Who doesn’t love tater tots? But do they contain gluten? Read on to find out.
Golden brown, fluffy tater tots make a great side dish for your breakfast menu. But are they gluten-free?
Short Answer: Yes, tater tots are potato-based and usually gluten-free! However, read labels and inquire at restaurants to make sure.
While manufacturers rarely add wheat to their tater tots recipe, cross-contamination can occur during manufacturing. Meanwhile, tater tots served in restaurants can become cross-contaminated when they share a fryer with gluten-containing foods.
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Are Tater Tots Gluten Free?
Tater tots are typically gluten-free, yes, but there are potential sources of cross-contamination to watch out for. At grocery stores, you’re likely to find tater tots that do not name wheat flour in their ingredient list. However, most tater tots are not specifically labeled gluten-free, and this may have to do with a risk of cross-contamination during manufacturing. The exception is Ore-Ida tater tots, which confidently flaunt a gluten-free label.
When you order tater tots in a restaurant, it’s important to find out if they are prepared in a shared fryer with menu items that do contain gluten. If so, they will pick up traces of gluten while frying. But if tater tots are fried in oil that only handles gluten-free items like tots, french fries and potato chips, you can rest assured that your order will remain free from gluten.
What Are Tater Tots Made of?
Tater tots are not much more than grated potatoes, oil, and salt. For example, these are the ingredients in Ore-Ida’s Golden Tater Tots:
- Vegetable oil blend (soybean and cottonseed)
- Yellow corn flower
- Sodium acid pyrophosphate (to retain natural color)
- Dehydrated onion
- Sodium acid sulfate
- Natural flavors
What Brands of Tater Tots Are Gluten-Free?
Most frozen tater tots are free from gluten-containing ingredients, but some are subject to cross-contamination during manufacturing. For example, Walmart’s Great Value Taters carry the following disclaimer with their nutritional information: “May contain traces of milk, eggs and wheat.” If you have celiac disease or a wheat allergy, “may contain” is too risky!
There is one widely available brand selling tater tots that are clearly labeled gluten-free, meaning that they have met the FDA standard of less than 20 parts per million (ppm) of gluten. To play it safe, Ore-Ida Golden Tater Tots and Mini Tater Tots are the way to go!
Other tater tot brands are not labeled or certified gluten-free are not labeled or certified gluten-free, but they also do not list any gluten ingredients, and they do not carry a warning about cross-contamination. The following brands (among others) fall into this category:
- Market Pantry Crispy Potato Puffs (Target website states “Does not contain any of the 8 major allergens”)
- 365 by Whole Foods Market Tater Puffs, Organic Tater Puffs, and Sweet Potato Puffs
- Alexia Foods Organic Yukon Select Puffs, Crispy Sweet Potato Puffs, and Crispy Seasoned Potato Puffs
- Trader Joe’s Trader Potato Tots and Sweet Potato Tots
- Cascadian Farm Organic Spud Puppies
- Publix Tater Bites
- Lamb Weston Tater Puffs
Yes, Ore-Ida brand tater tots are gluten-free! The Ore-Ida company (named after their headquarters’ location at the Oregon-Idaho border) makes regular golden tots, mini tots, and extra crispy tots. All three varieties are clearly labeled gluten-free, so they are safe to eat if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance.
According to the Sonic allergen guide, Sonic’s tots do not contain gluten. However, they are deep fried, so it’s important to find out if they share a fryer with gluten-containing foods. If gluten-free foods go into the same fryer as gluten foods, they will pick up trace amounts of gluten through cross-contact.
Some Sonic locations cook their fries and tots in a separate fryer from the breaded, gluten-containing fried foods. Ask at your local Sonic to find out if they keep their gluten-free foods separate or if they use a shared fryer.
Chick-fil-A lists their hash browns (aka tater tots) as a good menu choice for customers eating gluten-free. On the other hand, they also warn, “We cannot ensure that our restaurant environment or any menu item prepared in the restaurant will be completely free of gluten.”
When ordering at your local Chick-fil-A, ask if the hash browns share a fryer with gluten-containing items such as chicken nuggets. If so, there will be some cross-contamination and the hash browns will not be completely gluten-free.
Alexia Foods sells three types of tater tots: Organic Yukon Select Puffs, Crispy Sweet Potato Puffs, and Crispy Seasoned Potato Puffs with roasted garlic and cracked black pepper.
All three varieties appear to be gluten-free (they do not include any gluten-containing ingredients), but they are not certified gluten-free tater tots, so it is not guaranteed that there is zero cross-contamination during manufacturing.
Great Value Taters do not contain any gluten ingredients; the only ingredients are potatoes, palm oil, salt, dextrose, onion powder, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, and white pepper. However, the packaging comes with a warning: “May contain traces of milk, eggs and wheat.” Apparently, there is some likelihood of cross-contamination during production of these tater tots.
If you are on a strict gluten-free diet, pass on the Great Value brand and go for Ore-Ida, which are entirely gluten-free.
Tater tots and hashbrowns are basically the same food with different presentations. Both recipes take shredded potatoes and fry them in oil. For tater tots, the potatoes are shaped into bite-sized nuggets before they are deep fried. For hash browns, the potatoes are pan-fried in oil to create potato cakes. Both are crispy and delicious!
Classic tater tots are not exactly a health food. Made from white potatoes fried in oil, generously salted and perhaps dipped in ketchup, tater tots are like breakfast french fries. They can be simple and filling, but they are high in fat and don’t deliver many nutrients.
If you’re interested in creating your own homemade tater tots, there are several ways to make them healthier than the fast food or freezer aisle varieties. For starters, you may opt for all natural ingredients (no artificial colors, artificial flavors or preservatives). Shredded veggies could be mixed in with the potatoes, and salt can be kept to a minimum. Try spraying your tots with olive oil, then baking or tossing your tots into the air fryer instead of deep frying. Guilt-free, crispy tater tots!
Note: Green Giant makes a product called “Veggie Tots,” which feature cauliflower and broccoli in place of potato. While these tots may contain more nutrients than traditional potato tots, they do contain wheat, so if you are eating gluten-free, they are not for you.
The Bottom Line
Tater tots are made from potatoes, oil, salt, and not much else. However, most store-bought brands of tater tots are not certified gluten-free, which means that they could be subject to cross-contamination during manufacturing. Ore-Ida potatoes are the exception: rest assured that they are definitely gluten-free!
When you order tater tots from fast food or a sit-down restaurant, be picky about the process. Are the tots fried in the same fryer that handles food with gluten ingredients? If so, they may have been contaminated with gluten ingredients.