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This easy cowboy casserole recipe has golden tater tots, ground beef, and Tex-Mex flavors! The addition of bacon makes it extra delicious, and it’s simple and affordable.

You may also like my original Easy Tater Tot Casserole or Sloppy Joe Casserole next.

closeup of a spoonful of cowboy casserole over a baking dish

Why you’ll love it

The crunch of tater tots in this casserole is totally irresistible, and it’s even better when you include crispy bacon! Putting creative spins on hotdish casseroles is always fun, but we’re still using pantry staples like canned corn, black beans, and green chiles. Easy peasy.

It’s always a good time to make this simple cowboy casserole since it’s budget friendly, cozy, and feeds a crowd. Naturally, there’s plenty of melty cheddar cheese in every bite, so your picky eaters will enjoy it as well for a comforting weeknight dinner.

What you’ll need

  • Bacon – for extra savory flavor
  • Ground beef – I like using lean
  • Onion and garlic – I prefer using sweet (Vidalia) onions
  • Taco seasoning – for convenience I use a packet, but you can definitely use my Simple Taco Seasoning Recipe instead
  • Cream of mushroom soup – a shortcut to bind everything and add flavor
  • Sour cream – use full fat. It adds a zip and creaminess
  • Black beans, corn, green chilies – these canned goods give that Tex-Mex flair! I use mild green chilies.
  • Cheddar – I like to grate my own cheddar as it melts better that way
  • Tater tots – the star of the dish
ingredients for cowboy casserole in prep bowls

Pro tip

You might not use the entire 32 oz package of tater tots depending on how they fit in your baking dish. Be sure to save the original packaging and pop them back in the freezer for another time!

How to make cowboy casserole

This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.

frying bacon and ground beef in a skillet and adding garlic and taco seasoning

Preheat the oven. In a skillet, fry the bacon until crispy, then transfer to a plate. Fry the ground beef and onions in the bacon fat until the meat is browned and onions are softened. Spoon out excess fat, then add in the garlic and taco seasoning, cooking for a minute.

adding sauce ingredients for cowboy casserole to a skillet and transferring to a baking dish

Turn off the heat. Add in the canned soup, sour cream, beans, corn, green chilies, half of the cooked bacon, and about a 1/2 cup of the cheddar. Combine well. Transfer to a casserole dish, and smooth into and even layer.

cowboy casserole before and after baking

Top the baking dish with the remaining cheese, the rest of the bacon, and then arrange the tater tots over top. Bake until it’s nicely browned and the cheese is hot and melty. Broil carefully if desired.

Tools for this recipe

Check out Natasha’s favorite kitchen essentials, gadgets, and cookware!

  • I use this skillet for frying and this 9×13″ casserole dish for baking.
  • Grating the cheese yourself is best for ideal texture, flavor, and meltability. I use this grater.
  • Use a pair of kitchen shears to quickly cut up the bacon.

Substitutions and variations

  • You could substitute the ground beef for ground turkey.
  • The cream of mushroom soup could be swapped for a different condensed soup like cream of chicken if you’re not a fan.
  • Feel free to leave out the beans if they’re not your thing.
  • Try subbing the cheddar for a Mexican cheese blend or Monterey Jack!

Can I make it ahead?

  • Yes! Prepare everything up until adding the tater tots.
  • Keep it in the fridge overnight, and add them just before baking so they don’t get soggy. Add on a few more minutes of baking time if it’s coming straight from the fridge.
  • You can also make ahead and freeze it for up to three months, although I’d also wait to add the tater tots until you’re ready to bake it.

What to serve with cowboy casserole

  • It’s optional, but I like to top it off with chopped scallions for a pop of freshness.
  • You could serve it with some hot sauce or ketchup if you like.
  • A nice side salad balances out the meal. Try spring mix with my zesty Chipotle Ranch Dressing, or make this simple Cucumber, Tomato, and Avocado Salad with a bright lime dressing.

Leftovers and storage

  • Leftover cowboy casserole will keep in a covered container for 3-4 days in the fridge.
  • Over time the tater tots will soften up, so you may want to reheat in the oven rather than the microwave to crisp them back up. You could even pop it in the air fryer.
  • Freeze leftovers for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then reheat.
a bowl of cowboy casserole with a fork

If you made this Tex-Mex tater tot casserole, talk to me in the comments below! I’d love it if you left a star rating and review. Tag me on Instagram if you made any S&L recipe.

closeup of a spoonful of cowboy casserole over a baking dish
5 from 4 votes

Cowboy Casserole

This easy cowboy casserole recipe has golden tater tots, ground beef, and Tex-Mex flavors! The addition of bacon makes it extra delicious, and it's simple and affordable.
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients 

  • 6 strips bacon cut into small pieces
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 (1 ounce) packet taco seasoning
  • 1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 (14 ounce) can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 (12 ounce) can corn drained
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar divided
  • 32 ounces frozen tater tots see note
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Chopped scallions for serving (optional, to taste)

Instructions 

  • Preheat your oven to 375F and move the rack to the top third of the oven.
  • Add the bacon to a skillet over medium heat and cook until crispy (about 10 minutes). Transfer the bacon to a paper towel lined plate and leave the bacon fat in the pan.
  • Add the beef and onions to the skillet, stirring occasionally and breaking the beef up with your spoon, until it's browned and the onions have softened (about 7-8 minutes). Spoon out most of the excess fat.
  • Add the garlic and taco seasoning to the skillet and cook for about a minute.
  • Turn the burner off, and then stir in the condensed soup, sour cream, black beans, corn, diced green chilies, half of the cooked bacon, and about a 1/2 cup of the cheddar. Combine well (I use 2 large spoons to make this easy).
  • Transfer the skillet mixture to a 9×13 casserole dish and smooth in an even layer.
  • Sprinkle the casserole with the rest of the cheese, the remaining bacon, and then top it with the tater tots.
  • Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until the tater tots are nicely browned and the cheese is hot and bubbly. You may want to broil at the end for a few minutes (watch it carefully). Serve with chopped scallions and season with salt & pepper if needed.

Notes

  • Tater tot package sizes can vary, so anything in the 32 oz. ballpark will work (you may use a bit less depending how you arrange them in your baking dish).
  • Some of the ingredients in this dish can be quite salty, so use low-sodium versions wherever possible if you are sensitive to salt.
  • Serves 6-8 depending on how much people eat.

Nutrition

Calories: 636kcal, Carbohydrates: 54g, Protein: 31g, Fat: 34g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 6g, Monounsaturated Fat: 11g, Trans Fat: 0.2g, Cholesterol: 85mg, Sodium: 1524mg, Potassium: 866mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 737IU, Vitamin C: 16mg, Calcium: 261mg, Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

© Salt & Lavender Inc. Content and photographs are copyrighted. Sharing this blog post is much appreciated, but copying and pasting full recipes without authorization to social media is strictly prohibited.

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Hi! Iā€™m Natasha.

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5 from 4 votes (3 ratings without comment)

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6 Comments

  1. Kathy S. Brown says:

    I said I would take a meal to my Granddaughter and her husband after they had a baby. My Grandson-in-law dislikes casseroles BUT said he likes tater tot casserole, so I found your recipe and made it for them. It was a winner as he raved about it!

    1. Natasha says:

      Yay!! That’s so nice to hear, Kathy! Thank you.

  2. Patti says:

    Hi Natasha,
    I made the Cowboy Casserole tonight.
    Everyone love it!

    Thanks,
    Patti šŸ™‚

    1. Natasha says:

      Yay!! I’m thrilled to hear that, Patti! Thank you so much! šŸ˜€

  3. Erika says:

    5 stars
    So good! Had to switch cream of mushroom for cream of chicken because of picky kiddos. This is replacing my normal tatertot casserole. Yum!!!

    1. Natasha says:

      I’m thrilled to hear that, Erika!! šŸ˜€ Thank you!