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How did hotdish come to be a Minnesota specialty?

Good Question: How did hotdish come to be a Minnesota specialty?
Good Question: How did hotdish come to be a Minnesota specialty? 03:07

MINNEAPOLIS -- There's a good chance a certain shareable delicacy made an appearance at Super Bowl parties. Some might call it a casserole, but not here in Minnesota.

So what's the history of hotdish in Minnesota? The search for the dish's origins yielded a surprise along the way.

Reverance for a book doesn't stop with the Bible at Grace Lutheran Church in Mankato.

"I tell people and they don't believe it that this is the epicenter of hotdish," Pastor John Odegard said.

The Grace Lutheran Ladies Aid Cookbook, published in 1930, contains what is believed the be the first hotdish recipe ever printed. Familiar ingredients include hamburger, as the protein; macaroni, as the starch; a mix of veggies; and tomato soup, as the binder.

"Today as I was leafing through it, I made a groundbreaking discovery," Odegard said.

That surprise was a second hotdish recipe, one featuring canned tuna and spaghetti.

The women submitted their names as the wife of their husband -- such as Mrs. CJ Humn.

"They were probably housewives just looking for ways to feed their families on a budget," Odegard said.

Ann Burkhardt wrote for the Star Tribune's food section. She also was an editor for Betty Crocker cookbooks 60 years ago, which included some hotdish recipes.  


"I expanded the definition [of hotdish] to anything that would be in a 350 [degree] oven," Burkhardt said.

Her cookbook, "Hot Dish Heaven," features 70 versions of the hearty meal, shared by Midwest families over the decades. Burkhardt says that one of the things that makes a dish not a hotdish is when people do mixtures in a skillet on a stove top. Hotdish needs to be from the oven.

What does it mean that Minnesota has adopted hotdish as its state meal?

"I think it recognizes Minnesota practicality and serviceability," Burkhardt said.

"It wasn't just something to serve at home by yourself. It was made to be with other people," Odegard said.

Tater tots were invented in the 1950s and soon became a popular starch in hotdish.

One other question that remains up for debate is whether hotdish is one word or two. The 1930s cookbook used two words, but many, including Burkhardt, say it should be one.

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