Loaded Baked Potato Tots

Loaded Baked Potato Tots

I was at The Cheesecake Factory with some family recently, and we were deciding on appetizers. We ended up ordering their loaded baked potato tots… and I ended up completely rethinking tater tots. I don’t typically order or cook tater tots, as I find the flavor and texture less appealing than that of french fries. Why even bother with tots when fries are so readily available? Those tots were a completely different experience. They were the complete opposite of the lumpy, bland tater tots I was expecting. Smooth and creamy on the inside and crunchy on the outside, with a delicious loaded baked potato flavor, I had to figure out how to make them myself.

I came home from dinner and immediately started researching loaded baked potato tot recipes. I found a lot of versions that were really just cheese-y tater tots, and some leftover-mashed-potato tots, but none of them looked right. Finally, my search led me to a Cheesecake Factory copycat recipe.

I tinkered with the ingredients and quantities a bit, adding smoked paprika, salt, and cream cheese to achieve the flavor I was looking for. I honestly think what I ended up with is better than the Cheesecake Factory version. They have all the cheese-y, bacon, scallion flavor of a loaded baked potato, with the texture of a perfect mashed potato, all encapsulated in a crispy little bite. All they need is a side of sour cream for dipping.

These tots can be customized to your taste, or to the ingredients you have on hand. You can omit the bacon, use onion powder in place of the scallions, or add a dash of cayenne powder or Tabasco to give them some heat. I can’t wait to play around with more flavor combinations for these babies.

I’m testing this weekend whether these loaded baked potato tots can be frozen and reheated in the oven, and will update this post soon with the answer! I’m hoping they’ll be that wonderful kind of appetizer that can be made ahead of time for parties, or just to have on hand. And speaking of parties, these are perfect Super Bowl Party food. Whether you’re a fan of the Falcons, the Patriots, or the commercials, you will be a fan of these for sure.

Print

Loaded Baked Potato Tots

Servings 50 tots

Ingredients

Loaded Baked Potato Tots

  • 2 cups mashed potatoes 415g
  • 1 cup medium cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream 60g
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese 60g
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp chopped bacon crumbles
  • 1/4 cup milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • vegetable oil for frying

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • milk

Instructions

  1. Step 1: Make mashed potatoes: peel 6 russet potatoes. Slice into quarters and boil for 15-20 minutes. When potatoes are soft all the way through, pour into a colander to drain. Put potatoes through a ricer, or hand-mash them until smooth. Some small chunks are fine. 

    Step 2: Stir together mashed potatoes, sour cream, and cream cheese. Add milk, shredded cheddar, bacon, green onion, paprika, and salt and stir until well combined. 

    Step 3: Line a baking sheet with waxed paper and lightly coat with non-stick cooking spray. With your hands, shape the potato mixture into small, tater-top shaped clumps, and set on the baking sheet. When the sheet is full, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes. If you find that the potato mixture is too soft for you to work with, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes (up to a few hours). 

    Step 5: Remove formed tots from the freezer. Crack two eggs into a dish -  I just used cereal bowls - and beat until combined. Pour breadcrumbs into a second dish. Dip each tot in the egg, and then into the breadcrumbs until well-coated. 

    Step 4: Pour vegetable oil into a frying pan, about an inch and a half deep. Get it to 350 degrees and start adding your breaded tots, a few at a time. Be careful to keep an eye on the temperature, so that the oil doesn't get too hot - I used an instant-read thermometer to check mine. 

    Step 7: When the tots are getting golden brown, remove from oil and place onto a plate (lined with paper towel to soak up the excess oil). Be gentle when handling these, because the insides are very soft, and you will squish them if you're not careful.

    Step 8: In a small bowl, mix together the 2 Tbsps of milk and the 1/2 cup of sour cream. Dip your tots and enjoy! 


Easy Sunday Brunch: Mini Quiches

Easy Sunday Brunch: Mini Quiches

Breakfast food might be the best kind of food there is. I’m not a morning person though, so I prefer my breakfast food to be served for brunch. Or dinner if we’re being honest, but that’s much less trendy. “Easy Sunday Dinner: Mini Quiches” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

When I’m making brunch/breakfast for dinner, I typically get carried away and want some of everything. I want a full plate: pancakes, hash browns, and eggs and bacon. Cooking all of those at once without spending your whole morning in the kitchen is nearly impossible. Thus, I present to you my take on the Mini Quiche. It’s not the first of its kind, and possibly not the best there is, but it is the best I’ve come across. Warm, flaky pastry dough encases sharp cheddar cheese, eggs that get fluffy without being dry, and crispy bacon crumbles that can be subbed out for sausage, ham, or spinach and peppers.
Read More

Kung Pao Chicken: DIY Takeout

Kung Pao Chicken: DIY Takeout

For a person who loves to cook, I certainly eat a lot of Chinese take-out. My go-to is almost always Kung Pao Chicken. I refuse to order from a restaurant that serves an inferior version of the stuff. My ideal Kung Pao Chicken has a generous amount of heat, a thick, slightly sweet and tangy sauce, more chicken than peanuts, and not too much vegetation. Sometimes you need lighter fare, like my Vegan Cashew Cream Spinach Dip, and sometimes you just need to focus on something a little heartier, like chicken and rice in a perfectly-flavored sauce.

When you look at the list of ingredients required to cook Chinese food at home, it can seem a little intimidating. You will almost definitely need to purchase some new sauce or oil in order to get your flavors the way you want them. I’ve found, however, that those new ingredients become an investment, as a lot of Chinese food isn’t nearly as difficult to prepare as you expect. Having the ingredients on hand will make future cooking experiments that much easier, and a lot of them are shelf-stable products that will keep for a long time.
Read More

Vegan Cashew Cream Spinach Dip

Vegan Cashew Cream Spinach Dip

Reading the title of this post, I can only assume you’re thinking that while a vegan spinach dip will surely be healthier than a regular version, it can’t possibly be as delicious. It’s not an exact dup for the spinach dip you’re used to, but it’s pretty close. And it is beyond delicious, in a “maybe one more bite…just one more… and one more…” sort of way. The base is made of cashew cream, which is a wonderful surprise the first time you experience it – it’s a bit sweeter than your typical creamy dip bases, so it needs to be flavored differently, but the texture isn’t gritty like you might expect. As long as you give it enough time in your food processor, (or beloved NutriBullet), it gives you a perfect, smooth starting point for your spinach dip. Bonus: cashew cream is crazy easy to whip up, and doesn’t require any unusual ingredients – just cashews, water, lemon juice, and salt.

Read More

Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Bites

Gluten Free Fudge Brownie Bites

When I first started learning the ins and outs of gluten-free baking, I was not impressed. You have to mix roughly a billion different types of flours in order to create a product that hopefully, maybe, resembles the real, gluten-filled thing (okay, slight exaggeration, but not by much). It’s easier to adapt some recipes than others, but all of it involves a certain amount of trial and error. The more I do it, the more gluten-free baking appeals to me, in spite of its difficulties. I’m not celiac, but I do believe that we’re generally better off eating fewer refined carbs, in this case wheat flour, bearer of gluten (says the woman who recently devoured her weight in macaroni and cheese – it’s about balance). Anything that makes a recipe healthier without sacrificing the flavor or texture means that I get to enjoy more of the foods I love and still fit into my jeans. That’s everyone’s dream come true – right? If someone offered me a million dollars or the ability to eat anything I want without gaining weight, I think everyone knows which I’d choose.

Read More

Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Classic Baked Macaroni and Cheese

I generally like eating healthy – really, I do. But, seeing as it’s January and we’re all buried under blankets (the wool kind or the snow kind), I figured a little comfort food was in order. This macaroni and cheese couldn’t even pretend to resemble diet food. It’s the exact opposite, and I’m pretty sure that’s why it tastes so damn good. It’s got everything a really good macaroni and cheese requires: creamy sauce, stretchy, melty cheese throughout, and a depth of flavors that go beyond just “cheesy.”

You know how you weigh the payoff of a recipe against the work it takes? Especially if it’s a pretty involved one? Well I did the weighing for you this time, and I promise that this macaroni and cheese is worth every second. I know, because I ate almost a quarter of the dish by myself as soon as I pulled it out of the oven. I may have burnt my tongue, but it was still worth it.

Read More