Cowboy Casserole Recipe

Cowboy Casserole Recipe


  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can (10.75 ounces) cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup cooked and chopped bacon
  • 28 ounces frozen tater tots


  1. Preheat Oven:
    • Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Spray a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Cook Ground Beef:
    • In a skillet over medium heat, cook the ground beef, breaking it into small pieces until no longer pink. Drain any excess grease.
  3. Mix Wet Ingredients:
    • In a large bowl, whisk together the cream of mushroom soup, milk, and sour cream until smooth.
  4. Add Seasonings:
    • Add the onion powder, salt, and black pepper to the mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Combine with Beef and Vegetables:
    • With a wooden spoon, stir in the cooked ground beef, frozen corn, 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and chopped bacon until well mixed.
  6. Assemble the Casserole:
    • Pour the mixture into the prepared 9×13-inch pan. Sprinkle another 1/2 cup of shredded cheese on top. Arrange the frozen tater tots evenly over the cheese.
  7. Bake:
    • Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly and the tater tots are browned.
  8. Add Final Cheese Layer:
    • Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese on top and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
  9. Serve:
    • Serve hot, optionally garnished with additional chopped bacon. Enjoy!

Secrets to Achieve the Perfect Cowboy Casserole Recipe

  1. Use Fresh Ingredients:
    • Fresh, high-quality ingredients can make a significant difference in the flavor of your casserole. Use fresh ground beef, high-quality cheese, and fresh vegetables if possible.
  2. Cook the Ground Beef Thoroughly:
    • Make sure to cook the ground beef until it’s fully browned and any excess fat is drained. This prevents the casserole from becoming greasy.
  3. Season the Beef Well:
    • Season the ground beef with additional spices such as paprika, cayenne pepper, or smoked paprika for extra flavor.
  4. Enhance the Cream of Mushroom Soup:
    • Add a splash of Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce to the soup mixture to enhance the umami flavor.
  5. Use Fresh or Homemade Tater Tots:
    • For a fresher taste, use homemade tater tots. If using frozen, ensure they are spread evenly and cover the entire surface of the casserole.
  6. Layer Cheese Strategically:
    • Layering the cheese within the casserole, as well as on top, ensures a cheesy experience throughout. Use a mix of cheeses like cheddar, mozzarella, and Monterey Jack for depth of flavor.
  7. Add More Vegetables:
    • Add vegetables like bell peppers, peas, or green beans to boost the nutritional value and add more flavor and texture.
  8. Include Bacon or Sausage:
    • Cook and crumble bacon or sausage to add a smoky, savory flavor. Mix it in with the ground beef or sprinkle on top.
  9. Thicken the Sauce:
    • If you prefer a thicker casserole, add a tablespoon of flour to the beef mixture or use less milk.
  10. Pre-cook Frozen Corn:
    • If using frozen corn, thaw and cook it slightly before adding to the casserole to avoid excess moisture.
  11. Use Fresh Herbs:
    • Garnish with fresh herbs like parsley or chives before serving to add a fresh, vibrant flavor.
  12. Adjust Seasonings:
    • Taste the beef mixture before assembling the casserole and adjust the seasoning as needed. Add more salt, pepper, or other spices to suit your taste.
  13. Add a Crunchy Topping:
    • For an added texture, mix crushed cornflakes or breadcrumbs with melted butter and sprinkle on top of the casserole before baking.
  14. Layer Properly:
    • Ensure even layers of beef, cheese, and tater tots for a well-balanced bite in every forkful.
  15. Bake Until Bubbly:
    • Bake the casserole until the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the tater tots are golden brown and crispy.
  16. Let It Rest:
    • Allow the casserole to rest for a few minutes after baking before serving. This helps it set and makes it easier to cut and serve.
  17. Use a Convection Oven Setting:
    • If available, use the convection setting on your oven to ensure even baking and a crispy top.
  18. Make Ahead:
    • Prepare the casserole a day in advance and refrigerate. This allows the flavors to meld together. Just bake it when ready to serve.
  19. Reheat Properly:
    • When reheating leftovers, cover with foil to retain moisture, and heat in the oven at 350°F (175°C) until warmed through.
  20. Experiment with Cheese:
    • Try using different types of cheese such as pepper jack for a spicy kick or gouda for a smoky flavor.

By following these secrets, you can elevate your Cowboy Casserole and ensure it’s flavorful, perfectly textured, and delicious every time. Enjoy your cooking!

Popular Questions and Answers Related to Cowboy Casserole

  1. Can I use ground turkey instead of ground beef?
    • Yes, you can substitute ground turkey for ground beef for a leaner option.
  2. Can I add vegetables to the casserole?
    • Yes, you can add vegetables like green beans, bell peppers, or peas.
  3. Can I make this casserole ahead of time?
    • Yes, you can assemble the casserole ahead of time and refrigerate it until you are ready to bake.
  4. How can I make this casserole gluten-free?
    • Use a gluten-free cream of mushroom soup and ensure that other ingredients like tater tots are also gluten-free.
  5. Can I freeze Cowboy Casserole?
    • Yes, you can freeze it. Assemble the casserole but do not bake it. Cover tightly and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before baking.
  6. Can I use a different type of cheese?
    • Yes, you can use any type of cheese you prefer, such as mozzarella, Monterey Jack, or a blend.
  7. Can I make this casserole in a slow cooker?
    • Yes, you can cook it on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours in a slow cooker.
  8. What can I serve with Cowboy Casserole?
    • It pairs well with a green salad, steamed vegetables, or garlic bread.
  9. How can I make the casserole spicier?
    • Add diced jalapeños, hot sauce, or use spicy cheese.
  10. Can I use fresh corn instead of frozen?
    • Yes, fresh corn can be used. Simply cut the kernels off the cob and add them to the mixture.
  11. What type of bacon works best for this recipe?
    • Any cooked and chopped bacon works, but thick-cut bacon adds more flavor.
  12. Can I add beans to the casserole?
    • Yes, you can add beans such as black beans or kidney beans for extra protein.
  13. How do I store leftovers?
    • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  14. How do I reheat the casserole?
    • Reheat in the oven at 350°F (175°C) for about 20 minutes or until heated through.
  15. Can I use homemade tater tots?
    • Yes, homemade tater tots can be used for a fresher taste.
  16. What if I don’t have cream of mushroom soup?
    • You can substitute with cream of chicken soup or make a homemade version.
  17. How can I make the casserole healthier?
    • Use low-fat dairy products, lean ground meat, and add more vegetables.
  18. Can I use leftover meat?
    • Yes, leftover meat like shredded chicken or pork can be used.
  19. Can I make this casserole in individual servings?
    • Yes, bake in individual ramekins for single servings.
  20. Can I add different spices?
    • Yes, feel free to add spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, or Italian seasoning for additional flavor.

By following these tips and answers, you can make a perfect Cowboy Casserole tailored to your preferences and dietary needs!