Tater Tot Casserole- can it be elevated?

I jokingly suggested making tater tot casserole for thanksgiving, and it was not received as a joke (Midwestern husband). Now he's exited. Any recipe suggestions that use fresh ingredients but that don't require me to hand form the tots?

Brooklyn DIY Supply


CookOnTheFly November 24, 2015
Oh for God's sake, make what your husband remembers and be done with it. If he is from Minnesota that means Cream of Mushroom soup, ground beef, Ore Ida Tater Tots and maybe, just maybe, some additional onions, celery and garlic powder. The Taste of Home website most likely has the best recipes ever, but I was raised on the stuff and can't eat it anymore. Enjoy!
Debora M. November 24, 2015
I recently had tots with bacon, cheddar, BBQ sauce, and red onions. Best tots I've ever had, would love to see that served casserole style :)
Loves F. November 24, 2015
Check out Molly Yeh's blog (mynameisyeh)... she has a few fancy fun tot casserole recipes!
Rachel November 24, 2015
As a fellow Midwesterner, I'd recommend just making a simple and straightforward tater tot casserole (tots+cream of mushroom soup+onion+garlic+ground beef+cheese), and then making something else that you can really put your creativity into (like a beautiful savory galette or a gratin). Sometimes , the familiarity of the flavors that people grew up with are what they're really craving (who knows, it might end up as a quirky tradition for your family :)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 20, 2015
I might add I've made my own with homemade beef/turkey gravy and it's very good, if not better IMO.
Susan W. November 20, 2015
I now HAVE to make this without opening a can of "anything soup". Saw the Alexander tots at the store and nabbed them.
Susan W. November 20, 2015
Sigh..supposed to say Alexa brand tots.
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 20, 2015
Here you go, made without cream of anything soup. Tater Tots are OK, try Alexa Brand. Vivia la Tater Tot Casserole, it's delicious!
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 20, 2015
702551 November 20, 2015
Did you read the recipe you posted? The recipe author makes her own cream of mushroom soup. The recipe most certainly has cream of something soup, it's just homemade.

Moreover, she notes that "While it is my opinion that the homemade variety of the Cream of Mushroom Soup is a thousand times better than the canned version, you are free to sub a can of the cream soup of your choice."

More notably, she uses the standard commercial Tater Tots. This is basically the standard tater tot casserole recipe with homemade cream of mushroom soup in place of the can.
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 20, 2015
um, yes. I read the recipe and her notes in its entirety. Some people don't like to use canned cream of whatever soup. The author states, "I'm not overly fond of canned soup...so I made my own Cream of Mushroom.

Apparently, there are as many different ways of making a Tater Tot Hotdish as there are Minnesotans that make it. With cheese, without cheese, with vegetables, without vegetables, ground beef, ground turkey, or ground soy---it's all acceptable. One thing is certain, though--an authentic Tater Tot Hotdish has got to have cream of something soup and Tater Tots"
702551 November 20, 2015
"One thing is certain, though--an authentic Tater Tot Hotdish has got to have cream of something soup and Tater Tots"

Hence, my confusion. Recipe author Cathy Wiechert states that the dish must have cream of something soup (regardless whether it's canned or homemade) and you state the recipe is "made without cream of anything soup."

You contradict the recipe author.

Well, which one is it? Does the dish have cream of something soup or not?
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 20, 2015
correction for cv: "made without a processed ready-made cream of anything soup, e.g Campbells."
702551 November 20, 2015
Those words don't appear anywhere in Wiechert's recipe nor Brooklyn DIY Supply's initial question. You added those words for your convenience.

Moreover, I mentioned the option of making the cream of mushroom soup from scratch in my initial post.

I do not equate "cream of ____" soup with a canned item. Those types of soups have been made for decades (if not centuries) before commercial food canning manufacturers emerged.

More confusion from you.
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 20, 2015
@cv I find your responses condescending, sarcastic and a fruitless attempt to embarrass me when I just wanted to offer assistance. This classic dish has 1,00'0's of versions on the interweb, I chose one as an example. Please do not respond to any responses that I provide from this post or any other, if possible.

@Brooklyn - Best of luck finding a version that works for T-Day & Happy Thanksgiving!
702551 November 20, 2015
Hey, you're the one who claimed that a recipe you posted doesn't have cream of anything soup and the author clearly says "I'm making the cream of anything soup myself because I think it's better than the canned version."

All you needed to say was "This recipe author thinks better results can be obtained if you make your own soup base."

You bungled your post and now you're trying to make me look like the bad guy.

Very disingenuous when it's in archived forever in Food52's comment database. Nice job.

Again, I mentioned the option of making the cream of mushroom soup from scratch to improve the dish, something you seem determined to ignore.


Voted the Best Reply!

Sam1148 November 20, 2015
IMO. Stay with the classic. It's just one day and it's what they remember. Also remember to get the cranberry sauce with the can ridges.
702551 November 20, 2015
Since your goal is to use fresh ingredients and not hand form the tots, let's look at what options you have. Looking at a typical recipe, the three main ingredients are tater tots, ground beef, and cream of mushroom soup.

I'm unsure if one can find fresh tater tots (unfrozen) in a grocery store. I don't recall seeing many fresh raw potato products in my decades of walking up and down grocery store aisles, but if they existed, I would imagine they would be where the fresh pasta is sold. Unless you go to a well-appointed market near a large metropolis, chances are you won't be able to find unfrozen fresh tater tots.

Tater Tots are a registered trademark of Ore-Ira. They are likely produced with conventionally grown potatoes, one of the most heavily sprayed crops in all agriculture.

Thus, you may want to look for organic potato tot alternatives, at least from a health perspective. Since the name "tater tots" is trademarked, you'll have to search around. Here's one:


When you are at your local grocery store, look for the Ore-Ida item, then look around to see if there are any alternatives. I'd look at the ingredient labels carefully and definitely lean toward products that have no preservatives.

I don't blame you for not wanting to make the tots from scratch. It's a lot of work and here they will be doused with soup. Much of the appeal of this casserole is its relative ease of preparation due to the usage of commercially prepared items.

There are many alternatives now to the traditional can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup, hopefully some are tastier. Would these be as good as homemade soup? Maybe, maybe not. Do you want to put in the time to make cream of mushroom soup from scratch to put in this casserole? Based on your comment about not having to hand form tots, I'm assuming the answer here is no.

One option is to look for fresh cream of mushroom soup in the grocery's deli department. The canned stuff is concentrated, so you might need to cook down fresh soup to get closer to the canned product's consistency.

Once again, the other option is you should look for higher quality canned alternatives to mass market Campbell's.

As for the ground beef, I don't think it's worth it to buy your own chuck roast and grind it yourself, not for a casserole smothered in cream soup. Today, it is not difficult to find decent ground beef. If I were trying to do this, I might opt to cut back the ground beef amount and use more flavorful grass-fed beef.

Anyhow, that's the way I see it: premium potato tots, premium canned cream of mushroom soup, fresh grass-fed ground beef.

If it doesn't elevate it enough, then you probably need to start making things from scratch, but you'd never see me spending that amount of effort on a homey dish like this.

Heck, I'd be more tempted to make handmade tater tots, serve them with hamburgers, and leave the homemade cream of mushroom soup for another meal.
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