Making homemade tater tots is very easy and they are perfect for making ahead of time and storing in your freezer for whenever you want to air fry a batch of frozen tater tots! No worries if you don't feel like making them yourself, the times and temperatures in this recipe will also work for store-bought frozen tater tots.
My husband is a tater tot lover and will choose tater tots over french fries almost every single time. I started making the store-bought frozen tater tots in my Ninja Foodi air fryer, and he loved the crispy tater tots so much that I just had to figure out how to make them homemade!
The wonderful thing about making them yourself is you control the ingredients!
Tater tots that you buy at the grocery store are highly processed and, if you take a look at the ingredients, you will see that oil is often the second ingredient listed, and they use different kinds of oils and quite a lot of it.
When you make your own, you can use as little or as much of whatever type of oil you like. You can also change up the spices, lower the salt content, and make the tater-tot mixture exactly how you like it!
Suggested Kitchen Tools for Homemade Air Fryer Tater Tots
- Air Fryer
- Baking Tray for coating the tots
- Large Mixing Bowl
- Box Grater or Food Processor with the grating attachment
- (affiliate link)Oil Spritzer
Ingredients & Substitutions
Potatoes are the primary ingredient in homemade tater tots, and for the best results, I recommend using Russet potatoes, which are also called floury potatoes in other parts of the world. New potatoes or golden potatoes (like Yukon Gold) tend to be a little waxy, and they produce a gummy texture instead of a light and crispy texture in the final tater tot.
Although I have not tried this before, I also think you could use sweet potatoes to make sweet potato tots using the same technique. The sweet potatoes will need to be par-cooked just like the Russet potatoes and then cooled and grated. You can add whatever seasonings you want, but don't skip the corn starch on the outside or they won't crisp up as much. I found when testing my sweet potato fry recipe that this was the secret to getting really crispy sweet potato fries.
You can use whatever seasoning you like in your homemade tater tots. I used fresh grated (and squeezed) onion, but onion powder is a good substitute. I would only use about 1 teaspoon of onion powder or granulated onion at most. I also use some garlic powder; you could substitute for this with 1-2 cloves of minced garlic.
I think salt is very important when making anything with potatoes, but you can decrease the amount or skip it and use a salt substitute instead.
Go light on the seasoning at first, then air fry a single tater tot to taste it and adjust the seasonings from there so you always end up with perfectly seasoned tater tots.
Get creative with the seasonings! You can add any kind of dry spices to switch up the flavor. Use taco seasoning, Italian seasoning, basic salt and black pepper, or your favorite seasoning blend! You can also split the mixture in half and season each half a different way.
Cornstarch & Oil
While both of these ingredients are technically optional, you will have much better results if you follow the recipe as written. I have tested the tater tots various different ways and lightly coating them in cornstarch and oil produces the best outcome. It is also important to use cornstarch (also called cornflower) in the potato mixture to help hold it together.
There are some other options that you can substitute instead of cornstarch, but I have not tested the recipe using them. You can try using potato flour, arrowroot flour, or even a small amount of xanthan gum in the mixture. You can use all-purpose flour or rice flour to lightly coat the outside of the tater tots, but it is very important that you lightly coat them in oil, or all you will taste is flour.
As far as the oil goes, you can use any kind of neutral oil that you like. Avocado oil is what I usually use. You can also use vegetable oil or canola oil. I would avoid olive oil because it can impart some flavor on the Tater Tots that you may not like.
Cooking spray can also be used to lightly coat the tater tots after tossing them in cornstarch.
If you skip the oil, also skip the cornstarch coating on the outside. The tater tots will cook fine, but they won't be as crispy and may brown unevenly.
How to Make Homemade Air Fryer Tater Tots
If it is your first time making homemade tater tots, don't worry, it is very easy! The most challenging part is forming them and, once you get the hang of that, it is easy too!
I have a quick video, which I will share a little later in this post, showing you exactly how I form them, and each one just takes a few seconds.
Mise En Place (Prep)
The prep for this recipe includes parcooking the potatoes and letting them cool for a few hours or overnight. What I usually do is get the potatoes cooked a day or two before I want to make the tater tots.
If you want to do it all in one day, allow 2-3 hours for the potatoes to cool in the refrigerator so they are cool enough to handle and will grate up correctly. If you try to grate hot potatoes, they may break up too much which will result in a dense tater tot.
I use my Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper in this recipe because I can pressure cook to par-cook the potatoes and then air fry in the same appliance. I absolutely LOVE it!
However, you can par-cook the potatoes in any electric pressure cooker that you have OR, if you don't have a pressure cooker, you can microwave them for 5-7 minutes or boil them on the stove for about 10-12 minutes.
- Microwave: 5-7 minutes with holes poked in the potatoes
- Boiling: 10-12 minutes, leave the potatoes whole and unpeeled
The goal of par-cooking them is to just get the potatoes to where they start to soften but do not get so soft that they break apart. This prevents the tater tots from tasting like raw potatoes because the air fry time is not long enough to fully cook the shredded potato.
I have found that 5 minutes of pressure cooking time with an immediate release is perfect for parcooking medium-sized Russet potatoes. If you are using large Russets (more than 8 ounces per potato) you will want to increase the PC time to about 6-7 minutes.
To pressure cook the potatoes, leave them whole and leave the skins on. They peel very easily once cooled.
Place 1 cup of water in the inner pot of the pressure cooker. Put the whole potatoes in the basket or on a rack. You want them elevated above the water or the potatoes will overcook.
Put the pressure lid on and make sure the valve is in the sealed position. Pressure cook on high for 5 minutes, and when the time is up, do an immediate release. For large Russet potatoes that weigh more than 8 ounces each, increase the PC time to 7 minutes.
When the pressure time is up, immediately release the pressure.
Place the potatoes in the refrigerator to cool for at least 2 hours. I usually keep them right in the basket and pop them in the fridge. The par-cooked potatoes can stay in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Making the Homemade Tater Tot Mixture
Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle (they can still be a little warm), use a sharp knife to peel the skin of the potatoes.
You can either use a box grater or a food processor with a grating blade to shred the potatoes. I use a box grater and use the large holes for grating.
Grate all of the peeled potatoes and place them in a large bowl.
Next cut and peel the onion and use the smaller holes of the box grater to grate the onion. One small onion will yield about 2 Tablespoons of finely grated onion once the juice is squeezed out.
It's important to squeeze the liquid from the grated onion or it will make your potato mixture too moist. I prefer the flavor of the tater tots with fresh onion, but you can substitute between ½-1 teaspoon of onion powder or granulated onion instead.
I have not tried using dry minced onions, and I'm not sure if the texture would be pleasing since they will not hydrate in the potato mixture.
Once as much liquid is squeezed out of the grated onion, sprinkle it over the bowl of potatoes. Mix the cornstarch and seasonings in a small bowl and sprinkle over the grated potatoes.
Gently toss with your hands to mix everything together. Once you can no longer see any cornstarch, you are mixed enough.
Forming the Homemade Tater Tots
Each tater tot will use about a Tablespoon of the potato mixture for a normal size tater tot.
If you want to make mini tater tots, use ½ Tablespoons and you may have to decrease your temperature so they don't overcook before they brown.
I like to use my (affiliate link)small Pampered Chef scoop or a metal Tablespoon for measuring. The metal edge helps cut any long strands for neater tater tots. You can also use a regular Tablespoon that you eat with.
To form the tater tots, take 1 Tablespoon of the potato mixture and place it in the palm of your hand and gently squeeze to create a cylinder. Take your thumb and forefinger and press on the bottom and top of the cylinder while twirling it in the palm of your hand. This creates a nice smooth tater tot that looks just like the frozen ones from the store!
Place each formed tater tot on a parchment-lined baking sheet pan. Using parchment paper is only important if you plan on freezing the tater tots before air frying them.
Here is a short video showing how I form them which may be easier to understand than the still pictures above.
Coating Tater Tots before Air Frying or Freezing
Whether you plan on air frying the tater tots right away or freezing them for later, you will want to lightly coat them with cornstarch and oil for the best results.
If you plan on air frying the tater tots right away, preheat your air fryer while you coat the tater tots with cornstarch and oil.
I've tried coating the formed tater tots in cornstarch many different ways and the easiest and best way I found to do this is to put the formed tater tots into a gallon size bag and sprinkle over 1 Tablespoon of corn starch.
Then gently toss the bag to coat the tater tots.
Once they are all coated, dump them back out onto the baking tray.
If you don't have an oil spritzer, drizzle the oil over the baking tray and then roll the tater tots to coat them.
Spritz with oil and roll the tater tots around in the oil to lightly coat. The goal is that you no longer see any cornstarch. I usually use 1-2 Tablespoons of oil total.
Once the tater tots are lightly coated in oil, you can freeze them or cook them. Make sure they are on a parchment-lined tray for freezing so they don't stick. They take about 5 hours to freeze, and then they can be transferred to a freezer bag for longer storage.
You can also air fry them before freezing and I go over that in the next section.
How To Air Fry Tater Tots
The first thing you want to do, whether you are air frying the tater tots from frozen or freshly made ones, is to preheat the air fryer. It doesn't matter what kind of air fryer you are using, you want to preheat for this recipe.
You also want to make sure the basket of your air fryer or crisping plate is in the air fryer during the preheating process. This heats up the cooking surface and helps to start the crisping process quickly so the tater tots don't stick. Preheat on the hottest air fry setting for a full 10 minutes. I set the time to 20 minutes in the picture below because the tater tots take about 10 minutes to air fry after the preheat.
There are many different models of air fryers, but the basic air fryer instructions remain the same no matter which type of air fryer you are using. What may change is the cook time and sometimes the temperature setting depending on the style of air fryers.
Based on my experience, the only type of air fryer that usually needs a higher temperature to air fry are the oven-style air fryers. When air frying tater tots in an oven-style air fryer, increase your temperature to 450℉/230℃
Air Frying Tater Tots that are NOT Frozen
Once your air fryer is preheated with the cooking surface in the appliance, place the tater tots in a single layer.
The amount you can fit depends on your air fryer, but it is important that they are in a single layer when they are thawed or they won't cook evenly and they tend to fall apart.
Air fry the tater tots on 400℉/200℃ for about 10 minutes and don't attempt to turn them or shake the basket until after 6 minutes of cook time. This gives them enough time to crisp on the bottom and not stick to the basket or cooking surface.
If you meet resistance when flipping or shaking the basket, let them cook longer. If you force them to flip, they may stick.
After you flip them, continue to cook for another 4 minutes or until they are golden brown.
Serve them plain, loaded with bacon, cheese, and sour cream or with your favorite dipping sauce & enjoy!
Air Frying Frozen Tater Tots
You can follow these same instructions whether you are air frying homemade tater tots from frozen or the frozen store-bought ones.
Preheat the air fryer on the hottest setting for a full 10 minutes with the cooking surface inside the air fryer.
Place the tater tots into the air fryer. You can put them in more than a single layer when they are frozen, but I find they cook better and break apart less when I keep them in a single layer.
Air fry on 375℉/190℃ for about 12 minutes or until they are golden brown. Don't try to flip or move them for at least 6 minutes or they may stick.
When they are done, transfer to a cooling rack or a plate for serving. Enjoy!
Storage & Reheating Instructions
How to Store Leftover Tater Tots
I don't recommend refrigerating raw tater tots. If you make them homemade it is best to freeze them right after they are made.
You can refrigerate cooked tater tots up to 5 days if they are cooled completely and put into an airtight container or bag before refrigerating.
You can freeze raw or cooked tater tots for up to 6 months if they are properly packaged.
Freezing Uncooked Homemade Tater Tots
Once the tater tots are made and coated in cornstarch and oil, place them on a parchment-lined tray and freeze them in a single layer for about 5 hours or overnight.
Transfer the frozen tater tots to a freezer bag and store for up to 6 months. The oil coating will reduce ice crystals so don't skip that step!
Freezing Cooked Tater Tots
Make sure cooked tater tots are cooled completely before freezing. I like to refrigerate them overnight before freezing.
If the food is warm when packaged for freezing, steam can be produced inside the container or freezer bag, resulting in ice crystals forming.
Air is another issue when freezing food, so make sure you choose a container that is the proper size for the amount of leftovers. You don't want a 3-cup container for 1 cup of leftover tater tots or there will be too much air trapped in the container which can lead to decreased quality of the tater tots.
I don't recommend vacuum sealing the tater tots, instead use a ziplock freezer bag and squeeze as much air out as possible.
How to Reheat Leftover Cooked Tater Tots
Preheat the air fryer on 400℉/200℃ for 5-10 minutes and place the cooked tater tots in the basket. A single layer is not necessary since they are already cooked.
Air Fry for about 5 minutes, tossing them around every 2 minutes or so.
Once they are warmed through and crispy on the outside, they are ready to eat!
Preheat the oven on 450℉/230℃ and bake on a baking tray in a single layer for about 7-10 minutes or until they are warmed through. If they are getting too dark before they are hot inside, lower the temperature.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely! Preheat your oven to 450℉/230℃ and place the tater tots on a baking tray in a single layer.
Bake for 15-18 minutes or until they are golden brown. You can flip them after about 10 minutes for more even browning.
If you have a convection oven, decrease the temp to 425℉/220℃ and bake for about 15 minutes.
Yes, you can double the ingredients or cut them in half to make as many or as few tater tots as you want.
The cooking time and temperature is not going to change as long as you cook them in a single layer.
Yes, heat your oil to about 350℉/176℃ and fry the freshly made tater tots for about 4 minutes. Move them around in the oil for even browning and then remove them and drain on paper towels. You can add extra seasoning right after deep frying if desired.
If you want to deep fry them from frozen, increase the oil temperature to 375℉/190℃ and fry them for 4-5 minutes in the hot oil.
Air Fryer Snack Recipes
If you love eating homemade tater tots as a snack, like my husband does, you may also love these snack recipes that turn out amazing in the air fryer!
Homemade Air Fryer Tater Tots Recipe
- Air Fryer
Tater Tot Mixture
- 1½ pounds Russet Potatoes about 4 medium size
- 2 Tablespoons grated onion 1 small onion, sweet or yellow is fine
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1½ teaspoons fine grind sea salt or kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
Tater Tot Coating
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1-2 Tablespoons avocado oil or any neutral oil
Par Cook the Potatoes
- There are several ways to par cook the potatoes, my favorite way is to pressure cook them, but if you don't have a pressure cooker use the microwave or stovetop method. Pressure Cook: Place 1 cup of water into the inner pot and put the potatoes in the basket or on a rack so they are elevated above the water. Pressure cook on high for 5 minutes and then immediately release the pressure. If your potatoes weigh more than 8 ounces each, increase the PC time to 6-7 minutes. Microwave: Poke a few holes in the potatoes and microwave on. high for 5-7 minutes or until a fork starts to pierce the potatoes and meets resistance towards the center. Stovetop: Boil the whole potatoes for about 10 minutes or until a fork will pierce the outside of the potato and meets resistance towards the center.1½ pounds Russet Potatoes
- Once the potatoes are cooked allow to cool for at least 2 hours. This step can be done 1-2 days in advance.
Making the Tater Tots
- Peel the cooked and cooled potatoes and using a box grater or a food processor with a grating blade, grate the potatoes and place them into a large bowl. You want a large shred on the potatoes.
- Cut and peel a small onion and using the smaller holes on the grater, grate the onion. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Add 2 Tablespoons of the grated onion to the potato mixture.2 Tablespoons grated onion
- Mix the spices with the cornstarch and sprinkle over the potato mixture. Toss gently with your hands until you no longer see any cornstarch.1 Tablespoon cornstarch, 1½ teaspoons fine grind sea salt or kosher salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Scoop out 1 Tablespoon of the potato mixture and form the tater tot by making a cylinder in the palm of your and and pressing down on the top and bottom with your thumb and forefinger while rotating the tater tot.
- Place the formed tater tots in a gallon size bag and once they are all in the bag sprinkle them with cornstarch. Gently toss the tater tots around to coat them as evenly as possible. Dump them out onto a tray.
- Spritz or drizzle oil over the tater tots and roll them around to lightly coat with oil. Use just enough oil so you no longer see the cornstarch.
Air Frying Tater Tots
- Preheat the air fryer with the air frying basket or crisping tray inside the appliance at 400℉/200℃ for a full 10 minutes.
- Place the tater tots in a single layer and air fry on 400℉/200℃ for 6 minutes. Flip and air fry an additional 4-6 minutes or until they are golden brown.
- Serve and Enjoy!
Freezing Uncooked Homemade Tater TotsOnce the tater tots are made and coated in cornstarch and oil, place them on a parchment-lined tray and freeze them in a single layer for about 5 hours or overnight. Transfer the frozen tater tots to a freezer bag and store for up to 6 months. The oil coating will reduce ice crystals so don't skip that step!
Air Frying Frozen Tater TotsYou can follow these same instructions whether you are air frying homemade tater tots from frozen or the frozen store-bought ones. Preheat the air fryer on the hottest setting for a full 10 minutes with the cooking surface inside the air fryer. Place the tater tots into the air fryer. You can put them in more than a single layer when they are frozen, but I find they cook better and break apart less when I keep them in a single layer. Air fry on 375℉/190℃ for about 12 minutes or until they are golden brown. Don't try to flip or move them for at least 6 minutes or they may stick.
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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