A New Theory About Who Invented French Fries

French fries are perhaps the greatest side dish ever invented. But where did this crispy manna come from? Who created such potatoey perfection? You might be surprised to find that the inventor of the beloved hamburger plate-mates was, despite the name, was likely not French! Today, we’ll get to the bottom of who invented french fries.

Where were french fries invented?

Though the history is murky due to conflicting tellings and the lack of any real, concrete recordings, it is commonly believed that french fries can be traced back to Belgium, where historians have found that potatoes were being cut and fried in the late 1600s. 

Where did french fries originate, specifically?

According to Belgian lore, poor villagers living in Meuse Valley would often fry up the small fish they caught in a nearby river. When the river froze in 1680 and catching fish became an impossibility, the villagers swapped out the fish for potatoes. Thus, the prototypical french fry was birthed! So, who invented french fries? If that story is to be believed, it probably wasn’t just one dude. It was a whole group of enterprising folks who missed their tiny fried fish. 

Hold up, are french fries french or not?

Well, maybe! There’s another conflicting theory. In a 2018 article in French newspaper Le Figaro, historian Pierre Leclercq told the reporter that the Belgian villagers could not have possibly created french fries because potatoes weren’t introduced to the area until 1735. He posits that the inventor of french fries was probably a vendor selling snacks to theater-goers on Paris’s Pont Neuf, some time in the late 1700s. But while we can’t say for sure who invented french fries, Leclercq does credit a man named Frédéric Krieger with bringing them to Belgium in the 1840s. The Belgian musician-turned-cook trained in Paris, where he learned to make fries. He brought them back to his home country of Belgium, founded the Fritz company, and toured around the country selling his “Paris-style fried potatoes.” 

It should be noted that Belgium has stood proudly and steadfast in its stance that it created french fries, petitioning UNESCO to add the dish to Belgium’s list of cultural treasures on multiple occasions.

So, why are french fries called “french fries?”

Well, it’s said that those very fried potatoes were discovered and appreciated by American soldiers in Belgium during World War I. Since the dominant language of southern Belgium is French, they were dubbed “French” fried potatoes upon the soldiers’ return to the States. 

When were french fries invented?

It depends on which story you believe. If you think those Belgian villagers came up with fries, then they were first invented in 1680. If you believe Leclercq, they were invented sometime in the 1700s and popularized in the mid 1800s. 

Who do you believe? Was it the Belgian villagers or the French peddlers? We’ll believe whoever’s serving them to us—as long as they’re piping hot and accompanied by ketchup (or mayo if you want to be Belgian about it).

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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