Tator tot casserole is such a classic. Over the years, I think it’s probably been the star at many potlucks and I’m pretty sure we all ate it growing up. The problem I had with it, though, is that it’s heavy on cream soups and a little light on veggies.
I set out to take this classic and make it a little healthier. I started by using 93% lean ground beef and then added a variety of veggies. I then replaced the cream soups with my own sauce made with a combination of beef stock and lowfat milk, thickened with a little flour and seasoned with fresh herbs. It’s still really easy to make and the result was delicious!
The other thing I love about this casserole is that you can make it ahead and freeze it. It makes about 6 to 8 servings, so I like to divide it into two smaller pans and freeze one for later. You could also double the recipe and freeze a full size casserole for later.
So how about a healthier tator tot casserole for dinner tonight?
Tator Tot Casserole
- 1 pound lean ground beef (I use 93% lean)
- 2 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 4 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped, or 1 tsp dried
- 2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1 cup milk (I used 1%)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 32 oz bag tator tots
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 1- 9×13 pan or 2- 8×8 pans with cooking spray.
Chop all of your veggies.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and break up with a spoon.
When meat is starting to brown, add all of the veggies to the pan. Season with about 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper.
Continue cooking until beef is no longer pink and onions are translucent.
Add remaining tbsp olive oil. Reduce heat to medium. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Gradually stir in beef stock and then milk. Stir in thyme, parsley and another 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
Bring to a bubble and continue cooking, stirring frequently until sauce has thickened.
Pour mixture into prepared 9×13 pan or divide between 2 prepared 8×8 pans. Top with tator tots.
At this point, if you’re going to freeze any of the casserole, cover tightly with foil and freeze until ready to use. Defrost before baking.
Or bake immediately in preheated oven for 20-30 minutes until sauce is bubbly and tator tots are browned and crispy.
It’s now ready to serve.
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