baby spinach to this casserole. You can also add chopped bell pepper to the mushrooms as they cook for extra flavor and color.
  • Try a different meat. Instead of ground beef, try ground chicken or turkey, or ground sausage.
  • Make it vegetarian. You can easily make this into a vegetarian cowboy casserole by substituting your favorite vegetarian ground crumbles in place of the ground beef.
  • Go dairy-free. If you wish to make this a dairy-free dish, swap the Greek yogurt for dairy-free yogurt or sour cream, and use a dairy-free cheese for the cheddar cheese. You can use non-dairy butter or olive oil for the butter.
  • Make-ahead. You can prepare the filling for the casserole a day in advance, transfer it to the baking pan, and store it, tightly covered in the fridge. Add the tater tots right before you bake the casserole.
  • More add-ins. You can add beans, such as a can of black beans or pinto beans, or chopped, cooked bacon into this casserole.
  • Up the heat. If you like a bit of spice, you can add some chili powder or blackened seasoning into the base of the casserole, or finish it with a generous drizzle of hot sauce before you serve it.
Salt and pepper shakers are seen behind a plate of tater tot cowboy casserole.

How to Store & Reheat Leftovers

Tater tot cowboy casserole keeps well for another time, so plan for leftovers! Here’s how to store it:

  • Fridge – Place cooled, leftover tater tot cowboy casserole in an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Freezer – You can freeze this casserole in individual portions in airtight containers in the fridge so you can defrost only what you need. Store the casserole in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw individual portions in the fridge before reheating them.
  • To Reheat – Place the leftover cowboy tater tot casserole in a microwave-safe bowl or on a plate and reheat it in the microwave in 1-minute increments until it’s heated through. The tater tots will not be as crisp as when you originally baked the casserole but it will still taste very good.
A pan of tater tot cowboy casserole with a portion scooped out.

Make It A Meal

I love serving a casserole as a main dish, and if you’re short on time you can justify it as a one-pan dinner. But I also like adding green vegetables, a salad, or even fresh bread. Here are a few suggestions for what to serve with cowboy casserole:

Parsley tops a serving of tater tot cowboy casserole on a blue and white plate.
5 from 1 vote

Tater Tot Cowboy Casserole

Creamy one-pan Tater Tot Cowboy Casserole is hearty comfort food that is also gluten-free! Packed with tender ground beef, shredded cheddar cheese, and an easy homemade tomato sauce that's made in the same skillet, you'll finish this dish with a generous helping of tater tots.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 1 hour
Total: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 8 servings


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms , chopped into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic , minced or crushed
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 10 ounce can Ro-Tel tomatoes , undrained
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 4 ounces cream cheese , light or regular
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese , divided
  • 1 32 ounce package frozen tater tots (you may not need all of them)
  • Parsley and scallions for garnish , if desired


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F and coat a 9×13 inch glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the ground beef and onion. Cook until fully browned, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks. Drain off any excess grease and transfer the beef mixture to a bowl. Set aside.
  • Melt butter in the same skillet over medium heat until melted. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Saute until the mushrooms are tender, about 5-6 minutes.
  • Return the beef and onion to the skillet, add the garlic, and saute for a minute or two, until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Whisk the cornstarch with the milk, and add to the skillet along with the Ro-Tel tomatoes, corn, cream cheese, Greek yogurt or sour cream, and 1⁄2 cup of the cheese. Stir together and let it heat through until everything is melted and slightly thickened.
  • Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and top with a single layer of tater tots, completely covering the surface.
  • Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes until the tater tots are cooked through and golden. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake for another 5 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Nutrition Facts
Tater Tot Cowboy Casserole
Amount Per Serving
Calories 301 Calories from Fat 171
% Daily Value*
Fat 19g29%
Saturated Fat 10g50%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1g
Monounsaturated Fat 6g
Cholesterol 77mg26%
Sodium 495mg21%
Potassium 512mg15%
Carbohydrates 13g4%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 20g40%
Vitamin A 508IU10%
Vitamin C 6mg7%
Calcium 197mg20%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Disclaimers: Please discuss your individual dietary needs (i.e. gluten free) with a physician. Even when not specified, be sure to verify all ingredients are gluten free, if needed, by reading labels on all packaging and/or confirming with the manufacturer this varies by brand and can change at any time. Nutrition information shown is an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.


5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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