tater tot casserole sitting in dish

What’s just as hearty as a meal of meat and potatoes? How about tater tot casserole? The quintessential meal that represents affordability, taste, and a way to feed an army easily, tater tot casserole is filling and flavorful. Recipe developer and mom of three teenage boys Laura Sampson of Little House Big Alaska offers a twist on this traditional dish that will leave you returning to the baking dish for a second heaping scoop.

Instead of using tater tots with meat in a soup base with a few veggies tossed in for a healthier balance, Sampson gives this dish a tasty spin with bacon and plenty of cheese. This dish truly is a crowd pleaser that even her teenage boys give a thumbs up to. Whether you use bacon bits or whip your own bacon, this dish will fill you up too. Even better is the fact that it takes just ten minutes to prepare and 50 minutes in the oven.

Get your tater tot casserole cooking

ingredients put out for tater tot casserole

To begin your tater tot casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 7×11-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Then, brown one pound of lean ground beef over medium heat, mixing in half a cup of chopped onion for flavor. Place in a heat-resistant bowl.

While any ground meat such as turkey or chicken could be substituted in this dish, beef is traditionally the protein source used. Whatever is on sale at the grocery store will work, too.

"If you can get ground beef at an affordable price, then the rest of the ingredients can be pretty budget-friendly," Sampson said.

Use a soup base for your tater tot casserole

ingredients for tater tot casserole placed in bowl

Instead of using cream of mushroom soup like the traditional recipe, Sampson uses one 10.5-ounce can of cheddar cheese soup for the cheesy flavor. Add this to the meat, along with one cup of sour cream and one cup of shredded cheddar cheese.

If Sampson’s hot dish version of this traditional hearty meal has inspired you so far with its twist, you can also try your own modifications, such as adding ranch seasoning to the tater tot bake or even making cheesy chili tots by adding chili beans to the base. The options truly are endless.

Bacon, bacon, bacon in your tater tot casserole

Bacon for tater tot casserole cooling

Sprinkle in six tablespoons of real bacon bits or cooked, minced bacon you prepped yourself. If you’re seeking healthier bacon for this recipe, you can fix it yourself by either roasting it on a baking rack in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through or popping the bacon in the microwave on a microwave-safe plate lined with a paper towel.

Try turkey bacon for a leaner option, too. You’d be surprised at how good it tastes.

Line up the tater tots for the ultimate tater tot casserole

Tater tots for tater tot casserole lined up

Pour the tater tot casserole mixture into the prepared baking dish, then carefully layer the frozen tater tots across the top. While Sampson’s finished dish looks simply picture perfect, it isn’t that easy to line the tots up so nicely and to get them to be so even. What’s her secret?

"Precision and years of practice LOL," she said. "You can scatter them on if you’d rather, but it actually cooks better when they’re in rows."

So even though it may take a bit longer, try and line them up as best you can.

Pop the tater tot casserole into the oven

Easy cheesy bacon tater tot casserole

Bake your tater tot casserole uncovered in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until bubbling hot. Remove from the oven and top with the remaining half a cup of shredded cheese and the remaining bacon. Place it back in the oven to bake for another five to ten minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Feel free to sprinkle thinly sliced green onions across the top for garnish and add a dollop of sour cream on each served square.

Let the tater tot casserole set, then serve

Easy cheesy bacon tater tot casserole

Be sure to let the easy cheesy bacon tater tot casserole rest for five to ten minutes before serving. That allows the cheesy soup mixture to firm up and helps it become a firmer casserole. That, in turn, makes it easier to serve as well.

Since casseroles bake for a considerable amount of time and hold in a lot of heat, it’s important to let them set so they simmer down to a temperature that won’t burn your mouth when you take that first incredible bite. It’ll still be plenty warm when it’s plated as long as you don’t wait too long.