What foods make you most nostalgic? Is it your grandmother’s peach cobbler? Your mom’s mac & cheese? It’s interesting how generational foods have become. If you’re part of my generation, you might have fond memories of tater tots. A little Google research shows they were invented in 1953 when a company was trying to decide what to do with leftover slivers of cut up potato. They chopped it, mixed it with flour and salt and fried up little bits of it. Genius, right? Incredibly, today Americans consume approximately 70 million pounds of tater tots per year (so says Wikipedia).
Still trying to wrap my mind around that. 70 million pounds of tater tots?
Rule #39 in Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules says that you can eat all the junk food you want, as long as you make it yourself. He figures that with the effort required to make it, you’ll only indulge occasionally. This is just how Alex and I feel about tater tots. After working to minimize the processed foods in our diet, we’ve begun to make many of the foods we used to buy. Instead of buying frozen french fries, we have a crispy oven baked fries recipe where we hand cut them and bake them at home. Not only are they clean eating, the flavor is 1,000 times better. Jamoca almond fudge ice cream? We’ve got a recipe; it’s vegan and made completely of whole foods. Granted, it’s a bit of a process to make it and it’s not even close to healthy, but that’s what makes it an occasional treat.
The same goes for these tater tots—it’s a bit of a process to make them. You peel and parboil the potatoes until they are slightly tender but not mushy. Then you grate them, mix them with a bit of flour and spices, and form them into nuggets. After brushing the tater tots with olive oil, they’re roasted in a very hot oven, turning occasionally until they’re crispy. Baking them in this manner results in a tater tots that are a bit flatter than the traditional fried cylinder, but the flavor is just as good. And honestly, they’re not too terrible for you either, since they’re made simply with potatoes and olive oil. (Pick these over jamoca almond fudge any day.)
Since they’re a bit of a project, we like making these tater tots as part of a dinner. While they’d accompany a veggie burger perfectly, we’d rather just top them with delicious toppings and eat them as a main dish. That’s right, tater tot nachoes! Our recipe is inspired by a dish we had when on vacation in Montana and it’s coming at you soon. In the meantime, serve up some of these hot tater tots for a nostalgic trip down memory lane (or maybe not so nostalgic, if you’re part of the 70 million pounds).
Looking for healthy snacks?
When we’re not eating homemade tater tots, we reach for healthy snacks. A few of our top healthy snacks:
- Healthy Loaded Sweet Potato Rounds
- Vegetable Hummus Tortilla Rollups
- Pesto Grilled Cheese Dippers with Marinara
- Homemade Za’atar Pita Chips
- 5 Ingredient Classic Homemade Hummus
- Chipotle Vegan Queso Dip
Looking for vegetarian meals?
Though we’re not 100% vegetarian, we eat vegetarian meals on the regular. A few of our top vegetarian meals:
- Spinach Artichoke Red Rice Casserole
- Creamy Vegan Pasta Marinara
- Simple Chickpea Curry with Tart Cherries
- Greek Nachos with Cilantro Drizzle
- Refried Bean Tacos with Chipotle Cashew Cream
Did you make this recipe?
If you make these homeamde baked tater tots, we’d love to hear how it turned out. Leave a comment below or share a picture on Instagram and mention @acouplecooks.
This recipe is…
Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free.Print
Note that baking these homemade tater tots makes them a bit flatter than the traditional cylinder shape, but the flavor is just as good.
- 2 pounds red skinned potatoes
- 2 tablespoons flour (all purpose or gluten-free)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Olive oil
- Preheat oven to 450F.
- Peel the potatoes. Place them in a large pot, cover with 1 inch of cold water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, parboil for 6 to 7 minutes until they give when poked with a fork, but are still slightly firm (the fork should encounter some resistance). The goal is to parboil the potatoes, not fully boil them, so that they’re still dry enough to grate in the next step.
- Remove the potatoes, drain them well, and dry them with a towel. Allow them to cool for several minutes (this also helps to achieve he right consistency for grating). Then, finely grate them with a box grater. Place the grated potato into a large bowl and mix in the flour, spices and salt and pepper using your hands, squeezing the mixture a few times to help it to come together. If the mixture is very wet, add a tablespoon or two more flour.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat and brush it lightly with olive oil. Form the dough into small cylinders, squeezing it together with your hands. Make the tots small enough to have 40 on one sheet (you may have some extra dough remaining). Lightly brush olive oil over the top of the tots.
- Place the sheet in the oven and bake 15 minutes on one side. Remove the sheet from the oven and carefully flip each tot over using a spoon (taking care not to touch the baking sheet). Don’t worry if a few break apart a bit; just squeeze them back together and they will set upon further baking. Reverse the baking sheet and bake another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the tots one more time using a spoon, and bake another about 5 minutes until the tots are evenly golden brown on all sides. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving, which allows the tots to set.
About the Authors
Cookbook Author and writer
Sonja Overhiser is author and recipe developer of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best vegetarian cookbooks” by Epicurious, and a recipe developer and healthy & sustainable food advocate behind the award-nominated food blog A Couple Cooks.
Cookbook Author and photographer
Alex Overhiser is photographer and recipe developer of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the “best new cookbooks” by Bon Appetit, and a recipe developer, photographer, and technical expert at A Couple Cooks.