17 Creative Ways To Use Frozen Tater Tots

Tater tots are far more versatile than many people realize given the potato product's general association with school cafeterias. Although there's nothing wrong with enjoying a piping hot dish of tots with a sprinkle of salt and a side of ketchup, there are numerous additional ways to utilize this oft-frozen ingredient in your kitchen. The versatility of tater tots is a big reason why these little bundles of joy — with a soft potato interior encased by a crispy outer layer — earned the number-one spot in our ranking of fry types.

The humble tater tot can be the base for some classic, homestyle meals, and also works in recipes where you're just looking to add a bit of excitement (potato-wise). If you've ever wondered how to utilize a bag of frozen tater tots to create a tastier meal (beyond heating and eating them as is), we've got you covered. To help combat those dinner woes and highlight the best potato shape ever to exist, here's a list of creative ways to use frozen tater tots.

Swap them for mashed potatoes in your shepherd's pie

While shepherd's pie isn't always our favorite meal, a shepherd's pie-inspired tater tot hotdish has us thinking twice about the Sunday classic. Using frozen tots for shepherd's pie saves a ton of time, after all, since you don't have to peel, boil, and mash the spuds. Instead, you can focus your energy on layering the ground beef, onions, and veggies.

Preparing this dish couldn't be easier. Cook the bottom layer consisting of meat, spices, and veggies, then top it with a single layer of tater tots. You can even cook the tots from frozen, saving you more time in the kitchen. Once you remove the dish from the oven, you'll find the tater tots provide a dreamy contrasting crunch to the rest of the dish, which makes it more palate-pleasing. Kids love it, adults love it, and you may never go back to mashed potatoes after trying it.

Make a tray of totchos for your next party

Although you can always eat a boring plate of tater tots as the side to your meal, you should consider stepping up your game and making totchos instead. Short for tater tot nachos, totchos are an incredibly versatile and filling dish — one you can make into a meal with a bit of creativity, as well (and some leftovers from the fridge).

Instead of piling your tots with ketchup, you simply line them on a sheet pan and melt a layer of cheese, bacon, and pickled jalapeños on top. You may need to dive into this plate with a fork in hand, but the contrasting flavors and sublime textures are worth the hassle.

The trick to making tater tot nachos is ensuring you pre-cook the tots beforehand; otherwise, you risk ending up with a soggy (or partially frozen) meal. While most recipes recommend baking the tots on a sheet pan, we're big fans of cooking tater tots in the air fryer. Depending on your appliance, you'll want to air fry tater tots for approximately 13 minutes — shaking them once during cooking to ensure all sides get crispy — then transfer the tots to a sheet pan before adding your toppings. 

Add an element of crunch to your burgers

From leaky grease that covers your fingers to cheese that manages to slide off the patty when you go to bite into it, a standard burger can be less than thrilling at times. The trick to upgrading your next patty? Top it with a layer of tater tots. Similar to putting potato chips on a sandwich, the tots' crispiness will give your burger more texture and a better bite — though you may want to do more than simply slip the fried spuds onto the beef. 

To make a tater tot-topped burger even better, gently flatten each tot before putting it on your burger. You'll want to do this fairly early during the cooking process — after the tater tots have softened from frozen, but not too late that they're fully cooked. This method makes tots a bit more conducive to being eaten atop a burger by expanding the tots' overall surface area and crispiness.

Make a comforting casserole for dinner

Midwestern American cuisine is homey and filling — and nothing showcases that identity quite like a hotdish casserole. Unsurprisingly, a cheesy tater tot casserole has "Mom's cooking" written all over it (while being an easy way to use up whatever ingredients you have in your pantry or fridge, as well). This type of casserole generally includes canned cream of mushroom soup in the base, but you can substitute that for your favorite soup if preferred. Just be sure to top your bottom base with a layer of frozen tater tots and gooey melted cheese.

One of our favorite renditions of tater tot casserole takes things south of the border with the addition of spicy Mexican chorizo, corn, and black beans. Along those lines, don't be afraid to mix and match your favorite proteins and cheeses to craft a unique dish that will fill you up on a cold winter's day.

Switch up your routine with a breakfast bake

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But you don't have to settle for a plain bowl of cereal or a stack of rubbery pancakes — and a bag of frozen tater tots can transform your breakfast in ways you never thought possible. Utilizing them will level up your cheesy breakfast bake and help you create the perfect breakfast for a special Sunday morning meal (one enjoyed by yourself or with company).

For every 16 ounces of tater tots, you'll need about a half-dozen eggs and ¼ cup of milk (to bind it together). Our go-to cheese is a sharp cheddar, but you can get creative with your favorites — as long as you heap it on generously. You can also incorporate salty proteins like bacon or sausage if you'd like, or any par-cooked veggies you have on hand. After your casserole has finished baking, simply slice it into squares and serve right away or save it in the fridge for later in the week.

Pop them in the waffle iron for an upgraded breakfast side

If you're anything like us, you've noticed frozen tater tots don't always end up as crispy as you'd prefer. Sure, there may be some crunchy bits on the outside... but the inside often remains dense and chewy. A waffle iron can change that, though, and provides an easy cooking method to take frozen tater tots to a new level.

Rather than baking frozen tater tots in the oven or cooking them in an air fryer, place them in a waffle iron with some cheese and your preferred seasonings. Cook the combo in the waffle iron until the tots are crispy and the cheese has melted (about seven minutes or so). The crispiness is sublime and will change how you cook tater tots forever. You can serve these waffle-sized tater tot creations as a side, or stack fried eggs, breakfast meat, and more cheese between two pieces to enjoy the best breakfast sandwich you've ever had.

Wrap them in bacon for an appetizer

The best way to make any food better? Add bacon. On that note, bacon-wrapped tater tots are sure to be a hit at your next party — and are also a great way to use up leftover strips of bacon from breakfast. The trick is to slice the cured pork strips in half along the centerline before wrapping them around each tot and securing them with a toothpick. You can even add a piece of cheese alongside the bacon If you want more decadent tots.

Either way, simply bake your bacon-wrapped tater tots on a sheet pan until crisp; make sure you flip them halfway through to ensure the bacon is cooked thoroughly. Some recipes add a tastier spin by rubbing a layer of brown sugar on top of the bacon-wrapped tots before baking or slathering them in ketchup to give it an umami and sweet profile.

Smash them into a muffin tin

The shape of a tater tot isn't exactly conducive to stuffing with additional ingredients (unless you have a pair of plating tweezers handy). To make frozen taters tots more amenable to this method, you'll need to flatten them first — which can be done with a muffin tin.

A muffin tin is a helpful tool for this task because it allows you to shape the tater tots along the interior walls to make a cup shape. The trick to making this work is to grease the insides of your tin before pressing in the spuds. This prevents sticking and encourages the outside of the tot to crisp up.

Place two or three tots in a cup and press it down flat with a glass. Next, bake the tot-filled muffin cups, then fill them with your favorite toppings. While breakfast cups with eggs, cheese, and meat are always popular, our favorite use for these versatile vehicles is at tailgate parties. Fill each cup with buffalo chicken and top with cheese, or stuff it with sour cream and chives for a riff on a loaded potato skin. 

Use them as a crust for quiche

Quiche is an egg-centric breakfast that's made possible by a good crust. If pie crusts aren't your forte, though, you can always grab a pre-made frozen quiche from the grocery store — or try this super easy quiche hack instead.

Add partially thawed tater tots to a bowl with butter and mash until it becomes the texture of potato hash. From there, press the mixture into a pie dish to form a crust and par-bake it until crispy. This step is critical to ensure the tots don't become soggy when you pour in your egg filling and helps the center of the quiche set during baking, as well.

This quiche recipe is incredibly versatile because almost every vegetable tastes delicious when paired with a tater tot crust. We love adding sliced ham and hunks of cheddar to our quiche, too, but also admire veggie-forward recipes with spinach and tomatoes. 

Stuff them into your grilled cheese

Grilled cheese is an all-American classic. It's comforting, warm, and the perfect pairing for a delicious tomato soup. Unsurprisingly, you can integrate tater tots into this lunchtime classic in several ways. For starters, you can use tater tots as the bread on a waffle iron grilled cheese to get the perfect balance of crispy edges and a soft, melty center. If you go with this cooking method, we recommend using Fontina cheese for the filling instead of plain cheddar because it melts beautifully while providing a contrast to the flavor of the tots.

The other cooking method would be to just add tater tots to the inside of the sandwich. Although it makes for a very carb-heavy meal, tater tots are especially delightful inside a grilled cheese and provide an unexpected crunch. Just be sure to stick with pre-cooked tots, as the frozen ones won't have enough time to defrost while your grilled cheese is being made. 

Swap them with the noodles in lasagna

Wait, swap tater tots for what? Although some Italians might scoff at the notion of swapping out lasagna noodles for anything made from potato, we're always interested in pursuing flavor and trying new things. Realistically, then, tot-sagna (as we like to call it) isn't that odd of a concept. It's the same layers of gooey cheese, sauce, meat, and veggies you'd find in a typical casserole — just with Italian flavors rather than Midwestern ones. 

You can use frozen tater tots for this recipe, but you should always pre-cook your meat and veggie fillings before layering them in the baking dish. Once you have your layers — including the filling, sauce, cheeses, and tater tots — you can begin to assemble. Pop the finished tray into the oven and bake until the lasagna is firm. We always recommend adding an extra layer of mozzarella and finishing it in the oven to give your dish that gooey cheese pull. 

Pop them on kebab sticks for a game-friendly snack

Gone are the days when you're forced to eat another tray of uninspiring pigs in a blanket at cocktail hour. Now, you can prevent everyone from getting their hands greasy by serving a memorable appetizer with tater tot kebabs. These sticks — which can be substituted with toothpicks to create smaller serving sizes — are easy to eat and pair with complementary foods.

Of course, since you'll need to start with crispy tater tots, we recommend popping them in the air fryer or frying them in a pan so they're firm (which helps the tots stay on the stick). Once you've added your tater tots to the skewers, we recommend covering each one in a layer of shredded cheese and bacon bits before popping them in the oven to melt the cheese. You can serve the skewers with sides of ketchup and sour cream, making for a fantastic (and portable) game-day snack.

Use it as a topping for pot pie

Pot pie is the perfect family-friendly dish for cold winter nights. But rather than trying to create the ideal crust with store-bought puff pastry or attempting to seal your edges with finicky pie dough, top it with a layer of tater tots instead. This simple dinner hack works for large servings of pot pie as well as individual ramekins. Like other casserole types, start by first preparing your filling and pouring it into the bottom of the cooking vessel. Then, layer your tots strategically to ensure the juices from the filling don't bubble up.

Since this recipe allows you to work with frozen tater tots, it also reduces the number of dishes and sheet pans you'll need to clean. Be sure you stick to a single layer of tots on your pot pie, though. They may be the best and tastiest part of the dish, but stacking too many tater tots means they won't get perfectly crispy.

Swap them for slider buns

Nothing goes better with beers on tap than sliders. These mini burgers can be swapped out with chicken, turkey, or plant-based patties to fit any diet or palate. But for the tastiest swap, you should consider upgrading your slider buns with frozen tater tots. Now, using frozen tater tots in this manner will naturally result in smaller versions of the already pint-sized burgers. But it will also boost the flavor of your sliders and introduce new textures — and who doesn't love a burger served with some tots?

The key to making these cute sliders is to grab a bag of the flattened tater tot discs rather than the barrel-shaped pieces. For a satisfying textural crunch, you should also crisp the tots in a pan with oil or your air fryer beforehand. When you're ready to assemble these one-bite sliders, stack the fillings inside of the discs and secure the assembled burger with a toothpick. Serve your apps with a ketchup dipping cup and watch how quickly they become your new favorite bar food.

Use tater tots for poutine

If you live near the Canadian border, you're probably as obsessed with poutine as we are. This upgraded fry recipe is often made with standard straight-cut fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. But rather than making this dish using the same old fries, we recommend jazzing up frozen tater tots with the flavors of poutine instead. All you need to do is air fry or bake your tater tots to perfection, then layer on the gravy and the curds like always.

Now, you might need to ask a store employee where to find cheese curds, but we assure you it's worth it. Cheese curds are essential for this dish, after all, as mozzarella or cheddar just won't do. You can make your gravy from scratch at home if you prefer, but there's nothing wrong with opting for a store-bought variety, either. Although that topping duo is traditional, some folks also include meats, green onions, and slivered mushrooms to amp it up — which you can do, too, if you feel so inclined.

Add tater tots to a bowl of soup

Soup likely isn't the first food that springs to mind when you see a bag of frozen tater tots. Yet tater tots may be the best way to bestow potato flavor into a bowl of soup. You can always add cooked tots to a finished soup to act as a crunchy accompaniment to an otherwise rich base, of course. But you can also add frozen tots directly into a simmering soup broth. The heat will break the tots down into tiny pieces, resulting in a starchier dish that features satisfying potato flecks.

There are numerous types of soup where tater tots can be substituted for other starches (or act as an additional component). An obvious choice would be a loaded potato soup, where the potato pieces can break up the potentially excessive creaminess. You may also want to consider adding tots to a cheeseburger soup, as its flavor meshes perfectly with that dish's ground beef, cheese, and vegetable pieces. 

Make a decadent crust for your pizza

If cauliflower can be made into a pizza crust, anything can be made into a pizza crust — including tater tots. This frozen potato product is one of the best options for a pizza because it results in a deliciously crisp bottom while the inside of the puffs remains super soft. 

Start by par-cooking your tater tots, then arranging them inside the bottom of a cast iron skillet, springform pan, or metal pizza tray. Once you've placed your partially cooked tater tots into a pan, press them down with the back of the spatula to form a flat surface. This makes for easy saucing and topping — and may prevent your slices from falling apart when you go to eat them, as well. There are so many toppings that work well for tater tot pizza, but we're partial to buffalo chicken, mozzarella, and crumbled bacon.