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Poutine

This poutine post is the ultimate guide for everything you need to know about poutine from what cheese to use, how to make poutine gravy and the best homemade French fries! Poutine is a simple yet indulgent Canadian dish made of crispy French fries and chunks of salty, softened cheese curds smothered in a tangy gravy. This holy trinity of ingredients merges to create something truly magical as the hot fries with their golden crisp exteriors and pillowy interiors and the robust, steaming hot gravy gently melt the cheese curds so they soften but still maintain their signature squeaky shape. Poutine can be made 100% from scratch or is fabulous to use with leftover gravy. I’ve also included how to make poutine recipe with baked French fries, how to prep ahead, how to store and how to freeze.
Course Appetizer, Lunch, Main Dish, Snack
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours
Servings 6 -8 servings

Ingredients

GRAVY

  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp EACH dried parsley, granulated beef bouillon
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried parsley, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper
  • 1/4 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried thyme

FRENCH FRIES & CHEESE

  • 4 lbs. russet potatoes peeled, washed
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • table salt
  • 2 cups white cheddar cheese curds at room temperature

Instructions

PREP FRENCH FRIES

  • Slice the potatoes into 1/2-inch thick fries. I like to measure one fry then use it as a guide for the rest. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl of cold water as you cut them. Soak the potatoes in refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours, preferably overnight. The longer you soak the potatoes, the crispier the French fries.
  • Transfer potatoes to a strainer and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Scoop up a handful of fries, rinse again, pat dry and transfer to paper towels or a clean dishcloth. Dab them again so they’re as dry as possible. Repeat with all of the fries.

MAKE GRAVY

  • Whisk cornstarch with chicken broth until no lumps remain; set aside.
  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, and cook while stirring for 2 minutes (no less!). Turn heat to low and gradually whisks in beef broth followed by chicken broth (with cornstarch). Add all remaining gravy ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer until thickened (gravy will thicken more upon standing).
  • Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste – I like ¼ teaspoon EACH more of both. Taste and add more vinegar if you would like a tangier gravy. Set aside.

COOK FRENCH FRIES

  • Add enough oil to 6 qt (or larger) fry pan or Dutch oven until it reaches 3 inches up the sides (or use a deep fryer). Heat oil to 325 degrees F. Line your adjoining counter or a large baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels (to place potatoes once fried).
  • Using a spider strainer or slotted spoon, transfer a small batch of potatoes to the oil and fry for about 4-6 minutes or until lightly golden, stirring occasionally. We are cooking the potatoes so they’re soft (you should be able to cut them with the side of the spoon), not frying to crisp up yet. Transfer fries to paper towels and repeat with remaining fries, about 6 batches.
  • Optional for crispier French fries: Turn off stove and let fries cool for 20 minutes or freeze until ready for the second fry.
  • Increase the oil temperature to 425 degrees F. Fry the potatoes in batches for a second time until they are crisp and golden-brown, about 3-4 minutes. Transfer French fries back to paper towels and immediately sprinkle and toss with a generous amount of salt.

ASSEMBLE

  • Reheat the gravy until it is hot (so it will soften the cheese curds). Add a splash of broth if it has become too thick.
  • Divide French fries between serving plates. Top with cheese curds followed by hot gravy. Make sure the curds are slathered in gravy so they soften. Serve immediately.

Notes

Tips for Making Canadian Poutine 

  • Beef bouillon:  You can use granulated beef bouillon, bouillon cubes or better than bouillon.  If using cubes, you will need one cube that you smash before adding to the gravy – don’t dissolve it in water first.
  • Use correct oil: Refined peanut oil is a type of vegetable oil and is the best oil for making French fries.  You can also use regular vegetable oil, canola or safflower oil. Do NOT use olive oil or any oil with a low smoking point or strong flavor.
  • Cheese curds:  You should be able to find them in or near the deli section of your grocery store along with the other high-quality cheeses.  If you can't locate cheese curds, use a block of low moisture mozzarella cheese, torn or chopped into large chunks, 1-2 inches. 
  • Russet potatoes:  Don’t be tempted to use any other variety of potatoes, especially waxy potatoes such as Yukon gold.  Waxy potatoes are filled with so much water that evaporates when fried, leaving you a hollow, collapsing potato!
  • Uniform large fries: Make sure to cut your fries into similar sizes so that they cook at the same rate.  Cut them ½-inch and not any smaller so they can stand up to the rich gravy, otherwise they’ll quickly become droopy and fall apart.
  • Thoroughly dry the potatoes:  Any residual water can react with the hot oil and cause it to spatter.
  • Use a thermometer!   There isn’t an accurate way to check and adjust your oil temperature without using a thermometer.  A candy or frying thermometer are handy because they clip onto the edge of the pot to ensure it doesn't slide around and allows you to continuously read the temperature. If you don’t have one of these thermometers, an instant read thermometer will also work, you’ll just have to be more diligent checking the temperature yourself.
  • Fry in batches:  There are a lot of fries, so you might be tempted to cram more fries into a batch at once – but don’t!  You’ll need to fry the French fries in about six batches. Frying too many fries at once makes them less crispy.  It can also make the oil bubble over – dangerous!
  • Monitor the French fries:  The first batch of French fries generally will require more time and the last batch typically requires less time, so be flexible and watch those fries!  You’ll also want to monitor the temperature of the oil and adjust the heat as necessary.
  • Cool fries after the first fry before frying a second time:  This step isn’t essential but it will create crispier fries. As the fries cool, moisture in the center of the potatoes migrates to the surface of the fries, which is why the surface gets soggy again.  Frying the potatoes for a second time boils off that moisture.  If you don’t let the potatoes rest, the trapped moisture stays in the center of the fries even after the second fry, creating softer fries.   Note: For the crispiest fries, instead of just cooling the fries after the second fry, freeze them by spreading them out on a baking sheet, then frying from frozen.
  • You must double fry the potatoes:  In order to ensure the fries are fully cooked on the inside before the outsides crisp up, the fries need to be cooked twice.  If you don’t fry them twice, you’ll end up with undercooked, brown French fries, or soft, greasy, limp French fries.  The Double-Fry Method produces perfectly tender insides and crispy outsides every time.
  • Use room temperature cheese curds:  Cold cheese curds won’t soften even when drenched with hot gravy.  Instead, room temperature curds are the only way to go. Remove the cheese curds from the refrigerator when you start heating your oil. 
  • Recipe variations.  See the post for TONS of fun recipe ideas.

How to bake French Fries for Poutine

Baked French fries won't be as crispy, but still tasty!  You can also bake store-bought frozen French fries in a time crunch.
  • Soak, drain and dry potatoes per recipe instructions. 
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil.
  • Toss potatoes with ¼ cup melted butter and ¼ cup neutral oil such as canola or vegetable oil.  Toss with salt.
  • Line the fries in a single layer on the baking sheet so they aren’t touching.  Bake at 400 degrees F in the lower-third of the oven for 25 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, stir potatoes and rearrange back into a single layer. Bake for 10-15 more minutes or until brown and crispy.

How to Prep Ahead 

Once assembled, this Canadian poutine is best eaten immediately. However, you can prep components of this recipe in advance: 
  • Gravy: Can be made up to 48 hours in advance and reheated gently on the stove just before serving.  Be aware that the chilled gravy will be very thick but will thin over heat.  If it’s still too thick for your liking, simply stir in a little broth or water until it reaches desired consistency.
  • Soak fries: Fries can be sliced and left to soak in water up to overnight. 
  • Freeze fries: To partially make French fries, complete the 1st round of frying several hours in advance, freeze the fries by spreading them out on a baking sheet. Fry the potatoes from frozen for the 2nd fry right before serving.  Frying the fries from frozen will create even crispier fries - winning!
  • If you would like to make the fries 100% in advance: Store them in an airtight container then reheat in the oven or air fryer.  Note, that reheated French fries in the oven won’t be as crispy and fries reheated in the air fryer will take several batches. 

How to Store and Reheat 

Poutine is best eaten right away because the leftover French fries become soft unless reheated in the air fryer.  That being said, the flavor is still excellent.
  • Storage:  Leftover Canadian poutine can be stored in the fridge for up to three days, noting that the fries will become soggy over time.
  • Air fryer: Is the best way to reheat poutine.  I used the air fryer “snack” setting for 6 minutes.  You will want to transfer the poutine to foil before adding to the air fryer so it’s easy to remove and so the gravy doesn’t get everywhere.  
  • Oven:  Transfer poutine to a foil lined pan or baking dish and baked at 300 degrees F until warmed through, about 15 minutes.
  • Microwave: Reheating this poutine recipe in the microwave would be my last choice because the fries get softer. Transfer poutine to a microwave safe dish and reheat for 60 seconds then at 15 second intervals as needed.

How to Freeze  

Once assembled, you shouldn’t freeze poutine. However, you can fry the potatoes and freeze them for later. Likewise, you can also make and freeze the gravy separately. 
  • To freeze French fries: Lay the cooked French fries on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and place in the freezer for about an hour, or until hardened (this is called “flash freezing” so they don’t stick together). Next, transfer fries to a freezer bag, squeeze out excess air and freeze for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat partially cooked French fries: It is best to freeze French fries after the first fry then "rewarm" them by completing with the second fry at 425 degrees F from frozen. This will produce the best/crispiest fries.
  • To reheat fully cooked French fries: When ready to eat, spread frozen fries into an even layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F until warm (about 15 to 20 minutes). 
  • To freeze gravy: Let cool completely, then seal inside a freezer bag or freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. When ready to eat, thaw overnight and reheat in a saucepan over low heat.