Tater Tot Casserole (With No Condensed Soups!)

Since we got back from China, I’ve been enjoying cooking whatever my little heart desires. No longer am I constrained by what ingredients are available and if I’m willing to pay their exorbitant price! I am free!! If I want to make cookies, I can get chocolate chips, no problem! If I want toast, there will be butter! And if I want meat, by golly, I’m gonna get some without worrying about whether it’s safe to eat!

It’s been great. ?

And one day a few weeks ago, I decided I wanted tater tot casserole – a throwback to my childhood. ☺️ The ultimate in comfort food, am I right? Just what every returning expat needs. Buuuut, the tater tot casserole of my childhood was chock-full of cans of cream-of-whatever-soup. Chicken, celery, mushroom, who knows what. And in general, I like to keep my dinners as free of ultra-processed ingredients as I can. Not to say I don’t eat processed food ever, cuz Oreos=life, and you’ll take the ice cream away from my cold, dead body; but the less processed food, the better. I mean, we’ve already got tater tots in this recipe, so we gotta at least pretend to make the sauce healthy-ish right?

So. I looked around instead for a version without condensed soup. And lo and behold, they do exist! Huzzah! It just so happened that the day I made this, Terry’s sister was in town with her two kids, and she was saying it was too bad her husband wasn’t with them because it’s apparently his favorite meal. ? Apparently I’m not the only one with fond memories of this casserole from my childhood.

I made a few adjustments to the recipe I found, adding more vegetables to make it a little more hearty, and upping the sauce to accommodate that. It was a home run with everyone in the house, if I do say so myself. So if you’re looking for a tasty, relatively healthy (depending on your definition), not too difficult tater tot casserole recipe, I’ve got you covered.

Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats

Tater Tot Casserole (With No Condensed Soups!)
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1½ cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 1½ cups celery, chopped
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 3 cups broth
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 lb bag tater tots
  1. Preheat your oven according to the directions on the tater tot package.
  2. In a skillet, brown the ground beef over medium-high heat. Drain. Transfer the beef to a plate and return the skillet to the stove.
  3. Melt the butter over medium heat. Add the celery and cook for 3 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms and shallots and cook until mushrooms start to soften, about 3- 5 minutes. Salt and pepper generously.
  5. Add garlic and cook for one more minute.
  6. Add the flour and stir for one minute.
  7. Add the milk and broth slowly, while stirring to avoid lumps. Add the ketchup, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and smoked paprika, stirring to combine.
  8. Turn the heat up to medium high and bring to a boil, lower heat to medium and simmer until thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
  9. Add the beef back in and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Pour the beef mixture into an un-greased 9 X 13 pan. Gently top with the tater tots in an even layer, and bake according to the instructions on the tater tot package.
  11. Let sit for 5 minutes to thicken before serving.