Tater tots were not something I grew up eating much. I discovered their crunchy goodness as an adult. This happened quite by accident. A bunch of family members ran the NYC marathon one sunny, but cold November day. After the race, we walked, yes walked, from Central Park down to Tribeca. That is a few miles.
Needless to say, everyone was starving by the time we arrived at the pub where we were all to meet up. The place was packed with football fans watching a game. We had no choice but to step into a small bar next door that didn’t have TVs. This place served beer, wine, and tater trots. That was it. We ordered a few baskets of tater tots with ketchup packets and some with melted cheese sauce on them.
The tots were hot and crispy and hit the spot for some hungry, non-elite athletes. They were deep fried and probably not very healthy. We didn’t care. Cooking them in an air fryer is so much healthier, and it only takes around 15 minutes.
What Exactly are Tater Tots?
The term “Tater Tot” is actually a name for frozen potato puffs trademarked by the Ore-Ida frozen food company. These cylinders of potato goodness were invented in the 1950s. The little log-shaped frozen treats are made from cooked potatoes that are grated and extruded into tots.
Tater tots are now made by several different frozen food companies. Some are just potatoes, while others have herbs, seasonings, and even flour to bind and coat them. You can find gluten-free tots. You can also find veggie tots that are made from other starchy vegetables, such as cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and even broccoli.
You can also make your own tater tots from scratch and freeze them. The process is beyond easy and won’t have any fillers or preservatives. Just heat them up in the air fryer. I like to serve the tots with ketchup or a creamy dipping sauce.
Tips for Air Frying Frozen Tater Tots
I personally prefer tater tots that are gluten and corn free. Some frozen brands add all-purpose or corn flour to their tot mixtures. The flours add a bit of structure and perhaps a crispier coating. Though, I have found that some of these become gummy in the center if left to sit for several minutes after cooking. Therefore, I recommend finding tots that have very few ingredients for air frying.
Tater tots differ quite a bit. Some are smaller than others. Because of this, cooking times will differ. You will have to keep an eye on your first batch of air-fried tater tots. You are looking for a crispy exterior and hot interior.
The trick to making crisp frozen tots in your air fryer is to cook them at high heat. I have found that 400°F works best in my fryer. Don’t defrost the tots prior to air frying. Place the tots in a single layer so they don’t clump together.
Many frozen tots have oil in them. If that is the case, you really don’t need to oil your crisper plate or basket. If the tater tots are free of any fat, give them a spritz of olive oil spray before adding them to the air fryer. Make sure you shake the bucket at 7 minutes to rotate the potatoes. And, season with salt while they are still hot, if desired.
Air Fryer Tater Tots (Vegetarian)
This is an excellent snack or party food. I enjoy serving the tots with fresh vegetables, such as baby carrots, snap peas, and trimmed radishes. Make a ranch dipping sauce a few hours, or even a day, ahead of time so the herbs infuse nicely into the creamy base.
- 16 oz frozen tater tots (your favorite brand)
- Olive or avocado oil spray or pump (optional)
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Ranch dipping sauce (recipe follows)
Total time:15 min – Prep time:2 min – Cook time:13 min per batch – Serves:4 people
1. Preheat your air fryer at 400°F for 5 minutes.
2. Take 1/2 of the tater tots from the freezer and place them directly on the crisper plate, or in the basket of your air fryer in a single layer. If the tots are fat free, give them a light spray of the oil.
3. Close the bucket and cook for 7 minutes. Shake the bucket to rotate the potatoes. Continue to cook until lightly browned and crispy, approximately 5 to 8 minutes longer.
4. Remove the tots to a communal platter and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Place a ramekin of ranch dipping sauce on the platter, or your favorite sauce, and serve while still hot with fresh vegetable pieces and a pile of napkins. Cook the next batch while enjoying the first.
Homemade Ranch Dip
- 3/4 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream
- 3/4 cup good mayonnaise
- 2 tsps freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp fresh chives or scallions, minced
- 1/2 tsp fresh garlic, minced finely or pressed
- 1/2 tsp dried dill weed
- 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk all ingredients together until well combined and creamy. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Creative Ways to Serve Tater Tots
I love having fun with tater tots to make a complete meal. These pillowy potato puffs are a good base for all kinds of toppings. Here are some of my favorite:
Buffalo tots: Melt equal parts butter and hot sauce. Pour this over the tots and top with crumbled blue cheese.
Nachos: Top the cooked tots with avocado chunks, salsa, and melted cheese. Eat with your hands. It’s messy but good.
Poutine: Whether you call this dish poutine or disco fries, it doesn’t matter because it is so good. Place cheese curds on the puffs and top with hot brown gravy. This is filling and needs to be eaten with a fork or a spoon.
Tater tot breakfast: Top the air-fried tots with shredded jack cheese, bacon crumbles, and fried eggs. Cut into the egg so the yolk runs down into the potatoes. This is truly a comfort food dish on a chilly winter morning.