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Hotdish vs. Casserole: What's the Difference?

By Scaron
Updated April 28, 2020
I didn't grow up with the term casserole (or hot plate) beyond it being the name of an oven-safe dish in the cabinet, so this mystifies me. What the heck are these things? And why do some people swear by them?

When I was in Minnesota a few months ago, someone mentioned making hotdishes and then quickly corrected themselves to say casseroles. Honestly, I had a vague idea of what a casserole was, but no idea what a hotdish was.

To me, casserole means a shallow oven-safe dish. In other words, it’s something you make a dish in, not an actual recipe or dish. But it turns out that to middle America, these terms are uber-important in their wintertime eating repertoire.

What is a Hotdish?

A hotdish (it’s one word, from what I have read) is a one-dish meal that has a cream-of-something soup, vegetables (usually from a can), some starch-like noodles or potatoes and a meat, says Urban Dictionary, and the tater tot hot dish seems to be a classic version.

The term hotdish is a Minnesota thing, I have read. And as my dear colleague Susan pointed out, that name can be confusing for kids, who are often told to stay away from literal hot dishes.

What is a Casserole?

A casserole is similar to a hotdish. Usually a condensed soup, a starch, etc., cooked in the oven in a shallow baking dish. It might not have the meat or veggies though, or it could be all veggies.

In short, the terms are synonymous. But if you’re in Minnesota, you better be dang sure to use the term hotdish.