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A tater tot hotdish

A hotdish is a casserole which typically contains a starch, a meat, and a canned or frozen vegetable mixed with canned soup. The dish originates from the Upper Midwest region of the United States, where it remains popular, particularly in Minnesota and North Dakota. Hotdish is cooked in a single baking dish, and served hot (per its name). It commonly appears at communal gatherings such as family reunions and church suppers.


A typical potluck with desserts and bars at one end, salads, and hot dishes at the other end

The history of the hotdish goes back to when "budget-minded farm wives needed to feed their own families, as well as congregations in the basements of the first Minnesota churches."[1] According to Howard Mohr, author of How to Talk Minnesotan, "A traditional main course, hotdish is cooked and served hot in a single baking dish and commonly appears at family reunions and church suppers."[2] The most typical meat for many years has been ground beef, and cream of mushroom remains the favorite canned soup. In years past, a pasta was the most frequently used starch, but tater tots and local wild rice have become very popular as well.[3]

Hotdishes are filling, convenient, and easy to make. They are well-suited for family reunions, funerals, church suppers, and potlucks where they may be paired with potato salad, coleslaw, Jello salads and desserts, and pan-baked desserts known as bars.[1][4][5]


Tater Tot Hotdish from the Saint Paul, Minnesota, Winter Carnival

Typical ingredients in hotdish are potatoes or pasta, ground beef, green beans, and corn, with canned soup added as a binder, flavoring and sauce. Potatoes may be in the form of tater tots, hash browns, potato chips, or shoe string potatoes. The dish is usually seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, and it may be eaten with ketchup as a condiment. Another popular hotdish is the tuna hotdish, made with macaroni or egg noodles, canned tuna, peas, and mushroom soup. Also common is a dish known as goulash, though it bears no resemblance to the familiar Hungarian goulash. Minnesota goulash is usually made with ground beef, macaroni, canned tomatoes, and perhaps a can of creamed corn.

Cream of mushroom soup is so ubiquitous in hotdish that it is often referred to in such recipes as “Lutheran Binder,” referring to hotdish’s position as a staple of Lutheran church cookbooks. The soup is considered a defining ingredient by some commentators.[6]

Minnesota Congressional Hot Dish Competition[edit]

After the 2010 U.S. midterm elections, Senator Al Franken invited the members of the Minnesota congressional delegation to a friendly hotdish-making competition, to come together in celebration of the state before the beginning of the legislative session. Six out of 10 delegation members – Sens. Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Representatives Michele Bachmann, Tim Walz, Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum – participated, with Klobuchar taking first place with her "Taconite Tater Tot Hotdish" and Walz taking second with his "Chicken Mushroom Wild Rice Hotdish".[3]

For the second competition in March 2012, Franken's "Mom's Mahnomen Madness Hotdish" tied with Chip Cravaack's "Minnesota Wild Strata Hotdish" for first place.

With 9 of the 10 members of the delegation participating in 2013, the winner was Congressman Walz's "Hermann the German Hotdish", which featured a bottle of August Schell beer.[7][8] Sen. Franken has also provided a free PDF version of the 2013 Hotdish Off collection of recipes.[9]

In 2014 all ten members participated, with Rep. Walz's "Turkey Trot Tater Tot Hotdish" winning. In 2015, again all ten participated, and Rep. McCollum's "Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Wild Rice" dish won.

In popular culture[edit]

Hotdish frequently appears, along with other stereotypical Minnesotan dishes such as lutefisk, in the radio program A Prairie Home Companion. Hotdish is also described in Howard Mohr’s book How to Talk Minnesotan.[6] Hotdish is an integral element of the book Hotdish to Die For, a collection of six culinary mystery short stories in which the weapon of choice is hotdish.[10]

Minnesota public television station, KSMQ in Austin, Minnesota, has produced a 2012 documentary video entitled "Minnesota Hotdish."[11] providing a historical and humorous look at the popular church supper and family gathering staple.

Hotdish was also the main meal featured in the comedy-drama film "Manny & Lo".

"Hot Dish" is also the name of an Anchorage-based blue grass band, Their band name was chosen with a nod to mid-western roots of three of the five band members.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Harron, Hallie. (February 1996) "Heating up the heartland: Minnesota's signature hotdish combines heartiness, great taste and adaptability - includes recipes." Vegetarian Times.[dead link]
  2. ^ "Frequently answered questions about the Hotdish Hoedown". 2007-01-12. Retrieved 2012-07-13. 
  3. ^ a b "Klobuchar wins congressional hot dish competition". KARE 11. Retrieved April 17, 2011. 
  4. ^ Fertig, Judith M. (1999). Prairie Home Cooking: 400 Recipes That Celebrate the Bountiful Harvests, Creative Cooks, and Comforting Foods of the American Heartland. Harvard Common Press. p. 373. ISBN 978-1-55832-145-8. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  5. ^ Thorkelson, Berit (2006). You Know You're In Minnesota When...: 101 Quintessential Places, People, Events, Customs, Lingo, And Eats Of The North Star State. Globe Pequot. ISBN 978-0-7627-3895-3. Retrieved 13 July 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Mohr, H. (1987). How to Talk Minnesotan. New York: Penguin Books.
  7. ^ Bachmann vs. Franken: Minnesota Pols Dish Up Rivalry at ‘Hotdish Off’, ABC News, accessed April 25, 2013
  8. ^ Rep. Walz wins Sen. Franken's cook-off competition, by Taylor Seale The Hill, accessed April 25, 2013
  9. ^ "Dish It Out Like a Politician", Winona Daily News, Winona, Minnesota, accessed May 11, 2013
  10. ^ Dennis, Pat. (1999). Hotdish to Die For. Minneapolis: Penury.
  11. ^ "Minnesota Hotdish: The Documentary,", Minneapolis, Minnesota, accessed May 11, 2103

Further reading[edit]

  • Burckhardt, Ann (2006). Hot Dish Heaven: Classic Casseroles From Midwestern Kitchens. St. Paul, Minn.: Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 9780873515689. 
  • Cooney, Jeanne (2013). Hotdish Heaven: A Murder-Mystery Novel With Recipes. St. Cloud, Minn.: North Star Press of St. Cloud. ISBN 9780878396450. 
  • Dennis, Pat (2005). Hotdish Haiku. Richfield, Minn.: Penury Press. ISBN 9780967634432.