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Where Do French Fries Come From? France?

Where Do French Fries Come From? France?

Have you always thought that French fries were invented by the French? If so, you might have to reconsider. Potatoes are indigenous to the Americas, but who was the first to fry this common staple food, and why do the French seem to get all the credit for this delicious snack?

What People in Other Countries Call French Fries

Fried sticks of potatoes are not known as French fries in all languages. In the British Isles, for instance, they are called “chips.” Italians call them “little fried potatoes” (patatine fritte); similarly, in Spain, they are also called “fried potatoes” (papas fritas). German-speaking countries use the French term pomme frites, meaning, again, “fried potatoes.” It seems that only Americans call them French fries. Why?

The Belgian Story

There is evidence that Potatoes were actually first fried bin Belgium. In the 1600s, the inhabitants of Belgium used to snack on thinly cut fried fish. In the winter, however, when rivers froze and fish was hard to come by, they started frying the newly arrived from the new world potatoes the same way they did with their fish.

The French Story

There are scholars who claim that it was the French who invented French Fries. During the French revolution, a Chef in Paris called Honoré Julien apparently fried potatoes under the bridges and served them to the starving and cold Parisians. Even if true, the events of the French Revolution occurred almost 100 years after the thin sliced, fried potatoes appeared in Belgium. In addition, in 1748, the French Parliament declared that potatoes caused leprosy and forbade their cultivation and consumption, so frying and eating potatoes became something of a rebellious act. Given the fact that the French people were originally led to believe that eating potatoes would cause certain death, the Belgian claim seems to have more merit.

How Fried Potatoes Got to be Known as French Fries in the United States

The Belgians mainly speak French, so that could explain the confusion of French fries being claimed by the French. American president Thomas Jefferson did not help the matter when he wrote about “deep fried potatoes in small slices served in the French manner.” It was a dish that Jefferson enjoyed while he was an ambassador to France from 1785-1789, and his description of them likely had a strong influence on how Americans referred to them, with the resulting moniker enduring to this day.

The Real Story

The real story is most likely a combination of both the Belgian and the French stories. Once potatoes were introduced to Europe, many different countries started creating fried potato dishes that reflected their own cuisines. What might have happened is that French fries were invented by the Belgians, a largely French speaking people, with the dish being adopted by the neighboring French a little more than 100 years later. Once Thomas Jefferson encountered them in France and called them French fries, Americans forever came to associate them with French cuisine.

The rest of the world, however, continues to call them simply “fried potatoes.”

References to learn more:

History of French Fries: All About The Origins of the Worlds Favourite Potato Fritters – NDTV Food
Get Cooking: Inside the history of French fries (msn.com)
Pommes Frites | Traditional Potato Dish From Belgium | TasteAtlas


  1. in Hungary, they are called “sült krümpli”. If you want french fries, you would be better served to request steak potato.

  2. The kingdom of Belgium exists since 1830, so there were no Belgians in the 1600’s.
    Also, Belgians don’t speak mainly French. 58% of them speak Dutch (Flemish), 2% speak German, and only 40% speak French (mainly in the south of the country in the region Wallonie)

    • Thank you for your contribution!
      Although it is true, Belgium has had the same rough borders for a while although they were called with different names like the 17 provinces of Burgundy. Same thing for most of the European countries like Germany and Italy. The article mentions that French is a predominant language, not the only language.

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