Enjoy National French Fry Day The Delicious Way

In our house, every day is National French Fry Day. That’s because we love to devour them with gravy and gooey cheese — hello, poutine — or even dip them in our Frosty milkshake when we go to Wendy’s.

But do you know how french fries became the global sensation that they are today? The secret to achieving restaurant-quality fries at home? Or whether they’re even really French?

To be honest, according to AP Style, you’re not supposed to capitalize the F in french fries, but it just looks all kinds of wrong to me. So, you may see me flip flopping on that capitalization throughout this article.

A white plate filled with golden, crispy baked French fries, seasoned with herbs and spices.
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

Along the way, you might pick up some insider tips about where to score Fry Day freebies and discover a game-changing way to make french fries at home, including homemade fries in the air fryer. Or things you can order with french fries on them, like the poutine pizza, shown below, that I enjoyed at a food truck park in Southern Maine.

A pizza topped with French fries is in an open cardboard box. The box has a checklist for ingredients with options for Extra Cheese, Sausage, Mushroom, Anchovies, Peppers, Pepperoni, Meatball, Onions, and Special. Celebrate National French Fry Day with this unique twist on your favorite slice!
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

Chips, french fries or pommes frites? The fry’s history 

According to Smithsonian magazine, thousands of years ago, the Indigenous peoples of the Andes in South America were the first to domesticate many different varieties of potatoes. Spanish and other European colonizers subsequently brought potatoes back to Europe, where someone had the bright idea of cutting these interesting new tubers into strips and frying them. But who?

The French, Spanish and Belgians all claim credit for inventing french fries. As National Geographic explains, according to one legend, during a particularly icy winter, Belgian villagers along the frozen River Meuse couldn’t catch anything for their traditional dish of fried fish so they fried potatoes instead.

And why call them French fries? Another popular story, according to the BBC, tells that American soldiers first encountered the dish in the Belgian city of Namur during World War I. The soldiers started calling these tasty potatoes “French fries” because the people serving them all spoke French.

Today, french fries are beloved by millions around the world. In fact, Americans alone consume a whopping 4.5 billion pounds of french fries per year, according to Mashed. Perhaps the most iconic American dish is a grilled hamburger paired with french fries, a crisp salad and, of course, lots of ketchup.

A basket of seasoned, golden-brown fries is served with a small container of ketchup.
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

There are seemingly endless dishes featuring french fries: poutine, moules frites and fish and chips are all favorites — with chips being the British way of referring to fries. In Britain, what we call chips are actually called crisps. I get such a kick out of international and regional terms and sayings.

Celebrate National French Fry Day with freebies

Craving fries yet? Every second Friday in July, many major American restaurants have made it a tradition to give away freebies in honor of National French Fry Day.

In 2023, Smashburger offered free fries with any purchase, Hooters dished up free fries with any entrée and White Castle shared a special buy-one-get-one-free coupon for fries. Heinz and Uber Eats also teamed up to help customers enjoy free french fries on some orders.

And if one day just isn’t enough to celebrate your love for fries, then you’re in luck. Both Wendy’s and McDonald’s give away free french fries every Friday, or fry day, for the rest of the year when using their app and making another purchase.

In fact, I might just be guilty of downloading the McDonald’s app to my iPhone, just to get those free fries on Fridays. Also, with the points I earn from ordering breakfast from McDonald’s — Egg McMuffin, hold the Canadian bacon and a large iced coffee — I can enjoy free or really cheap fries at other times during the week.

A smartphone screen displays a reward for large French fries redeemable for 4500 points in celebration of National French Fry Day. Options include adding to a mobile order, McDelivery, or using at a restaurant. Expiry date is 01/01/2025.

A french fry for every occasion 

The classic, most well-known french fries are simple rectangles, also called straight-cut fries. Crinkle-cut fries are a slight variation: instead of cutting the fries into clean rectangles, their edges are cut into jagged shapes. Here are some other tasty versions of french fries:

  • Shoestring fries: Like regular fries, but a little bit skinnier and longer. These are also sometimes called julienne fries after the cutting technique used to make them.
  • Waffle fries: Waffle fries are cut to produce a lattice pattern. Their round, crispy form makes them perfect for loaded french fry recipes, like indulgent enchilada fries topped with cheese, guajillo sauce and black beans.
  • Curly fries: Cut using a spiralizer, curly fries are short ringlets of potato-y goodness. They’re a staple at beloved chains like Arby’s and can also be found frozen.
  • Sweet potato fries: Chewy and mouthwatering, sweet potato fries can come in any shape. They’re delicious even when oven-baked, making them a healthier option. Also, you can make a homemade version in the air fryer. Finally, whenever I’m eating out and have the option to upgrade my fry side to sweet potato fries, I always say, “Yes!”
Close-up of a pile of seasoned sweet potato fries garnished with small green herbs, served on a white plate—perfect for celebrating National French Fry Day.
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

A better way to enjoy fries at home

French fries are best served hot, crisp and chewy, which usually means right out of the fryer. So what happens if you want to enjoy french fries at home? Ordering delivery can be pricey, and also means that the french fries will probably cool down before they get to your home.

But if you have an air fryer and some frozen fries, you have everything you need to create better-than-takeout french fries right in your kitchen. Or, you can try our recipe for homemade french fries in the air fryer for a healthier option.

Preparing french fries in an air fryer is not only healthier than deep frying them; it’s also an opportunity to customize the french fries to your liking. You can season them with your preferred blend of spices and top them with whatever you like.

A fork holding a few cooked French fries over a batch of fries inside an air fryer basket.
Photo credit: Bagels and Lasagna.

Plus, reheating any leftovers in the air fryer will restore that soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside texture the next day — a far cry from those sad, cold fries kicking around at the bottom of your greasy takeout bag.

Favorite dips and toppings

French fry lovers prefer different kinds of dips and toppings. For example, my daughter Annie will only eat them with ketchup and Heinz-brand ketchup at that. I’m like Annie in that I prefer plain ketchup, too. However, recently I tried truffle ketchup at a restaurant. Chef’s kiss delicious.

Some people prefer to have their fries drenched in vinegar or dipped in spicy sriracha aioli. Then there is the Brits’ preference to eat them with mayonnaise. If it’s an aioli mayo, I’m OK with that. But the plain stuff? No thanks.

This article originally appeared on Food Drink Life.

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