French Fries Obsession: Behind Its’ Popularity in the US (and Beyond)

French fries are so famous in the United States that the average American eats about 30 pounds of the salty and crispy potato every year. Just about every restaurant in the US has some form of fries on the menu, while every grocery store stocks frozen fries in the freezer section. What makes this fast-food menu item so popular?

French fries are famous in the US because of the combination of fat, salt, and starch in a convenient package. They pair well with other foods, such as burgers, fish, or steak. Fries can be dressed up with a fancy bearnaise sauce, or they can be simple, such as chili cheese fries. 

Fries are irresistible for many reasons, so let’s dig in and get started!

These are 15 reasons why French fries are so popular:

1. The Flavor Makes Them Irresistible.

The combination of fat, salt, and starch creates an irresistible flavor that most people love. Fries are popular in the United States because of the fatty and salty flavor that pairs well with many different flavor profiles. 

2. Fries Can Be Formal or Informal.

Restaurants throughout America, regardless of how informal or formal they are, have some type of fries on their menus. Fine dining restaurants elevate their fries with truffles or other upscale flavorings to match their menu theme.

But french fries are also informally sold by street vendors, at fairs, carnivals, and in fast-food restaurants and diners all over the nation. The delicious but somewhat ‘neutral’ flavor goes well with any food, no matter if it is a formal or informal setting.

3. French Fries Pair Well With Other Food.

While french fries are usually paired with burgers or battered fish, they also go well with other foods like a base for nachos, or chili, or even gravy. Steak fries, which are cut thick and either baked or fried, are served with steak, chicken, or alongside breakfast dishes in many diners. 

Regular french fries are used as the base for other dishes, such as chili cheese fries or nacho fries (fries are used in place of chips for a nacho dish). Some restaurants put a meat-based topping like steak or hot dogs. The simple flavor allows other foods to shine.

4. French Fries Are an American Icon.

In the 1950s, J.R. Simplot had chemists develop frozen french fries that would cook up crispy in less time than it took previously. But, since many Americans didn’t want to fry french fries at home, Simplot marketed them to restaurants. French fries took off after that and were sold in more places, becoming an American icon and symbolic of American cuisine.

5. French Fries Are Profitable for Restaurants.

French fries are inexpensive to make and serve with other foods, yet bring in a higher profit because fries add value to a dish without much expense. Restaurant meals that require higher-priced ingredients are often more expensive to the customer, so they often use cheaper ingredients like french fries to supplement the entree. 

Customers like french fries or other fried potatoes, which makes it worth including on the menu at a profit.

6. Fries Are a Comfort Food.

Potatoes make so many comforting dishes, such as mashed potatoes, potatoes au gratin, home fries, and baked potatoes. French fries top the list because of their association with good family memories of sitting down to a meal together and bonding over good food. For many people, french fries represent warm feelings and close friends. 

7. Going Out for Fries Is Convenient.

Most people don’t have the equipment to cook french fries at home properly, and even if they did, it’s less convenient to get everything set up than it is to drive to the local fast-food joint to order fries. Sitting down to a meal out, especially a meal with french fries, eliminates the cleanup work that comes with making a home-cooked meal.

8. Many People Love the Smell of Hot French Fries.

Drive into the parking lot of any fast-food restaurant, and you will immediately smell the familiar scent of french fries cooking. For many people, this scent pulls them in to get the fries. 

Scents are often associated with memories of days gone by when life was simpler. So when they smell hot french fries, it automatically signals the brain that they need to have some fries. 

9. The Mouthfeel of Fries Can Be Addicting.

McDonald’s is known for their crispy fries–it’s what they became famous for. The mouthfeel of french fries is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, making it addicting. Other places try to duplicate this mouthfeel but only come close. The reason? McDonald’s soaks their fries in a sugar solution before frying them, which creates a crisp texture on the outside. 

10. Fries Are a Trusted Menu Option.

When restaurants put french fries on their menus, they know they will sell well, because people want their fries. Over half of Americans would order fries as a side dish for either lunch or dinner, making it a safe and trusted menu option.

11. Frozen Fries Are Easy to Store and Prepare.

Compared with making fries from scratch, frozen fries are a simpler option for many restaurants, as they are much easier to store and prepare. They can be stored in the freezer until ready to use, then dropped in the fryer when needed. There is no mess of peeling and slicing the potatoes, nor do they need the second fry time, as they are already parboiled and ready to use.

12. Many Variations of Fries Make Them Popular.

The one thing about french fries that make them so popular is the variations that qualify as fries. There are waffle fries, steak fries, American fries, cottage fries, and home fries, among others. Tater tots are not technically fries, but many people consider them to be fries. Root vegetables can also be made into french fries. The many french fries variations are what makes them popular.

13. Fries Can Be As Simple Or As Complicated as You Wish.

Whether buying a cone of fries at a street vendor or eating steak covered fries in a restaurant, french fries can be simple or complicated–whatever you desire. While most people are happy with a burger and fries, the more adventurous seek out more complicated french fry dishes. 

14. French Fries Are a Blank Canvas.

Since french fries go well with everything, they are essentially a blank canvas on which to create artistic and delicious dishes. For instance, carne fries start with french fries as the base, then grilled steak, caramelized onions go on top. To finish off the dish, cheese sauce, pico de gallo, beans, corn, sour cream, and guacamole go on top.

15. Fries Are the Perfect Vehicle for Delicious Sauces

Many countries have their favorite sauces to dip their fries. The US loves ketchup, mayo, and ranch dressing for dipping, but those are not the only sauces for dipping. Garlic aioli, salsa, gravy, sour cream-based sauces, and even meat-based sauces are perfect for fries. Some people swear that vanilla ice cream and fries go together well.

Last Word

There is one thing for certain–Americans love their fries. The soft center mixed with the crispy outside, especially when eaten hot, creates a love that lasts a lifetime for many people.

Those who are on low-carb diets try to avoid fries because of how many carbs they have. But that doesn’t stop them from creating substitutes from lower-carb vegetables, such as turnips or parsnips. People even “bread” avocado slices and bake them to mimic french fries. That substitute may not satisfy a real french fry craving, but at least one thing is certain–people don’t stop trying to satisfy their cravings, no matter what diet they are on.

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This article was co-authored by our team of writers and editors who share one thing in common: their passion for food and drinks!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco works as a New York-based editor at Foodrinke, driven by his lifelong love for food. His culinary journey began in childhood, as he eagerly assisted his mother with her local sandwich and bakery business, relishing every opportunity to sample her creations. Known among family and friends as an easy eater, JC has a particular affinity for Chinese, Italian, Mexican, and Peruvian cuisine. At Foodrinke, he channels his passion for food into his work, sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge with readers.