Cheesy, hearty vegan tater tot casserole is totally addictive. This meat-free hotdish is packed with veggies, beans, and corn in cheesy chili sauce!
Y'all, we have been stuck inside for so long, and all we want to eat is comfort food. I love this vegan tater tot casserole -- aka vegan hotdish -- because it uses mostly pantry ingredients and is easy to make.
Beans aren't really my family's favorite comfort food, so I've been trying to find ways to make beans feel as cozy as pasta or tofu to them, since we are stocked up on them.
This casserole did the trick! I guess adding cheese and tater tots to pretty much anything turns it into comfort food.
Making the cheese sauce
This cheese sauce is based on the one I make for my baked macaroni and cheese. It's rich and creamy, and this version uses olive oil, chickpea flour (or all-purpose flour), vegan milk, and vegan cheese shreds as the base. See the variations section below for a alternate cheese sauce option.
To make the sauce, you start by sauteing the onion, peppers, and garlic, then add a little bit of flour. Stir for a few minutes, then slowly add vegan milk and chili powder.
Simmer the milk mixture until it thickens. The sauce is ready when you drag your spoon through it, and there's a split second where you see the bottom of the pan before the liquid fills in the gap.
That's when it's time to remove your pan from the heat, and add vegan cheese shreds.
This is a classic cheese sauce recipe made vegan, and you can use it for all kind of cheesy recipes.
Assembling the casserole
The cheese sauce represents the bulk of the work in this recipe. Once it's ready, it's assembly time!
Stir in drained kidney and black beans and some frozen corn, top with tater tots, and bake until the top of your casserole is nice and crispy.
It's important that you arrange those tater tots in a single layer on top of your hotdish. It's fine if they touch, but you don't want them to overlap. A single layer yields the crispiest results, and I want that for you!
The recipe below does use fresh onion, garlic, and bell pepper, but if you don't have them, no problem!
Instead of fresh onion and garlic, you can add 1 teaspoon onion powder and 1 tablespoon garlic powder when you add the chili powder.
Can't find fresh bell pepper? No problem! Either use frozen instead or simply omit it. This casserole is still lovely without it.
If you don't want to make a from-scratch cheese sauce (or can't find those ingredients right now), you can use my garlic cashew cream sauce in place of the whole cheese sauce portion of this recipe. Saute the veggies, as written, then turn off the heat, add the cashew cream, add the beans, and the corn, then follow the rest of the recipe as written.
This casserole uses kidney and black beans instead of meat, but you can use other beans, if you need to. Chickpeas, lentils, or white beans would both work well.
No tater tots? No problem! Any other veggie tots will work well, like sweet potato or cauliflower. I do not recommend using frozen french fries in this recipe. We tried it, and the results were just not crispy.
Cheesy chili vegan tater tot casserole
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped sweet onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 chopped bell pepper - any color you want
- 2 tablespoons chickpea flour - or all-purpose flour
- 2 cups unsweetened vegan milk - Soy or oat both work well, and I'm sure other creamy vegan milks would, too.
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 cups vegan cheese shreds - Cheddar, mozzarella, or pepper jack all work well, as would a combination of any of these!
- 1 15 ounce can of red beans - drained and rinsed
- 1 15 ounce can of black beans - drained and rinsed
- 1 cup frozen corn - You can use canned, if needed.
- salt and pepper - to taste
- 3 cups frozen tater tots
- Preheat the oven to 450° F (or whatever temperature your bag of tater tots lists).
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven (or other stove-to-oven saucepan) on medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook until the onion turns translucent, about 5 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the chickpea flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.
- Slowly add the vegan milk, whisking out any lumps as you go. Once all of the milk is in the pan, add the chili powder.
- Bump the heat up to medium, and simmer, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes. Keep this going until the mixture thickens, so when you drag a spoon across the bottom of the pan, there's a split second before the milk mixture fills in the gap.
- Remove the pan from the heat, and while the milk mixture is still hot, add the shredded vegan cheese, stirring to melt. Add the beans and corn, mixing well, then season to taste with the salt and pepper. Top with the tater tots in a single layer, then bake according to the tater tots package directions (usually around 20 minutes).
- Make sure that the vegan milk you choose is nice and creamy. Thin milk will yield a thinner cheese sauce, and that's just not the goal here.
- You can make this a one-pot meal by making the cheese sauce in a Dutch oven or other stovetop to oven pot, then spreading the tots on top right in that pan. You'll need fewer tots in this scenario. I prefer the tot-to-casserole ratio in an 8x8" pan. More tots = better, as far as my family is concerned!
- If your tater tots package gives a range of cooking times, I suggest using the longest cooking time for the crispiest results.