Shepherd's Pie-Inspired Tater Tot Hotdish Recipe

If you grew up in northern Minnesota, you probably remember the excitement of hearing, "Dinner tonight is hotdish!" Or, if you grew up in an Irish-American household, you likely felt the same when "shepherd's pie" was announced. And if you've experienced neither scenario, let us enlighten you.

Hotdish, like many Midwestern casserole recipes, is made with meat and canned staples like soups and veggies. What sets hotdish apart from the standard casserole, though, is the unconventional use of tater tots: The filling is topped with frozen tots, then baked until crispy and golden brown. The result is a gooey, crispy casserole, perfect for enjoying during long winters.

With shepherd's pie, meanwhile, you might be more familiar. Combing beef or lamb, peas, and mashed potatoes, this dish is equally as cozy and similar in concept to the Minnesotan hot dish. So why not have them both?

In this recipe by longtime Midwesterner Michelle McGlinn, a shepherd's pie base is topped with crispy tater tots for a very cozy fusion meal. It's everything you love about both dishes in one casserole, and it's perfect any day of the week.

Everything you need for shepherd's pie-inspired hotdish

For the filling of this shepherd's pie-inspired hotdish, you'll need olive oil, ground beef, onion, garlic, tomato paste, red wine, beef broth, salt, and pepper. McGlinn recommends a dry red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon, or something that's easy to drink and neutral in flavor. If you don't have any wine, just add a little more beef broth instead.

The casserole base is seasoned generously with fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme. If you can't get the fresh versions, substitute ½ tablespoon of dried herbs for each. A splash of Worcestershire sauce and frozen veggies go in next. It's up to you which vegetables you use; peas, carrots, corn, and green beans are all great additions.

For the topping, you'll just need frozen tater tots (about half a bag should fill up the dish) and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

Brown the beef and soften the onions

The easiest way to make this casserole is by preparing the filling in a cast-iron or oven-proof skillet and adding the tater tots on top. This allows you to make the whole recipe in a single dish, saving you time and mess. Crumble the ground beef in the skillet as you would taco meat, then, once browned, add the onion and garlic. Cook until the aromatics are soft and fragrant. Remember to drain out the grease for this one, or your casserole will be runny.

Add the remaining casserole ingredients and simmer

Add the tomato paste to the beef and cook until lightly caramelized, then deglaze the skillet with the red wine. Once the alcohol has burned off and the liquid is nearly evaporated, add the broth, seasonings, herbs, Worcestershire sauce, and vegetables. Simmer the mixture until thick; the liquid won't be completely absorbed, but the filling should be just thick enough to support the tater tots so they don't sink. If some juices remain in the pan, don't worry, as the casserole will continue to thicken in the oven.

Arrange the tater tots on top

Arrange the tater tots in straight lines across the filling, working your way down the casserole until its surface is completely covered in tots. If you don't have an oven-proof skillet, first transfer the filling into a 9x13 baking dish, then top with the tater tots in the same way. Pop the casserole in the oven and bake until the tots are soft in the middle and crispy on top, just under half an hour. Remove the dish from the oven and sprinkle with parsley.

Serve the hotdish

Though this hotdish makes a great gluten- and dairy-free casserole (as long as your tots and Worcestershire are gluten-free), you have the easy option of adding a layer of gooey, melty cheese on top. Once the tater tots are golden brown, sprinkle on some shredded cheddar cheese and keep the casserole in the oven for a few more minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Like most casseroles, you hardly need any sides to make this a full meal (that's the point of a casserole, after all). Since it already includes meat and potatoes, you could pair the hotdish with leafy greens or cruciferous-heavy salads, like our broccoli bacon brussels sprout salad recipe. Saving leftovers is a breeze; hotdish servings can be reheated in the microwave, though the tater tots are best when eaten fresh and crispy out of the oven.

Shepherd's Pie-Inspired Tater Tot Hotdish Recipe
5 from 37 ratings
This Shepherd's pie-inspired creation is a delicious introduction to the Midwestern delight known as hotdish, which is a casserole with a tater tot crust.
Prep Time
Cook Time
hot dish casserole in skillet
Total time: 45 minutes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, or about 2 dashes
  • 2 ½ cups frozen mixed vegetables, such as peas, carrots, corn, and green beans
  • 1 pound frozen tater tots
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.
  2. In a cast-iron or oven-proof skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the beef and cook, using a wooden spoon to crumble up the meat, until browned. Drain the grease.
  3. Add the onions and garlic to the beef and cook until soft and fragrant.
  4. Stir the tomato paste into the meat mixture. Once it begins to stick to the bottom of the skillet, add the red wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits off the skillet. Bring to a simmer and reduce until the liquid has mostly evaporated.
  5. Add the beef broth, salt, pepper, fresh herbs, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir to combine. Stir in the frozen vegetables and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer until liquid is reduced slightly, about 10 minutes.
  6. Once the mixture is thick enough to support the tater tot layer, turn off the heat and add the tots in a straight line across the skillet, working your way down to the other end. With the tater tots covering the casserole in an even layer, place the skillet in the oven and bake until the tots are golden brown and crispy, about 25 minutes.
  7. Remove the casserole from the oven, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.
Calories per Serving 443
Total Fat 30.1 g
Saturated Fat 9.8 g
Trans Fat 1.3 g
Cholesterol 80.5 mg
Total Carbohydrates 15.5 g
Dietary Fiber 4.2 g
Total Sugars 6.1 g
Sodium 773.2 mg
Protein 23.6 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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