Tater Tots Are More Than Just a Side Dish

Crunchy tots are great on their own—but they can be a star ingredient in recipes, too. 

Published May 1, 2022.

Tater tots were invented . . . (RECORD SCRATCH). Nope, this isn’t that article. 

Listen, we all love tots for so many good reasons. You don’t need me to sell you on their appeal. But I am here to let you know that tots can be more than a side dish swiped through ketchup. (What’s that, mayo people? I can’t hear you . . . )

Sign up for the Cook's Country Dinner Tonight newsletter

10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

When you take a step back to examine the tot, you notice the attributes it can contribute as an ingredient in other dishes. The potato-forward flavor. The delicate, crisp-able exterior. The always tender, always moist pillowy interior. Over the years our test cooks have pondered these attributes and thought, “Yes, I can use that.”

Now, we didn’t invent tater tot hotdish; it has a proud tradition as a staple in the upper Midwest (I’m looking at you, Minnesota and Wisconsin). But we did run it through the test kitchen machine to create a failproof, supremely delicious version. 

Tater Tot Hotdish

This hearty, creamy casserole is crowned with its namesake crispy potato nuggets. Our challenge? Get the tots to brown, not drown.
Get the Recipe

For the uninitiated, “hotdish” is just another word for casserole. And this one features a savory ground beef and mushroom filling bound with a tasty white sauce (no canned “cream of ________” soup in our version), all topped with delicious, delightfully crispy tots. It’s irresistible. 

The “tots as topping” theme continues with our recipe for Tater Tot and Sausage Pizza. This sauceless pie can be ready in just a half-hour. It features pizza dough (store-bought is fine) topped with Italian sausage and tots and baked in a hot oven until everything is brown and crisp. Then we hit it with a drizzle of a lime–sour cream sauce bolstered with fiery, smoky chipotle chile powder. Wow. 

Tater Tot and Sausage Pizza

Not sure what to do with store-bought pizza dough?
Get the Recipe

And finally, our ridiculously good breakfast burritos. We adore the chorizo version, but don’t sleep on the bacon variation or the one with poblano, beans, and corn; they’re all out of this world. 

Breakfast Burritos with Poblano, Beans, Corn, and Crispy Potatoes

It's never too early for extra-crispy tater tots.
Get the Recipe

The burritos all use the same technique: Thaw the tots, shallow-fry them in oil until they’re extra-crispy, and wrap them up with other delicious stuff in a tortilla. They are called breakfast burritos, but breakfast tastes good 24-7—especially when tater tots are in the mix. 

This is a members' feature.