S.S.T. Balls are a holiday party favorite

(Photo by Jerry Dilsaver)

It’s been a crazy year, and I’m glad to finally be offering a recipe for December, for those Christmas parties, family get-togethers, gatherings for sporting events, tailgating and just about anything else where the invitation includes instructions on bringing a snack.

In past years, many of these recipes have involved fish, shrimp, bacon and/or sausage. This recipe also includes another thing I like, which is tater tots — but I bake them instead of frying them.

The name of this recipe, SST balls, comes from the ingredients, but they’re a mouthful to say. SST is short for shrimp, sausage and tater tots. Settle in and you’ll see how easily this treat is made. This is even better if it’s made with shrimp and sausage you provided. There is something special about it when you supply the fresh ingredients.    

One other thing regular readers will know is that I like foods with a little character and robust flavor. This is a treat that really lends itself well to preparing for everyone to enjoy. It can be made with mild- or medium-flavored sausage; the only other spice added is freshly ground black pepper. This allows folks with milder palates to enjoy it, too.

For those folks that enjoy more robust spices, I’ll suggest several dipping sauces. The recipe includes a simple sauce made by mixing a little Texas Pete Cha Sauce with mayonnaise and suggests sweet chili sauce, chipotle ranch and ranch dressing for those that prefer a different taste.

If you make this with wild-game sausage, please label it as such. I believe including game in treats like this is an excellent way of introducing new people to it, but be up front about the contents and do not surprise people with the ingredients after they taste it. Do not badger people to try game recipes either. Tell them what it is, explain that it is lean and healthy and let them decide for themselves. If they won’t try it or don’t like it, then there is more for those of us who do.

Tater tots are the ingredient that really sets off these snack balls made with shrimp and sausage. Shred the tots and bake them after mixing with the shrimp and sausage and forming into balls. (Photo by Jerry Dilsaver)

S.S.T. Balls


  • 2/3 cup diced raw shrimp,
  • 1/3 cup ground sausage — use mild or medium spicy
  • 4 cups tater tots
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Parchment paper
  • For dipping sauce:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • Texas Pete Cha Sauce to taste


Thaw tater tots. Peel, de-vein and dice shrimp. Shred tater tots into a bowl. Lightly brown the sausage and remove to drain on paper towels. Leave the drippings in the pan. Drop shrimp pieces into sausage drippings and sauté, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds to a minute maximum, then remove.

Put tater tots, shrimp, sausage, onion and cream cheese into a large bowl and season with pepper (to taste). Thoroughly mix the ingredients. Preheat oven to 425.

Line a shallow baking pan with parchment paper. Roll the mixture into balls a little smaller than golf balls and place on the parchment paper in the baking pan. Bake the balls for approximately 16 to 20 minutes. Brown them lightly on top while not allowing them to burn on the bottom. Allow the balls to cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving. 

Mix the mayonnaise and Cha Sauce. Use a cracker to taste it, and be sure it doesn’t get too spicy. When the sauce is light pink, it is mild, and as more Cha Sauce is added, it will become darker and spicier. Other dipping sauces that go with this well are sweet chili sauce, chipotle ranch dressing and ranch dressing. Don’t hesitate to try your favorite dipping sauce.

This is a tasty snack or appetizer for Christmas parties, gatherings of family and friends, Tailgating, watching sports events on TV and any other event where fun food is served. It is best when served warm, but tastes pretty good after cooling also. If you reheat the balls, it is better to spread them on a cookie sheet in the oven at about 250 for 15 minutes than to microwave them.

(Photo by Jerry Dilsaver)

This is another of my “how about” recipes that is simple; most folks will enjoy it. This is a treat that folks don’t leave the last one to be polite, but someone gladly eats it, too.

The idea came about while eating kipper snacks with hot sauce and saltines while fishing. A lot of shrimp were rolling out a creek mouth, and it began with a comment like, “We ought to catch a bunch of those shrimp and eat them instead of this.” 

The brainstorming started and included several good and several ridiculous ideas. It was on my mind when I got home and I began tinkering in the kitchen. The process flowed, and I added the sausage and tater tots, while my wife suggested cream cheese to bind it together. I continue to experiment and have added chopped jalapenos, cheese and several options. Some have worked out pretty well and some not so well. This recipe is basic and, as I suggest so often, experiment with it on your own.

Shrimp are the prime ingredient. I would use smaller shrimp. I think they are a little more tender and are definitely easier to mince. However, don’t overlook larger shrimp; they taste fine, too. 

Many folks will make this with domestic sausage, and that’s fine. It’s certainly easier to get. I prefer to make it with feral pork or venison sausage that was blended to my preference. 

The recipe makes well and tastes fine using domestic sausage, but you must use a premium brand, not the store special, which will be greasier; it’s tough to get all the excess grease out, even pressed between layers of paper towels. Visit a butcher shop or farm store and use one of their premium sausage blends.    

I haven’t discovered much difference in tater tots. I simply want tots that use pieces of diced potatoes. It seems minor, but it makes a difference to allow the tater tots to thaw completely before being shredded and mixed.

 I have made this using cream cheese right from the refrigerator and with it defrosted. I haven’t noticed a difference in taste, but believe I like the consistency of the balls better with it right out of the fridge, even though it’s easier to blend in when defrosted. Cutting the cream cheese into small pieces makes it easier to mix in.

Only sizzle the sausage on medium until it begins to change color. It will cook the rest of the way in the oven. Remove the sausage without removing the drippings. Drop the diced shrimp into this for a short time (30 seconds or so) to add some flavor. Stir it the whole time so it doesn’t stick or burn and also remove it without removing the drippings. 

I bake the balls, but folks who prefer frying will find them to be excellent fried. I believe a deep fryer will be best for frying, but the balls could be flattened and cooked in a shallow frying pan. 

This recipe was intended from the beginning to be an appetizer or hors d’oeuvre. Adding dipping sauces in vary degrees of spice makes it tasty for everyone. I added the simple dipping sauce that mixes Texas Pete Cha Sauce with mayonnaise. I suggest Texas Pete for this as it has a smoky, sweet taste that isn’t overly hot. Try any of your favorites too. Give this a try and I believe you’ll try it again.  Enjoy!

About Jerry Dilsaver 1171 Articles
Jerry Dilsaver of Oak Island, N.C., a full-time freelance writer, is a columnist for Carolina Sportsman. He is a former SKA National Champion and USAA Angler of the Year.

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