Cowboy Casserole is an easy weeknight family dinner with ground beef, corn, cheddar cheese and sour cream topped with crispy tater tots.
This recipe is a step of from the classic Tater Tot Casserole we have on the site. We love classic comfort food dishes like Easy Chicken Casserole that please even your pickiest of eaters. Check out all of our Dinner Recipes to find your next family favorite.
Casserole dishes are an easy go-to option for any potluck or busy weeknight. They’re super easy recipes to follow with ingredients that are flexible to what you might have on hand in your kitchen. This Cowboy Casserole definitely falls into the totally customizable category. I’ve added a few variations for you to try at the bottom but there are so many more ways to adjust it.
This recipe calls for condensed cream of mushroom soup but if you’re not keen on using the canned version, try my easy Cream of Mushroom Soup to make your own. It only requires a handful of ingredients to make and it’s freezable too. You can also substitute with cream of mushroom soup or whatever condensed soup you have in the pantry.
Want to skip the tots?
Tater tots are the base of the layers in this cheesy casserole but you could use thinly sliced baby potatoes or small red potatoes instead. Tater tots are just an easy choice because all you need to do it pull them from the freezer and you’re all set. Plus, your kids will eat their dinner without any hesitation.
Feel free to add in anything else to layers that your family enjoys. Diced tomatoes, kidney beans, pinto beans, different cheeses. Have fun experimenting and creating a new yummy favorite your whole family will enjoy.
Can you make Cowboy Casserole ahead of time?
This Cowboy Casserole recipe is perfect to prep ahead of time. All you need to do it assemble it, cover and store in the refrigerator up to 24 hours before baking.
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Can you make Cowboy Casserole in a slow cooker?
There’s nothing better than walking through the door at the end of a day with dinner already waiting for you. This recipe is easily adaptable for a slow cooker. You’ll follow the same recipe instructions and layer in a crockpot instead of a baking dish and cook on low for 5 hours without opening the lid during the cooking time.
HOW TO MAKE COWBOY CASSEROLE
- Preheat Oven: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Cook the Beef: In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink. Stir in the corn, soup, ¼ cup cheese, milk, sour cream, onion powder, pepper and crumbled cooked bacon.
- Prepare the Casserole: Add beef mixture and remaining Tater Tots; sprinkle with remaining cheese.
- Cook the Casserole: Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and golden brown, 40-45 minutes.
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VARIATIONS ON COWBOY CASSEROLE
- Veggies: You can add frozen veggies (carrots, peas, broccoli) and layer them on top of the beef but below the cheese. Make sure to add an additional 10 minutes of cooking time to allow the frozen vegetables to cook through.
- Meats: The casserole works with just about any type of ground meat. Try using ground turkey, chicken, Italian pork sausage or even crumbled extra firm tofu.
- Taco Cowboy Casserole: Flavor the ground beef with a teaspoon of chili powder or a packet of Taco Seasoning. Add beans and canned chilies or jalapeños to the layers and top with salsa or a can of rotel and add an additional 10 minutes to the cooking time.
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HOW TO SERVE AND STORE
- Serve: This casserole shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for longer than 2 hours.
- Store: Make sure to store leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freeze: Once your casserole has completely cooled, wrap tightly in foil or place in a freezer safe storage container or bag and keep in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator overnight before placing it in the oven to reheat.
- 1/2 pound ground beef , (85/15)
- 1 cup corn
- 2/3 cup Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
- 1 cup cheddar cheese , shredded and divided
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup bacon , cooked and crumbled
- 32 ounces tater tots
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- In a large skillet, cook beef over medium heat until browned.
- Add the corn, cream of mushroom soup, ½ cup cheese, milk, sour cream, onion powder, black pepper, and bacon to the skillet and mix well.
- In a 9x13 pan layer the beef, then the cheese and finally line up the tater tots before baking for 40-45 minutes uncovered.
- Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake another 5 minutes.
What did you garnish it with? Chives? Parsley? and what kind of sauce did you drizzle on it? I have it in the oven now- Momma Mel sent me!
You can garnish with either chives or parsley and the sauce we used to drizzle? I am guessing it may have been Tapatio? It’s been awhile since this was tested in the kitchen!
It’s easy and it’s my son’s favorite.
this is a stupid question but when you add the corn do I drain it first or just mix the juice with the mixture.
No stupid questions! Yes, drained.
This casserole was amazing! I needed a one dish meal and had seen many recipes for this and have to say I am so glad I chose yours to try for the first time because it was so good!! Its a keeper. I’m not much on leftovers but could not resist it the next day, just as good.
I make this for my husbands employees and they love it!
Great! Thank you Lisa
My family is not excited about mushrooms. We used cream of celery instead and it was very yummy.
Delicious!!! Kid friendly and husband friendly to??
Our family loves this casserole. So delicious and easy to make.
I was curious if I were to make it and freeze it, what temp would I would it in the oven for and how long?
You should probably advise to drain/strain the beef after it’s cooked, before mixing in other ingredients…
seems like everyone would know to strain grease before mixing ingredients ? simple
The serving of information says for 8 but the nutrition info is only accurate if it’s 16 servings.
Fastj, hearty, tasty. Kid pleaser.
I used 1lb of ground beef, whole can of corn and whole can of soup. Other than that the same it was amazing.
I made this for dinner tonight and it’s delicious!! But if you are making this for a crowd or want leftovers, I would double the filling and add more cheese. I also diced up a small onion and cooked it with the ground beef. So good!
Do you pre-cook the tots?
Does not only take 10 mins to brown the hamburger takes awhile to put everything in too!
Question about the cheese amount. It says to mix half the cheese in with the hamburger mixture, then it says to put the other half of the cheese over this mixture after you put it in the pan. So at this point the cheese is gone. Then it says to put the remaining cheese over the tater tot’s. Should there be more cheese than what is listed? Maybe an inaccurate amount listed?
Do I mix half cheese in beef then layer with more cheese before tater tots
Is the cheese supposed to go in the ground beef mixture, sprinkle on the beef, and on top of the tater tots at the end?
We enjoyed this! It’s now part of our monthly rotation where it used to say tater tot casserole.
I made this today! My type of recipe simple but delicious! I added Colby jack and cheddar cheese!!! I also substituted the tator tots for the crispy crowns. My grandson is gonna love this!
Use the web for recipes all the time and
Dinnerthendesert is the best website for all recipes! Thank you.
are you using frozen tater tots? not sure of another type honestly lol
I’ve made this twice, but didn’t have bacon prepared to add in either time. It turned out great both times. I use half a real onion that’s cooked in w the beef vs onion powder. I’m glad I found this recipe.
Made this recipe with 1 lb of ground beef but kept the measurements for everything else. We loved it! Our 6yo said it’s the best thing I’ve ever made and ate 2 adult-sized portions! The only thing I switched out was the condensed soup. We didn’t have mushroom so I used Cream of Chicken instead. Fantastic recipe that we’ll definitely make again.
Next time I think I’ll sneak in some riced cauliflower for him because it kinda resembles the texture inside the tator tots. Thank you for the awesome recipe!
My family loved this! I used a whole can of cream of chicken soup and I substituted rotel for the corn (and used the whole can). Perfect for a cold winter night!
I’m about to make this, can I put meat, cheese, tot, meat, cheese and finally tot?
Delicious. Thanks for the Easy recipe.
Pleasantly surprised by this one, everyone enjoyed it. Keeper!
Tried this. It was very old. Will definitely make again
This recipe reminds me of a Cottage Pie. I prefer the homemade mashed potatoes, as a topping. I am sure children would love your recipe with the tater tot topping.
MDe this recipe. Yum. I doubled it and then when it came to the veggies. I put corn on one end and green beans on the other. Not every one lakes the same veggies lol. Everyone’s happy! ?love it Thanks.
The meat portion of this recipe most definitely needs to be doubled to serve a family of four.
Cooking for a larger crowd, if I double everything and use a larger pan would I still cook for 45 mins??
As long as it’s stays the same depth, then yes it should take about the same time. You may need an additional 5-10 minutes.
Can you use frozen corn? Or do you cook the corn first?
If you want to use frozen, I’d rinse it with water first so the texture becomes a bit softer before adding it into the recipe.
Absolutely delicious! I substituted ground beef for ground turkey, soy milk for whole milk, added baby peas and it was wonderful! A new favorite for sure! Thank you Sabrina!
Thanks for all of the substitute recommendations, Stephanie. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
Kids LOVED IT.. So simple to make.. I made it ahead and put in my frig and next day gave my daughter instructions to bake it while I was at work. Got home from work n they only saved me a lil bit :O
Haha, glad they saved you some!
Made it just like the recipe, but added a few pickled jalapeño slices – SO GOOD. Going into our regular rotation.
This turned out well, but still needs some tweaking. I used 1lb. hamburger. One full can of mushroom soup. Didn’t have onion powder, so sauteed 1 diced red onion. Loved this. Increased milk to 1/2 cup. Some people have said their’s was too salty, mine wasn’t salty enough. Rather bland.
Was so good! My whole family loved it. No blandness. I did use a pound instead of half pound and I didn’t increase other ingredients. Thank you so much. Will definitely be checking out your other recipes
I made this dinner the other night for three of us and it was a huge hit! I did alter it a little: I used a whole pound of hamburger and found that to be a great, hearty amount; I used cream of chicken soup instead as there are no mushroom fans in this house; and since I didn’t have tater tots on hand – I had a bag of seasoned curly fries and put those on top along with the crumbled bacon (instead of mixing it into the beef mixture). The two ingredients on top turned out to be the perfect crunch to the dish and the entire pan was devoured in one night… no leftovers! Thank you for sharing this yummy and hearty meal!
That sounds amazing! Thanks for letting me know, Jennifer.
Is that ketchup that you have drizzled on the top?
Yes 🙂 Completely optional.
Not our fave. The flavor was pretty bland…and for whatever reason our tater tots were super salty. They were Ore Ida. We were disappointed. But it was a good thought. Thank you for sharing.
This was delicious! Instead of tater tots, we used country-style hash-browns since my husband isn’t a fan of tater tots. I used the broil setting at the end to make sure the potatoes got nice and crispy. Husband said to throw this recipe into the rotation because it was so good!
That’s a great idea! Thanks for the 5 star rating, Joscelyn.
My family loves this dish! I also love making it because it gives me nostalgia for the midwestern casserole dishes my mom made growing up! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I’m confused, it says 25 minutes to cook at the top then 40-45 at the bottom. Which time is right?
40-45 minutes. The recipe card didn’t update, so sorry about that. Enjoy!
I’m wondering can it be frozen for later use ? If it can would you cook it from frozen or thaw it out?
Thanks my family loves it
Yes, you can freeze this casserole. I’d thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before placing it in the oven to reheat.
Made this on Sunday it was really good . Going to up the hamburger to a pound. Good recipe. Adding it to the mix.
Hi in the paragraph explaining the casserole (above the actual recipe card) it says back 20-25 min then in the recipe card it says 40-45? How long should I actually cook it for? Thanks!
40-45 minutes is the correct time. Thanks for letting me know it wasn’t showing up correctly. I hope you enjoy it!
if i want to use a pound of beef, should i double everything else?
This says 30 mins total but then in the directions it says cook for 40-45 min.
The recipe card didn’t update, sorry about that. It should be fixed now. The correct time is 40-45 minutes. Thanks for your patience.
I’ve made this twice recently, first time using corn and this time using green beans as the vegetable due to avoiding the grocery store in the midst of everything going on. I used onion soup mix to flavor the meat, and we used ground venison. This is excellent comfort food, so easy to make. Thanks so much for the recipe. Take care.
We love this recipe!! I make a tator tot casserole very similar to this and add lots of veggies. I love the addition of bacon to this tho. A good go to recipe if you can’t think of what to make.
This looks delicious! But there is no way 1/2 pound of ground beef is going to feed 8 people. At least not in my home. I will try it with 1.5 pounds and can’t wait to dig in to this dish.
Do i use frozen taters or do i defrost the bag?
Your picture looks like you have something red in the filling, maybe tomatoes? What else do you put in your filling?
Ooh, nice catch! It’s actually cooked and crumbled bacon. Wish this comment wouldn’t have been caught in my spam folder. I’ve edited it to read correctly now. I hope you enjoy it!
Can you please clarify for me. Do you later tater tots in the bottom of the casserole dish, or just on top? In the description at the top, it says to put them in the bottom, but in the actual recipe, it says the beef mixture is the bottom layer. Also, is it 1/2 pound or 1 pound of meat? Excited to try this tonight! Thanks so much!
Sorry for the confusion. There shouldn’t be any tater tots on the bottom. The recipe card is correct. I hope you enjoy it!
I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one confused lol thank you for asking!!
I’m confused on the recipe. It says mix 1/2 cup cheese with soup corn and beef in skillet. Then it says to layer beef, then cheese, then tots. Then sprinkle remaining cheese on top at the end.
So we mix 1/2 cup cheese with meat mixture, then sprinkle 1/2 cup more on top of that? Then more at the end?
You’ll mix 1/2 cup of cheese with soup mixture and then when you’re layering it, you use some of the cheese in the layer and the rest on top. You can always add the cheese to your liking for the top. Hope this helps clear things up.
Something screwed up here. Calls for a later of tots in a 3 CUP pan then later a 9X13. Photos do not show bottom layer of tots. Beef in photos is obviously more than 1/2 lb.
Thanks for catching that. The recipe card is correct and I’ll adjust the post to read correctly.
This is one of our family’s favorite meals. We make it all the time! Yum!
So glad you all enjoy it so much. Thanks for the 5 stars.
This casserole recipe sounds filling, delicious and …. so cheesy! Just love it! I am gonna make it tonight. I hope to get the same result as yours:)
What a delicious, decadent casserole this is! So great for chilly winter nights.
Definitely! So glad you enjoyed it.
I made this for dinner last night and it was incredible! It will definitely be on our regular dinner rotation from here on out!
I’m so happy to hear you enjoyed it. Thanks for the 5 stars.
Sounds so creamy and delicious! Can’t wait to try it out with my children.
I hope they enjoy it.