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.)