Poor Potato Hamburger Casserole

I grew up on this easy poor potato hamburger casserole. It is full of high quality but cheap protein and very tasty. Sometimes I make it just to eat it leftover.

I grew up on this easy poor potato hamburger casserole. It is full of quality but cheep protein and very tasty. Sometimes I make it just to eat leftover.

Do you have a favorite casserole from childhood that you make again and again? Poor potato hamburger casserole is mine. The name is terrible! I tried to give it a new name for this post but it felt like sacrilege to rename such a staple of my youth.

My parents made it differently. Mom would fry up onions with the hamburger – lots of onions and she was flexible about using whatever she had at hand. “Poor Potatoes” sometimes had rice and no potatoes! Dad used whatever was in the fridge, but he made sure there was plenty of ketchup. The cohesive theme was starch, beans, cheese and hamburger.

Of all the things I ate growing up, this one stuck with me. In college I used to make a big batch of it, and put the entire thing in the fridge. I would eat it for a week. There was not a lot of variety but it was tasty, quick, filling, cheap and comforting.

These days I make a slightly more grown up version, but really it is just a riff of the basic dish my parents. I use chili beans add a set of background flavors that give it a little bit more depth than plain beans while keeping preparations simple. My parents always put yellow cheddar cheese on top and I usually stick with it.  I will say that Tillamook,  my favorite cheese company, has a new medium white cheddar that is a great alternative. Feel free to shake up the cheeses for fun. The only other requirement is that you must serve it with ketchup. Honestly, that is the only way you can eat it! Enjoy!

What are you baking your food in?  One of the kitchen tools I can’t live without is a Cast Iron Skillet.  It is great for casseroles, baking bread, and everyday cooking! I’m still using pans inherited from my grandmother but if you need to buy a new one Lodge offers good quality at a good price!

If you like this, I suggest my 30 Minute Beef Minestrone Soup, also with hamburger!  It is one of my go to meals all winter long!


Poor Potatoes Casserole
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 1½ pounds ground beef, 20% fat or less
  • 1½ pounds of potatoes
  • 1 can of chili beans, any brand (15.5oz)
  • 1 can of your favorite beans, drained (15.5oz) - my favorites are pinto or kidney beans
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 15 oz of grated cheese (cheddar, white cheddar, pepper jack, etc.)
  1. Put a medium sauce pan of water on high. Peel potatoes and cut into chunks about the size of grapes. When the water boils, add potatoes and simmer over medium-high until cooked through. This will take 20-25 minutes.
  2. While potatoes cook, heat a large cast iron skillet on medium high. Add the hamburger, turn down to medium and stir occasionally until beef is browned.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  4. Add the can of chili beans (include all sauce in can) to the beef. Drain the other can of beans and rinse with water. Add to the beef.
  5. When the potatoes are fork tender drain them well. Add potatoes and pepper to the beef mixture. Stir gently to combine. Spread to make an even layer in the skillet.
  6. Top with cheese and bake in preheated oven until casserole is hot through and cheese is melted and bubbly, about 15 minutes.
  7. Check to make sure the center is hot. If you are using a thermometer, it should read 160F.
You can substitute leftover mashed potatoes if you wish. Warm them up and layer them on top of the beans/beef. Top with cheese and continue as directed.

This can be baked in an ovenproof cast iron skillet or any similar sized casserole dish. If you do bake it in the skillet, remove any leftovers to a different container. It is not good for the cast iron to have a casserole sit in it for days.

This post is participating in the Weekend Potluck!

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43 thoughts on “Poor Potato Hamburger Casserole

  1. Trying it right now! We added leftover tomatoes, corn and diced white onion. Then added bread crumbs with the cheese on top. Thanks for the easy recipe.

  2. WOW!!!!! This looks so good and easy, pinned for future meal. One question, where does ketchup go? On top, to the side or in the casserole? Thanks for sharing.

    • I have not done it but I think it could work pretty well. Some of the textures could change some but I don’t think it would be so much as to not still be good. Sometimes when I want to try something like that I freeze a serving to see how it works. Let me know what you think!

  3. I’m making this today, but I don’t have any chili beans, could I just take a can of pintos and add chili powder and some other spices?!

    • I make it all the time with pintos or kidney beans. You can add a bit of chili powder if you like or just enjoy the more simple flavor without! Either way it will be wonderful. If you were adding chili powder I would add 1/2 – 1 tsp. Enjoy!

      • That is funny! My husband can be pretty picky about beans so I totally know where you are coming from! I think the baked beans could be a neat idea! Maybe I need to develop a Cowboy Baked Bean Casserole!

  4. Your recipe calls for two cans of beans, only one of them drained. It says one can of chile beans. I guess my question is whether or not that’s a typo or if indeed it is two cans of beans and one of those drained. Make sense? Also, no salt but a tsp of pepper, which would give it a rather peppery taste. Is that accurate?

    • The recipe calls for one can of chili beans with the sauce plus an additional can of whatever beans you love. The additional can should be drained. Because all beans have different amounts of salt you may not want to add any. Once you have your filling assembled I recommend tasting it and deciding how much you want to add. If you are worried about the pepper try adding 1/2 tsp. and tasting it.

  5. Thank you so much! I understand my confusion–to me chili beans simply meant pinto beans (not sauced) and when using canned beans, I always rinse to rid them of salt before I use them. Then I add seasonings to taste. Now I get it. Thank you very much. I’ll be adding this to my dinner plans as soon as the weather cools enough to turn on the oven.

    • Of course! We all have different terms for things and I can understand the confusion. I’m so glad we got sorted out! Good luck making it.

  6. i was prepared for it since you mentioned to serve with ketchup, but this was really bland. i added garlic, salt, & chili powder to boost some flavor. I liked the idea of it but next time i may just add taco seasoning and make it into baked tacos. . i think it will be excellent with fried eggs over easy though. I’m going to do this tomorrow for breakfast with the leftovers

  7. im the worst cook ever dont understand anything in the kitchen so when you say the can of beans your choice and drain them are you talking about like pork and beans then drain the sauce off them ? what kind of beans are u talking about i need some examples of the kind your talking about please im a stranger in the kitchen without step by step instructions and even then it wont turn out usually

    • I love that you are trying! And you are probably better than you think. Just keep practicing and you will get better and better! I taught myself and there is no reason why you can’t also! I would suggest kidney beans or pinto beans here. Any sort of canned beans that are not seasoned would work well. Does that answer your question?

  8. I have made something similar to this for years! It has ground beef, fried potatoes and I use Ranch Style beans and a little BBQ sauce! Yum!

  9. We make it and add a can of green chile, or if you feel really adventurous—diced jalapeno!!! Green chile is my favorite! My husband, loves it the next morning with fried eggs on top and crispy toasted sourdough bread!

    • I’m sorry but I would not be able to give you something accurate. My best suggestion would be to search for a nutrition calculator online. Good luck!

  10. Another great hamburger casserole to add to my cookbook! I have to share…my first hamburger casserole was hamburger and onions cooked then cream style corn poured over top…then covered with mashed taters! That was so many years ago and I have been trying so many different ones since! Thanks for another great recipe!

  11. Thanks for the recipe! I was looking for something with beans and potatoes, and this is great.
    Being vegetarian, I used veggie beef crumbles. I also added a few veggies–tomatoes, corn, carrots, onion and a little tomato sauce. Delicious!

    • I’m so glad it worked well for you! I made this last week for vegetarian friends of mine. Instead of beef I fried up some bell peppers and onions in cast onion (like fajita veggies) and the casserole came out really well! Right now I’m working on an excellent teriyaki tofu dish that is simple and delicious. I hope you will come back and visit when it is finished!

  12. I liked the recipe but my husband thought it could have a few for things added, so I added some diced chilies and tomatoes. Really good.

    • That sounds excellent! One of the great things about this kind of dish is that you can add things you love and make it your own. I think I might need to make it your way next time!

  13. This looks like my kind of comfort food. Ingredients that are everyday staples in your kitchen, mine anyway, make the best comfort food! Here in Virginia we are heading into cold weather months and my family will enjoy this! Thanks so much!


    • This winter is crazy! We are in the middle of record breaking snow and I just want to hide inside and eat hot casseroles! I’m planning on posting a few more family favorites like this one in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

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