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August 10, 2008 / Tony

Vegetarian Tater Tot Hotdish

I grew up in North Dakota and that means I ate a lot of hotdish.  It was simply inescapable.  It showed up at funerals, potlucks, family gatherings, school lunch, and home.  I define hotdish as a baked mixture of a starch, meat, vegetable, and at least one condensed soup.  Here’s a typical recipe from an old cookbook I inherited from my late grandmother:

Tater Tot Hotdish, from Home Cooking Secrets of Mayville (1981)

Recipe authored by Gladys Fyre

2 lb hamburger

1 pkg. dry onion soup mix

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can whole kernel or cream style corn

1 pkg. frozen tater tots

Brown hamburger and put in cake pan.  Mix onion soup, chicken soup and corn and pour over meat.  Top with frozen tater tots.  Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees or until tater tos are nice and brown.

All the elements are there, especially the condensed soup.  I suppose it probably tasted alright but I, at Katelyn’s request, thought I could do better.  Here’s my recipe for Vegetarian Tater Tot Hotdish:

Vegetarian Tater Tot Hotdish

3/4 cups milk

3/4 cups vegetable broth

2 T butter

2 T all-purpose flour

Kosher salt and pepper

4 oz colby jack cheese, shredded

1 lb green beans, trimmed

1 onion, chopped

8 oz button mushrooms, sliced

2 T sherry

Most of a 24 oz package of frozen tater tots

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan in preparation of making a roux.  When the butter has melted and the water from the butter has evaporated, add the flour and whisk constantly for about 2 minutes or until the mixture no longer smells like raw flour.  Add the milk and let the mixture thicken and then add the vegetable broth.  Let the mixture thicken again and then taste it and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.  Then, whisk in the cheese until melted.  Set the sauce aside, off the heat, until ready to use.

Meanwhile, heat a saute pan with a bit of olive oil.  Add the onions, season, and let them cook until they just are beginning to show some color.  Then add the mushrooms.  Season the mushrooms.  Cook until the mushrooms have softened.  Add the sherry and cook until almost all of the sherry has evaporated, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan as it cooks.

Now mix the beans, onions, and mushrooms together.  (Use your baking dish if you like or a large bowl.)  Then add about half of the sauce.  Keep adding sauce until the mixture look fairly wet but there isn’t a large amount of sauce in the bottom of the bowl.  If you end up adding too much sauce, just add some tater tots to the mix to thicken it up again.  Place the mixture in a 9X13 baking pan and then spread a layer of tater tots over the top.  Bake for about 30 minutes and then, if the tater tots aren’t crisp, turn on the broiler and get them nice and crispy.  Serve immediately.

This was actually really, really good.  Of course, the tater tots are king in this dish and if you don’t like them, well, you’re not going to dig this dish.  There’s just enough creaminess and cheesiness in the sauce to make it a great mate for the tots and the onions and mushrooms added a nice depth of flavor.  I might not shy away from hotdish as much as I used to if it turns out this well.

A few notes:  1)  If you really want to up the “tater totness” of the dish or if you end up needing to thicken up the sauce, just add some tater tots to the sauce and vegetable mixture.  They taste fine there and work great as a filler.  And since there’s probably going to be some tater tots left over in the package anyway. . . well, you might just want to do it everytime.   2)  Really care about the crispness of the tots.  This dish is not good unless the tots are really, really crispy and good.  3)  Of course you could you chicken broth instead of vegetable broth and if you needed to add meat, ground beef would work as would diced cooked chicken.  Make/add more sauce as needed.  Enjoy!  Here’s a picture:

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9 Comments

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  1. Iris / Dec 5 2008 2:02 pm

    THis is not vegetarian. I spacificly was looking for a vegetarian tater-tot hotdish!

  2. Mike / Feb 3 2009 12:12 pm

    Thanks for the tater tot casserole recipe, from one North Dakota transplant to another!

  3. Sue / Oct 21 2009 10:33 pm

    Yes this is a vegetarian recipe because it contains no meat. Many, many vegetarians eat dairy products. It’s the vegan people such as myself that eat no animal products whatsoever. So, this would definitely be a vegetarian dish but not a vegan dish. To make it vegan, use soy milk instead of milk and rice cheese for the regular cheese. I’m going to try it. It looks delish! Thanks for the recipe.

  4. Chaya / Jun 1 2010 8:11 pm

    Dear Sue,

    The first ingredient is 2 pounds hamburger. This is definitely NOT vegetarian, though I’m sure it tastes delicious.

    • Tony / Jun 2 2010 8:25 am

      Chaya-Please check on the second recipe in the post.

  5. Jeni / Sep 7 2010 12:48 pm

    I currently live in Mayville, ND and was looking for a vegetarian tater tot hotdish. I can’t wait to try it!

  6. Stranger / Sep 16 2010 1:17 pm

    Sooo fortuitous. Googled vegetarian hotdish recipe for a potluck with friends tonight in San Francisco. This is the first page I got. I lived in Mayville most of my grade school years in the 80s. What a nice surprise. Thanks for the recipe and hot photo!

  7. Brianna / Nov 23 2010 9:56 am

    Immediately after I stopped eating meat (just a couple months ago), a work friend brought tater tot casserole to lunch. What a tease – it’s such good and rich comfort food! I’m glad to have found what looks like a tasty vegetarian alternative.

    In the last paragraph of instructions in the recipe, you say to add half the sauce…but I never noticed another place where the other half goes into the recipe. When is this used?

  8. Abby / Aug 13 2012 11:17 am

    I cannot believe I ran into this. My family is from the Portland area and I went to Mayville State in the 90s…. looking for a vege hot dish and I think this will do the trick. Thanks!

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