Food

The Easiest Party Appetizer

Tater Tots for Entertaining

What’s your go-to entertaining snack? If guests stop by at the last minute, here’s a freezer standby that’s irresistible…

Tater Tots for Entertaining

Tater tots! I bake them while drinks are being poured (as a bonus, they perfume the air with JOY). When we have friends over for burgers and grilled corn, we put out a bowl piled high with tots. Both kids and adults go crazy for them.

To me, tater tots are the cooler cousins of French fries. They’re bite-sized, so they crisp up in the oven — and they never get soggy or greasy like a baked fry. Also, they only need one swipe of dip before you pop them in your mouth (no double dipping!).

Tater Tots for Entertaining

I always have a couple bags of this version in my freezer, and these sweet potato puffs are also delicious. And like potato pancakes, tater tots pair well with all sorts of flavors, from sweet to briny. A few of my favorites are applesauce, mayonnaise with lemon and pepper, smoked salmon dip, sour cream and onion dip, Sriracha ketchup or, when in doubt, flaky salt. Period.

Tater Tots for Entertaining

Thoughts? Are you a tater tots fan? What do you always keep on hand for guests?

P.S. 10 rules of easy entertaining, and a party conversation starter.

(Photos by Yossy Arefi for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Andrea says...

    It’s nearly a year later, but I just needed to say again what a great idea this is! I have a appetizer-type party coming up, the same one I took these too last year, and several women asked me: “wait, you’re bringing the tater tots, right?!?!?” . . . . yes i am!!!

  2. Nicole says...

    I stumbled across this while looking for dipping sauce ideas for our 1st Annual “Brews, Brats and Tater Tots” fall party. We are actually going to create a Tater Tot Bar of sorts, and I’m unbelievably excited about it :) I thought I was the first to think of this super fun, no muss no fuss party idea, but apparently it’s popular!

  3. Karen says...

    I’ve never thought to use tater tots as an appetizer, but I will now include it.

  4. Kate S says...

    Love this idea! Need to invite some friends over!

  5. Wow !! Very Delicious..Thanks For this great idea..

  6. YES. Tater Tots all the way.

    I recently had a tater tot egg poutine. Literally, tater tots with tons of melted cheese curds, poached eggs and the whole thing was covered in hollandaise sauce.

    For non-Canadians this is what a poutine is! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poutine

    Vanessa

  7. mandy says...

    We love tator tots, Sometimes for a fun easy dinner I make tator tots and fish sticks. I personally don’t really care for the fish sticks, but the boys do, they always have fun with this dinner. It makes them happy to remember eating them when they were little.

  8. Melissa W. says...

    I am a little behind on CoJ posts this week so just saw this… Lexi, you are my kinda girl!

  9. Oh man, Tater Tots were ALL I ATE during the first trimester of my pregnancy with my daughter. I could only really stomach potatoes for some reason. We had literally never bought them before and my husband was more than stoked to get to eat “bad food” (haha) every night instead of the salads I usually made. Can’t wait to get prego again and have another three months of #TotLife

  10. Audra says...

    Tots! I feel obligated to make a Napoleon Dynamite reference….

  11. Kat says...

    Great timing! I used this idea and brought tater tots to a barbecue last night and they were an enormous hit! I brought some dips for them as well but everyone was happy to just eat them plain and barely touched the dips. Thanks for this idea!

  12. Andrea says...

    This post came just when I needed it: and it was such a hit!! everyone loves tots!!

  13. Eep! This is so brilliant, I must admit I may try this … for dinner tonight :D

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Yes!

  14. Elizabeth Wang says...

    I really feel like the caption was a missed opportunity for, “Thoughts on the tots?” ala. Napoleon Dynamite. ;-)

  15. Laurie Nusbacher says...

    Try tots with beer cheese……you won’t regret it.

  16. There is only one appropriate response to this post: hell yeah!

  17. maddie says...

    Julia Turshen’s book has a really solid “recipe” for a party snack: Medjool dates sliced (and pitted) and filled with mascarpone. Tasty on their own, but I usually drizzle with either agave or spicy honey depending on when I’m serving and the crowd it is being served to.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      That sounds so delicious!

  18. Meagan says...

    I implore (is that a strong enough word choice here, ha!) you to try them dipped in some real Canadian maple syrup! Simply delicious! I would never have thought to unleash these on company but you are absolutely right, everyone loves them (even if they do remind us of our university days), why not serve them?! A delightful and easy to execute idea, thank you!

  19. Meghan says...

    Loveeee how unpretentious this is. my friend always makes a ‘southwestern’ tater tot caserole for brunch- it’s amazing!

  20. Liz says...

    FRY SAUCE and tots is the BEST combo out there.

    • Kate says...

      YES. I learned about fry sauce when I moved to Idaho and I’m totally converted. I now live in WA and they don’t have it everywhere :(

      Also, a mixture of ketchup, mayo, and Tony’s Chachere’s seasoning is amazing.

  21. Ali says...

    Ok so sometimes we Aussies can get a little snobby about American tastes (good American coffee? Ha! Come to Australia). So the idea of serving tater tots sounds sooooo low-brow. But if we put aside our snobbery, this idea is actually genius! I could imagine it might be met with a little disdain at first but guaranteed to be an empty bowl within minutes.

  22. Lynn says...

    Love this idea! I am going to an appetizer party in a few weeks and this might be perfect for a crowd. How do they hold up after they sit out for awhile? Would not want them to get mushy once they cool off.

  23. Eileen says...

    Late to the comments, but this is excelllent. I have such nostalgia and warm fuzzy feelings for tater tots that I had these at our brunch wedding. Thanks for showing them some love!

  24. Greta says...

    I have to ask – what are tater tots? It’s the first time I hear about them, we don’t have them in Belgium.

    • Annalisa says...

      Hi, Greta! They’re grated potatoes, rounded in a tablespoon form, and fried. :)

    • Greta says...

      Thanks! Sounds yummy.

  25. Ahhh I’m a huge fan of potatoes in all forms, and these tater tots look SO good! Going hungry when I read how you described the sauces you typically use. I definitely love combining them with sour cream and onion dip. :) Never fails!

    Joanne | Life in Blue Skies

  26. LG says...

    Tater tots and fried halumi in s bowl! Super savoury, salty and delicious!

  27. Kelly says...

    Did anyone else grow up with Orieda Crisper Fries? Halfway between a tot and a fry, with a soft middle. My mom always baked them and served them with barbecue sauce when we’d have ribs.

  28. Kelly says...

    Okay have you ever made fromage forte (strong cheese)? You mix up whatever little bits of cheese are left in your fridge, hard grated fine or soft, with a good amount of softened butter and chopped fresh herbs. I usually stir in a glue of the wine we’re drinking, too!

    Or a bag of Trader Joe’s shishito peppers. Dump them into a cast iron with olive oil to coat, broil the heck out of them, and serve with flakey salt and beers! I usually make a quick dip out of sriracha, mayo, and sesame oil, too!

    Warm olives are also always good.

  29. Lucia says...

    Wow I am kinda shocked at all the love for tatertots. I just think of gross school cafeteria, like Napoleon dynamite?? Maybe this was a post for your younger audience lol! My go to easy/ fast would probably be chips and dips like guacamole. Slices of watermelon. I would however love potato latkes with applesauce or smoked salmon etc.

  30. Karin says...

    I’ve died and gone to heaven at the idea of a tot bar and beer tasting! WIll definitely be having tots at our next backyard BBQ. thanks for the idea!
    My go-to appetizer to have on hand if people drop in is a container of stuffed olives, a salami and some good nuts…All of these items last for months and only require you plate/put them in a dish to serve, minimal time away from your visitors! My only challenge is keeping my husband from breaking into the stash and eating it out from under me.

  31. shelly says...

    just curious.. is this an ad?

    • maddie says...

      Shelly, I am not a blogger but I believe that if it is an ad or sponsored they will legally have to state as such somewhere in the post.

  32. TATER TOTS!!! So good! It was the only thing I bought at the high school cafeteria. Haha. But I agree with the other commentators, dress it up and it’s ulta chic and new.

  33. Elaine says...

    Tater tots with TRUFFLE OIL and fluer de sel…all the yesses!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      That sounds amazing! (Also, truffle oil in grilled cheese is so good.)

  34. Claire says...

    For quick appetizers I like to keep Red Pepper jelly and cream cheese in the fridge and serve on table water crackers–easy and tasty and they all keep a while.
    I don’t know if they’d go with tater tots, but I wouldn’t turn either down.

  35. Liz says...

    Thank you for honoring one of my favs! Loaded tots – melted cheese with bacon – sides of ranch and BBQ sauce – will always have a special place in my tummy!

  36. Sabrina says...

    I was recently at a party and the hostess set out dates with blue cheese in it. She said she sliced open a date and put a little scoop of cheese in it. The sweet\sour\savory combo was delicious! She also had blueberry goat cheese on lemon cookie wafers. Yum!

  37. Australia has an equivalent version and i used to go gaga over them as they are so soft and carbohydrate-y! Luckily I’ve kinda stopped having else I might look like a humpty dumpty lol

    • Emma says...

      Potato gems!! They were a staple at uni for me and my friends :)

  38. Christine says...

    One of my former colleagues gave me the party best appetizer. Wrap a slice (or just a half) of bacon around a tater tot and cook in oven as the tater tot bag directs until the bacon is crispy. If you want to get spicy, you could also include a jalapeño slice before wrapping the bacon around. Use BBQ sauce and/or ranch dressing for dipping. Sounds crazy but it’s delicious! It’s become a staple in our family!

    • brianna says...

      That sounds really good right now!

    • brianna says...

      I bet it would be good with a slice of prosciutto too (instead of bacon), to fancy things up a bit.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Wow!

  39. I always prep them for brunch parties and they such a hit! I love that they’re no-fuss compared to how much prep or timing everything else can take sometimes! Good call with the sauces, I’ve never done that but am with you 100%!

  40. Megan Ritter says...

    A friend of mine introduced me to the easiest appetizer that has such an “adulty” feel for dinner parties: log of goat cheese topped with (store-bought) bruschetta plus crackers. Like the staff at Cup of Joe, I’m a big fan of Trader Joe’s and all of these ‘ingredients’ are especially tasty and cheap there!

  41. Sharon in Scotland says...

    Tater tots are on my fantasy “tasting plate of America”, along with grits, s’mores, chicken fried steak, sloppy joes etc…………food that I’ve seen on films, read about in books or heard about on the radio for as long as I can remember!

    • jules says...

      Sharon – tots are worth it! Add tacos from LA or Austin TX to your list along with BBQ ribs from a small roadside shack. P.S. we tried haggis in scotland and thought it was surprisingly good.

  42. Twyla says...

    My go-to appetizer is Bibigo’s chicken wontons from Costco. It’s a gigantic bag in the freezer section that I swear is enough for three separate parties. I steam them a bit, then add some sesame oil to the pan to get them crispy and serve them with some hoisin sauce mixed with Sriracha. Every time people ask me for the recipe!

  43. What a fun idea! Who doesn’t love tater tots? So unexpected and one could change up the condiments based on the meal.

    Thanks for sharing!

  44. Sasha says...

    Having friends over this weekend, I’m so excited to read this! We are for sure serving tots. Also grilled corn on the cob, with pesto and feta a la Joy the baker on ig today. Yay!!!

  45. I would be PUMPED to show up at a party and find tater tots. This is the best idea!

    • Alyssa says...

      Right?!! So pumped!

  46. Maybe I never had good tater tots? The ones I’ve had are soggy, so I’ve never been tempted to try them at home. Is there a trick to getting them crispy??

    Otherwise, my food answer to everything is homemade popcorn with lots of salt and powdered nutritional yeast. Crowd favorite every time.

    • Sasha says...

      I eat popcorn just like that too, so so good!!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      I would try the brand I use (Cascadian Farm) and see what you think. Also, I position my oven rack one rung above middle whenever I want something to get crispy. That way I can cook them for the maximum amount of time without risking burning. It does help! I do this with broccoli too and it’s a trade secret. xoxox

  47. Em says...

    I love this idea, truly. I don’t think there’s a single hosting bone in my body, so heating up tater tots is probably all I could ever manage anyway. Good to know people would be excited about them, especially if I also managed to pour some applesauce in a bowl as a side. Woo!

  48. Lauren E. says...

    YUM! I would serve these with my go-to app, onion dip. You would never guess that homemade onion dip could be so delicious but now my friends request it literally any time they are in my apartment and I always have the ingredients on hand. I thinly slice an onion (white, yellow, spanish, whatever) and sautee on low heat with butter in a frying pan until they are shriveled and brown. Add a splash of balsamic and a sprinkle of salt, cook for another minute, and then spread on a cutting board to cool. Give the cooled onions a rough chop, then mix with either greek yogurt (healthy) or equal parts sour cream & mayo (unbelievably rich and delicious). I serve it with chips or veggies or now, tater tots!

    • Sasha says...

      I love you. Thank you for this.

    • Summer says...

      ooh, that sounds so good!

  49. I can’t remember the last time I had a tater tot! What a tragedy! :) For guests, I’ve been throwing together “breakfast” cookies. Don’t be fooled by the name, they’re better than most traditional cookie recipes I’ve tried – and way more wholesome. So no one will complain if they eat a little too many. Lots of nutritious ingredients in addition to chocolate chips. Or sometimes I do them with raisins, coconut, and sunflower seeds. Ready super fast which is a plus!

    Recipe here: http://www.chelseasmessyapron.com/gluten-free-peanut-butter-breakfast-cookies/

  50. Kelsey says...

    Genius!

  51. rachael says...

    Genius! Hello from the Spud State!

  52. Hillary Corwin says...

    I love this so much! Easy, doesn’t go bad in the fridge, and everyone loves it!

  53. Karen says...

    We enjoy cooking and entertaining in our house. I always like to balance things that take a lot of work with things that are easy when planning a menu.

    I never thought of the tot idea, and I like it. Thanks for sharing.

  54. Katherine says...

    Im not sure if they sell these up north but we always keep a pan of sister schuberts sausage wrap rolls. They are wonderful any time of day.

    • jane says...

      LOL. They have them “out west.” Its a modern country.

  55. Anna Kleinfeld says...

    Such a good idea! I’m always stealing my kid’s tater tots so I’d be glad to make some just for adults ;-)

  56. Sarah says...

    Such a great idea! I’m going to remember this for when I need to bring a side dish for a family gathering. :)

  57. Sarah says...

    Have you tried broccoli and cheddar tots from Green Giant?! They are awesome – they don’t taste super strongly of vegetables, but are nutritious (broccoli is the first ingredient). If you ever want a healthier option, I highly recommend them! They also make cauliflower ones as well.

    • Kathy says...

      Yes! I second this – was surprised at how good they were.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      I haven’t tried them but have had my eye on them. Thanks for the push to try!

    • Love the cauliflower tots, but haven’t tried the broccoli cheddar version. I’m definitely serving tots of any sort at my next gathering.

    • Carrie says...

      I’ve tried them both! Liked the broccoli ones better. Super yummy, but pretty greasy

  58. Maywyn says...

    TaterTotter here! Your spread is spot on.
    I also like tater tots…mixed together barbeque and apple sauce, a few shakes of garlic powder, with gravy, and floating atop cheese soup, the crispy tater tots.

  59. brianna says...

    I can still eat regular potatoes! They do not yet trigger migraines! Huzzah. Adding tater tots to the grocery list.

  60. Dee says...

    Hi! I have to admit when I first looked at this I thought, that weird. Who wants an appetizer of tater tots? But honestly, the more I think about it, it’s actually brilliant. Easy, tasty, and you can have any number of simple or complex dipping accompaniments. Thank You for this idea!

  61. Beth says...

    I have not thought about tater tots in years, but this sounds like such a delicious idea! Does anyone know if run-of-the-mill tater tots are vegan? I’m wondering about what holds them all together? Lots of vegans in my crowd.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Hi Beth! The brand I use is vegan (Cascadian Farm). Not sure about the others, but worth a shot.

  62. Jay says...

    Tatertots baked extra crispy, top with cheddar cheese till melted and add chopped scallions (green onions) and a dolp of sour cream.

    • Maywyn says...

      Will try that for sure!

    • L says...

      We call them totchos! Tots+Nachos

    • Mallory Adiego says...

      Totchos are a big thing in SF!

  63. Becki says...

    What a great idea. My easy go to for unexpected guest is a super easy lentil/bruschetta dip from Trader Joes. It’s just a pack of the precooked lentils, container of their bruschetta and container of crumbled feta. Just mix the entire bag of lentils and feta and about 1/2 the bruschetta in a bowl and set out with any variety of crackers. So good and so easy!

    • I love this salad too!

    • Molly L. says...

      I love this too! A friend introduced me to this YEARS ago and it’s a go-to now. So easy and healthy and leftovers are great.

    • ale norris says...

      I make this all the time too, and everyone loves it!

  64. Alyssa says...

    Oh my word I love tots. I have tots and onion dip at home…Might be having that with my dinner!

  65. Meg says...

    Growing up, we called them potato poopies. You’re welcome for that.

  66. Rosie says...

    Tater tots are everything. I was recently at Tiny’s in Tribeca and they sell tater tots are as a bar snack in their upstairs bar and I basically died and went to heaven.

    • katy says...

      Usually tots on the bar snack apps/menus in Minneapolis. And usually a variety of dipping sauces, a la the Bulldog Northeast, Minneapolis. So good.

    • Bulldog’s tots are sooooo good. I do not know how they get them so crispy, but it’s a remarkable accomplishment.

  67. Dana says...

    Have you tried tater tots on the grill? They are insanely good.
    Try it. You will not regret it.

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      Oh wow! Do I just put a roasting pan on the grill?

    • Dana says...

      I put them directly on the grill. No muss. No fuss.
      Seriously, crazy good.

    • Summer says...

      How do they not fall through?

  68. Brandy T says...

    What a fun idea, I am definitely trying this at my next summer get-together!

  69. F-ing brilliant idea. This solves my perennial issue with hostessing – making delicious food that also appears effortless. I always over-do things when I have friends over, and frankly I think it makes them a little uncomfortable (which is the last thing I want!). As long as there are good drinks to be had, they’re happier with a tin of Christmas popcorn than when I cook a big, multi-course meal. Keeping the food simple and casual lets everyone focus on just having a good time together. So I’ll be for sure to add tatertots to my other quick and easy but crowd-pleasing repertoire – baked brie.

  70. Jen H says...

    I got an air fryer…and tater tots made in it are AMAZING! I just never thought to serve them to company! Great idea

  71. Christy says...

    Napoleon, gimme your tots!

    Sorry couldn’t resist.

    • Hannah says...

      No go find your own!
      ?

  72. I love this idea. We’re hosting a sangria and churros night for my husband’s birthday next week, and I wanted to add something savory to the menu besides cheese & crackers. Will try serving tater tots Spanish-style with tomato sauce and aioli — just like patatas bravas! Thanks for the inspiration, CupofJo!

    • Lexi Mainland says...

      That sounds really great. We do a Sriracha mayo/aioli version that’s A+. Enjoy!

  73. Briana says...

    I buy tots from Trader Joe’s and toss them lightly with a little bit of cayenne, TJ’s goddess dressing and sliced avocados. It’s simple but sooooo good. Make sure the tots are extra crispy before tossing them in the dressing.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      This sounds so delicious, Briana!!

    • Zoe says...

      WOAH! This sounds life changing.

  74. This is such a perfect idea! As someone who is not a great cook, I always stress over what to serve/bring for happy hour gatherings. This is going to be my go to and it’s perfect for my vegetarian friends:)

  75. Love this idea! Not only is it quick and easy, it satisfies my Idaho born-and-bred heart. Only thing….you should call them Tater Gems…it is the Idaho way, and considering we are only known for our potatoes….you should trust our naming convention ;) Seriously, Tater Gems are what I grew up calling them and how they are on many menus in Idaho!

  76. I make everything from scratch–sourdough bread, yogurt, everything–but I usually have a bag of tater tots in the freezer for desperation dinners. Everyone likes tater tots. EVERYONE. Even my MiL, who is against almost all processed foods, admitted that her first taste of a tater tot, well into her fifties, was a shocking revelation. She disdained them on principle for years, and then had to eat her words (and the tater tots.)

  77. yael steren says...

    Yes tater tots!!! Those were also my FAVORITE growing up. I used to get them at lunch in school!!! What a fun memory!! Thanks for sharing!! xx yael
    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

  78. Jennifer H. says...

    We do tater tot nachos quite often. Nothing tastes better than some queso, avocado, jalapeños and tomato on a pan of tots. I’m drooling now.

  79. Jessica says...

    I LOVE TATER TOTS! This has inspired me. I’m doing a tots bar + beer tasting for my next gathering

    • Meagan says...

      That is a great idea for a party!

    • talia says...

      Great party idea!

  80. Denise says...

    O wow, I use the exact same brands as you do. Yes I love a tater tot but I tend to save them for busy weeknight meals and haven’t thought of using them for a party – what a great idea!