Taco Tater Tot Casserole: an easy one-pot recipe the whole family will love!
This blog post was originally published on June 17, 2020. It was updated with new photos, blog post notes, and recipe refinements on April 16, 2021.
Perfectly spicy and homey while being a complete meal the whole family will love, one-pot Taco Tater Tot Casserole Recipe is low on fuss and clean-up. Add it to your menu this week!
What do tater tots remind you of or make you think of?
For me, they throw me back to elementary school cafeteria days. Simple and satisfying food that I would get so excited about being on the menu as I pulled through the line with my lunch tray.
Crunchy on the outside, warm and steamy on the inside and full of that savory flavor, they always hit the spot.
But as some things tend to do as we get older, I lost sight of the crunchy little guys as I passed through high school and onto the real world.
And then, a few months ago, left to my devices and checking out online grocery ordering for the first time and feeling indulgent due to the new mandates to stay inside, I somehow stumbled on tater tots again and figured "why not?"
Within a few nights we roasted them up with our dinner. At first bites, both Chris and I were immediately reunited with our childhood memories.
We crushed through a small pan of them before the rest of our food was even off the stovetop. But what else does a hungry sane person do when there's a tray of fresh tater tots in front of you?
The tots immediately went back on our online ordering list and before you know it, a love was reborn.
Side note: to my surprise, tater tots actually aren't that unhealthy, either! When baked, they're usually decently low in fat, gluten-free, and don't contain any weird chemicals.
I started thinking of all the different ways I could make those little puppies and one of the first things to come to mind was - somehow - on a taco casserole.
I played around quite a few times developing the specifics of this recipe, but I always knew a few things would be for sure: an easy homemade taco seasoning, juicy ground turkey, beans, melted cheese and -- of course -- crunchy tots!
What I settled on is this cast-iron skillet casserole. It's an easy one-pot dinner that can be served on its own or topped with classic taco toppings, filling but not enough to send you into a food coma, and -- thanks to lean ground meat, lighter cheese, and lower sodium taco seasoning -- a healthier comfort food option!
Most importantly, it's the kind of good that I'm sure I'll be craving 20 years from now. I'm thinking that's due to the legacy of taco Tuesday or the tater tot, but I'll leave it up for you to decide!
Table of contents
- This Tater Tot Casserole Recipe Is...
- Recipe ingredients:
- Recipe substitutions:
- How to make this taco casserole:
- Recipe pro-tips:
- Dietary adaptations:
- Can you use premade taco seasoning instead of homemade?
- Taco casserole toppings:
- Can you use sweet potato tater tots in this recipe?
- Can you make this recipe without a cast-iron skillet?
- Storage directions:
- Serving suggestions:
- Tools needed for this recipe:
- Other delicious Mexican inspired recipes:
This Tater Tot Casserole Recipe Is...
All while being better for you than traditional tater tot casserole and super easy to put together!
- Taco seasoning - follow the recipe for an easy homemade recipe!
- Ground turkey - a breast and leg meat ground turkey combo is best as it adds the most flavor and moisture.
- Yellow or white onion
- Sweet pepper - red, yellow, or orange are great.
- Salsa - your favorite bottled salsa is perfect for this casserole! Choose the heat and spiciness that you and your family prefer. Pineapple or peach salsa are also delicious in this recipe.
- Canned black beans or pinto beans
- Reduced-fat shredded Mexican cheese blend - keeps the recipe cheesy but still not super heavy
- Taco toppings
- Cheese - full-fat Mexican cheese blend and shredded sharp cheddar cheese blend can both work in place of the reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend
- Ground meat - ground beef can work in place of the ground turkey, as does a ground beef meat substitute!
- Salsa - enchilada sauce can step in for the salsa in a pinch, but it will change the flavor profile of the dish
- Canned beans - kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and canned corn can all easily substitute for the black beans or pinto beans
How to make this taco casserole:
- Preheat the oven and mix together the homemade taco seasoning.
- Saute the onions and peppers in olive oil in a cast-iron skillet.
- Add the turkey and seasonings to the onions and peppers and cook until turkey is cooked through and crumbled.
- Add the drained beans and salsa to the turkey mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Sprinkle cheese on top and evenly place the tater tots on top of the cheese.
- Bake the casserole until the cheese is melted and golden brown around the edges. Enjoy hot with your favorite taco toppings!
- Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking - this taco casserole recipe moves quick, so it's best to have all the ingredients ready as you need them
- Don't drain the meat - turkey is lean and generally does not need to be drained. Also, the seasonings will drain out with the meat juices. If you substitute higher ground beef, cook it with the onions and peppers first, drain it, and then add in the seasonings in with the salsa and beans
- Bake the casserole uncovered - this helps the tater tots to crisp and golden up and for the cheese to melt and turn golden brown
- Gluten-free: double-check the tater tots for wheat ingredients and this recipe is naturally gluten-free
- Vegetarian: just substitute a ground beef substitute for the turkey
- Dairy-free: use dairy-free cheddar cheese in place of the traditional shredded cheese blend
- Vegan: substitute ground beef substitute for the turkey and a dairy-free (or nut) cheddar-cheese for the traditional cheese
Can you use premade taco seasoning instead of homemade?
Yes, you certainly can use premade taco seasoning instead of homemade in this recipe. Just substitute 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons of your favorite storebought taco seasoning and follow the rest of the recipe as directed!
Taco casserole toppings:
Top your casserole with any of your favorite taco toppings:
- Shredded lettuce
- Sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Shredded cheese
- Sliced black olives
- Minced onions or green onions
And any of your other favorite taco toppings!
Can you use sweet potato tater tots in this recipe?
Yes, you most definitely can use sweet potato tater tots in this recipe. Sweet potato goes very well with Mexican seasonings!
Can you make this recipe without a cast-iron skillet?
Yes you can easily make this recipe without a cast-iron skillet. Just cook up the turkey and beans in a large non-stick skillet and then pour them into a greased 8 x 13" pan before layering the cheese and tater tots on top.
Bake the casserole according to the recipe directions, or until the cheese is melted and turning golden brown around the edges and the tater tots are crispy!
- Refrigeration: leftovers last covered in the refrigerator for 4-5 days
- Freezing: leftovers do not freeze well
- Reheating: reheat individual servings of the casserole in a toaster oven on low for 2-3 minutes or the oven at 300 for 5-6 minutes, or until warmed through and the tater tots re-crisp.
This casserole is very filling on its own, though it can be nice to round your meal out with a few lighter sides:
- A light green salad with ranch or chipotle ranch dressing
- Air fried green beans
- Grilled asparagus
- Roasted broccoli
- A glass of sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio
- A bottle of Mexican lager beer (like Dos Equis, Pacifico, or Corona)
Tools needed for this recipe:
- Cutting board
- Chef Knife (such an amazing deal for a great knife!)
- Small mixing bowl
- Measuring spoons & cups
- 12" cast-iron skillet
- Heat-safe spatula or turner
Other delicious Mexican inspired recipes:
- Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
- Southwest Chicken with Black Bean Sauce
- Ground Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet
- Healthier Taco Mac and Cheese
- Mexican Chicken Marinade
- Black Bean Breakfast Enchiladas
- Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas
- Peach Avocado Salsa
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Thank you so much for your feedback and support of Mae's Menu!
This Taco Tater Tot Casserole Recipe is the best of both worlds: perfectly spicy and homey while being a healthier version of the more classic casserole.
See the notes below to make this recipe in a baking dish or make it a one-dish recipe by baking in a cast-iron skillet.
Homemade Taco Seasoning:
- 1 ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅛-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Tater Tot Casserole:
- 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
- ½ large white or yellow onion, diced
- 1 large sweet pepper (red, orange, or yellow), seeded and diced
- 1 pound ground turkey, preferably 90-93% lean
- 1 cup salsa
- 1, 15 oz. can black beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups reduced-fat shredded Mexican cheese blend
- 2 ½ cups frozen tater tots
- Taco toppings: sour cream, extra cheese, cilantro, black olives, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, etc.
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a small bowl combine the chili powder, garlic powder, salt, onion powder, cumin, paprika, oregano, and cayenne pepper.
3. Heat the olive oil in a 12" cast iron or another non-stick skillet over medium or medium-high heat, or until the oil sputters when flicked with water.
4. Add the onion and sweet pepper to the skillet and saute for 4 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so, or until the onions are translucent and the peppers are softening.
5. Add the turkey and bowl of seasonings to the onions and peppers and saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring and breaking up the turkey as you cook, or until the turkey is crumbled and cooked through and the mixture is fragrant.
6. Add the salsa and drained beans to the turkey mixture and stir until combined. Bring the ingredients to a boil and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring every 1-2 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thickened.
7. Remove the pan from the heat. If using a cast-iron skillet, sprinkle the cheese evenly over the turkey and then scatter the tater tots evenly on top (there should be about 1" gaps between them). If using a non-stick or non-oven safe skillet, pour the turkey into a greased 8 x 13" baking dish and sprinkle evenly with cheese and then tater tots.
8. Bake the casserole for 22-25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the tater tots are crispy. Remove from the oven and serve hot with your favorite taco toppings!
1. Taco seasoning: 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons storebought taco seasoning can substitute for the homemade seasoning blend.
2 Leftovers of this recipe last for 4-5 days covered in the refrigerator. They do not freeze well.
3. Reheating leftovers: reheat individual servings of the casserole in a toaster oven on low for 2-3 minutes or the oven at 300 for 5-6 minutes, or until warmed through and the tater tots re-crisp.
4. Making this recipe without a cast-iron skillet: cook up the turkey and beans in a large non-stick skillet and then pour them into a greased 8 x 13" pan before layering the cheese and tater tots on top. Bake the dish as directed, or until the cheese melts and is golden brown around the edges
Serving Size⅛ of casserole without any extra taco toppings
Amount Per Serving Calories 454Total Fat 25gSaturated Fat 8gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 14gCholesterol 87mgSodium 979mgCarbohydrates 32gFiber 6gSugar 3gProtein 28g
This nutrition breakdown is just an estimate of the nutritional value of this recipe and cannot be taken as facts. The owners of Mae's Menu are not nutritionists or dieticians and therefore cannot be held accountable for this nutrition estimate. Please contact your nutritionist or medical professional for a nutritional breakdown of this food. Furthermore, this food is not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.