Tater Tots: A Top Comfort Food

Tater Tots: A Top Comfort Food

Posted by Julie on Sep 16th 2020

Sometimes we’re in the mood for leafy greens like arugula or spinach, and other times we’d rather make dessert the main course. But we always have room for comfort food, and tater tots are at the top of our list. Of course, you can dip tots in ketchup or other tasty dipping sauces. Tots are also delicious plain; we’ve been known to eat them right off the baking sheet. But tots aren’t merely a side dish; they can be an ingredient too.

We searched for ways to turn tots into a meal, and there’s no shortage of tasty options out there. Bookmark these ideas for when the weather turns colder, or make them now if you just can’t wait any longer, like us.

Homestyle Tater Tot Recipes

We’ll start with recipes that are all about turning tater tots into meals that fill both your stomach and your heart. These casserole-style dishes might be just what you’re craving on a cool fall evening.

Tater Tot Casserole

There might be nearly as many ways to make tater tot casserole as there are potatoes grown in the US each year. We could have spent a week reading tater tot casserole recipes. We settled on this one from The Salty Marshmallow, which features all the key ingredients you’d expect in tater tot casserole: ground beef, condensed soup, corn, green beans, cheese, and tater tots, of course.

If you’re already a tater tot casserole aficionado, you may be surprised by how this recipe doesn’t layer the ingredients. Instead, mix everything together except the tater tots and a cup of cheese. Then spread the mixture in your baking dish, arrange the still-frozen tater tots on top, and sprinkle with cheese. Be sure to bake at the specified temperature (350ºF) for a good long time to melt the cheese, brown the tater tots, and heat up the entire mixture until it bubbles.

Chicken Pot Tot Hotdish

If you read the above recipe and insisted we were describing hotdish, you’re not wrong. That simply depends on where in the country you’re living, and what the locals call this essential comfort food.

This hotdish from Molly Yeh’s cookbook, Molly on the Range, is a cross between chicken pot pie and hotdish. It calls for a roux instead of condensed soup, along with carrots, onions, and peas. Instead of ground beef, it features diced chicken thighs, and it’s seasoned with thyme, salt, and pepper. We knew any recipe put together by Molly Yeh would be a cut above the rest, but this one looks simple enough and more than comforting.

Cheesy Bacon Tater Tot Pie

We’re not convinced this recipe from Food Network qualifies as a main dish, but it is incredibly tempting. If you’re not up for all the assembly of traditional tater tot casserole or hotdish, try this one instead. Fry the bacon while the tots are baking. Transfer the tots to a pie dish, and press them to form a makeshift pie crust. Chop the crispy bacon, and top the tots with it, plus shredded cheddar cheese. Bake until the cheese has melted, and then serve with sour cream, mayonnaise, Sriracha, or whatever sauce strikes your fancy.

Upscale Tater Tot Recipes

While tater tot casserole is a staple weeknight dinner in the midwest, tots are more than a topping. Think of them as a perfectly seasoned ingredient. You might be surprised by how upscale tater tots can be, but we hope these recipes will give you ideas for other ways to use them.

Mini Tater Tot Cups

We found this recipe in a gallery of ideas on Chowhound with the title “How to Make Tater Tots Classy.” On Sweet Caroline’s Cooking, she adapted another recipe to turn tots into appetizer cups. Thaw frozen tots in the microwave, and then press them into the wells of a muffin tin before baking. Top the hot, crispy tot cups with bacon, cheese, avocado, and sour cream, and serve as appetizers. You can also get creative with your tot cup toppings and elevate your appetizers that way. We also recommend using a mini muffin pan or a brownie bite pan for even smaller, more party-friendly tot cups.

Cauliflower and Mushroom Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole

Tater tots are also perfect for breakfast dishes, whether you’re preparing breakfast burritos or a hearty casserole. This recipe from The Kitchn impressed us in the same way Molly Yeh’s hotdish did. It’s an upscale twist on a comforting dish.

Roast the cauliflower, mushrooms, and garlic. Then turn milk, cream, shallots, roasted garlic, sage, and nutmeg into a rich and creamy sauce. Layer the vegetables and sauce with Parmesan cheese in a baking dish, and top with tater tots. No doubt this dish qualifies as comfort food, but it’s clearly on a different level than your everyday casserole.

Tater Tots With a Twist

Have we got you thinking outside the box with tater tots yet? If so, then these next two ideas won’t seem so crazy. In fact, you might have already thought of using tots in this way.


Yes, you read that right. Swap out tortilla chips for tater tots, and you can turn nachos into totchos. If you need assistance envisioning tater tots as a base for nachos, we recommend this recipe from Serious Eats. It features homemade tomato salsa, chorizo, and cheese sauce. You can also substitute tots for chips in the other recipes we’ve highlighted for homemade nachos.

Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots

Along the lines of bacon wrapped water chestnuts and bacon wrapped scallops, this recipe found on Food52 brings together bacon and tater tots. It’s as simple as it can be: Slice strips of raw bacon into thirds, and then use each third to wrap a frozen tater tot. Bake the bacon wrapped tots in the oven, and then drain them on paper towels to absorb the excess grease before serving. While these would be great as appetizers, we think they’d also be right at home on a breakfast or brunch buffet.

Can’t Get Enough Tater Tots?

If you’re ready to buy a jumbo-sized bag of tater tots, we’ve got even more recipes for you to check out. Start with this assortment from Food Network, with 23 ways to dress up your tots, from spice blends to serving suggestions. Country Living pulled together 30 variations on tater tot casserole, and we’re sure you’ll find a few worth trying. Finally, if you need more gourmet tot recipes, Food and Wine has you covered with ideas like tater tot poutine and adding tots to your frittatas.