National French Fry Day on July 13 is a great opportunity to take the time to sample some golden-brown potato slices. But did you know that the origin of French fries is more than likely not French at all? Potatoes were being fried in Belgium way before the French, but more on that later. When it comes to the tastiest French fries on the planet, everyone seems to have an opinion. It’s a time-consuming decision to find your favorite because no two restaurants seem to have the same recipe. French fries do have a nutritional stigma attached to them, however, due to high-caloric and fat content. But it’s tough to say no to a hot batch — even the ones at the bottom of the bag.
When is National French Fry Day 2023?
Crinkle-cut, English style, or McDonald’s famous fries, French fries are enjoyed and celebrated on National French Fry Day on July 13.
History of National French Fry Day
Estimates say Americans eat around 30 pounds of French fries per person each year. That seems like a lot, but when you think about all the ways you can eat fries, it adds up quickly. They’re easy to gobble down, whether they’re straight out of a fast-food French-fry container or whether you’re an expert at making fries at home. Add in all of the different condiments, and these simple potatoes become even more popular.
The term ‘French fries’ refers to deep-fried slices or strips of potatoes. While the precise origins are unknown, the item hit the culinary scene sometime in the 1700s. It had taken an entire century for potatoes to become widely accepted as food, arriving in Europe in the 1600s.
Like most iconic foods, the French fry has an interesting folk story about how it was created. Belgians call dibs on the origins of French fries, claiming it to be an invention of their people. According to a manuscript by Joseph Gerard, the residents of the Meuse Valley, located near Dinant in Belgium, consumed a lot of fish, since they lived near the river. During winters, when the rivers would freeze and fishing would become difficult, the idea to slice potatoes like fish fillets and fry them in hot fat was born.
But all credit does go to the French for popularizing frying foods and selling them in public on street carts called ‘frites,’ in the mid-1700s. Eventually, potatoes were cut in all sorts of shapes and fried. As to how French fries arrived in America, there are two versions of that story, too. The more popular and accepted fact is that Thomas Jefferson brought the dish to the U.S.A. While serving time as an ambassador, Jefferson spent a lot of time in France and went on to serve “potatoes served in the French manner” at a White House dinner in 1802.
The other theory is that World War I soldiers who were stationed around Dinant in Belgium took a liking to the local finger food known as ‘pommes frites’ and took the idea back with them. This is when French fries really took off and became mainstream in the U.S.
National French Fry Day timeline
Thomas Jefferson serves "potatoes served in the French manner" at a White House dinner.
Recipe for "French Fried Potatoes" included in "Cookery for Maids of All Work" by E. Warren.
The first McDonald's opens in San Bernardino, California, selling hamburgers, sodas, milkshakes, and French fries.
McDonald’s starts cooking their French fries in vegetable oil.
National French Fry Day - Survey Results
NATIONALTODAY.COM FRENCH FRY SURVEY
Data gathered by a top San Francisco Marketing Agency (survey of 1,000 Americans)
AMERICA’S ULTIMATE RANKING OF FAST FOOD FRIES
#1: McDonalds (35%)
#2: Chick-fil-A (13%)
#3: Five Guys (12%)
#4: Wendys (11%)
#5: Arbys (11%)
#6: Burger King (7%)
#7: In n Out (4%)
#8: Sonic (3%)
#9: Shake Shack (3%)
#10: Carls Jr. (2%)
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE STYLE OF FRIES?
#1: Regular (21%)
#2: Curly (20%)
#3: Steak-cut (14%)
#4: Crinkle (13%)
#5: Waffle (13%)
#6: Wedges (7%)
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE CONDIMENT TO PUT ON FRIES?
#1: Ketchup (55%)
#2: Ranch (15%)
#3: Cheese sauce (8%)
#4: Barbecue sauce (7%)
#5: Mayo (4%)
FRIES DIPPED IN MILKSHAKES, YES OR NO?
#1: No, that’s gross (33%)
#2: Yes, I love it (21%)
Regular, waffle, Belgian, steak, thick-cut, crinkle-cut, cottage, wedge, curly, shoestring, tornado, and of course, the smiley face, today is the day when fries are celebrated in all shapes and sizes. It is truly amazing how all these variations of fries just seem to taste different and have their own softness and crunch-factor. Try as many as you can today without worrying about your waistline.
To add to the fun, there are countless condiments and toppings that go with fries. Reach out for good ol’ ketchup, or try different sauces and obscure flavors like Nutella!
By the Numbers
165 pounds – the amount of fried potatoes consumed in Belgium annually by every person.
30 pounds – the amount of potato fries consumed by the average American every year.
⅓ – the number of the world’s fries produced by McCain Foods.
90 seconds – the time vending machines in Belgian grocery stores take to fry potatoes and push them out.
1982 – the year when John Calvi wrote an ode to French fries.
7 – the percentage of potatoes grown in the U.S. that are used by McDonald’s.
20 – the ingredients used in McDonald’s’ famous fries recipe.
2-4 – the age of children at which fried potatoes are their highest consumed vegetable.
15 – the types of French fries available.
10,000 – the attendance at the annual French Fry Feed event in the U.S.
National French Fry Day Activities
Try them with a new condiment
Although Americans usually eat their French fries with ketchup, consider experiencing another culture’s condiment on National French Fry Day. Folks in Great Britain eat fries with malt and vinegar. You’d use melted butter and sugar on your fries in Vietnam. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find a new favorite.
Try a new seasoning with your fries
Most people cook their French fries in salt, and leave it at that. But you can sprinkle all kinds of seasonings on French fries, giving them a unique taste. Some people like to use a Cajun seasoning with fries, for example. Find the right seasoning, and, as blasphemous as it sounds, you might even decide to skip dunking them in ketchup.
Consider making your own fries at home
It’s going to be tough to outdo your favorite restaurant’s French fries, but you can use National French Fry Day as an excuse to try to make some fries at home. This can be a messy process, especially the frying step, but you can try a few different variations and seasonings this way. And even if you don’t succeed, you’ll have a much greater appreciation for the fry cook at your favorite local restaurant.
5 Delectable Facts About French Fries
French fries were originally known as ‘French fried potatoes’ in the U.S. — by the 1930s, the ‘potatoes’ was dropped.
It’s in the skin
The skin of potatoes has important nutrients and vitamins that are at times not peeled when making French fries.
Higher fat content
Steak fries have lower fat than regular cut French fries.
Love me some spuds
The slang term for potato, ‘spud,’ comes from the spade-like tool that is used to harvest the potatoes.
Burning off the calories
To burn off calories from consuming a medium-sized order of McDonald’s French fries, one will have to bowl for 90 minutes, bicycle for 58 minutes, or engage in high-impact aerobics for 50 minutes.
Why We Love National French Fry Day
Some restaurants provide free French fries
The best way to find some free French fries on National French Fry Day is to follow the social media accounts of restaurants. A few different places offer free fries with a meal purchase or by using a digital coupon. We’re not sure people need an excuse to eat more, but free certainly works.
French fries go great with almost anything
Sure, the pairing of French fries and hamburgers is ingrained in the American diet. But fries taste great with many different kinds of food, including sandwiches, steak, and even eggs. And although most people will dip their French fries in ketchup, you’ll find people also dipping fries in plenty of other condiments, including ranch-flavored salad dressing, mustard, and even milkshakes. Heck, as strange as it sounds, some people even eat them plain.
There are so many variations
The thin French fry sticks, often called shoestring fries, that are popular with fast food restaurants are the most common type of fry variation, but you can’t stop there. There are waffle fries, steak fries, curly fries, crinkle-cut fries, home fries, and wedge fries. We wouldn’t recommend trying every variation on National French Fry Day, but we won’t discourage those of you who like a challenge.
National French Fry Day dates
National French Fry Day Featured Video
Celebrate National French Fry Day!