Make It Tonight: Venison Totcho Casserole

I’m always looking for interesting beef recipes where I can substitute venison. I believe I found it, in this one, from “365 days of SLOW + PRESSURE cooking.” It’s an Instant Pot totcho casserole, a fusion of layered Mexican staples, seared by piping hot tater tots and cheese on top.

crispy tater tots with cheese

I’m from the Dakotas, where casseroles are called “hotdishes.” I love potatoes in any form, and lately, particularly as tater tots. This recipe takes very little time to make, and the ingredients can be easily found in a standard grocery store.

Mealthy Crisplid in box

Mealthy CrispLid

Here’s a new word added to my kitchen vocabulary – crisplid. It transforms your instant pot into an air fryer. Otherwise, this recipe would be difficult to make. I ordered the Mealthy CrispLid from Amazon. It comes with a raised trivet, fryer basket, stainless steel tongs, a heat-resistant silicone mat and a recipe book. The neat thing about using the lid is that you can watch your food sizzle away while it’s cooking, too. (Think crispy wings and sweet potato fries.)

Mealthy Crisplid

For the summertime, it’s the perfect substitution for using a hot oven, and won’t heat up your kitchen. It’s not as large as most air fryers, so I won’t give up my Ninja, but it is a nice option – especially for this totcho or any tater tot hotdish recipe.

I was surprised by the price, $69.99. That seemed like a lot, but then again, that’s probably 10 trips to Sonic for tater tots.

Totcho ingredients

Venison Totchos Casserole

This recipe called for a pound of lean ground beef, or you could substitute elk, moose or deer meat. Not sure about bear meat, but some folks might prefer that variety. You can use the “sauté” feature of an Instant Pot to fry the meat and onions together, then season it with taco seasoning. The recipe also calls for beef or chicken broth. Then, after that’s all mixed, you just layer on top of that a can of your fire-roasted tomatoes, followed by your favorite refried beans. Don’t stir. After cooking on the manual setting for four minutes, release the pressure and remove the Instant Pot lid. 

fire-roasted tomatoes

Now, it’s time to get Mealthy. Add a layer of cheese, followed by a layer of frozen tater tots. Attach the crisplid and cook the tots at 400 F for … two minutes! Then open the lid, add more cheese, and go for another … two minutes! Are you getting an idea of how fast this dinner prep can be?

venison totcho casserole in IP

The delectable dish is not ready to serve. Feel free to add even more options, such as black olives, sour cream, salsa and/or jalapenos and serve either alone or on a bed of lettuce/greens or tortilla or corn chips. 

totcho casserole

You might be surprised at how many people go back for seconds on this one.

Check out the recipe here.

  • About Barbara Baird

    Publisher/Editor Barbara Baird is a freelance writer in hunting, shooting and outdoor markets. Her bylines are found at several top hunting and shooting publications. She also is a travel writer, and you can follow her at