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Hotdish facts for kids

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A tater tot hotdish
Course Main or side dish
Place of origin United States
Region or state Upper Midwest
Main ingredients Starch (potatoes, pasta, etc.), cream soup (typically cream of mushroom), meat, vegetables

A hotdish is a dish that typically contains a starch, a meat, and a canned or frozen vegetable mixed with canned soup. A classic example is made with ground beef over tater tots with cream of mushroom soup, but some versions in Minnesota use the official state grain wild rice, or even macaroni, in place of the potatoes. The dish originates in the Upper Midwest region of the United States, where it remains popular, particularly in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, 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, potlucks, and church suppers.


A typical covered dish dinner or 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." 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." 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.

Hotdishes are filling, convenient, and easy to make. They are well-suited for family reunions, funerals, church suppers, and covered dish dinners or potlucks where they may be paired with potato salad, coleslaw, Jello salads, Snickers salad, and pan-baked desserts known as bars.


Tater Tot Hot Dish 2008 Winter Carnival
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.

Minnesota Congressional Hot Dish Competition

After the 2010 U.S. midterm elections, then 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".

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. Sen. Franken has also provided a free PDF version of the 2013 Hotdish Off collection of recipes.

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.

Past winners

  • 2011 Sen. Amy Klobuchar's Taconite Tater Tot Hot Dish
  • 2012 Sen. Al Franken's Mom's Mahnomen Madness Hotdish and Rep. Chip Cravaack's Minnesota Wild Strata Hotdish (tie)
  • 2013 Rep. Tim Walz's Hermann the German Hotdish
  • 2014 Rep. Tim Walz's Turkey Trot Tater Tot Hotdish
  • 2015 Rep. Betty McCollum’s Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Wild Rice Hotdish
  • 2016 Rep. Tim Walz’s Turkey Taco Tot Hotdish
  • 2017 Rep. Collin Peterson’s Right to Bear Arms Hotdish
  • 2018 Rep. Tom Emmer's Hotdish of Champions
  • 2019 Rep. Betty McCollum's Hotdish A-Hmong Friends
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