Lentil Tater Tot Casserole Recipe


Lentil Tater Tot Casserole from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

This plant-forward recipe for a vegetarian version of Tater Tot Casserole will have you drooling! In place of ground beef, lentils offer great nutrition in this savory, all-natural, gluten-free dish without the traditional cream of mushroom soup.

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My best friend married a vegetarian. This might not sound like a big deal to you, but in college Meredith was a meat and potatoes girl through and through.

Fast forward to today: now she eats all kinds of veggies and comes up with the most creative food ideas to replace the meat in foods she grew up with. (Check out her guest post recipe Buffalo Chickpea Salad for another great culinary idea!)

Meredith was the inspiration for this post and for the topic of creativity in the kitchen. Coming up with new recipes or adjusting old family favorites can be so fun! But it can be scary, too – what if you ruin your favorite dish??

When Meredith called me one day to talk about how she could transform one of her childhood favorites, Lentil Tater Tot Casserole, into a vegetarian dish, this felt like the perfect food challenge.

Today I’m going to share with you how I transform favorite foods into a more nutritious version – without losing the flavors we all love.


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Lentil Tater Tot Casserole from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Step 1: Identify the Flavors I’m Craving

Always start your meal planning with what you’re hungry for. My motto is: life’s too short for bad food. Our natural food cravings are for sugar, salt, and fat. While our modern Western society often translates into ultra-processed food which is often stripped of its nutrients, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sugar, salt, and fat!

In today’s case, I was craving hearty, creamy, salty tater tot casserole. Mm. Adding that cream-of-something-soup just can’t get any better.

And oh, that ground beef. Fatty and juicy and flavorful. Top it off with processed white potatoes? C’mon. What could possible be better? And also, what could possibly be less healthy?

Specifically: I wanted the creamy mouthfeel of tater tot casserole and the salty, crispy pop of tater tots.

Here are some other examples of how I identify the flavors in my cravings:

  • Pizza: red sauce + cheese

  • Chinese: salt + teriyaki

  • Mexican: spicy + salty

  • Snickers: creamy/savory sweet

Lentil Tater Tot Casserole from Peas and Hoppiness - www.peasandhoppiness.com

Step 2: Re-create the flavors using healthier (and in this case vegetarian) options

Here is where I identify the least healthy parts of my food and see if I can come up with a creative replacement:

  • Ground beef: a good vegetarian replacement for meat is usually some sort of bean or lentil. The texture needs to be small-ish (so probably not large beans) and the flavor needs to be pretty neutral (so probably not something with a distinct flavor, like garbanzo beans). I settled on my favorite: brown lentils

  • Cream-of-something soup: it’s creamy and it’s salty, meaning that condensed soup adds both flavor and texture. For texture, I’ll substitute nonfat, plain Greek yogurt. For flavor I’ll add a bit of salt to the dish as well as garlic and onion powder.

  • Tater tots: I’m taking one for the team on this and eating these processed morsels of goodness. I’m not sure there is a replacement. At least, I couldn’t think of one. So I Googled “healthy substitute for tater tots” and came up with 9 Recipe Ideas that I could make and substitute if I was really committed to not eating processed potatoes…

  • Add veggies: When in doubt, always add more veggies. This dish lends itself well to mild and savory veggies. Today I added sautéed onions and garlic, but it would probably be even more amazing if I added mushrooms. Mushrooms give a delicious umami flavor that is a typical flavor from meat, thus adding mushrooms to a vegetarian dish can make it taste more “meaty.”


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Before baking

Before baking

This healthy substitution thing I like to do takes practice. Besides Meredith, Google is my favorite place to find new ideas. I search for “healthy version of…” or “how to make ____ healthier” and get a head start on my substitutions.

Here’s to healthy comfort food! Now let’s get started.

In a large saucepan, sauté one large, diced onion and one tablespoon minced garlic in one tablespoon of canola oil until translucent. Add two cups of lentils, a teaspoon of salt, and four cups of water; bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 45 minutes or until lentils are tender (add another cup of water if the mixture is too dry).

When lentils are cooked, remove from heat and stir in one cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, a half cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and a teaspoon each of onion powder and garlic powder.

Transfer lentils into a greased 2.75-quart casserole dish. Top with an additional half cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and three cups of frozen tater tots.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes until lentils are bubbly and tots are slightly browned.


Gather around the table this week

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Printable Recipe for Lentil Tater Tot Casserole


  • 1 white or yellow onion, diced

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil

  • 8 oz white mushrooms, sliced

  • 1 cup brown lentils

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2 cup water

  • 1 1/2 cup black olives, sliced (1 1/2 cups = 1 can with net weight of 6 ozs)

  • 1 cup full fat sour cream OR plain, nonfat Greek yogurt

  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (divided)

  • 1 tsp onion powder

  • 1 tsp garlic powder

  • 3 cup frozen tater tots (choose gluten-free for Celiac-friendly)


  1. Dice onion and mince garlic. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Once pot is hot, add oil, then add onion and garlic to pot and begin to cook. Stir occasionally and cook 6-8 minutes until onion is translucent.

  2. While onion and garlic cook, slice mushrooms and add to pot as they are prepared. Cook 5-8 minutes until starting to brown.

  3. Add lentils, salt, and water to pot. Cover with lid and turn up heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer 25-30 minute until lentils are tender and water has been absorbed.

  4. While lentils cook, slice olives and set aside. Measure all remaining ingredients (except tater tots) and set aside. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare a deep 2- to 3-quart baking dish by spraying with cooking spray.

  5. Once lentils are fully cooked, remove from heat and stir in olives, sour cream, half of the shredded cheese, onion powder and garlic powder. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Top with remaining cheese, then arrange tater tots evenly on top.

  6. Bake 25-30 minutes until lentils are bubbly and tots are slightly browned.

Serves 6 – Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups – Nutrients per serving:  457 calories — 27g total fat — 41mg cholesterol — 863mg sodium — 25g total carbohydrates — 13g fiber — 4g sugar — 16g protein

Printable Recipe


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Lentil Tater Tot Casserole Recipe

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