Its feeling a lot like fall around our parts of the Pacific Northwest! Whether its sweltering where you are or you are in the same boat as me, then cowboy casserole is just the dish to try now. The name of the dish caught my attention initially when I first came across it but boy! its those ingredients that caught my attention. This casserole is typically meat based but my version is plant forward. More importantly, this casserole’s packed with savory flavors with a hint of heat and tang along with wonderful textures.
This super delicious casserole is primarily made up of layers of delicious veggies, beans, cheese and topped with delicious crispy tater tots. Packed with carbs, proteins and tater tots to entice the little ones(and the grown ups), this one will be a firm family favorite once you try it.
Key Ingredients for cowboy casserole
Vegetables – The typical base is made of onions, garlic and tomatoes. You can also green peas, green beans, peppers, sweet potatoes, corn.
Mushrooms – I have used finely chopped mushrooms in lieu of any animal protein. You can also use crumbled tofu, seitan, tempeh, TVP or any plant based crumbles. Along with mushrooms, you can also add some chopped walnuts for added protein and texture.
Beans – A combination of beans like black, red kidney beans, pinto beans are used. In the recipe, I have used a combination black and pinto beans. I also used canned beans to cut down on prep time. If you are looking to use some beans that are lying around, then this dish is a great way to use them up.
Dairy – The main dairy we will use are sour cream and cheese. I subbed sour cream with greek yoghurt for a lighter, higher protein option. For cheese, I used vegan pre-shredded cheddar which goes great in this dish. You can use any melting cheese or vegan option of your choice.
Tater Tots/Topping – Frozen tots add a fun element and crispiness that comes along adds great texture. If you dont have tots, you can skip this entirely or even sub mashed potatoes. I am thinking you can also top with thinly sliced potatoes and it will turn out great. Another popular topping used is cornbread.
Spices/Seasoning – All of the above ingredients and textures are brought together by taco seasoning. Taco seasoning already contains cumin, paprika etc which means you dont have add all of this individually. We will also add in some hot sauce to for some heat and acidity. You can also add some jalapeños for extra heat.
Make it one pot – Using a cast iron skillet makes it easy to cook the casserole over the stove. Once you have topped with the frozen tater tots, just place the same pan in the oven until the tots are completely done.
Dont skimp on the seasoning – The casserole is already full of umami packed ingredients like tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese. But the delicious flavor comes from the taco seasoning. Once you add the seasoning, let the ingredients cook for a few minutes for the flavors to be absorbed.
Use canned beans – This is purely for convenience since I like cooking beans on my own vs using canned. However sometimes, even I am really thankful for canned beans especially if you are making this for a weeknight dinner. I mean most of us dont have time to cook beans and then use them in recipe on a wednesday night, right?
Vegan/ Gluten-free options – You can replace the cheese and sour cream/yoghurt with vegan options since the other options are vegan. Ensure the tater tots, hot sauce, taco seasonings are completely vegan before purchasing them. For gluten-free options as well, make sure any ingredients like the tots, sauce, seasoning are completely gluten-free.
Making the casserole ahead of time, storage and reheating
If you are planning to use this recipe for meal prepping, then I would recommend cooking the base of vegetables, beans, cheese and let it cool to room temperature. Transfer to a freezer safe container and cover it completely before freezing. The day before you plan to use it, let it thaw overnight. Top with the frozen tater tots and cook as you would in the recipe.
Storage – This should last well in the fridge for 2-3 days. Reheat in the microwave before eating. For freezing, follow the steps above. When you reheat after freezing, the tater tots might not retain the same crispy texture though.
Serving suggestions – This cowboy casserole is completely satifying on its own. You can also serve a light salad or some warm bread rolls along with it.
Let us know what you think
This cowboy casserole is a delicious protein packed weeknight dinner option! What’s more? You can easily veganize it as well. Let me know any comments/questions in the comments section below. If you do make it, please consider sharing on Instagram using #dillandthyme. You can also follow along on Pinterest or Facebook. Want the recipes sent to your inbox? Then sign upto our newsletter for all the latest posts.
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- 1 Medium Sized Onion peeled and finely chopped
- 4 cloves Garlic peeled and finely chopped
- 1 can Diced Tomatoes
- 2 cups Mushrooms finely chopped
- 1 cup Fresh or Frozen Corn
- 1 can Black Beans drained and rinsed
- 1 can Pinto Beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese split in to 2 equal parts
- 1/2 cup Sour Cream or Greek Yoghurt
- 5 tbsp Taco Seasoning
- 1 tbsp Hot Sauce
- 2 tbsp Avocado or Any Neutral Oil
- 32 oz Frozen Tater Tots
- Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Heat oil in the skillet at medium low. Add the chopped onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add garlic and allow it to cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the chopped mushrooms and let it cook for a minute or so.
- Now add the can of tomatoes including the juices. Mix and let everything cook for 3-4 minutes. Add both the beans, thawed corn and mix well. Season with salt.
- Add the taco seasoning and mix well. Cook for another 5 minutes before adding the greek yoghurt/sour cream. Now add the hot sauce. Taste to check if more salt is needed and add as required.
- Mix well and top with half of the reserved cheese. Turn off heat. Top with a layer of frozen tater tots ensuring the entire surface is covered and add the remaining cheese on top.
- Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven 30-40 minutes until the tater tots are fully done. You can remove the foil in the last minutes to help brown the tots a bit more. Remove and let cook for a few minutes before serving.
- You can skip the tater tots and still have a satisfying meal with just the remaining ingredients.
- Use canned beans to save on time while making this for a weekday/night meal.