This Buffalo Chicken Casserole topped with tater tots is the perfect quick and simple recipe to satisfy your comfort food craving. Hot sauce and ranch dressing add a special twist and elevate this dish to something special. It’s a favorite weeknight meal and delicious addition to a game day menu.
It’s hard to beat a creamy Buffalo chicken casserole on a cold night. Especially when it’s piping hot, extra cheesy and topped with crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on the inside tater tots. Who could resist?
This simple meal can be prepped and oven-ready in only 20 minutes. Even better? It’s made in one pan so clean-up is a breeze.
Casseroles are one of my favorite recipes to make and this one is no exception. With a short ingredient list and quick cook time, this is the perfect meal to make on a night when your time is limited and you may feel a bit rushed. Don’t like tater tots, try a ranch chicken pasta casserole.
I think you’ll love the unique flavor that hot sauce and ranch dressing add to this quick family meal. If you’re looking for another easy weeknight meal, you can try my original Tater Tot Casserole. Made with ground beef, bell peppers and corn, this version gets a bit of a kick from jalapenos and taco seasoning.
What is tater tot hotdish?
Have you ever heard the term hotdish used instead of casserole? If you’re from Minnesota, Wisconsin, North or South Dakota you’re likely familiar with the word. Hotdish refers to a meal cooked and served hot in a single baking dish. Makes perfect sense!
Hotdishes and casseroles are common at potlucks, funerals and family gatherings because they are easy and economical. Since they’re all about comfort, it’s no wonder they’re favorite winter meals for so many. My Brisket Macaroni and Cheese is another example of a one-dish meal that is super simple and feeds a crowd. However in the South we call this a casserole.
Tater tot hotdish gained popularity in the Upper Midwest in the 1950s when Ore-Ida first invented the golden puffs as a way to use up leftover potatoes. The traditional recipe uses cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup and ground beef.
For Buffalo chicken casserole, I decided to make a homemade sauce for the base using milk and flour along with the hot sauce and ranch dressing. It provides a fresher taste to the dish and no canned soup is needed. The flavor punch from the Buffalo chicken/ranch combo guarantees everyone will be asking for seconds!
Why you’ll love Buffalo Chicken Casserole
- This easy tater tot casserole incorporates fresh veggies you’ll feel good about eating.
- Hot sauce and ranch dressing add a brand new flavor to a classic dish.
- Since everything is made in one dish, clean-up is quick and easy.
- If you’re wondering what to make with ground chicken, look no further.
- Tater tots are always a crowd favorite!
What you’ll need
- Ground chicken – if you can’t find this pre-ground at the store, most meat departments will grind it for you. Otherwise, follow the pro tip below to grind it yourself.
- Onion, celery and carrots – fresh vegetables deepen the flavor of the casserole sauce
- Hot sauce – my favorite brands are Frank’s Red Hot or Texas Pete
- Dry ranch dressing – one 1-ounce package is enough to add a delicious herb flavor
- White cheddar cheese – you can substitute Monterey Jack or mozzarella if preferred
- Tater tots – I love Alexia and Trader Joe’s brand tater tots
- Pantry staples – olive oil for browning the chicken and milk and flour to create the creamy base
How to make Chicken Tater Tot Casserole
Cook the ground chicken and onion in olive oil until the meat begins to turn white.
Add celery and carrots and cook until tender.
Stir in flour and ranch dressing, then add the milk and simmer until thickened. Stir in the hot sauce and add half of the cheese.
Top with the remaining cheese and layer the tater tots over the cheese and bake.
How to grind chicken in a food processor
You may not be able to find ground chicken at your local grocery store. Or maybe you just prefer the taste of freshly ground meat. Either way, if you’re wondering how to make ground chicken, it’s a simple process.
In a food processor, cut the chicken into smaller chunks. Place the meat on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment and place in the freezer for about 30 minutes. The meat should be firm but not frozen.
After removing from the freezer, place a handful or so of chicken in the food processor. Blend until the desired consistency is achieved. Repeat with the remaining meat until it’s all ground.
- You can swap out traditional tater tots for sweet potato puffs.
- You can use beef instead of chicken.
- Try a different cheese mixture, Pepper Jack for a spicy version or Monterey Jack for a milder casserole.
If you find yourself cooking with chicken a lot and want to know for sure that your chicken is cooked thoroughly, head to my informational page on ways to make sure your chicken is cooked all the way but still remains juicy and delicious.
What to serve with tater tot casserole
If you want to add even more nutrition to your chicken casserole meal, here are some quick and easy veggie side dishes you’ll love.
FAQs and tips
If you don’t have an oven proof skillet, just transfer the mixture to a 9×13 casserole dish, top with tots and bake.
To make this casserole ahead of time, prep the recipe except for the tater tots. Let it cool, then add the tater tots. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Make sure to bring it to room temperature before baking. If you prepare it the night before, you’ll have a delicious dinner ready to pop in the oven when you get home from work.
If you prefer a less-spicy casserole, purchase a “mild” hot sauce. Both of my favorite brands — Frank’s Red Hot and Texas Pete — are available in a mild version or if that’s too hot, use your favorite barbecue sauce.
Yes, you can substitute ground beef for the chicken.
If you have leftovers, you can reheat them in the oven. Let it come to room temperature then bake at 350º for about 15 minutes or until heated through.
Making sure you have thoroughly cooked chicken is important. You can check out my post on how long does it take to cook chicken for all the details.
More favorite comfort food recipes
Buffalo Chicken Casserole
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb ground chicken
- ½ cup onion chopped
- ¼ cup celery chopped
- ¼ cup carrots chopped
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 package dry ranch dressing 1 ounce
- ¾ cup milk
- ¾ cup hot sauce
- 8 ounces white cheddar cheese
- 28 ounces frozen tater tots 1 bag
- Preheat oven to 400º.
- Heat oil in an oven proof skillet over medium heat, add ground chicken and onion and cook until chicken begins to turn white. Add celery and carrots and cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
- Add flour and ranch dressing and cook until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in milk and bring to a simmer, continue to cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add hot sauce.
- Add half of the cheese and stir, then top with remaining cheese. Top with tater tots.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until tater tots are golden brown and crispy. Let stand for 5 minutes to cool before serving.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- You can make this ahead of time, just wait to add the tater tots until it has cooled.
- You can grind your own chicken breasts in a food processor.
- You can substitute sweet potato tots for the traditional ones.
- You can prepare this ahead and freeze in a 9 x 13 pan. Let it come to room temperature before baking.
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