Fries by any other name would taste as good. Whether you call them French fries, chips or pommes frites, chances are that you have them all the time. However, do you know the ins and outs of this irresistible snack?
Although fries are usually made with deep-fried sliced potatoes, they can be made out of pretty much any raw food cut in bite-sized pieces and cooked in high heat. They can also be seasoned or flavored with all kinds of spices (e.g. Cajun seasoning, ) and toppings (e.g. gravy and cheese, carne asada, “loaded” fries, etc.) to turn them from a snack into a meal in itself.
Types of fries
French fries are the most common type of fried potato in the world. They are served in nearly all major fast food restaurants and are sliced relatively long and thin so you can easily eat more than one at a time.
Why are they called “French” fries?
Many assume that it is due to the way the potatoes are cut, that they are “frenched.”
However, Thomas Jefferson is credited for coining the term. Historic records show that he spent 5 years in France in the late 18th century where he acquired a taste for French food, including pommes de terre frites à cru en petites tranches (translation: raw fried potatoes in small slices). In 1802, Jefferson hosted a dinner at the White House and requested potatoes made “in the French manner” prepared by his French chef.
A theory suggests that the term was popularized in World War I since this dish was introduced to American soldiers by French-speaking Belgians. The soldiers referred to the fried potatoes as “French fries.”
Chips are the British version of sliced fried potatoes. Although the term “chips” has grown to refer to most types of deep-fried potatoes, it traditionally refers to those that are sliced slightly thicker than French fries.
crinkle cut fries
These are made of potatoes sliced in a wavy shape to add a bit more surface area to each fry. Fast food chains known to serve these include Shake Shack and Del Taco.
These are made from potatoes cut in a curly, spiral shape. They are seasoned and typically more orangish in color than traditional fries. Fast food chains that serve curly fries are Arby’s and Jack in the Box.
Home fries are cubed potatoes, often seasoned and pan-fried. They are commonly served for breakfast with eggs and bacon or sausage.
pommes frites a.k.a. Belgian fries (Belgium)
Pomme frites are thick, hearty fries. They are often served with various sauces (e.g. aioli, mayonnaise, mushy peas, mustard, rémoulade or salt & vinegar) besides the common commercial ketchup.
Potato wedges are aptly named since they are simply wedges of potatoes sliced lengthwise. They are thick and have the skin left on for greater texture and flavor. These can be found at your local KFC.
These are the thin-cut fries that are made out of julienned potatoes and fried into thin crispy “sticks.”
slap chips (South Africa)
Slap chips are a South African style of fries that are slightly thicker than French fries. They are a bit crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The term “slap” in South African means “soft.”
Steak fries, along with potato wedges, are the thickest of fries. They can hold their own when served with a hearty steak.
Tornado fries are those crazy tall spiral sliced potatoes that you’ll usually find at the state or county fair. Unlike the curly variety, these look more like a connected stack of potato chips on a stick. They were invented and popularized in South Korea.
These fried potato snacks are more disc-like in shape rather than in thin sticks and cut in a waffle-shaped pattern. This provides much more surface area and greater texture. Fast food chains that serve these fries are Carls’ Jr., Chick-fil-A and Jollibee.
Fries with toppings
carne asada fries (Southern California)
These Mexican-inspired carne asada fries are topped with seasoned beef slices and other toppings (e.g. sour cream, cheese, guacamole, etc.) They are a popular item at taco shops in San Diego and LA.
chipsi mayai (Tanzania)
Chipsi mayai (translation: chips and eggs) is a Tanzanian french fry omelet. It is a popular street food in East Africa which, in its most basic form, consists of beaten eggs and sliced potatoes cooked in oil.
curry chips (Ireland/England)
Curry chips are thick fries enjoyed with a savory and slightly sweet curry dipping sauce.
garlic fries (U.S.)
Garlic fries are French fries topped with roasted garlic and seasoning. It is a popular dish that was invented in San Jose by the founders of Gordon Biersch (Dan Gordon and Dean Biersch). In 1994 it was introduced to baseball fans at the former Candlestick Park in San Franciso. They are have become a popular food item at SF Giants games and other ballparks.
loaded fries (U.S.)
This is a general term for fries that are covered in a variety of toppings (e.g. cheese, bacon bits, sour cream, etc.). A well-known version of loaded fries is served at the regional fast food chain, In-N-Out, which calls them “Animal fries.”
moules frites (Belgium)
Moules fries are a Belgian dish made of mussels and fries. It is known as the national dish of Belgium.
patatje oorlog a.k.a. war fries or war chips (Netherlands)
Patatje oorlog (pronounced pa-tazh OR-lokh) is a Dutch dish of fries topped with peanut sauce, mayonnaise and onions.
Poutine is a staple Canadian food of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. It is considered to be the national dish of Canada.
Salchipapas are a Peruvian dish of french fries topped with sliced beef sausages or hot dogs and dipping sauces (usually ketchup, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, aji chili sauce, and/or crema de aceituna.
These are fries made from ingredients other than potatoes. They are often fried and cut to look like French fries, but have a variety of flavors depending on the main ingredient.
These are your run-of-the-mill orange carrots that are sliced and fried just like the traditional version.
halloumi fries (U.K.)
Halloumi fries are fried sticks of halloumi cheese, which is a type of cheese that is resistant to melting.
pasta fries / pasta chips
Pasta fries have been around since the 2010s, but saw a bump in interest when a related snack went viral on TikTok trend in the summer of 2021, pasta chips.
Taro is very similar to potatoes since they are also starchy root vegetables, which make they a great alternative to fries. However, they can be a bit more challenging to obtain depending on where you live.
These are one of the most popular alternatives to French fries since are generally easily accessible, have a mild flavor and hold up well when fried.
Different ways to make fries
Air-fried fries are a healthier alternative to making fries than traditional deep-fried fries. Using an air fryer allows the fries to be made with less or no oil while producing an exterior crispier than baking since the hot air circulates in a relatively smaller space.
Baked fries are the healthiest way to make fries since they are cooked slower with less intense heat. However, they may lack the crispiness of other methods.
This is a less healthy way to make fries since they are directly exposed to high heat rather than simply hot air. It is considered slightly less unhealthy than deep frying since the fries are not fully submerged in hot oil.
Deep frying fries is the most common, albeit the least healthy method to make fries. It cooks fries very quickly since the potato slices are soaked in very hot oil, which creates a satisfying crisp.
Unfortunately, this method of cooking can also form the chemical, acrylamide, which is considered to be a human carcinogen by the US National Toxicology Program. This enforces the importance of enjoying any type of indulgent food in moderation. Enjoy responsibly!
More about fries
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Chipsi mayai (a.k.a. chips mayai or zege) is a popular street food in Tanzania. Chipsi…
Love meat and potatoes, but tired of the same steak and mashed potatoes? Enter carne…
What are salchipapas? Salchipapas are a Peruvian street food commonly enjoyed in Latin America. The…
Kristina Reynolds is the Founder & CEO of Glutto and an alumna of the University of California, San Diego. She writes articles & posts for Glutto Digest with insights from fellow industry experts. Furthermore, she is the author of The Fittest Food Lovers: How EVERY BODY Can be Incredibly Fit and Still Enjoy Food, a collaborative philanthropic book with proceeds going to charities that fight world hunger.