Diner-Style French Fries (and Fry Sauce)

CATEGORIES: Kate, Potatoes

There is something about diner food, or even the suggestion of diner food, that seems to have magical powers over people. One morning a few months ago, I was watching Gilmore Girls and Lorelai and Rory ate some particularly delectable-looking burgers and fries at Luke’s Diner. That night, I was out with some friends and there were at least two of us who said that we’d been craving a big burger and homemade fries all day…and then we realized that we’d all watched Gilmore Girls that morning!

I have so many happy memories associated with food like this–stopping at a roadside diner after swimming all day with friends or family, lots of long summer days and breezy summer nights. Sure, Oven-Baked Fries or Sweet Potato Fries are super-tasty, but every once in awhile, you just need the real thing. And by “the real thing,” I’m not talking Wendy’s–not to diss the perky redhead or anything, but I had Wendy’s fries for the first time in a long time not too long ago an they were not worth the calories.

I do have a couple of tips/precautions, especially if you’re not using a deep fryer (which I don’t; I really don’t fry enough to make it worth it to me).

  • You’re only using a few ingredients, so make sure your potatoes are as fresh as possible; this isn’t the time for those semi-soft sprouters in the bottom of the vegetable drawer…
  • This is a great date-night activity because it helps to have an extra set of hands. It is not a great activity to involve your kids in (at least the frying part). If you do it with small kids around, make sure they can’t get to you while you’re cooking the fries.
  • Definitely wear closed-toe shoes; long sleeves aren’t a bad idea, either.
  • Have all your equipment ready before you start frying
  • Only use canola or peanut oil; they have the highest smoke point of all the oils. Canola oil is better for your heart, so that’s what I use.
  • This sounds like a no-brainer, but don’t touch anything straight out of the oil. When you’re working fast and it looks like you’re about to lose one of your precious little beauties, it might be tempting to grab the sucker before it falls on your (tennis shoe-clad, of course) foot. Just let it go…
  • Don’t be scared, just be careful. This is seriously such a fun thing to do, and as long as you follow the instructions and keep an eye on the temperature of the oil, you’ll be just fine. If you feel better about it, keep a fire extinguisher handy.

Diner-Style French Fries
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High-quality (like stainless steel or cast iron) 8-quart kettle or pot OR a deep fryer with adjustable temperature settings.
Candy thermometer (if not using a deep fryer)
2 paper towel-lined plates (plus extra paper towels)
A wide metal slotted spoon or spatula
A large mixing bowl of ice water
A very sharp chef’s knife


1 lb. Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean but not peeled (try to keep them small enough to fit in the palm of your hand to make sure they’re easy to cut)
Freshly-ground pepper (optional)
48 oz. canola or peanut oil

Carefully cut potatoes vertically into 1/4″ slices.

Divide stack in half with the flat surface of the potato on the cutting board and carefully cut potatoes into 1/4″ fries (you may need to remove the round top slice and then cut that part later if you find it’s slipping while you’re trying to cut the potatoes).

Toss any pieces that are too skinny–they’ll just burn when you’re cooking–and trim down any extra-large pieces. Place cut potatoes into the bowl of ice water and repeat with remaining potatoes. When finished, pour the entire bottle of oil into the pot/kettle/deep fryer and bring to 325 (keep the candy thermometer in there the whole time) over medium-high heat. When the oil is about 310-315 degrees, drain the potatoes so they’ll be ready to go into the oil as soon as it’s hot enough.

When oil reaches 325, turn the heat all the way up to “high.” Place 1/2 of the potatoes into the hot oil and stir frequently for 5-6 minutes, or just until they’re starting to show signs of being cooked. Remove from the hot oil and drain on one of the paper towel-lined plates. They look a little grim. You may be doubting me. You may be doubting yourself. Fear not! We’re not done yet.

Bring the oil back to 325 and then fry the second batch of potatoes. You know the drill–stir frequently, remove after 5-6 minutes, drain on paper towels.

Now…this is where things get fun. Bring the oil up to 375. When you’re there, add the first batch of fries back to the oil and fry for 1-2 minutes. They’ll get brown and crispy fast, and they’ll continue to brown a little after you remove them from the oil, so as soon as they start getting brown enough, get them out of the oil and drain them on the paper towels. As soon as they’re out, give them a very liberal sprinkling of salt while they’re still very, very hot.

Bring the oil back to 375 and fry the second batch of fries, following the same directions. Who’s super excited? I’m super excited and these aren’t even on my (or my thighs’) radar right now…

Now…some of you may not be familiar with Utah-style fry sauce, but this is pretty much a must for hand-cut homemade fries. I know it’s not everybody’s thing, but if you’re not familiar with it, I think you should give it a shot and see what you think; my feelings won’t be hurt if you hate it. Wanna know how to make it?

Fry Sauce

1/4 c. ketchup
1/4 c. mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip! Tried it once in a pinch and it was beyond horrible!)
2-3 tsp. chopped dill pickle

Combine and serve with homemade fries or onion rings.

Okay, I’m honestly not being a comment whore here, but I really am super curious–what do like on your fries? Is it a personal thing or a regional thing (or both)?




  1. I’ve never heard of this ‘fry sauce’, I’ll have to give it a try.

    Out here in Manitoba, Canada, everybody knows the best thing with greasy-delicious-diner-fries is a liberal sprinkling of salt, a sprinkling of vinegar, and then eat as-is or dip in ketchup. nomnomnom.
    I just started salivating and it’s 7:57 in the morning. you’re a cruel, cruel woman.

    1. I have never tried malt vinegar on my fries, but in Manitoba (and most of Canada) it’s just plain old white vinegar! You even get vinegar in packets at fast-food joints! We usually stock up at McDonald’s before coming down to the States, because they just don’t have any here – anywhere! When you get good fries, the best thing is a little sprinkle of vinegar, and a sprinkle of salt and…heaven.

  2. I love diner fries! I’m already thinking of how I can drag 3 kids to the local diner…or not. But, I have been on a mission to create a ‘to die for’ fry sauce. I use some BBQ sauce and some of my homemade chili sauce, a drop of Worcestershire sauce, and a little sugar, as well as the mayo and ketchup. It really is the best I’ve had! Thanks for the great recipe.

  3. Love french fries. Love love love them. Infact my blog is called ‘cranberry fries’.
    Ha! I make my frysauce without the pickles and I love it, but I’m from Utah.

  4. When we go back to Canada to visit family we always get fries with brown gravy… it’s so good. My 6 year old is actually counting down the days till she get’s fries and gravy (we wont mention that to the aunties and uncles).

    Burger King, McDonalds, etc. they all ask if you want “gravy with that” when you order fries. At Costco in the food court you can buy a huge thing of fries (the best I’ve ever had) with gravy.

    Oh, all of those places also offer “puotine” which is fries, gravy and CHEESE!
    And now I’m craving fries and gravy… thanks guys 🙂

  5. We are big Gilmore Girl fans at our house – every day 5:00 p.m. PST and I even have my big 6’1″ – 23 year old son addicted. My husband still doesn’t get it!

    I drool over the fries in Luke’s Diner every time! Yum!

    I think fry sauce is a Utah/Idaho thing. I had never had it before visiting my future in laws in Idaho for the first time!

  6. I prefer my fries virgin. I look at them like a good steak. They should be good enough to eat on their own (without sauce), otherwise, they are are subpar in quality.

  7. hate to burst your bubble but pickles are not supposed to go in fry sauce. not the original stuff anyway. sounds too much like thousand island for me. you want the best fry sauce ever…mix mayo and condensed tomato soup. mmmm!

  8. I grew up in Idaho (and have lived in Utah too) so I definitely love fry sauce. When I make it at home I will sometimes put in a couple of teaspoons of pickle juice, but never the actual pickle. I also like the fries sprinkled with seasoned salt!

  9. Yeah, I should’ve said the pickles are optional, although Steph, your pickle juice idea is brilliant–that’s what I love so much about the pickles is the tanginess (and also why I don’t love the tomato soup method; it’s too sweet for me. Different strokes, right?? 🙂 )

    And Leigh Anne, I have my hubby hooked on Gilmore Girls–he used to mock me endlessly about watching it and then he got hooked when I was watching it after my DD was born.

  10. Using BBQ sauce instead of ketchup in fry sauce is my fave. That’s how they do the “special” dipping sauce at Training Table for their cheese fries. I feel my arteries clogging just thinking about it . . .

  11. Oh, Rachel, you’re killing me–cheese fries from the Training Table with the dipping sauce! Sooooooooo evil and so good!

  12. Yumm…
    I like my fries dipped in barbecue sauce or ranch. Not a fan of fry sauce – but that probably has something to do with the fact that I don’t like ketchup! 🙂

  13. FRY SAUCE, please!

    Unless I am in Spanish Fork (southern Utah County), and then I go for Glade’s WHITE SAUCE. I’ve heard it’s mayo, buttermilk and sour cream or something like that. It’s to die for.

  14. I had never heard of fry sauce in my life until I went to Utah! Love it though. Who would have thought there were so many strong opinions on how it should be made?? lol.

    I love fries dipped in just about anything. Kate, these look awesome!

  15. You had me at Gilmore Girls!

    I love ranch on my fries(especially if they’re cheese fries!) or ketchup is always great. I’m actually not a huge fry sauce person, so I’m the black sheep in my family. Though the fry sauce and fries at Shivers (in the East Mill Creek area of Salt Lake) are awesome.

  16. My boys love fry sauce from Utah. No ones ever heard of it in GA. I like to dip my fries in a Wendy’s frosty.

  17. You’ve got to love the Gilmore Girls, I’ve always wondered how they eat all of that food and stay so skinny…oh wait, it’s a TV show, that’s how! These fries look delicious! In Pleasant Grove, Utah there is a little restaurant called “The Purple Turtle” and they make the.best.fry.sauce.ever. That’s my absolute favorite way to eat fries. Otherwise, I’m all about ketchup, salt, and pepper.

  18. Vinegar, definitely vinegar. It isn’t good on fast food fries, but so yummy on diner-style fries.

    DH is the fry-king here. He makes a mean batch of french fries. Yum!

  19. fry sauce! but hold the pickles and add a little bbq sauce ( and i’m in utah). we always par-boil or par -bake the potatoes a bit. it makes them even better!

  20. I am from utah and love my fry sauce. I have never put pickles in it, but i dont like pickles or vinager flavor. People kind of look at you strange when you ask for a side of mayo to make it with when out to eat. My ultimate favorite is training table cheese fries with their sauce made with mayo and bbq sauce… Wish i still lived in utah i have been craving that!

  21. I hadn't heard of fry sauce until we were in St. George, UT for a football game and passed an Arctic Circle hamburger place. My friends told me it was the best but we didn't stop so I never tried it. On Maui we always ate our fries with ketchup and mustard (still do) but lately we've been mixing Ranch dressing with Tabasco or A1 steak sauce with a liberal amount of black pepper. Yum!

  22. I LOVE lemon pepper on my fries, my dad always did this when we lived in Idaho and now I do it for my family, oh and I TOTALLY agree that is you use miracle whip for the fry sauce it is beyond grotesque, you need the real deal. I love your website and I have to say my favorites so far are the homemade french dip sandwiches (amazing) my husband LOVES the taquitos I've done both pork and chicken. And we just did the chicken penne bake and it was wonderful. Thanks a ton!

  23. when i was at byu we had garlic fries at the Creamery and we dipped them in mayo….they were so good….omg i want them now…i don't even think they make them like that anymore, but they are so absolutely delicious!

    i've noticed that the "fry sauce craze" is making its way east, i see a lot of people here that always ask for mayo so they can make it at restaurants.

  24. My mom use to always mix ketchup and mayo together when I was a kid for dipping fries. I also loved it on my hot dogs (still do!). I just thought it was one of those weird "mom" things. But a couple years ago a girlfriend of mine, who is from Utah, saw me doing that and she told me about fry sauce. She bought me a bottle of the yummy deliciousness and I am hooked. I am very excited to try this recipe!!

  25. I love fry sauce! I am kind of a snob when it comes to it and only like it from certain places. I have never made my own! I do mix tarter and ketchup on occasion though when I am craving it and can’t get it from my favorite places. There is a sandwhich place my boyfriend and I always eat at when we are in Eastern Washington, it has the best fries and fry sauce! It just isn’t a trip without it! If i cant get fry sauce I go with ranch. I am not a ketchup fan!

  26. Mmm, I really must try this fry sauce. Sounds yummy. We dont’ eat a lot of fries, but when we do, they are sometimes dipped in maple syrup. I personally prefer something creamier, but my dad does make the best maple syrup on the planet, so it’s hard to resist!

  27. I just have to say, I just tried these out. WONDERFUL!! We like our fries a bit crispy so I left them in for a couple of minutes longer on the second round. I really like the tip of putting them in ice water before hand. I am sure this was the key. Thanks so much for your wonderful insights. I am looking forward to more things I can try. 🙂

  28. Just came across this looking for a good dipping sauce to make for some fries tonight. I live in Germany and gotta tell you the ketchup/mayo mix is pretty popular here. And most Germans just dip their fries in Mayo. Sounds gross, but it’s not half bad. The calories on the other hand? Ick.

  29. I actually like mayo with barbque sauce, like training table resturant! Haven’t had it in a while any recipes would be greatly appreciated. I am not sure if those were the only ingredients in the sauce. When i do it that is how I make it.

  30. What do you do with the leftover oil? Can it be reused? I hate buying an entire container of oil for the rare occasion that I fry something… It feels so wasteful!


    1. For me, it really depends on the condition of the oil. Usually when I make these, the oil is still pretty clear when I’m done, so I’ll just pour it back into the jug and use that oil ONLY for frying. But when I make something like doughnuts or beignets, the oil gets gross pretty quickly, so I usually end up throwing it out.

  31. I love these fries! If you ask me, they go best with just ketchup & mayonaise! I’ll be trying the fry sauce soon, though!

  32. Another recipe where you would never use Miracle Whip. It seems that in every recipe that calls for mayo you put in the remark to never use Miracle Whip. Why is that? I really like Miracle Whip better than mayo on sandwiches and potato salad. Am I just not cool? Do I have really poor taste buds? Anyone else like Miracle Whip?

    1. Mayo and Miracle Whip definitely have a personal taste factor–I (clearly) prefer mayo whereas my husband prefers Miracle Whip. I do like Miracle Whip from time to time on sandwiches–in fact, there are cases where I prefer it. But mayonnaise has a milder flavor that’s better suited to things like sauces and dips; it’s better at blending with the other flavors, while Miracle Whip is both sweeter and tangier than mayonnaise, so sometimes it can give sauces or dips an off flavor. Does that make sense?

  33. I grew up eating different variations of fried potatoes, my mom would mix mayo, ketchup and a little bit of mustard. Since then Ive made a thousand versions of it. Mostly now, I still use the mayo, ketchup, mustard, but not I stir in coarse pepper, a pinch of sea salt, onion powder and sriracha to tase. I have 4 kids that grew, are growing up in Austin Texas so ranch dressing for dipping is a must on the reg! For the BEST ranch, get the Hidden Valley Dressing mix packet and make it according to direction except substitute heavy cream for the milk. Submersion blender instead of whisk. let it have time to set up in the fridge until cold before using. ANYTHING tastes awesome dipped into it. I also use it for Fried fish tacos or carnitas or fajita tacos by making the same ranch recipe but submersion blend in handfull or more of fresh cilantro and pickled jalapenos (I use the brand Trappeys, theyre mild) figure out how much to use (but remember it will be a bit hotter after set up) tastes so good on meat tacos.

    1. ok, one more fam fave, fry up tater tots, put them into a baking pan, cover with homemade chili (from the 2 alarm brand recipe) grated cheddar and grated american cheese to cover, then layer sliced pickled jalapenos and minced onions. bake until gooey. pull it out of oven and cover it with about 1/4 inch of the ranch and serve… its a great superbowl, movie night, type of thing.

  34. I’m from Canada and my family ALWAYS has fry sauce. Although a good Pouting is always a treat too. And then your basic fries and gravy is yummy as well. So many delicious choices!

  35. Comment whore… ??

    My husband went to Univ of Utah and had told me about fry sauce, but never had it until we took a family vacation out there last year and stopped in a diner. It was good! I will definitely try this recipe. Of course, being a southern girl, I only use Dukes mayo; it’s the best!! It has a great vinegar tanginess, would be a great pairing for fries! Hate the sweet mayos!! ?

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