The last time we shopped at the Commissary Papi Chulo looked horrified when he saw me place a head of cauliflower in the cart. Normally he trusts me to make food choices and gladly eats everything I make, but the cauliflower prompted him to say “You know I don’t really like cauliflower?” I replied, “Oh, don’t worry, neither do I, but there’s something I want to try.” Cheesy cauliflower tater tots. Then I promptly assured him I would make them while he was at work, if he wanted, and wouldn’t be angry if he didn’t like them, which helped him relax a little.
In all honesty, “tater tots” is probably a bit of a misnomer, I just couldn’t think of what else to call them. Baked cauliflower bites, maybe? But that sounded a little like I was just baking bits of cauliflower, and there’s more to it than that. These don’t taste much like a ‘real’ tater tot, but they also don’t taste much like cauliflower. They are, however, totally tasty.
I have to admit this recipe was inspired by Pinterest. I saw a picture of cauliflower tater tots and clicked over to check it out. Then I did a Google search, read a few more recipes, and decided I would make my own recipe using far fewer eggs than what I’d seen called for and panko instead of regular breadcrumbs. The idea to add Greek yogurt came along later because, as you know if you’ve visited my blog before, I’m obsessed with it. Besides, I needed a way to hold the tater tots together after removing 3 out of eggs. Yes, many of the recipes I saw contained 4 eggs. That seemed downright unnecessary!
- About half a head of cauliflower, or just over 2 cups of cauliflower florets
- ½ a small to medium union, chopped fine
- Olive oil
- 1 egg
- ⅓ cup of plain Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
- ½ cup of finely grated sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ teaspoon of thyme
- ¼ teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon of salt
- ½ cup of panko bread cubs
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Roughly chop just over 2 cups of cauliflower and steam for about 4 to 5 minutes, or until it's starting to get soft but not mushy.
- Remove the cooked cauliflower to a colander and drain. Allow it to sit in the colander while you prepare the onions.
- Heat a skillet on a medium burner with about half a tablespoon of olive oil, or as much as needed to lightly coat your pan. When the oil is warm, add the finely chopped onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onions are beginning to turn translucent.
- While the onions are cooking, crack the egg into a large mixing bowl and beat it thoroughly with a fork until it is yellow and frothy-looking.
- Whisk (or fork) the Greek yogurt, parsley, cheese, thyme, pepper, and salt into the egg.
- Add the onions to the mixing bowl and combine.
- If necessary, dry the cauliflower florets on paper towels. Chop 2 cups of the florets as finely as possible without simply smashing them. If you're tempted to use a food processor - hold off for just a second until everything is combined.
- Add the cauliflower and panko to the egg mixture and stir until combine.
- Transfer the mixture to a food processor, working in batches if necessary, and pulse two or three times for a couple of seconds each time. You don't want to puree anything!
- Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray or olive oil. It's easy to spread the olive oil into a thin coating if you use a paper towel.
- Using your hands, form tablespoons of the cauliflower mixture into slightly flattened log shapes. Mine ended up being sort of three-sided, but you can also make balls and then flatten them with a fork.
- The cauliflower bites won't really expand in the oven, so you only need to place them .25-.5" apart on the baking tray. Make as many as you can or keep going until you fill up your tray.
- Place your tray of cauliflower bites on the middle rack of your pre-heated oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until they hold together well enough to flip them over using a spatula.
- Flip all of the cauliflower bites. This promotes even browning and prevents them from simply sticking to the pan later.
- Continue baking for 10-15 minutes, or until they're starting to brown. If you feel like adding a little unhealthy, melt about a tablespoon of butter and brush it over the cauliflower bites during the last 5 minutes of baking.
- Remove the bites from oven and loosen them immediately with a spatula, but let them rest on the baking tray until they're cool enough to eat.
- Serve and enjoy!
If you’re having trouble getting the cauliflower bites to stick together, try pulsing them in a food processor, briefly, another time. If they still won’t cooperate, put the mixture in the fridge for 10-20 minutes. It will make them take slightly longer to cook, but it can also help them hold together a little better.
These little guys are downright delicious, and even Papi Chulo admitted they didn’t taste like cauliflower in the end. Success! If you’re only using about a tablespoon of mixture per cauliflower tater tot, you may run out of baking sheet space before you run out of cauliflower. The good news is they freeze well and can be baked from frozen – you just need to add about an extra 10 minutes of cooking time. Once you run out of cooking space, form the rest of the tater tots and place them on a sheet of wax paper, parchment paper, freezer paper, etc. and place them in the freezer for about 20 minutes. Once they’ve started to freeze individually, transfer them all to an airtight container and leave them in the freezer until you’re ready to enjoy! Having a heavy-duty baking sheet that won’t warp is key to cooking anything evenly, and a great one for about $25 on Amazon. I have the Wear-Ever half sheet aluminum baking pan, the Cook’s Illustrated baking sheet test winner and it’s fantastic!
Until recently, I hadn’t discovered how versatile stealthy cauliflower can be. You can use it in all sorts of dishes without the overall product tasting cauliflower-ee at all! The first time I tried this was with my sausage-stuffed Paleo-friendly acorn squash. The cauliflower stuffing tasted great and the recipe has been a success – it’s one of my most popular recipes on the blog.
What’s your favorite sneaky (or not so sneaky) way to use cauliflower?