How to Make Homemade Tater Tots

Updated: Apr. 30, 2024

Eat homemade Tater Tots hot from the fryer—or freeze them for snacking later!

If you love Tater Tots and use them as a crunchy topping for Tater Tot hot dish and casseroles, the next step is making your own from scratch. It’s a surprisingly simple process, and once you master the basic technique, you can make the homemade Tater Tots your own!

What Are Homemade Tater Tots?

Homemade Tater Tots replicate the look and texture of the official brand created by Ore-Ida. The company came up with the idea to use the bits of potatoes left behind after cutting french fries. In a home kitchen, you’re unlikely to have so many potato scraps, so just start with whole, peeled potatoes.

The trick to getting the potatoes to hold together with a fluffy center, rather than the mashed middle of a potato croquette, is to fry them twice. It might sound counterintuitive that starchy potato flesh cooked in oil would stick together, but that initial dunk in the fryer creates Tater Tots’ quintessential texture: soft inside and crunchy outside.

How to Make Homemade Tater Tots

potatoes sliced on a cutting board with a bottle of peanut oil to the sideTMB studio

This recipe comes from the Taste of Home Test Kitchen and makes about six servings.

Ingredients

  • Oil for deep-frying
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Tools

  • Electric Skillet: A deep electric skillet can double as a fryer for small items like Tater Tots. Cook them in batches so that they have plenty of room.
  • Large Bowl: A large bowl also does double duty, rinsing the potato cubes and holding the Tater Tot mixture. A wider, shallower bowl is easiest to reach into when grabbing chunks of potato to shape.
  • Food Processor: Potatoes are so dense and starchy that a large food processor with a powerful motor will be most effective at breaking them up evenly.

Directions

Step 1: Remove extra moisture

Place the potatoes in a bowl of cold water and stir them for 15 seconds. Drain the potatoes through a colander until they stop dripping. Pat them dry with paper towels, removing as much moisture as possible.

Editor’s Tip: You get ready to chop potatoes for dinner and notice some unwelcome “eyes.” Immediately, you wonder, Are sprouted potatoes safe to eat? Check if can you eat a potato that is sprouting.

Step 2: Fry the raw potatoes

potatoes in a fryer making homemade tater totsTMB studio

In an electric skillet or deep fryer, heat the oil to 350°F. Use enough oil to fully submerge the potatoes, with a few extra inches between the oil surface and the cooker’s rim to accommodate bubbling.

Fry the potatoes in batches for 6 to 8 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and let it drain on paper towels.

Editor’s Tip: Choose an oil with a high smoking point for deep-frying, like peanut or sunflower oil.

Step 3: Mix the ingredients

In batches, place the fried potatoes in a food processor. Pulse just until the potatoes are in 1/8- to 1/4-inch pieces, stopping before they become gummy. Transfer them to a large bowl and gently stir in the parsley, cornstarch, salt, onion powder and pepper until just combined.

Step 4: Shape the Tater Tots

tater tots arranged on a baking sheet before being friedTMB studio

Using about 1 tablespoon of the potato mixture for each Tater Tot, create one-inch-long cylinders with a slightly narrower diameter. Lay each on a baking sheet as you work, leaving space so that they don’t touch.

Step 5: Fry the Tater Tots

Increase heat of the oil to 375°.

Fry the cylinders in batches for 4 to 5 minutes, turning frequently, until crisp and golden brown. Remove the finished Tater Tots with a slotted spoon and let them drain on paper towels. Serve immediately.

Step 6: Freeze for later

Freeze unfried, shaped tots on a baking sheet for at least 1 hour, until firm. Transfer the frozen Tater Tots to a freezer-safe container and store them for up to 3 months. Fry them from frozen in 375° oil for 6 to 8 minutes, until golden brown.

Tips for Making Homemade Tater Tots

Shape perfect Tater Tots

You can make Tater Tots any shape you want to showcase on a french fry charcuterie board. Keeping them small and similar in size will let them cook rapidly and evenly. For the traditional barrel shape, scoop about 1 tablespoon of the precooked potato mixture into one hand, curling your fingers to round the sides, and then use the fingertips of your other hand to flatten the ends. Press just enough that they hold their shape.

Use lots of oil for crispy Tater Tots

You’ll make the crispiest Tater Tots if you fry them with lots of oil and steady, high heat. It’s tempting to skimp on oil when frying, but that deep layer is key to cooking the outer layer to a crisp in seconds and sealing off the soft center. Foods deep-fried at a high temperature actually absorb less oil than those fried at a lower temperature.

Make frozen Tater Tots in an air fryer

You can cut back on oil if you crisp frozen homemade Tater Tots in an air fryer. Add them straight from the freezer to the basket or trays of a preheated air fryer and they’ll be ready to serve in less than 15 minutes. Instead of plopping them into a second round of deep oil, they just need a little spritz with cooking spray for a crunchy air fryer finish. You’ll still want to fry the raw potatoes in a deep fryer or electric skillet to avoid mushy centers, though. Find out if you can eat raw potatoes.