16 Ways To Add More Flavor To Homemade Fries

There are few foods more universally loved than deep-fried potatoes. They're crispy, crunchy, starchy, and (most importantly) delicious. Fries make an incredible side but they also can be used as a wrap or sandwich filling, and have even nuzzled their way into becoming the main event for hearty dishes like poutine. They can be a vehicle for flavor, and pair beautifully with a variety of spice mixes, sauces, and toppings. So why keep things vanilla when you can shake them up with a little culinary creativity? 

Whether you use a trusty deep frier, oven, or air fryer, the goal is always to get the crispiest potatoes every time. Once you have a solid crunchy foundation, it's time to start experimenting with flavor. While ketchup is a traditional go-to in the U.S., the options are infinite for maximizing the flavor potential of your fries. Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks.  

Incorporate umami with truffle oil

Truffle fries seem like the fancy, elite fry that finds its way onto gastropub and gourmet menus, but in reality, they are very easy to make at home. Unfortunately, most truffle oils are fake and do not actually contain truffles. Instead, high-quality olive oil is mixed with a synthetic compound that tastes like the pricey fungus. If you're going to pay top dollar for a fancy oil, you might as well be enjoying the good stuff. This is why it's important to always check the ingredients before buying truffle oil. Once you get your hands on some real 'shroomy goodness, remember that it's quite potent and you should only use a little at a time, which should be reassuring after you've seen that price tag.

Once the fries come out of the deep frier, oven, or air fryer, immediately toss them in a drizzle of truffle oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Refrain from salting fries beforehand, as salt draws out moisture from the potato and can leave you with a rubbery instead of crispy texture. If you're lucky enough to have a truffle, grate just a bit over the top of the fries as a garnish for a truly decadent side. 

Have it all with everything but the bagel seasoning

Everything bagel seasoning has become a mainstay in spice cabinets due to its versatility. This spice mix is famously used to top avocado toast, eggs, hash browns, and roasted veggies. Fries are also worthy of the new-age seasoning as they pair particularly well with the blend of dehydrated garlic and onion flakes, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, salt, and black pepper.

Simply bake or fry your potatoes as you normally would, and then when they are ready, toss them in your seasoning. Let them sit spaced out before serving to avoid the fries steaming each other up and losing their crunch if they are oven baked. When it comes to the dipping sauce, mix mayonnaise with pickle juice and Worcestershire sauce. While this combination sounds bananas, it's tangy, delicious, and pairs perfectly with everything fries. Ketchup or plain mayo are both safe alternatives as well for a less experimental eater.

Take inspiration from the Belgians

While it may seem like Americans are the only ones obsessed with putting mayonnaise on everything, that's not always the case. In fact, it's standard in many European countries to enjoy french fries with mayonnaise, or a combination of mayo and ketchup. The reason those from Belgium top their frites with mayo is that it enhances the flavor, but there are endless theories about why it's glopped on with such vigor in that part of the world.

If you've never tried this heavenly combination, then it's time to grab that jar of mayo in the back of your fridge and get dipping. While it may seem like there's enough salt and fat in fries already, we think if you're already indulging, why not go all the way? In comparison to the tangy punch of flavor that ketchup brings, mayo tends to be a bit more mellow, and the creaminess pairs wonderfully with the crispy outer layer of the fry. Start by mixing ketchup and mayo if straight mayonnaise seems overwhelming, but we are certain you'll love the fatty addition.

Bring the heat with spicy mayo

Mayo is an elite dipping sauce for your homemade fries, but it may be even better when you incorporate a layer of spice. There are plenty of simple ways to prepare the combo, and the easiest is to use a pre-made hot sauce and pre-made mayonnaise. 

When choosing which kind of hot sauce to roll with, it's all about personal preference. While siracha is an easy go-to when it comes to spicing up any dish, there are plenty of international hot sauce options out there. Buffalo and Tabasco sauce are welcome additions, but if you like it hot and have a variety of options in the pantry or refrigerator, any hot sauce will do. No sauce in the house? Use chili powder, chipotle powder, or cayenne to heat things up. If you go the powdered route, it doesn't hurt to add a little apple cider vinegar or pickle juice to bump up the acidity.

Go gourmet with garlic, parsley, and parmesan

Ever go out to eat and see parmesan garlic fries on the menu and have to actively try not to drool? If so, it's time to bring your favorite flavored french fries to your very own kitchen. Fry or bake your spuds to perfection, and season them with coarsely ground black pepper, just a tiny bit of sea salt, freshly minced parsley or dried parsley, garlic powder or granulated garlic, and grated parmesan cheese. Don't overdo the salt, because as we all know, parmesan can get the job done.

Once the ingredients are hot and tossed together, pop them back on the baking sheet to set for a few minutes if they are oven-prepared to prevent them from getting soggy. This also gives your parmesan cheese a chance to melt a little. Once those taters are settled in and are no longer too hot to handle, plop them on your plate and enjoy.

Bring some Louisiana vibes with Cajun spices

If you've ever visited Louisiana, you're probably familiar with Cajun seasoning.  The spicy, aromatic, and peppery blend is used on everything from catfish and shrimp to roasted veggies and rice. If you're making your own homemade Cajun spice mix recipe, then it's much easier to regulate heat, but if you're buying store-bought expect it to be hot, especially if it's authentic.

For oven-baked and air fryer french fries, those spuds can be tossed right into your salt-free Cajun spice mix. If you're going with a deep fryer, or have included salt in your spice mix wait until afterward to dust your bounty with spices. If at any point you're having trouble getting the herbs and spices to stick, consider paying attention to the amount of oil you've used. Even a little bit of oil should promote sticking, but too little or too much can make it difficult. When roasting fries, remember to choose a high-temperature oil like avocado or peanut instead of EVOO.

Get cheesy with nacho fries

These are nacho average french fries (see what we did there?). Okay, cheesy jokes aside, a great way to add more flavor to homemade fries is to pile them high with popular nacho toppings including cheese, guacamole, onions, diced tomatoes, and refried beans. Start by making french fries, however your method, and let them cook to perfection. 

If you plan on using real cheddar cheese, lay your cooked fries out on a baking sheet (a step you can skip if they were baked, to begin with) and layer in thin slices or shreds of cheese. (If you prefer a cheese sauce, simply drizzle it over the fries.) Then dollop refried beans and any other toppings you'd like to be warmed up on top. Heat the fries until the cheese is melted and the toppings are hot, then remove the pan from the oven. For fans of heat, top with jalapeños, hot sauce, or spicy salsa. If you're feeling meaty, adding carne asada, grilled chicken, or carnitas will make this a full-fledged meal.   

Consider a curried ketchup plunge

Curried ketchup is a popular condiment that originated in Berlin. The flavor fusion is made with dozens of ingredients including curry powder, sweet onion, paprika, mustard, and cayenne. While it is typically used for currywurst, the popular German snack that combines bratwurst and curried ketchup, it makes an incredible condiment to dip fries into as well.  There are multiple brands that offer bottled versions (you'll find a few options on Amazon), but you can simply blend the spice mix with ketchup. Better yet, prepare your own homemade ketchup from scratch. 

Paired with curried ketchup, consider making black pepper and turmeric fries. The seasoning will not only be beautiful and bright with a welcoming pop of yellow, but the earthy and peppery flavors of the spices will bring the fries up a while notch before they even enter the dipping sauce. Feel free to dust the duo onto the spuds pre-baking or air frying.

Shake on some malt vinegar and salt

If the combination of salt and vinegar works well sprinkled on potato chips, then it only makes sense that the duo is an ideal seasoning for french fries. In fact, in England, malt vinegar is a typical accompaniment to fries, or "chips" as they call them, along with other fried foods.

What distinguishes malt vinegar from your average white or balsamic, is that it's made from malt barley or ale. It has a distinctive flavor and is sweeter and milder than most vinegar. While this form of vinegar is not gluten-free, it does fit the parameters of most diets and is easy to find in grocery stores. Some burger and fry joints in the U.S., including the popular chain Five Guys, even offer it as a condiment. Simply splash the vinegar over your fries (a little goes a long way) and enjoy; it's that easy.

Add coarsely ground black pepper

Salt may dominate the french fry scene when it comes to spicing, but we believe you're forgetting about another common table spice that deserves to be considered. As basic as it may seem, adding a little pepper to the mix can go a long way. Pepper and salt are often used in combination because the salt brings out the flavor of the food, while pepper adds a little kick to excite those taste buds. And when considering the different types of peppercorns, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Fancy it up by using flakey sea salt, and coarsely ground black pepper. Not only will the side dish be aesthetically pleasing with pops of texture, but it will also add variety to an otherwise predictable dish. Take it one step further and consider tri-colored peppercorns, which usually contain little sparks of red, black, and brown. Serve your fries on a toasted piece of parchment paper and freshly grind the pepper right at the table, releasing the almost floral, peppery scent. Now that's what we call classy.

Minced garlic for the win

Just like using vanilla in baking, there can never be too much garlic when it comes to savory dishes and fries certainly fall into that category. Mince as much garlic as you can stand, and lightly sauté it in extra virgin olive oil. Do not overcook it, garlic should be cooked until fragrant but should never have the chance to brown. Remove from heat before it's done cooking, as the hot oil will continue to heat it, and scrape into a large bowl along with some sea salt and pepper. Don't add too much excess oil, a teaspoon or so should do the trick.

Cook your spuds until golden brown, and then let them sit for just a few minutes to set. Take caution when transferring them to the large bowl with the garlic oil, as they will still be hot, and then toss them vigorously. We recommend tossing the bowl instead of stirring the fries around with a utensil to help the crispy potatoes keep their form. Enjoy fries infused with everyone's favorite aromatic.

Wing it with buffalo blue cheese sauce

If there's something Americans can't get enough of, it's the bitey, tangy, powerful combination of buffalo sauce and blue cheese. Whether it's in the form of wings, pizza, or dip, there's something so powerful and alluring about the punchy combo. Why should fries be left out of all the fun?

There are several ways to incorporate buffalo and blue cheese into your fries. The first is by mixing buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing to make a tangy, smooth, creamy combo for dipping. Another way is to drizzle hot fries with buffalo sauce, and then top them with crumbled blue cheese. Allow the cheese to sit on top of the fries for several minutes before serving, to let it soften and begin to melt.

You can also simply drizzle both buffalo sauce and creamy blue cheese dressing right on top of the fries. Consider making your own buffalo sauce and blue cheese dressing, or you can opt for store-bought. Both come in dairy-free options for those vegans or lactose-intolerant folks.

Drizzle on some awesome sauce

Fancy sauce, special sauce, animal sauce, awesome sauce ... every brand has its own way of describing it but we are referring to that creamy, tangy, chunky spread that is often found layered between toasted buns and burger patties at popular fast food chains and trendy breweries. Luckily, it's quite easy to make at home and is an incredible dipping sauce for french fries.

Simply mix together ketchup, mustard, mayo, diced sweet or dill pickles, chopped sweet onion, and pickle juice or apple cider vinegar. If you opt for dill pickles then add a tiny splash of maple syrup or sweetener of choice. Add more pizazz and dust in onion and garlic powder, and a little black pepper. This sauce is tough to put your finger on, but will be sure to grasp the attention of any dinner party guest or your family, and may even surprise you! 

Take it up a notch with rosemary garlic seasoning

It's no surprise (or at least it shouldn't be) that deep-fried potatoes aren't a super healthy choice. Potatoes tend to get a bad rap because they are often paired with high-fat toppings, but tubers are actually healthy on their own, per UC Davis Health. It's when they are plunged into a vat of boiling oil that everything changes. With that in mind, you might want to consider an herb "reported to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic and anticancer properties," according to a study published in Nutrients (via The National Library of Medicine), and it just so happens to pair beautifully with potatoes. Enter, rosemary.

If you're oven-baking fries, feel free to include raw rosemary right into the spice mix, along with granulated garlic, and black pepper. Use your fingers to strip fresh rosemary right off the stem. The herb will toast along with the fries and the outcome is quite aromatic and tasty. If you're deep frying your spuds, toast a little rosemary in a hot pan, with or without oil, in order to bring out the flavor and remove some of the bitterness. When the fries come out of the oil, toss the herb in along with your salt and other seasonings. This gourmet french fry preparation pairs beautifully with red meats and dark vegetables. 

Deep fry them in duck fat

If you've ever ordered duck at an upscale restaurant then you know that a good portion of the flavor comes from that thick strip of scalded fat that accompanies the lightly seared meat. It's jam-packed with flavor, and of course, incredibly rich. If you up with a pool of that precious liquid, don't let it go to waste. Instead, keep the drippings in your refrigerator and use them to make a decadent batch of duck fat fries.

Unlike standard cooking oil, duck fat is slightly sweet and gamey. Beyond bringing on the flavor, the addition will also help with the crispiness of your fries. Simply use duck fat in your deep fryer, or coat those spuds in the gamey fat before roasting them in the oven. Garnish with truffle salt, cracked black pepper, and fresh parsley, or simply enjoy the natural flavors of the potatoes and fat. 

Go fresh with herbs like tarragon

Fresh herbs often provide contrast and flavor to deep-fried potatoes that are often hot and oily. There are plenty of options to choose from, but the secret ingredient that can really boost your fries in flavor is tarragon. You may have come across this mellow yet distinctive spice alongside chicken, in soups, or incorporated into creamy lemon dishes. It's light but has a subtle licorice flavor along with notes of citrus and pepper, which can help to round out a dish without overwhelming it. Tarragon is slightly earthy and can be added either fresh to your fresh-out-of-the-oven french fries, or added it can be added dried. If you plan on going fresh, feel free to add up with three times more tarragon that dried, or let your palate decide when enough is enough.

Fresh tarragon is beautiful and looks like a cross between rosemary and grass, with an edible stem. It can provide a nice athletic to your basket of fries, and give it a burst of flavor and soft sweetness. Pair tarragon with black pepper, sea salt, and garlic powder, or enjoy it as the only flavor booster in your basket of fries.