Yes, you read that right. Keto french fries, and no, they’re not potatoes.
Everyone who has ever switched to a keto lifestyle has kryptonite foods that you miss periodically despite conquering general carb cravings. Like a lot of people, mine was McDonald’s french fries.
In the past, I’ve been known to make multiple stops to assemble the perfect fast food meal. Fries from McDonald’s, burgers from In-N-Out, milkshakes and deep fried cheddar cheese curds from Culver’s. You can’t say I didn’t have a clear vision of what I wanted in my fast food. It’s also the behavior of an addict.
Despite the fact that I don’t eat them, I still think McDonald’s sells the Platonic ideal french fry. Potatoes don’t taste like a whole lot of anything and french fries (for me) have always been about texture, the flavor and feel of the oil, and salt.
Regular readers of this blog have probably noticed I have an appreciation for nostalgia food, and fries are no different. Here’s the thing about nostalgia, thoug. It can lie to you. Sometimes things weren’t really as good as you remembered. That’s the power of childhood naïveté.
Even though the modern day ones are still the best-of-breed, the McDonalds fries of my childhood tasted better in my memory. You know why? They DID taste better. McDonalds caved to animal rights activists in the early 90’s and switched from a part beef tallow oil blend to all vegetable oil. That’s right, they were fried in freaking beef fat. Delicious, right?
They were never the same after that. Your memory isn’t lying to you in this case. McDonalds fries really did used to be more savory, beefy, and delicious.
So, my first check box is that my fries must be fried in pure beef fat. This certainly required a fair bit of effort on my part. Luckily, I make a lot of oven briskets around here and never have a shortage of beef fat. I simply strain it and freeze it in hockey pucks that live in my chest freezer until I call upon them for a second life of service in the cause of killer fried food.
There are a lot of potato substitutes out there and I don’t like a lot of them. The reason is that their flavor is not neutral enough, they aren’t dense enough, or both. Radishes, jicama, rutabaga — I’ve tried them all. I was never happy enough with the results to post here, so I kept trying.
My mom always used to tell me stories about an above-ground bulb vegetable called kohlrabi that my avid gardener grandfather grew. A cabbage cultivar and relative of broccoli and cauliflower, it’s also a nutritional powerhouse in the same way as those vegetables are.
I spend a lot of time in my local Asian market cruising for new, weird vegetables to diversify my keto cooking with. I ran across inexpensive kohlrabi bulbs there about a month ago and decided to give them a try as a potato substitute. Since this post was even written, you can assume that it went pretty well. So, I was able to check my density/texture box. There are some important differences with potatoes and tips for prep, so be sure to read the Recipe Notes below if you take the plunge and make the fries.
So, one last box to check. Salt. This is an area that isn’t even necessarily so much about salt as your perception of saltiness. In this realm, geometry matters. Geographically speaking, the area with the salt is on the outside of the fry. The inside of the kohlrabi fries are totally unseasoned just as they are in potatoes. So, to get greater salt perception, we need more outside surface area on the fries. This means that they need to be relatively small in diameter.
This is sort of deceptive, though. It’s a place where I made a mistake in my early test batches. We are after a small diameter finished french fry, but the water content of kohlrabi is higher than a potato and they contract dramatically upon cooking. This left me with small and flimsy fries. They came out better when I went to a 3/8″ cut and you may want to go as big as 1/2″. I’ll be very interested in your experiences with this, so leave me a message in the comments below if you try the recipe.
The final fries are savory, salty, dense, and have enough structure to be called an actual french fry. I’m still not quite happy with the skin and general firmness of the fries. I have some ideas to change the procedure to bring me closer to an actual McDonalds-style french fry, so there will definitely be follow up posts if I have a breakthrough. I’d love your thoughts and ideas also! Leave me a message in the comments below. (By the way, they are perfect with my Keto Heinz-Style Ketchup!)
(NOTE: Make sure you read the recipe (including the notes) carefully. There are a lot of really small but important details of the prep and procedure that deviate from what you would do with potatoes.)
Kohlrabi French Fries
- 3 large kohlrabi
- beef (or other) fat Enough to fill your frying apparatus to the correct level.
- salt (to taste)
- your choice of frying implement (I use a wok.)
- fry thermometer
- plate covered in paper towels
Peel the kohlrabi liberally, especially if you got really large ones. They can get kind of woody under the skin and that isn't good eats. You may want to get more than you think you need for this reason. You won't know what kind of kohlrabi you got until you get it home and under the knife.
Cut the kohlrabi into 3/8" to 1/2" fries and set aside.
Heat your beef fat or oil to 335 degrees. If you are an experienced deep fryer, you may note how that seems a little low. Kohlrabi browns very rapidly and so we keep the temperature down a bit so that they cook through by the time their exterior is golden brown and delicious.
Fry the kohlrabi in small batches, starting very small at first. There is more water content in them than a potato, and it might shock you how much the oil will bubble up. Remove the fries to a paper towel covered plate. Salt and consume immediately as their crispness does not last long due to moisture content.
I don't always leave notes, as the procedure usually stands for itself in my recipes. I thought it was important to do so here because there are a lot of ways kohlrabi are different than potatoes. This affects the prep and procedure necessary to get a good result.
You will want to buy a lot more than you think you will use. The outer skin can be thick and fibrous, so that all needs to go. Don't discard the leaves, though. You can eat them like you would any other deep greens.
Remember to pay attention to the size of your raw fries. There is more water in kohlrabi, so your fries will contract a lot during cooking. It's easy to end up with fries that are too small (as I did) if you don't start big enough.
Fry smaller batches than you think you need to earlier on. The excess water causes problems here, too. It will bubble up much more than you might expect and that can lead to cooktop grease fires. Standard deep frying safety protocol applies here just as it does anywhere else.
Watch the temperature of your oil. The fries are very temperature sensitive. I actually use an infrared gun thermometer so I am not poking around in hot oil constantly.
Be prepared to eat the fries as soon as they are cool enough. As I already stated, their moisture content is high and they will waterlog a lot more rapidly than potato fries.