So bad that they’re good; unwanted scraps that everyone can’t get enough of; terminally uncool to the point of being a new trend. Tater tots live in a world of conflicting extremes, forever at odds with themselves and the public at large. We have Ore-Ida to thank for the innovation in 1951, when new French fry cutting technology gave birth to immaculate shoestrings while leaving mountains of potato slivers and small pieces in its wake. That excess became the foundation of tots as we know them, formed and fried into something entirely new.
Any kid growing up in the 90s had more than their fair share of the crispy potato bites, piled up on cafeteria trays and smothered with ketchup, in lieu of any other vegetable-like matter. I remember my first encounter in first grade, when I got to the front of the line and found the paper boat of tots before me. These weren’t the thick potato wedges I wanted, and not even the smooth mashed potato puree that I tolerated. With great trepidation, I took a microscopic bite, chewed once, chewed twice… And spit it into the trash. For the rest of the day, I languished in the nurse’s office, convinced I was sick, and that those demonic tater tots had done me in.
Drama aside, I came to learn after many years that tots were not all bad. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. Consistent, reliable, affordable, and ageless, they’re an accommodating neutral base for toppings and dips of all types. Now that Millennials are “grown up” and seeking solace in their kitchens, tater tots are finally reaching their full potential. No longer reject spud shards but genuinely worthy starters and snacks, I, too, have come around to the ways of the tot.
That said, I don’t crave them. I wouldn’t go out of my way to try them, nor are they my first, second, or third choice on a menu. It needs to be something really special to catch my eye… Like the cauliflower tots served at Better Half Coffee & Cocktails here in Austin. These savory nuggets are square, fried to crispy perfection, and served alongside a silky purple beet ketchup. Sadly, they’re not vegan thanks to the generous application of eggs and cheese, but I couldn’t get them out of my mind after one visit. They certainly made a more lasting impression than the date I was on at the time.
I could sell these as a healthier, lower-carb option that’s naturally gluten-free and higher in protein, but this isn’t about getting the most nutritious snack. Let’s be honest: No one eats tater tots for the health benefits, so caulitots shouldn’t try to be anything other than delicious. That is where they truly excel. The outsides are browned to a satisfyingly crunchy finish, while the interiors remain moist, creamy, and slightly gooey thanks to the inclusion of vegan cheese shreds.
For a recipe worth more than nostalgic value, caulitots truly elevate the humble bar snack to a new level. Though you could serve them with regular old ketchup, BBQ sauce, plant-based honey mustard, or even ranch dressing, give the beet ketchup a try, at least once. It’s better than your average dip, and these upscale tots deserve the best, as do you.
Caulitots (Cauliflower Tots) with Beet Ketchup
It's time that tots grow up. Caulitots, AKA cauliflower tots, are even better than their potato brethren, especially with beet ketchup.
- 1 Pound Red Beets, Peeled and Diced
- 1/2 Medium Yellow Onion, Diced
- 1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Packed
- 1 Teaspoon Liquid Smoke
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Celery Seeds
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Coriander
- 1/4 Teaspoon Mustard Powder
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cloves
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1/2 Medium Yellow Onion, Finely Minced
- 12 Ounces Riced Cauliflower
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 Cup Vegetable Stock
- 1/4 Cup Garbanzo Bean (Chickpea) Flour
- 2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
- 1/2 Cup Shredded Vegan Mozzarella
- Cooking Oil Spray, as Needed
- To make the beet ketchup, combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir well, bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, until the beets are fork-tender. Transfer to a blender and thoroughly puree until smooth. Cool completely before enjoying.
- For the caulitots, line an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and lightly grease; set aside.
- Set a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Once shimmering, add the onion and saute for 5 - 6 minutes, until softened and aromatic. Add the riced cauliflower and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so, until the pieces are tender but not browned. Season with salt and pepper.
- Gently pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the chickpea flour and nutritional yeast in a separate dish.
- Slowly add the chickpea flour mixture while stirring vigorously so that it doesn’t form lumps. Reduce the heat to low, sprinkle in the cheese, and cook gently, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens and pulls away from sides of pan; about 7 - 10 minutes.
- Quickly pour the batter into your prepared pan, smooth into an even layer with your spatula, and let cool completely. You can hasten this process by stashing the pan in your fridge for about 30 minutes.
- Once solidified, use the sides of the aluminum foil like a sling to remove the block of cooked cauliflower. Use a sharp knife to cut it into equal cubes. Spray generously with oil and arrange in a single layer on an air fryer rack. Air fry at 370 degrees for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through.
- If baking in a conventional oven, bake at 350 for 20 minutes, flip, and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes, until golden brown and crispy all over.
- Serve hot!
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 37Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 110mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 1g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.
5 thoughts on “Hot Tots”
They sound good, Hannah. The best tater tots I’ve had by far were back when we lived in Cleveland and discovered a food truck called Din and Den Sum that served (along with delicious other food) truffle tater tots. People really stood in line just to get them and you often had to wait while they fixed more. I tried to find them online but apparently they’re not around anymore. What a shame!
Oh no! That is so sad. My first impulse was to look them up, too. Truffle-anything has me sold. What a terrible loss.
My children are definitely gonna love this. Thanks for sharing this recipe.
Wow, these are delicious looking and something I must make for Ron. Thanks!