Want something hearty and filling and something that will feed the whole family? Then you have to give my tater tot chili cheese hot dish a try! It’s a simple chili topped with cheddar cheese and tater tots. It all comes together in one pan and serves a crowd!

cast iron dish with tater tot casserole

Tater tots all lined up on top of my chili.

This is the last of the winter food, really. Okay, maybe not seriously. But I’ll try my best! The fact of the matter is that I love comfort food all ready round but I get that that might not be everyone.

Chili. You know, the stuff seasoned with an array of spices, chopped onions, and garlic and is usually a little spicy, and super flavorful? Well, today I’m turning it into a chili cheese hotdish by topping my homemade chili recipe with cheese and tater tots and baking it all off until the tots are golden and brown, the cheddar is melty, and the chili is bubbly and warm!

In our house, this is what Sunday dinners look like. Something warm and comforting before the long, tiresome week ahead. But also something easy to make and preferably something quick to clean up. As of late, I will shamelessly tell you Sunday dinner is in front of the tv catching up on the latest episode of The Case Against Adnan Syed. 

Have you watched it? Two episodes in and two more to go!

close up of ground meat mixture topped with melty cheese and tater tots

So needless to say, my skillet chili with cornbread, chicken pot tater tot hotdish, and now this chili cheese hotdish are something that I make quite often when I want something warm and comforting. I love topping my bowl with just a dollop of sour cream, a few chopped scallion greens, and sometimes, when I’m feeling a little wild, I’ll add another dash of hot sauce. I know right, we party hard over here! Total sarcasm if you missed it there.

We may be officially into spring but the days here are still cooler than usual, and I’m taking full advantage. Come summertime; we really can’t even think about turning on our oven!

bowl with ground beef casserole with melted cheese and tater tots with a spoon

Ingredients for chili cheese hotdish:

  • ground beef
  • onions
  • peppers (poblanos and jalapeños)
  • garlic
  • seasonings (the usual suspects)
  • chipotle peppers
  • tomato paste
  • hot sauce
  • chili beans
  • cheddar cheese
  • tater tots

Can I use something other than ground beef?

Sure, feel free to swap the ground beef for ground chicken or turkey. They would both work well here. If you don’t have a weird aversion to dark meat the way I do, I suggest using ground chicken thighs or dark meat ground turkey here. It will add more flavor to the chili and it won’t get as dry as white meat will.

side shot of chili cheese ground beef in a cast iron pot topped with browned tater tots

Is this spicy?

We didn’t find this super spicy. However, everyone is different! If you’re worried about the spice, feel free to cut back on the jalapenos or the poblanos. You can swap the jalapenos for ½ a green bell pepper along with the poblano, and that should curb the spice a whole lot. If you’re still worried, use mild chili powder or a super mild hot sauce!

Can I make this vegetarian?

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure how that would go. You could try using more beans, and add corn or a mixed vegetable medley? However, the amount of liquid you need, the baking time, all of that will need to be played around with so it’s difficult for me to make any recommendations. If you decide to go ahead with it, feel free to leave a comment and share what you did! I’d love to hear!

showing texture of beans and ground beef in pot with broken tater tots

Can this be made in advance?

YAAAAS! The most wonderful thing about this chili cheese hotdish is you can you prepare a lot of it in advance. And by a lot, I mean most of it. You can make the chili up to two days in advance, and refrigerate it. When you want to serve the chili cheese hotdish, just let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, top it with shredded cheddar and tater tots and pop it into the oven. You may need a few additional minutes in the oven to help the taters brown and for the chili to heat up but that’s it! How easy is that?

Psst! Since this can be semi-prepared in advance, it’s the perfect meal to share with a loved one or friend! All they need to do it pop it into the oven and voila! Dinner in a flash!

Can I freeze the leftovers?

We’ve never had any leftover for me to test! But if I was to make an educated guess, I think it should hold up fine in the freezer for about three months. You’ll want to defrost the casserole in the refrigerator overnight and then pop it back into an oven-safe dish and reheat it through in a 325ºF oven for about 20-40 minutes depending on how much you have left over.

You can also make and freeze just the chili portion. Then top with cheese and taters before baking it off if you want to have some meals tucked away in the freezer for later! If that’s the case, allow the casserole to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes (once you’ve already defrosted it overnight) and then bake as directed in the recipe.

This is total man food. Hubby loved it and quickly declared it a win. There’s chili and shredded cheddar cheese, and it’s topped with tater tots; what is there not to love?

Did I mention that it’s all made in one skillet? 


food scene of bowl with casserole, staub pot with casserole and small terra-cotta dish with scallions

Tater Tot Chili Cheese Hotdish

Want something hearty and filling and something that will feed the whole family? Then you have to give my tater tot chili cheese hot dish a try! It’s a simple chili topped with cheddar cheese and tater tots. It all comes together in one pan and serves a crowd!

Tater Tot Chili Cheese Hotdish


  • 2 tablespoons EACH: olive oil AND tomato paste
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (90%)
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, chopped
  • 1-3 jalapeños, seed removed + minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons EACH: chili powder AND ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped
  • ¼ cup hot sauce (such as Louisiana)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chili beans, undrained
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 (30-ounce) bag crowns or tater tots
  • Chopped scallions + sour cream for serving


  1. PREP: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 425ºF.  
  2. BROWN: Heat a large, oven-safe skillet or 3-4 quart dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oil and the ground beef and using a wooden spoon crumble the beef until it cooks; about 4-5 minutes. Season with a big pinch of salt and black pepper. 
  3. CHILI: Lower the heat to medium, add the onions, poblanos, and jalapeños and continue to cook until the veggies soften about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and smoked paprika and continue to cook for a few seconds so the spices heat through. Add the tomato paste, chipotle peppers, hot sauce, and chili beans and allow the chili to start bubbling before lowering the heat to low and letting it simmer for 10 minutes. If the chili starts drying out too much, add up to ¼ cup of water.
  4. BAKE: If you’ve got an oven-safe skillet you can bake the hotdish directly in the skillet/dutch oven. If not, I suggest transferring the chili mixture to a large oven-safe baking dish. Top with the cheese and line up the tater tots as desired. Bake for 25-27 minutes or until the tater tots cook through. Serve with chopped scallions and sour cream!


  • For the chili powder, you can use something like ancho, chipotle, a mild chili powder, or a Mexican chili powder blend. All will work here!
  • As far as the tater tots are concerned, how many you will end up using depends on the size of your pan! You may or may not need all of them. You just need to make an even layer across the dish. But seriously, more tater tots is never a bad thing 😉

Have you made this recipe?

If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider leaving a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below. You can also share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #LITTLESPICEJAR, I'd love to see what you made!

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