Homemade Tater Tots

I’ve had a nagging idea in the back of my mind for awhile now about making homemade tots. I’ve only written about the frozen variety once before when I wrote about one of Betsy’s favorite meals: Dogs and Tots. I think that this meal may be part of the reason she decided it would be cool to spend her life with me…

What’s not to like about tots? They are crispy and salty and delicious! But is it really possible to make them at home if you don’t have a ridiculous potato processing plant at your disposal?

The answer is a very big YES.

I’m actually shocked at how well these turned out, but I have to give some props to a new restaurant in town that gave me the push I needed to give these a try. Birch & Barley, a new beer shop in town with really fantastic food, has these on the menu and they are filled with mashed potatoes. I had one (literally I just got one and then they were all gone) and I decided I had to give it a shot.

Homemade Tater Tots

Just a moment please...

Serves 4-6 as appetizer.
Prep Time
Total Time

Homemade tater tots made with leftover mashed potatoes. Very delicious!


4 Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 egg
1/2 Cup milk
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Cup all-purpose flour
2 Large bags, plain kettle cooked chips or a few cups of Panko crumbs. Or a mix of both.
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Helpful Equipment



1) Peel and slice potatoes.

2) Boil potatoes for 10-15 minutes in salted water until the potato pieces are fork tender. Then drain them and transfer them to a bowl.

3) Using a fork, mush up potatoes and let them cool for a few minutes until they are room temperature or slightly warmer.

4) Add milk, butter, and egg. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper.

5) Drop a few teaspoons of mashed potatoes in bowl of crust. Roll them around until they are coated all the way around.

6) Pick up each tot and shape it easily in your hand. Just make a light fist around the tot while pinching it on the ends with your other hand. That will make it shape into the cylinder you are probably familiar with.

7) Transfer it to a baking sheet and repeat!

8) Heat oil to 350 degrees.

9) Cook them in batches for about 5-7 minutes per batch.

10) Scoop out of the oil, transfer them to a paper towel and salt them immediately

11) Serve with sauce – ranch, chili sauce, ketchup, etc.

Making the tots

It should be no surprise that these guys start with potatoes.

The secret behind the tot!

The secret behind the tot!

The first step for these guys is to make mashed potatoes. Now I’m not sure how they make real tater tots. I know it’s closer to a hash brown product, but mashed potatoes are a lot easier to shape and also happen to be delicious.

To start, just peel and slice your potatoes.

All chopped up.

All chopped up.

Boil them for 10-15 minutes in salted water until the potato pieces are fork tender. Then drain them and transfer them to a bowl.

Look at that steam!

Look at that steam!

Using a fork, mush up your potatoes and let them cool for a few minutes until they are room temperature or slightly warmer. Then add your milk, butter, and egg. Add a good pinch of salt and pepper. If you aren’t afraid of a little raw egg, I recommend trying a bit to taste for seasonings.

Filling mixed.

Filling mixed.

A test run

Before I made a bunch of these, I wanted to do a test run just to make sure they worked okay. I’ll admit that my first test run, I tried making a few without the flour or eggs in the mashed potato filling. DISASTER! They just completely disintegrated in the oil. So then I added the flour and egg and gave it a second try.

To make the crunchy exterior of the tot and also give it some shape, I decided to try out two different toppings: crunched up kettle chips and Panko breadcrumbs. Both worked pretty well actually.


Here is my successful test run result!

The test runs.

The test runs.

After I saw these come out of the oil and tasted them, I was very excited about making (and eating) a bunch of them.

Making the tots

The key to making these easily is to not worry about shaping the tot until after it’s coated. I tried to make mine pretty uniform by using a heaping teaspoon for each tot. Just drop a few teaspoons of mashed potatoes in your bowl of crust. Roll them around until they are coated all the way around.

Don't worry about shape!

Don’t worry about shape!

Then you can easily pick up each tot and shape it easily in your hand. Just make a light fist around the tot while pinching it on the ends with your other hand. That will make it shape into the cylinder you are probably familiar with. Then you can transfer it to a baking sheet and keep cranking them out!

After a few minutes – or honestly about 20 – you should have a small army of these guys.

Assembly line!

Assembly line!

Cooking the tots

You can cook these guys right away! The key to frying them is to make sure that your oil is hot enough. It needs to be at about 350 degrees. If your oil isn’t hot enough then the outside of the tot won’t cook fast enough and the inside will get too hot and it’ll kind of ooze out. Still edible, but just not as attractive!

Cook them in batches and they should only need about 5-7 minutes per batch.

Frying up.

Frying up.

Once you scoop them out of the oil, transfer them to a paper towel and salt them immediately. I also put seasoned salt on them for a little extra flavor. Feel free to go crazy with the spices!

I served mine with ranch and hot chili sauce. It looks like ketchup, but I hate ketchup so this is what you get!

Not ketchup!

Not ketchup!

Just for good measure, one more shot of these guys.

Just for good measure.

Just for good measure.

I liked both versions of the tots. The Panko-crusted ones (in the back) looked closer to real tater tots and held their shape nicely. I thought the chip-crusted ones tasted better though. But just by a tiny amount. Both were very good.

If you have any leftovers, you can reheat these in a 350 degree oven until they crisp up again. They aren’t quite as good on day two, but still pretty darn tasty.

So there ya go. Homemade tater tots. Pass it along!

41 comments on “Homemade Tater Tots

  1. I couldn't help but think of the movie Napolean Dynamite when I read this post:) These look so delicious– what are your thoughts to stuffing these with cheese?– maybe monterey jack or cheddar?

  2. @CJ Add the flour last after the milk, eggs, and butter ;)

    @ Aimee… I thought about stuffing them with cheese. If you try it I would say that a little probably goes a long way.My worry is that it MIGHT (but probably not) cause the tots to fall apart. I think it would be okay though… basically you make a cheesestick tater tot!

    Glad everyone likes it as much as me!

  3. Man, Betsy is one lucky gal! A man who makes his own tater tots!! *swoon* I'm SO going to try these, because I loves me some tater tots! :-)

  4. Nick, this is totally up there with the cool things that you have made. Imagine you have some leftover mashed, wham! Make some tots out of them.

    If you wanted to, you could arrange these on a baking sheet before frying and freeze them. Once they are frozen, they can be kept for up to a moth for those snack attacks!

    Thank you for the cool post Nick!

  5. It would never have crossed my mind to make home made tater tots but now that you have done all the leg work and recipe/technique trial an error stuff, my brain is conjuring up all kinds of versions of these.
    Like Aimee my first thought was CHEESE! How about pepper jack with chopped Jalapenos? Onions and bacon? OH MY the possibilities are endless. Somehow I don’t think this is going to go well with my New years resolution to get back on the wagon!

  6. I’m guessing the flour goes into the Panko/crumb mixture? Maybe I’m not reading closely enough. But I’m making these right now and I’m so excited! I guess I’ll just follow my gut and put the flour into the Panko. Oh man, I hope I’m right..

  7. Wow, I am really looking forward to making these. I <3 melted cheese. After all, I'm from Wisconsin originally ;-). I don't deep fry that much but I'll report back when I get to do these!

  8. We’ve lived in Pohnpei, Micronesia for going on 10 years now. Not once have we seen a Tater Tot on this island and even if we had it would have cost a month’s salary. I love Tater Tot Casserole and have been whining that I can’t have it any more. I’m inspired and tomorrow I’m going home and trying your recipe! Wouldn’t happen to have a recipe for cheddar cheese would you? Maybe it would be cheaper to import a cow than to buy a block of that precious stuff. Good on ya, mate!!

  9. Just a little tip: roll the potatoes into ropes and simply cut into little tot shapes. It works for gnocchi. It should work for this.

  10. Just hopped on looking for a basic tater tot recipe to replace what I just did. I actually did similar to yours, but instead of mashing, I grated them. After grating, I sprinked a good helping of cheese and hand-tossed them. Granted, I cooked the potatoes for a long time, much longer than you would probably want for mashed and then dipped them in some bisquick. I made it a lot thinner than the usual biscuit mix, probably 1:1.2 milk:bisquick mix then dropped them into the fryer. Sadly, my fryer doesn't have settings so I had to play it a bit by ear. They came out pretty decent once I added a little salt and garlic to the bisquick mix and they're extremely puffy. Was trying to replicate the Burger King cheesy tots recipe, but I'll be trying this version next time. It won't be an exact copy of the Burger King stuff, but I never did like the idea of doing exactly what someone else did.

  11. Forgot one thing: I hate ketchup too, man. Vinegary sweet stuff just doesn't mix well with anything for me. I also dislike mayo. Hot sauce and ranch for me.

  12. Oooo! SO making these! I have had a craving for tater tots for like a month now..but really didn't wanna go to sonic.

  13. Absolutely delicious!! Made them with the potato chip coating. Wondering if these can be frozen before cooking?

  14. YUM!!! I did a random Google search for homemade tator tots because I was too lazy to go to the store, lol, and stumbled upon this site, and I'm so glad I did!! I am a new fan!! I used Panko, and hubby and brother ate 'em up like it was Superbowl food!! I see a lot of things I want to try in here!! One question, Nick…where is your recipe for that chili sauce that you have pictured here to dip the tots in?? The chili sauce that you can buy at the stores around here look nothing like that, and yours looks yummy!!

  15. Love the idea so much! I’m wondering what you think about baking them, perhaps drizzled with a little oil, instead of frying? Possible? Would it ruin the consistency too much?

    1. Yea… I think it would probably work okay. They wouldn’t get quite as crunchy but that’s how you cook frozen tater tots… You’re right… just drizzle on some oil and give it a shot. You’ll probably have to bake them for 30 minutes or so to get a good crust.

      Let me know if you try it out!

  16. Inspired by a local hot dog place. I searched for a recipe to do it your self with a hot dog buffet. This was awesome and was the talk of the party. Thanks for figuring this out.

  17. Could these be frozen before cooking?

    Would the cooking time/temp change if the tots were frozen?

    1. Hey Megan,

      I think freezing them before cooking them would be tough. You wouldn’t want to move them straight from the freezer to the fryer… that’s a good recipe for a grease fire.

      What you could do, I think, is fry them, then freeze them, then just bake them to thaw/crisp them up a second time. That should work just fine!

      Good luck!

      1. I will leave a comment about how that turns out — I’m going to be having surgery soon, and want to have a freezer full of awesome food that is easy to make.

        What about freezing them, uncooked, then baking them (like normal frozen tots?)

        As well as having bragging rights for having tater-tots on demand for any guests! :)

        Thanks for the tips!

        1. I think that would work better than frying them for sure although they are gonna have to bake for a while to thaw completely and crisp up. Lemme know how it turns out and good luck on the surgery. ;)

  18. I made these to go with our steaks tonight. Holy s#!t!! Tater Crack without a doubt! We couldn’t stop eating them. I think I scarfed down at least a dozen while I was frying them. Don’t judge… ;o) I’m thinking of making my chipotle mashed sweet potatoes and making tots out of them. My head is spinning at the thought!

    1. Well I tried the sweet tater tots. Score!!! The were awesome! I used this same basic recipe and added some minced chipotle in adobo. It was beyond yummy!

  19. Awesome recipe!
    Just FYI though – I had homemade “tater-tot poutine” in a restaurant just yesterday. It was phenomenal! Only they didn’t roll the balls of mashed potatoes in either panko or crushed chips – they just rolled them lightly in rice flour. They came out super-crispy on the outside and super-fluffy on the inside. They didn’t look exactly like store bought tots, obviously, as they were smoother in appearance rather than being bumpy like the tots we grew up on, but I felt like this was a good thing as it instantly identified the tots as homemade.
    The tots were served along with scallions and topped with pulled braised-beef short-rib and a port wine demiglace, the sprinkled with a 9 shredded cheese blend and placed under the salamander just until the light coating of cheese was meted and golden. Then they drizzled the dish with white truffle oil.
    Most definitely in the top 5 of appetizers I’ve ever experienced at the $12 price point!
    Excellent post!

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