This Tater Tot Shepherd's Pie is a comfort food classic! But this version is topped with tater tots for an extra crispy crust!
Let's face it. Times are a little crazy right now. There's so much going on in the news, that it can get a little overwhelming. On top of all that, we still have to do all the normal things, including feeding ourselves and our families.
I don't know about you, but when I'm feeling stressed out, I often turn to familiar comfort foods to help things feel a little more normal.
Of course, comfort foods can be different things to different people. But oftentimes, it's something you grew up eating.
Casseroles are generally considered comfort foods. And within the realm of casseroles, there are many, many types to choose from. I decided to take a familiar casserole, Shepherd's Pie, and put a little spin on it - Tater Tot Shepherd's Pie.
What is Shepherd's Pie?
Shepherd's Pie is a UK dish that features ground meat (usually beef, mutton, or lamb), topped with mashed potatoes.
The meat may or may not have vegetables mixed in with it. In some variations, the vegetables may consist of their own layer.
This version of Shepherd's Pie is not traditional in that I've skipped the layer of mashed potatoes and replaced it with a layer of tater tots instead. This makes the dish a little easier to prepare because the tater tots are already made, and just need to be arranged on the top before baking.
I've also followed the "blended beef" method to make the filling, in which I've used equal parts ground beef and mushrooms to make the filling. I coarsely grind the mushrooms in a food processor, then cook them to resemble a texture similar to ground meat before mixing the two together.
This "blended beef" method is beneficial in that it saves money (mushrooms are significantly less expensive than beef), and cuts down on calories and fat. Plus, once the mushrooms are ground and cooked, they blend right in with the meat so that you don't even realize they're there!
How to make Tater Tot Shepherd's Pie:
Making my version of Shepherd's pie starts with preparing the mushrooms. The easiest way to do this is to use a food processor. This makes grinding the mushrooms much quicker and easier than trying to do it by hand.
Then it's time to cook the mushrooms. It takes about 10-15 minutes. You will first notice the mushrooms change color slightly (within a minute or two). Then they will start to lose their moisture (after 2-5 minutes).
In the remaining time, you will see that moisture is being cooked away, and the mushrooms will become drier and clump together. They will start looking like cooked ground meat, and that's when you will know they're done.
Now it's time to start on the meat and veggie mixture. Start with the carrots and onions first, as you want to make sure they have time to soften before you add the meat.
Then add the garlic and spices, then the meat. Once the meat is cooked, add the cooked mushrooms and sprinkle it with flour to help thicken the filling (use gluten-free flour if needed). Add beef broth and Worcestershire for flavor and to give the filling moisture. And finally, stir in the frozen peas. They will cook in the oven.
If you were making traditional Shepherd's Pie, this is where you would start making the mashed potato layer, but in this delicious tater tot version, all you need to do is pull the tater tots out of the freezer, and arrange them on top of the meat in your baking dish.
Add a sprinkle of cheese (if you want), pop the whole thing in the oven, and soon you'll be digging into this classic comfort food!
On the day that I made this Shepherd's Pie to take photos of it, I was running a little behind. I had to pick up groceries in the morning, and my son happened to be home sick from school.
I made the Shepherd's pie to the point of putting it in the oven, then it was time to go pick up my daughter from school. Knowing that I would need to take pictures right after I got back (or it would be too dark), I tasked Mr. Dreamboat with taking the casserole out of the oven before I got home.
An hour later, I walked in the door, and the oven was STILL beeping! He didn't hear it. The poor casserole had been in there 30 minutes longer than it should have been! It still tasted just fine, but the cheese was definitely much more browned than I would have liked it. Oh well. Yes, these things happen to food bloggers.
Shepherd's Pie Variations:
Shepherd's Pie is one of these things you can easily change to fit your tastes and/or dietary needs. Here are some ideas:
Skip the mushrooms - if you won't like mushrooms, or don't have any, simply replace with another pound of ground meat. You could use beef, or you could mix beef with ground turkey or chicken.
Use more vegetables, or use a different type of veggies - Shepherd's pie is one of those things that's great to use up whatever you have on hand. Feel free to use extra veggies if you want, or toss in something different. I often like replacing peas with edamame.
Skip the cheese, or use a different type - The cheese is certainly not critical to this recipe, but it does add a little extra flavor. Don't go out and buy cheese just for this recipe if you don't already have it. Simply replace with a different cheese, or don't worry about skipping it altogether.
Want more casserole recipes?
Tater Tot Shepherd's Pie Nutrition Notes:
Replace the all-purpose flour in the recipe with your favorite gluten-free flour blend to make this recipe gluten-free.
Skip the cheese that tops the casserole, or replace it with your favorite dairy-free cheese to make this recipe dairy-free.
Serve Tater Tot Shepherd's Pie with a green salad to make a complete meal.
Tater Tot Shepherd's Pie
- 1 pound mushrooms either white or brown, or a combination
- 2 Tablespoons canola oil divided
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt divided, see note
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 medium carrot peeled and diced
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or ¼ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour (use your favorite gluten-free flour blend if you need this recipe to be gluten-free)
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 Tablespoon worcershire sauce
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 pound frozen tater tots
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional - skip if you need this recipe to be dairy-free)
- 1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese (optional - skip if you need this recipe to be dairy-free)
- Wipe any dirt or debris off of the mushrooms, and place them into the food processor (note: I have the best results when I process only half of the mushrooms at a time). Pulse until the mushrooms are finely chopped, stopping before they become a paste.
- Heat a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, and add 1 Tablespoon of the canola oil to the skillet. Add the mushrooms and ½ teaspoon of the salt until all of the moisture cooks out and they begin to clump together, resembling cooked ground meat. This will take about 10-15 minutes. Stir often while cooking.
- Transfer the mushrooms to a small bowl and set aside. Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Add the diced onions and carrots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, garlic, rosemary, and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the ground beef and cook until it's browned, about 5-7 minutes, breaking up the pieces with your spoon. Stir in the cooked mushrooms. Sprinkle the flour, pepper, and salt evenly over the meat mixture, then stir to incorporate. Cook for about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the beef broth and Worcestershire sauce, stirring after each addition of broth. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the frozen peas.
- Turn on the oven to 400°F. Transfer the meat mixture to a 9x9" baking dish or similar-sized casserole dish. Spread out the mixture evenly with a spoon or spatula. Top the meat mixture with the tater tots, nesting them slightly into the meat. Sprinkle both cheeses evenly over the top, if using. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the tater tots are browned. Cool slightly before serving.
Nutrition Disclaimer: I try my best to make sure the nutrition information I provide is accurate to provide you with the best information possible. However, due to ingredient discrepancies and other factors, the above nutrition information should be considered an estimation only.