The quest for healthy french fries will never end because let's face it, french fries are everyone's favorite but we all know they're far from a health food. They can be made healthier, however, and you can even enjoy keto fries if you're on a low-carb diet. From careful ingredient swaps to alternative cooking methods (air fryer included, of course), here are a few simple ways to make healthier fries and scratch that snacking itch in a more nutritious way.
1. Be sweeter
While they make for a less traditional-tasting french fry, sweet potatoes offer an excellent alternative and increase a fry's nutritional value. Check out our sister site Chowhound's excellent baked sweet potato fry recipe, using cornstarch, ghee, minced garlic, paprika, chili powder and black pepper. Be sure to avoid overcrowding the rack (or pan, if you're frying) to ensure even cooking. Pull them out when they appear golden brown and crisp. Fried sweet potatoes tend to hold the oil so you'll likely have best results with baking, which brings out their bountiful, natural sugar.
2. Embrace spices
While french fries are often defined by the flavor they take on, consider cutting back on the salt and incorporating other, more harmless flavors. Garlic, rosemary, thyme, paprika and onion powder are just a few flavor punch alternatives to avoid excess sodium intake. If you're opting for sweet potatoes, think about using a sweeter spice -- like cinnamon, brown sugar or nutmeg. (Go easy on the sugar though. We're trying to be healthy here.) Or try something new, like vadouvan, "a French interpretation of Indian masala curry powder, blending classic curry spices of mustard seeds, fenugreek, cumin, coriander, cardamom and chili peppers with aromatic onion, garlic and shallot. Another favorite fry spice is za'atar, a smoky middle eastern blend of sesame, sumac and other fragrant herbs. In a pinch, (get it?) Trader Joe's everything but the bagel spice does nicely, too.
3. Forget the fryer
Consider this: "French fries" are not at all French. They were actually made popular in the US after American soldiers learned the recipe from some French-speaking Belgians. If the word "French" is a fallacy, why not nix "fry" too? Slice a few potatoes into half-inch pieces, going longways. Place the potatoes in a bowl with two tablespoons of olive oil -- or just enough to entirely coat each potato. Add spices of your preference: garlic and parmesan are a classic but you could also hit them with a spicy Cajun seasoning.
Then, instead of a fryer, pop them in the oven on a baking pan lined in foil or parchment and covered in cooking spray or oil. Bake them at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 15 minutes or until brown. By avoiding the fryer, this baking method cuts out a lot of the grease (and potential for hot oil accidents) -- and if they're not from France and we want a more accurate alliteration, we could dub them "Belgian Bakes."
Another oil-free option is the grill. Just be sure to keep an eye on them, turning the french fries often to avoid sticking (see our grilled sweet potato recipe for more pointers).
4. Or use an air fryer
In fact, definitely use an air fryer for french fries if you have access to one. A happy medium between the dreaded deep fryer and the baking sheet is the air fryer, which has become a favorite kitchen gadget for those seeking crisp, nearly oil-free potato fries (or other veggie fries or chips). Because it uses super convection -- or very hot quickly circulating air to cook your food -- you need far less oil (sometimes none) for a satisfying crunch. Try this easy air fryer french fries recipe. Air fryer's work well with homemade fries or store-bought and frozen. Try tater tots, the french fry's more rotund cousin, in an air fryer too. They won't disappoint.
5. Nix the oil
Speaking of oil, combined with the baking method, you can replace the oil with another crisping agent such as whisked egg whites or broth. By using one or both of these healthier alternatives, your french fry still has the crispiness you want without the weight of heavy oils. Or, just leave those potatoes naked, as in this oil-free baked fries recipe. If you go the substitute route, consider spicing the egg whites or broth before saturating the potatoes for extra flavor.
Read more on Chowhound: The best keto BBQ sauces you can buy
6. Go potato-free with keto fries
Whether or not you're actually on keto, try opting for a different vegetable instead of filling up on carb-filled potatoes. Jicama fries are one popular option, albeit still too high in carbs for strict keto eaters. Zucchini, however, is a great choice. This baked parmesan zucchini fries with marinara dipping sauce recipe brings a healthy crunch with plenty of zesty seasoning and nutty cheese. (If you're on keto, you'll need to swap the bread crumbs out for almond flour or even finely crushed pork rinds, but otherwise, you're good to go). You can also treat turnips, parsnips and rutabagas the same way and all do well in an air fryer.
If you're missing fried potato chips, our veggie chips are another great snack alternative with plenty of crunch and can be made from a wide variety of vegetables. They're the perfect guiltless binge snack, especially with the right sauce.
Speaking of which...
7. Be smarter about sauces
No matter what kind of fries you make, they're begging to be dipped in some kind of sauce. But commercial ketchup and other store-bought condiments are often high in sugar and salt. Creamier dips, including ranch and mayo-based dips, can add back all the calories you saved and then some. One solution is to make healthier homemade sauces like paleo ketchup or Greek yogurt ranch dressing. Try something less conventional like our garlic mint Greek yogurt dip recipe, which pairs particularly well with sweet potato fries. You can also swap in vegan alternatives to use in place of dairy.
Read more on Chowhound: 12 delicious vegan sauces to put on everything
While in general, fries hold a special snack place in most of our hearts, it's not hard or expensive to create healthier alternatives at home. Baking fries, breaking out the air fryer, minding your spices and oils and nixing the potato altogether are just a few ways to turn our guilty pleasure into more nutritious, guilt-free satisfaction. So next time you need a pal for your cheeseburgers or a snack between meals, consider a french fry of the healthy (er) persuasion.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.