Now, before you change your mind about us, both Morgan and I are not originally from Minnesota, so it’s not our fault we don’t call it hot dish. Because we don’t call it that, it got me wondering what the origin of hot dish is, considering Minnesota is the only state that refers to casseroles as hot dishes. Like, isn’t that what they called a good looking lady back in the day? A hot dish? Yeah… I thought so. So how did we get from a term of endearment to a term used for practically any food you can throw in a dish and put in the oven? Well, here’s where my mission for answers led me …
If you recently watched WCCO News, you would’ve seen on their Good Question segment that the question asked was, “Why do Minnesotans call casserole hot dish?”
So that’s where I started digging. What I learned was that casseroles first appeared in the 1920s when canned goods and self-regulating ovens became a thing. Casseroles were used as a means to stretch a leftover meal, which was especially important during the Great Depression and World War II. The term “hot dish” first appeared in a cookbook in 1930 by a Mankato, Minnesota church group called Grace Lutheran Ladies Aid.
Also, a fun fact, in the 1950s, Ore-Ida needed a way to use leftover potato scraps, and thus behold came the tator tot. They marketed them as a topping for casseroles and they really took off.
So now I knew the origin, but what’s the difference between a hot dish and a casserole? My hunt for answers continued …
I found a hot dish blog series from Ramshackle Pantry and low and behold! I got just the answers.
According to the Ramshackle Pantry, there are three main differences between the two: definition, ingredients, and purpose.
Definition: Casserole is the name of the dish used to cook with, whereas hot dish is the meal itself.
Ingredients: Casseroles can contain any ingredients under the sun practically, where hot dishes have set ingredients they have to have. A hot dish has to have a “cream of something” soup, or a less commonly used tomato base, a protein, vegetables, a starch (potato or pasta), a crispy topping (chips, breadcrumbs, tater tots, etc.), and optionally, cheese. Which if you’re from Wisconsin, you know there’s going to be cheese in it.
Purpose: A casserole can serve any function, for example, a main dish, side dish, breakfast, or even dessert. A hot dish is a main meal only, as it (purportedly) contains all the nutrients one needs in a hearty meal.
Well, there you have it folks. You have the answers to the ever-mysterious question of why is it called hot dish and how is it different from a casserole. If you take anything away from this article, let it be this: All hot dishes are casseroles, but not all casseroles are hot dishes. Don’t tell anyone I said this, but I might just be convinced to start calling it hot dish.
If you’re interested in making your own hot dish recipes, try making it in a Clay Coyote Flameware skillet, a multi-purpose bread baker, or individual casserole dishes. The skillet comes in a small and large size, so they’re perfect for any number of guests. And because the skillets are made with our Clay Coyote Flameware you can start them on the stove top and finish them in the oven. Or, you can make your own personal sized hot dish in our new individual bakers. Perfect when you’re having a relaxing night in by yourself and don’t feel like sharing.
My favorite hot dish recipe is the classic Tater Tot Hotdish. My mother uses the Campbell’s recipe, which I’ve shared here:
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 can Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or Campbell’s® Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 cups frozen fried potato nuggets
Step 1 – Cook the beef and onion in a 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until the beef is well browned, stirring to separate meat. Pour off any fat.
Step 2 – Stir the soup, ketchup and Worcestershire in the skillet. Spoon the beef mixture into a 2-quart shallow baking dish. Arrange the potatoes around the inside edge of the baking dish.
Step 3 – Bake at 425°F. for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are golden brown.
Stop by the Clay Coyote Gallery and Pottery to pick up your own skillet or casserole dish to start cooking up that iconic Minnesotan dish. We’re open on Mondays to Saturdays 10-5pm and Sunday’s 12-4pm. Be sure to share your photos and hot dish recipes with us, we’d love to see what you’re cooking!