|Alternative names||Tots, potato rounds, potato puffs, tater puffs, potato cylinders, potato nuggets, potato croquettes, baby taters|
|Course||Entrée or side dish, sometimes as part of a main course|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Region or state||Ontario, Oregon|
|Created by||F. Nephi Grigg, and Golden Grigg (in 1953)|
|Serving temperature||Hot (shipped frozen)|
|160 per 86g serving kcal|
Tater tots are pieces of deep-fried, grated potatoes served as a side dish. They are recognized by their compact cylindrical shape and crispy colored exterior. "Tater Tots" is a registered trademark of Ore-Ida (a division of the H. J. Heinz Company, L.P.) that is often used as a generic term.
The product was created in 1953 when Ore-Ida founders F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg were trying to figure out what to do with leftover slivers of cut-up potatoes. They chopped up the slivers, added flour and seasoning, then pushed the mash through holes and sliced off pieces of the extruded mixture. The product was first offered in stores in 1956.
Originally, the product was very inexpensive. According to advertising lectures at Iowa State University, people did not buy it at first because there was no perceived value. When the price was raised, people began buying it. Today, Americans consume approximately 70,000,000 pounds (32,000,000 kg) of tater tots, or 3,710,000,000 tots per year.
"Tater" is an abbreviation of potato (origin: 1750–60, America, by apheresis; "tato", an alternate spelling of neutral vowel, "tater"). "Tots" may have been derived from their diminutive size, using a thesaurus and a desire for alliteration. In another interpretation, "tater tots" literally means “potato toddlers”; tot being short for “toddler”. In some regions, the term "tater" is dropped, and the snack is informally called "tots".
Coincidentally, the product has ended up being popular for children (or "tots").
The supermarket chain Safeway Inc. sells a generic brand of tater tots known as "Tater Treats". Sonic drive-in also features tater tots on their regular menu; available toppings include cheese and chili. Sonic also sells "Cheesy Tots", coin-shaped tots that contain melted cheese and potatoes. Several restaurants in the Pacific Northwest offer a nacho version of tots ("totchos"), covered in nacho cheese sauce and toppings.
Some Mexican-style fast-food restaurants offer seasoned tater tots: Taco Time and Señor Frog's call them "Mexi-Fries", while Taco Bell used to sell them as "Mexi-Nuggets" and "Border Fries". Taco Mayo in the Southwest offers round disc-shaped tater tots called "Potato Locos." Taco John's also has coin shaped tots called "Potato Olés".
In some areas of the Northeast, however, they are often called "juliennes" or "potato puffs". In the Midwest states, tater tot hotdish is a very popular soup-based casserole consisting of tater tots, ground beef, and canned soup.
Tater tots are referenced in the film Napoleon Dynamite, the jailhouse reality-TV show 60 Days In and the theme song for The Weird Al Show. They are also a curiosity mentioned regarding terrorist Ted Kaczynski, being inventoried with his possessions at a remote cabin.
In Australia and New Zealand, they are known as "potato gems", "potato royals" or "potato pom-poms". The New Zealand Pizza Hut franchise offers "Hash Bites" as a side dish, available alone or with an aioli dipping sauce.
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Tater Tots became successful enough that the brand name grew to be synonymous with the product, a delightful dilemma shared with other brands that pioneered a product category, among them Band-Aid, Kleenex and Xerox.
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Media related to Tater tots at Wikimedia Commons