Several years ago, we lived in a tee-nincy town right in the heart of the Texas hill country, called Spicewood.  It’s motto is “just outside of weird”…aka…just outside of Austin, Texas. We had a cozy home in the side of a beautiful mountain. The views and the morning walks were breathtaking; like so beautiful and so vast that every time I stepped onto the back porch, I swear I heard the Lion King song….”ahhhh sabinya a ba cheeeeee chee chee waaa.” You know the one I’m talking about.

I only remember two actual businesses in Spicewood; and we frequented both often: the General Store and Opie’s BBQ. While the BBQ was excellent, the highlights for me were the side dishes. Their jalapeno cream corn pretty much nourished me through my 3rd pregnancy. But their tator tot casserole set us on a quest for a homemade version we could have whenever we wanted.  The added fresh mushrooms and ground beef make my version more of a main dish than a side dish; a cheesy, gooey, crunchy, meaty main dish that is a genuine favorite around here.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t drive within 30 miles of Opies without stopping in for theirs, and I highly recommend you do too, but I’d venture to say our version would at least give it a run for its money. Enjoy!!


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 6 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 4 tbs sour cream
  • 1 bag (about 30 oz) frozen tator tots
  • 1 6 oz can French fried onions

1. Take your tator tots out of the freezer. Because if you wait until you need them (like I usually do), they’ll be very hard, difficult to mix, and make your cook time longer. You’re welcome.

2. Brown ground beef and onions in a heavy skillet.

3. Once the ground beef has started to brown, add in the sliced fresh mushrooms and garlic and cook just until tender.

4. In a separate dish, whisk together the milk, sour cream, cream of mushroom soup and shredded cheese.

5. Drain the ground beef mixture well and then mix it into the creamy mixture.

6. Mix in the tator tots with a big spatula. You can mix them right in the pan if you don’t have a huge bowl.

7. If you haven’t done so already, spread your mixture into a prepared 9 x 13 pan.

8. Top with the entire container of French fried onions.

9. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes; or until your fried onions have started to brown and get crispy.

10. Let your casserole cool for about 10 minutes. Then dig in!! It’s good by itself, with ranch, with ketchup, or my personal favorite….with hot sauce.  We served ours with fresh corn and green beans….The perfect comfort meal.

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