Tater tots are good, no way around it. Those smooth plastic bags of Ore-Ida spud nuggets are freezer aisle sirens singing straight to our pleasure center and its love of all things fried potato, and twanging a chord of grade school cafeteria nostalgia while they’re at it. It is far easier to buy one of those trusty bags and bake the tots in your oven (or crisp them in your air fryer) than to actually make your own from scratch, but sometimes the harder way is worth it. Hence, how to make your own tots—they’re fully customizable, and honestly, even kind of fancy.
Because tots are also made for dipping, we paired each one with a special sauce.
How to Make Homemade Tots
While these do take more time than simply ripping open a bag, they’re not really that difficult, and they only require a few ingredients: russet potatoes, all-purpose flour (but replace with gluten-free flour if need be), salt, and canola oil for frying. Each variation calls for one or two additional ingredients, but the basic process is the same:
- Bake whole potatoes until al dente.
- Peel, then shred them on a box grater.
- Mix with flour, salt, and other ingredients.
- Form them into the classic potato pellet shape.
- Fry them.
- Let them drain on paper towels just til cool enough to eat.
- Dip and devour!
Use a Dutch oven or another deep, heavy pot, or a countertop deep fryer if you have one (this could be the perfect excuse for finally making that particular purchase).
Presto Fry Daddy Electric Deep Fryer, $22.49 on Amazon
Deep fry like a boss.
You can also make these tots ahead of time and freeze them to supply yourself for future late-night snacking sessions and easy weeknight dinners that please the whole family. Just one word of caution: The siren song will be even harder to resist coming from your own freezer.
Homemade Tot Recipes
Try our basic batch or one of the below variations—or play around and create your own top-notch tot experience.
Pair with: Curried Ketchup
Basic and beautiful, these crunchy-outside, creamy-inside nuggets of fried potato perfection are great for dipping in pretty much anything you fancy, though we’re partial to curried ketchup. It honors tradition, but with a delicious twist. Get our Easy Potato Tot recipe.
Pair with: Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce
Put an Indian spin on your tots with panch phoron, a Bengali spice mix made from fenugreek, nigella seed, black mustard seed, fennel seed, and cumin seed—or try garam masala—plus a pinch of cayenne. A creamy raita-inspired dipping sauce is just the thing to complement and cool down all those spices. Get our Indian-Spiced Potato Tot recipe.
Related Reading: These International Potato Recipes Prove Spuds Are Well-Traveled
Pair with: Gravy
Like poutine? These tots pay homage to the fabulous Canadian dish by blending white cheddar into the mix and topping things off with chicken gravy (but use beef if you prefer, or mushroom to keep it vegetarian—and feel free to change up the cheese type too, even combine more than one). We’re not averse to scattering some cheese curds on top as well! When in Quebec…if only in spirit. Get our Cheesy Potato Tot recipe.
Inspired by patatas bravas, one of the best Spanish tapas dishes around, these tots have just a smidge of cayenne and garlic powder, but it’s the sauces that really make them shine. There’s the traditional spicy tomato sauce, of course, and a creamy aioli to soothe the burn and add another layer of richness. Get our Potato Tots Bravas recipe.