Cheeseburger Casserole is a downright delicious easy dinner with crispy tater tots, ground beef, lots of cheese and all the toppings! It’s everything you love about a cheeseburger, all tossed into one casserole dish and baked to perfection. Treat yourself and your loved ones to this new family favorite recipe tonight!
When you think about all American cuisine, two main dishes probably come to mind first – cheeseburgers and casseroles! This easy dinner is kind of a tribute to good ol’ fashioned American diner favorites and combines two classics into one!
If you have little ones in the house like we do, you’re going to love this Cheeseburger Casserole recipe SO much! It’s a dinner that is definitely picky-eater approved. Next time you want to make your kids smile, skip the happy meal and make this delicious casserole instead!
So, what is it exactly? Well, a bed of crispy tater tots is covered with layers of cooked ground beef and lots of melted cheddar cheese, then topped with chopped tomatoes, sliced pickles, and shredded iceberg lettuce.
Oh – and you can NOT skip the special sauce on top! You can make it homemade or store bought, but it finishes off this cheeseburger casserole perfectly. Seriously, that stuff is addictive. If you like Big Mac sauce, you’re going to love our copycat recipe.
Healthier than drive-thru?
Listen, we totally get it. Sometimes, a drive-thru burger is a necessity! However, more often than not, those burgers are chock-full of sodium and unnatural preservatives.
While this might not be the most diet friendly dinner recipe, it’s certainly a more health conscious choice than fast food alternatives! We use ground turkey in place of ground beef (you can still use ground beef if you prefer) and that cuts down on a lot of fat and grease.
This casserole also has no unnatural preservatives, less sodium, and more fresh veggies than a drive-thru burger. It’s also a lot more budget friendly to make this big casserole for the whole family versus take-out. Plus, if we say so ourselves… it’s also way tastier.
Like all the best easy weeknight dinners, the ingredients needed to make this casserole are simple and inexpensive. Here’s what you’ll need for the base of the casserole:
- Frozen Tater Tots – You can use french fries instead, but we’ve found that tater tots provide a much sturdier base for the casserole.
- Ground Meat – Beef, turkey, or a vegetarian alternative will all work!
- Onion – we use a yellow onion sautéed with the ground meat. For the topping, you can use yellow or red onion – up to you!
- Garlic Powder
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Here are some of the best toppings:
- Chopped Tomatoes
- Sliced Pickles: we like to use the large dill pickles sliced for hamburgers.
- Shredded Iceberg Lettuce
How to Make this Cheeseburger Casserole Recipe
Prepare. Start by preheating the oven to 450°F. While that’s heating up, spray a 9×13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.
Bake the tots. Line the prepared casserole dish with the frozen tater tots. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until golden and warmed through.
Cook the meat. While the tots are in the oven cooking, brown the ground meat for 5 minutes in a large skillet. Add seasonings and onion and continue to cook until no longer pink and the onion is translucent. If you’re using ground beef, drain any excess fat before adding the seasoning and onion.
Layer it. Remove the cooked tots from the oven and cover them with the cooked ground meat. Evenly spread the shredded cheese over the meat.
Bake. Return the casserole dish to the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Top it off. Quickly layer shredded lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and uncooked onion over the melted cheese. Drizzle with the homemade special sauce over the top and serve immediately.
So, what is special sauce?
I don’t think either of us can fully enjoy a cheeseburger (casserole or not) without a drizzle of special sauce! It’s what McDonald’s drizzles on their famous Big Macs. It’s a mouthwatering savory sauce that really makes any cheeseburger taste extra special!
You can buy special sauce at most grocery stores in the aisle by the ketchup/mustard. When we are in a rush, we like to use the brand Sir Kensington’s Special Sauce Dressing! It’s the closest to homemade we have found.
Homemade Big Mac Sauce:
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons French dressing
- 2 tablespoons pickle juice
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 2 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
If you want to make your own Special Sauce, simply combine all of the ingredients together until you have a smooth, creamy sauce. You can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week!
Does this casserole make good leftovers?
Sadly, this delicious dinner isn’t great the next day and doesn’t reheat very well. It’s definitely a eat it or lose it kind of meal!
We have tried reheating it a number of ways, but you only get those crispy tater tots, hot meat and cheese and cool topping combo when it’s made fresh and served right away.
Can I make this cheeseburger casserole ahead of time?
Kind of! So you can’t fully put it together, but you can prepare the ground meat before hand to speed up the process when you are putting the casserole together.
Just prep the ground meat as described and then store it in an air tight container, in the refrigerator, for up to 4 to 5 days. Then when your tater tots are in the oven baking, quickly reheat up your ground meat mixture.
This is a kid-approved, hearty and satisfying dinner that’s pretty fun to serve! Cheeseburger casserole is one easy dinner idea you really don’t want to miss out on.
Craving more easy casseroles? Here are some of our favorite tasty ones:
- 28 oz frozen tater tots
- 1 pound ground meat (beef or turkey)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- Chopped tomatoes
- Sliced pickles
- Shredded iceberg lettuce
- **Special sauce (store bought or homemade)
1. Preheat oven 450°F. Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with non-stick spray.
2. Line casserole dish with tater tots. Bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until golden and warmed through.
3. While tots are in oven cooking, brown the ground meat for 5 minutes in a large skillet. Add seasonings and onion and continue to cook until no longer pink and onion is translucent. If using ground beef, drain any excess fat before adding seasoning and onion.
4. Remove tots from oven and cover with ground meat mixture. Evenly spread shredded cheese over ground meat. Return to oven for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.
5. Quickly layer shredded lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and raw onion over cheese as desired. Drizzle special sauce over the top and serve immediately.
Copycat Special Sauce Recipe:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons French dressing
2 tabelspons pickle juice
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoon yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Mix together all ingredients until smooth. Drizzle on top of cheeseburger casserole as desired. Save any leftover sauce in the fridge for up to a week.
Serving Size:1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 744Total Fat: 48gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 176mgSodium: 1032mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 3gSugar: 3gProtein: 44g