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Difference Between Casserole and Hot Dish

Casserole vs Hot Dish

The modern lifestyle requires everything fast and easy. Even in food. And if one would have to list down food choices that cook up in no time without compromising taste and the quality of being a square meal, then casseroles and hot dishes would definitely top the list. These two are types of baked meals especially popular in the U.S. Casseroles and hot dishes are a hodgepodge of ingredients practically covering the entire food pyramid. There is meat and vegetable proteins and carbohydrates in every pan. Some would say these are one and the same. Others contest they are different. Truth is, they are somewhat similar in terms of origins and cooking technique but varies mostly with the ingredients used.
Casserole is a baked dish cooked and served with a vessel where it took its name from a casserole pan. The term is widely used up to now. The dish dates back in the 18th century where they use fine pressed rice, chicken, and sometimes sweetbreads. It contains 4 major components: 1) starch – may be in the form of grains, potatoes, noodles, pumpkin, 2) proteins such as beans, legumes, or tofu, 3) some soup, stock, vegetable juice, cider, wine, beer, or gin, just enough to allow everything to integrate and moisten up a bit, 4) and lastly, a crust to make it solid and crispy. Casseroles particularly use lighter meat such as chicken and fish such as in the case of tuna casserole. As for the carbohydrate component, casserole dishes usually use grains or noodles. They are cooked uncovered. Sausage and Apple Breakfast Casserole, Shepherd’s Pie, Mac and Cheese are a few examples.
A hot dish, on the other hand, is a variation of the casserole dish particularly popular in North and South Dakota and Minnesota. Like its counterpart, it is a complete and packed meal in itself. It has starch, proteins, soup, and crust components as well. However, hot dishes mostly use potato bases like potato chips, hash browns, strings and tater tots. They never use rice for the base. They’re also heavier on red meat such as ground beef. Unlike the casserole, hot dishes commonly use cream of mushroom as a binder. In some cases, it’s cooked in creamed corn like in the case of Minnesota goulash – a famous concoction of tomatoes, macaroni, ground beef and creamed corn. Like its counterpart, hot dishes are cooked uncovered. An example of a hot dish is Tater-Tot Hot Dish.
Casseroles and hot dishes have both become staple foods in the whole of United States. They serve not only as convenient all-in-one family meals but as comfort food as well. One would typically encounter these dishes in communal gatherings like family reunions, thanksgiving dinners, potlucks, and funerals. They can be eaten as a main dish or a side, and with condiments such as ketchup or mustard. They’re best served with beer.


1. Casseroles and hot dishes are types of baked dishes which are a mixture of starchy bases, vegetables, meat, and a crunchy crust or toppings.
2. The former is a general term that has been used since the early 18th century, while the latter applies in South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota.
3. Casseroles use lighter meats such as tuna and chicken, while hot dishes use red meat, such as ground beef.
4. Hot dishes use more condensed soup varieties like cream of mushroom. Casseroles employ lighter ones such as stock, vegetable juices and wine.
5. Both casseroles and hot dishes have become all-in-one staple meals in the United States. They’re also always present in banquets during family dinners, thanksgiving, funerals, potlucks, etc.

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  1. i moved to mn from ut last year, i had know idea they use so meny diffrent terms here then from ut, one is hot dish, what is a hot dish…. i started school and “hot dish” was brought up an i had to ask what that was, i was laught at as the teacher explaned to me what that was, i silled and said oh a caseral.. and to my surrprise somene asked me what that was… its good to know that there is a diffrents.

  2. Nice to find an article attempting to further elucidate these two oft interchanged terms. One question I have is that “Mac & Cheese” is listed as an example of a casserole, but the contemporary dish that most know as “Mac & Cheese” would not qualify as a casserole based on the definition given: it lacks any major protein source. (Sure cheese has some protein, but cheese as a protein source really can’t compete with tuna, chicken, beans, legumes, or tofu). So what’s up with Mac & Cheese did it start out as a protein-packed casserole or hot dish (Hamburger Helper, anyone?) and evolve over time into the common protein-less version we know today? Any thoughts are appreciated!

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