Friday, January 3, 2014

Tater Tots - from scratch (NOT the ones in a bag!)

One of my favorite foods from childhood (that wasn't made by my mom or grandfather) was tater tots. I
Perfectly done tater tots - nice and crisp on
the outside, soft and creamy on the inside!
still love them today and I know lots of others that do as well. If my kids are any indication, it's not just a generational thing - they love them as well.

Having said that, I never even considered making them from scratch. I would just open a bag, pour them on a baking sheet and throw them in the oven. I have noticed lately that they really don't taste as good as the ones I had as a kid but I just chalked that up to a kid's memory vs reality.

The other day, I overheard someone talking about making them from scratch and that got me thinking - was it my memory that was faulty or were they really made differently?  I'm sure it was some of each but once I started thinking about it I had to try it myself.

This was my first attempt and the three of us loved it (my wife, my 17 year old son and me). I'll try slightly different spices/herbs going forward just to switch it up a bit but I'm very happy with the way they came out. I'm also going to try deep frying them in the future, though that negates any "healthy" benefits that may come from making them myself.

So, here's my version of homemade tater tots!!


  • 5 medium red potatoes - about 2 pounds (it's important to use red potatoes - they have more starch and are much "gummier" than russets which will help them stick together better)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • Olive oil for greasing pan
  • *1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • *1/2 tsp onion powder
  • *1/2 tsp freshly ground dried rosemary
  • *1/2 tsp oregano
  • *1/2 tsp sweet curry

*Optional herbs/seasonings - experiment with whatever combination of seasonings and herbs you like. I used garlic powder, onion powder and rosemary. You could also give them a southwestern flair by adding seasonings like chili powder and cumin.  Basically, make them yours by adding whatever flavors you and your family like.

The potato mixture waiting
to be formed into "tots"

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  2. Scrub the potatoes clean and roast until fork tender. Depending upon the size of the potatoes, you may want to cut them in half first. For my potatoes, this took about 40 minutes.
  3. Cool them rapidly by plunging them in ice water. Change the water, and repeat, until the potatoes are cool.
  4. Shred the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater. I peeled mine - you can leave the peel on if you prefer.
  5. Put the grated potatoes in a bowl and add the other ingredients. I prefer to mix using my hands, but a fork works quite well also. Mix until fully combined.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and rub or spray with a layer of olive oil. I used a rosemary infused olive oil to give a bit of extra flavor.
    Formed and ready to go
    into the oven
  7. Preheat oven to 425° F.
  8. Using about a teaspoon of the potato mixture, form it into a small ball.  If you then flatten it on the ends, you'll have the traditional tater tot shape.
  9. Place on baking sheet and repeat until all the tots are made. I was able to make just short of 50 tots with the potatoes I used.
  10. Bake about 35 to 40 minutes, turning once about 20 minutes into the cooking time.
  11. Serve hot with catsup (or, if you're like me, try Heinz 57 sauce - it puts catsup to shame!).
  12. Enjoy!

As always, if you try it, please let me know what you think in the comments!

Straight out of the oven...
...and ready to be served!

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