All these years I had no idea that my mother-in-law's "Chow Mein Casserole" was actually a Chow Mein Hotdish (aka Minnesota Hotdish). But it makes perfect sense, given where we're from. Being that we're from Winnipeg, which happens to be in the Canadian province of Manitoba, which lies directly above the states of Minnesota and North Dakota, it now makes perfect sense that she'd have a recipe for Minnesota Hotdish in her arsenal.
My mother-in-law passed away when my kids were pretty young, so they never really had the pleasure of enjoying her cooking. I, on the other hand, did and was fortunate enough to get many of her recipes. This Mock Chow Mein recipe is one of my husband's faves and a total comfort food to him.
One of the main reasons I started this blog was so that my kids and future generations would have my recipes. I wasn't so lucky. And although it pains me that I don't have any of my Baba's recipes, I'm eternally grateful that I have many of my Mom's, Grandma's, Great Grandma's, and even one of my Great Great Grandmother's recipes for Date Nut Loaf ! (shown below)
And fortunately, I was able to get several of Grandma Jean's recipes; this being one of them. I am grateful that my kids get to enjoy at least some of her cooking through me.
When I was growing up in Winnipeg there were a lot of hockey tournaments in Minnesota and we regularly billeted Minnesota hockey players in Winnipeg. I'd say we were pretty good buddies with the state of Minnesota.
And being that it was a hop skip and a jump from Winnipeg, it's really no surprise this little gem found its way across the border!
💭What is Chow Mein Hotdish (Minnesota Hotdish)?!
Hotdish, the unofficial state cuisine of Minnesota, is a comfort food staple found in households, not just in Minnesota, but across the Upper Midwest United States. Hotdish is a type of casserole that incorporates a mixture of simple, thrifty ingredients and dump and stir method. Being thrifty is the reason it's also referred to as poor man's chow mein. You can read more about the hotdish HERE.
The Anatomy of a Hot Dish:
- Protein: Ground beef (hamburger), shredded chicken, canned tuna
- Vegetables: Canned corn, canned green beans
- Starch: rice, macaroni, mashed potatoes
- Sauce: Canned cream of anything soup: cream of mushroom, cream of celery soup, cream of chicken soup, cheddar
- Crispy Topping: Tater Tots, French’s French Fried Onions, chow mein noodles, crushed potato chips
The only difference is that this Minnesota hot dish calls for celery and onion instead of canned veggies. I usually serve it with mixed vegetables on the side, but you could easily add them to the dish!
Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/ 175 degrees C and spray the inside of a large 3-quart casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Cook celery in ½ cup water in microwave (covered) for 4- 5 minutes until soft. Drain off remaining water.
Brown ground beef in a large skillet with chopped onion over medium heat.
Add celery, tomato soup, mushroom soup, rice, ground beef with onion, and chow mein noodles to a large bowl.
*I find it easier to do this in a separate large bowl, but you could do this right in the casserole dish if you don't want to dirty another bowl
Pour into prepared casserole dish.
Sprinkle with soy sauce.
*You can add additional soy sauce now or after the dish is cooked
Bake (uncovered) for 20 minutes in preheated oven.
Garnish with additional crunchy chow mein noodles, and soy sauce, and green onions, if desired.
📖Variations & Substitutions
- Add-ins - water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, or bean sprouts
- Hamburger - You could also substitute ground turkey or chicken (this will lighten it up as well)
- Rice - You could use white rice, wild rice, brown rice, jasmine rice, or cauliflower rice (to lighten it)
- Soup- you can use cream of chicken soup instead of cream of mushroom. Or if you don't have any canned cream soup on hand, check out my post on how to make a cream of anything soup substitute
🍲The Difference between a Casserole and a HotDish
Although all hotdishes are casseroles, the reverse is not true. Hotdish is a general term that has been used since the early 18th century and applies to South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota. Hot dishes use more condensed soup varieties like cream of mushroom, while casseroles often use stock, vegetable juices, and wine.
Both casseroles and hot dishes have become all-in-one staple meals in North America that can be found at the majority of social functions including banquets, family dinners, thanksgiving, funerals, and potlucks.
Casseroles are king when it comes to easy comfort food. And if you talk to anyone from the upper midwestern United States (or Manitoba) they'll most certainly agree that this Chow Mein Hotdish epitomizes comfort food!
🥗 Side Dishes
I like to serve this Hamburger Chow Mein Casserole with mixed veggies on the side, a salad, or a vegetable side dish. Here are some ideas:
👪 Serving Size
This Chow Mein Noodle Casserole recipe serves 8. However, you can half, or even double or triple the recipe if you're feeding a large family, simply by clicking on the blue serving number and selecting the number of servings you'd like. The ingredient quantities will automatically adjust. You'll just need a larger (or additional) casserole dishes.
For this mock chow mein, you'll need a skillet (frying pan), a large 3 quart casserole dish (9X13) (affiliate link).
Store this Chow Mein Hot dish in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the fridge. It can be frozen for up to 3 months in a sealed container.
If you love comfort food casseroles, you're probably going to love my Stuffed Green Pepper Casserole too!
If you're looking for easy recipes, you'll love this one! And as far as comfort foods go, this Chow Mein Hotdish casserole is the ultimate.
Did you make this recipe? Please RATE THE RECIPE below!
What others are saying:
"It's a hit with my family!!! Super easy. I made it with ground turkey, added couple cloves of garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes!!!!"⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
📋 Chow Mein Hotdish Recipe
- 3 lbs ground beef * I use lean ground beef
- 1.5 cups celery, chopped (3-4 stalks celery)
- ½ cup water
- 2 whole medium onions
- 2 cups cooked rice * I used brown instant rice
- 10 ounce - can of cream of tomato soup/condensed tomato soup
- 10 ounce - can of cream of mushroom soup
- ½ -14 oz pkg dry (crispy) chow mein noodles
- 3 tablespoon soy sauce
NOTE: The instruction images will NOT print by default. If you want them to print, you'll need to check the box beside "images" on the print page
- Prep: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/ 175 degrees C and spray the inside of a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
- Cook celery in ½ cup water in microwave (covered) for 4- 5 minutes until soft. Drain off remaining water.
- Brown ground beef in large skillet with chopped onion over medium-high heat.
- Add celery, tomato soup, mushroom soup, rice, ground beef with onion, and chow mein noodles to a large bowl.*I find it easier to do this in a separate large bowl, but you could do this right in the casserole dish if you don't want to dirty another bowl
- Pour into prepared casserole dish.
- Sprinkle on soya sauce.
- Bake (uncovered) in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Serve warm.
- Garnish with additional dry chow mein noodles, and soy sauce and green onions, if desired.