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Cauliflower Tots Are A Lie

Examining the dubious nutritional claims for this uninspiring potato alternative.

"Move over, potatoes," reads the back of the Green Giant bag. "There's a new 'tot' in town." Bold words, considering the tot is one of North America's favorite snacks.

From elementary school lunch rooms to pubs serving gourmet poutine, tater tots are an icon. They also happen to be a personal favorite, especially as a casserole topper. Far be it from me to argue with a 55-foot monster, yet I found myself skeptical that the cauliflower version could compete with a classic. Still, I'm all for health-based or eco-conscious alternatives, such as swapping lentils for ground beef or subbing in the occasional plant-based protein. So on my latest trip to the store, I tossed a bag of cauliflower veggie tots in my cart, grabbed a "control" sample of traditional tater tots, and readied myself for an experiment. Spoilers: It did not go well.

Let me preface this by saying I understand dietary restrictions are real and that nutritional needs often differ. Whether you're a diehard Keto advocate or simply trying to incorporate more cruciferous veggies into your diet, then more power to you. We're not looking down on these practices, just examining whether cauliflower tots are, as the packaging and internet would have us believe, the perfect hybrid of "good taste" and "good for you."

While taste may be subjective, ingredients are decidedly not. So, before we dive into the flavor, let's examine the tale of the tape.

Cauliflower tots are arguably less healthy than tater tots

At first glance, the nutrition labels seem to present an easy choice: 130 calories per serving of Green Giant Veggie Tots versus 150 calories per serving of house-brand ALDI tater tots. But take a look at the serving size: Six pieces of Green Giant (21.67 calories per tot) as opposed to nine pieces (16.67 calories per tot) for the taters. And in that smaller serving, you're getting the same amount of total fat (7 g) and double the saturated fat (1 g vs. 0.5 g). The cauliflower also has more sodium (310 mg vs. 290 mg per serving), plus two grams of sugar as opposed to the sugar-free classic tots.

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These aren't huge variances, to be sure. And the veggie tots do have more fiber and protein per piece, along with a fractionally higher vitamin content. But look at the carbs, which the entire internet claims is the main reason to switch to cauliflower: 2.5 g per tot, with the potatoes clocking in at 2.3. I might be just a hack food writer, but I can do basic math.

The only other widely available tot alternative that I've been able to find comes from Birds Eye. Those veggie tots have significantly fewer calories (100 per eight-piece serving) and a bit more fiber. But they aren't just cauliflower tots—they're Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Potato Tots. I actually think this is a great idea, combining all three to provide a balance of nutrients and flavor.

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The nutrition, flavor, and price of cauliflower tots don’t add up

The numbers above would be less damning if these tater-alternatives were tasty. But they're not. As you can see in the below photo of my savory lentil-tot casserole, there's a significant difference in browning between the cauliflower bites on the left and the traditional tots on the right. I also tried the veggie tots alongside a burger; in both cases, the flavor was unpleasant and soggy. Even ketchup couldn't save them.

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Not only are Green Giant's standalone cauliflower tots less healthy and poor tasting, but they cost significantly more. I paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $6 for a 14-oz. bag, while 32 oz. (two pounds!) of tater tots runs only $4.

We're not arguing against the value of cauliflower. I'm a big fan of it in curries, pastas, roasted in the oven, or seared on the grill. And Chick-fil-A's new cauliflower sandwich sounds incredible. There's no question that this unassuming vegetable can accomplish a lot.

But as a replacement for tater tots, this one's gonna be a "no" from me. There are homespun recipes that are almost certainly more flavorful, though probably not much healthier, if that's what you're concerned about. The Green Giant can keep his Veggie Tots. I'd rather eat my cauliflower raw.

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