A Recipe for Millet Tots This Nutritionist Loves
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Registered dietitian and plant-based diet specialist Cynthia Sass shares her recipe for transforming millet into tots, plus why this gluten-free whole grain is growing in popularity.
A new take on tots
Good news for tater tot lovers: There’s a new way to enjoy them.
Classic tater tot recipes usually feature potatoes. But these tots make use of a lesser-known ingredient—millet. Unlike wheat, oats, brown rice, and quinoa, millet isn’t a commonly consumed grain in the United States, though its popularity is expected to grow—and for a good reason. This ancient whole grain is one of the world’s oldest cultivated crops. It has a rich history in India and remains the sixth most popular cereal grain in the world.
Reasons to try millet
Americans are now embracing millet as a naturally gluten-free, nutrient-rich plant-based food. Each cup of cooked millet provides six grams of plant protein, energy-supporting carbohydrates and B vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, including magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, copper, zinc, iron, and potassium, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and research in the journal Food Science & Nutrition.
A one-cup cooked serving packs 24 percent of the Daily Value for manganese and 19 percent for magnesium. Manganese plays a role in carbohydrate and protein metabolism and is needed for healthy bones, wound healing, and collagen production. Magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in the body, including muscle and nerve function, and blood sugar and blood pressure regulation, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Why use millet?
From a culinary perspective, millet is quite versatile. The grain can be enjoyed in place of oats as a sweetened breakfast porridge, blended into a smoothie, transformed into a plant-based pudding, or incorporated into baked goods. Millet also works well in various savory recipes, from grain bowls and soups to stuffed peppers or squash, and plant-based casseroles.
How to make millet tots
Another fun and simple way to enjoy millet is in tot form. Swapping potatoes for millet results in a crispier texture, to the delight of those (including me) who enjoy a bit of crunch. If you’re new to cooking with millet, don’t worry. It’s an easy-to-use ingredient.
First, rinse dry millet with cold water and strain. Pan toast one cup of rinsed millet, stirring constantly, for about four minutes. Add three cups of water and a pinch of sea salt, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Then remove from heat and let sit for five minutes.
Cooked millet is hearty, with a bit of stickiness. Combined with the sautéed onions, seasoning, and millet flour, the mixture binds easily to form tots. I used Eden organic millet ($3 per 16-ounce bag) and Arrowhead Mills organic millet flour ($4 per 23-ounce bag).
(Here’s some advice on using millet flour in gluten-free baking.)
Serve as an appetizer or snack, with any of your favorite plant-based dips, like all-natural ketchup, cashew “cheese” sauce, or vegan ranch. Here’s the simple and satisfying recipe to make tasty millet tots.
Courtesy Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD
Crunchy Millet Tots
1/3 cup minced yellow onion
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cooked millet
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil spray
3 tablespoons millet flour
Sauté onions in olive oil over low heat until translucent. Add the cooked millet, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine thoroughly and heat through.
Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool for five to 10 minutes until it’s safe to handle. Stir in millet flour.
Using your hands, form the mixture into 14 uniform balls. Squeeze each tot to bind the mixture thoroughly, so that they won’t break apart.
Place the tots on a baking sheet coated with extra virgin olive oil spray. Bake in a preheated 400 F oven for 20 minutes, and flip halfway through.
- Whole Grains Council: "MOST AMERICANS NOW MAKE HALF THEIR GRAINS WHOLE"
- Whole Grains Council: "MILLET AND TEFF – NOVEMBER GRAINS OF THE MONTH"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: "Millet, cooked"
- Food Science & Nutrition: "Comparison of phenolic content and antioxidant activities of millet varieties grown in different locations in Sri Lanka"
- National Institutes of Health: "Magnesium"