In our column, Junk Food Makeover, we challenge culinary nutritionist Tricia Williams to recreate iconic snacks with more wholesome, better-for-you recipes.
Tater tots: the ultimate kid food. We'll take 'em straight out of the freezer bag, heat them up, and pair them with anything from gooey grilled cheese to creamy tomato soup. Or, we'll just dip them in ketchup and call it a day. But Thanksgiving and holiday parties have wreaked havoc on our waistlines, so we called up nutritionist Tricia Williams to transform Napoleon Dynamite's favorite snack into a wholesome side dish.
"I wanted to focus on two different textures to get the tater tot right: crunchy exterior, soft interior," Tricia said. "Crunchy was definitely the bigger challenge. Lately, quinoa flakes have become a staple for crispy texture in our kitchen--we use them like a traditional kitchen would use panko. We add golden flax meal to give it extra nutrition. All these healthy ingredients make these tots an anti-inflammatory (read: less aches and pains) mock-fried food. To ensure this snack would go over well, we kid-tested them on a bunch of 6-year-olds. What a hit!" Let's see what happens when we Bon Appetit-test them.
Related: 10 Snacks You Thought Were Healthy But Really Aren't
Although Tricia didn't nail the exact tater tot shape (more of a cylindrical, golden fritter), our tasters were mostly satisfied with the healthier version of the (usually) greasy snack. The texture was great--as Tricia said, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. Sure, it was lacking the flavor hit from fat and salt, but we didn't miss it too much, thanks to a healthy dose of smoked paprika. All in all, while these little potato balls weren't quite the real thing, their bite-sized popability and yummy flavor made them work well as a substitute. With some ketchup and a pinch more salt, we'd be happy with these as a snack. (Or, let's face it, accompanying that kids' menu item that still holds a place in our hearts, chicken tenders, it could be dinner.)
by Food Matters
Makes about 50
1 cup quinoa flakes (you can find them at bobsredmill.com)
1/4 cup golden flax meal (you can find them at bobsredmill.com)
Nonstick cooking spray
1/3 cup finely chopped small onion (from 1/2 small onion)
4 sweet potatoes or russet potatoes, peeled
1 Tbsp. kosher or sea salt, plus more
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Freshly ground black pepper
See Also: 10 Quick and Easy School-Night Dinners
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine quinoa flakes and flax meal in a bowl; set aside. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray generously with nonstick spray. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Transfer onion to a bowl; set aside. Wipe out and reserve skillet.
Using the small holes of a box grater, finely grate potatoes to make 4 cups. Transfer to a colander and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. salt. Massage salt into potatoes and squeeze out the excess liquid. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl; add egg and mix well. Add reserved onion, cayenne, paprika, and garlic powder; season lightly with salt and pepper. The mixture should resemble a potato pancake mix but be on the dry side. Using your hands, form potato mixture into 1" balls.
Roll potato balls in quinoa flake mixture. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray lightly with nonstick spray. Working in batches, cook balls, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes on each side. Transfer tots to a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Note: This recipe has not been tested by the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen.
More from Bon Appétit:
The Best New Restaurants in America
25 One-Bite Appetizers
The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich Guide
11 Healthy Low-Sugar Desserts