Chili cheese fries don’t always come smothered in greasy chili and cheese sauce. This easy rendition from Joy the Baker is made with crispy French fries, chili powder, and spice and a smattering of Cheddar. Less mess. Just as much flavor.
Chili cheese fries. Comfort incarnate, yes? We’ve got something of a disclaimer to issue. Despite what their name may lead you to believe, these chili cheese fries don’t actually take their demolish-the-entire-panful-while-standing-at-the-counter allure from chili. They rely instead on traditional chili seasonings. Something of an oxymoron, we know. But practically speaking, what this means is that satiety can be yours in as little as an hour–as opposed to the drawn-out, delayed gratification demanded by first slowly simmering some of your secret recipe for that spicy elixir known as chili.
Though the hand-cut fries aren’t glopped with saucy meat, they are still drowned in cheese, so while there are ample crisped edges, don’t be surprised if they’re not crisp through and through. We find the occasional soggy fry to be a pleasing study in contrasts. And while you study that, we’re going to snatch the rest of the batch.–David Leite
Chili Cheese Fry FAQs
Which potatoes are best for making fries?
Russets (also known as Idaho or baking potatoes) are really the only choice when making fries, due to their high starch content, which helps them to brown evenly, and low moisture which allows the potatoes to dry out more quickly for a satisfying crunch. They’re just the perfect option when you really want french fries with crispy outsides and soft, pillowy insides.
What should I serve with chili cheese fries?
Napkins, and lots of them. Sour cream and/or ranch for dipping, and a bottle of hot sauce for those with a penchant for spice. We love these as a Friday night dinner with a tossed salad, as well as on their own as a late-night or game-day, or Father’s Day snack.
Can I make french fries in the air fryer?
Sure. Note that you’ll need to either work in batches or use an air fryer with a really good-sized basket. Preheat your air fryer to 380°F and spray your basket liberally with avocado oil (it has the highest smoke point and is widely recommended for air frying, but you probably already know that).
Prepare your potatoes as the recipe instructs through step 4, but instead of laying them onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, put the fries in an even layer in the air fryer basket with no overlapping. Cook, turning them halfway through, until golden brown and crisp, about 15 minutes.
Then place your fries on that parchment-lined baking sheet, top with cheese, and toss in the hot oven for a few minutes to get all melty and wonderful. Remove the pan from the oven, chive all those cheesy fries up, and serve. Or, just sit at the kitchen counter and eat them all yourself. Zero judgement here.
How much salt should I add to these chili cheese fries?
Some grill seasoning mixes, including McCormick’s, contain salt. Always check the ingredient list on your grill seasoning mix and if you see salt, you may not need to add much additional salt to these chili cheese fries. If you use a grill seasoning mix that doesn’t contain salt, well, you’ll need to add a decent size pinch of salt to help bring out the flavors.
Chili Cheese Fries
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon chili powder or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- Salt to taste
- 2 medium russet potatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for the baking sheet
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon grill seasoning mix (I use McCormick)
- 1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese or more, if desired
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- Preheat oven to 425°F (218°C). Place a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and slick the paper with olive oil.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, chili powder, paprika, cumin, chili flakes if using, cayenne, and salt.
- Rinse the potatoes under cool running water and peel them. (You can leave some skin on the potatoes if you want to go for a more rustic feel.) Using a sharp knife, slice a 1/4 -inch piece off each potato lengthwise. This gives you a stable base. Rest the potatoes, cut side down, on your work surface and slice them into 1/4- to 3/8-inch planks. Stack the planks in piles, 2 to 3 planks high, and slice the stacks lengthwise into 1/4- to 3/8-inch strips. Look at that! French fries!
- In a medium bowl, toss the potatoes with the oil, Worcestershire sauce, and grill seasoning mix. Sprinkle the cornstarch mixture over the fries and, using tongs, toss them together, making sure that every potato is well coated. Spread the fries on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. (For the crispest results, make certain the fries don’t touch one another. If you need a second baking sheet, so be it.)
- Bake the fries, removing from the oven 2 or 3 times to toss them and then rearrange them in a single layer, until the potatoes reach the desired crispiness, 30 to 40 minutes.
- Remove the baking sheet from the oven, scatter the Cheddar over the fries, and then return them to the oven for just a few minutes to melt the cheese. Slide the chili cheese fries onto a platter, sprinkle with chives, and serve immediately.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
First order of business: Find russets that are more squat than elongated. This will ensure that your fries are the perfect length and not too long and floppy. My fries took a lot longer than the recommended 30 to 40 minutes–in fact, they took closer to an hour– but were well worth the wait to dip into some sour cream. I could also dial back the chili powder just a bit.
As stated, these Baked Chili Cheese Fries were absolutely irresistible! Spicy, cheesy, smoky baked fries–what not to love! The baking just means you can eat more. The instructions were fast and easy to follow. I used McCormick grill seasoning and didn’t feel we needed any additional salt. At first, I thought two potatoes for two servings was too much, but it wasn’t. My husband wanted to know when we could have them again! I’ll definitely keep this recipe around.
These fries were so easy to make and were gobbled up in an instant. The spice mixture creates excitement but isn’t overwhelmingly spicy. I ended up using two sheet trays to bake these because it’s important to keep the potatoes in a single layer to ensure crispness. I could easily see these working well for a Super Bowl party or any kind of munching during a sporting event or movie.
Delicious and spicy! This chili cheese fries recipe is easy enough to make when you’re in that mood when nothing but cheesy, spicy potatoes will do. When choosing potatoes, do find ones that are a bit squatter. I found that shorter fries fit better on the baking sheet. Scattering them so none are touching will yield firmer fries. They are spicy, so if you’re worried about those with a more delicate palate, cutting back on the red pepper flakes or omitting the cayenne would probably be fine. Or just give them a big glass of milk. I didn’t add any additional salt. I used reduced-sodium McCormick grill seasoning and it provided enough.
These fries were so much better than I thought they’d be! I initially thought there would be too much seasoning on them, but they turned out very tasty and weren’t overpowered by the seasoning. I didn’t use the Worcestershire sauce. I “slicked” the parchment with olive oil but think I put too much on it, so I baked the potatoes a little longer than the recipe called for. They crisped up nicely and the cheese added an extra texture and flavor. My tasters loved them! Will keep this recipe for future use.
I totally agree with the author: These are my new favorite thing. I made these for lunch when my daughter came to visit, and we both loved the cheesy, spicy goodness of these delicious, baked (hard to believe!) fries. We used the maximum amount of cheese called for and the suggested McCormick grill seasoning, which I already had on hand. As a matter of fact, I had all the ingredients on hand for these, including the fresh chives, which I had left over from some previous recipes. No reason not to make these often. Baking for 40 minutes provided the perfect crunchiness for our tastes and it was the perfect amount for the two of us.
The man of the house was tricked by the recipe title–he thought a meaty chili topping was involved–but was won over by the taste of these oven-baked goodies. These fries are easy to prepare, and the recipe flows well. The seasoning mix gives these fries a deep orange-red color, signaling that the spicy, snappy taste is not for the faint of heart. Truly the flavor of chili fries without the chili. Be generous with the grill seasoning. The sharp cheddar & chives even out the spice nicely. A good man-friendly recipe, for sure. (Don’t tell him they aren’t fried!)
This is one I will be making often when we have parties over, and I will not even bother putting them on a nice platter as there is so much charm to bring them to the table in the partly browned parchment paper. Even though they do have a slight kick, my toddler was all over them, as much so as anyone who tried them. The flavors mix so very well and the cheese and chives over them could not be any better. Actually when adding the cheese I decided to leave a small tiny portion plain to try the fries without cheese. Oddly enough, even without the cheese the taste is spectacular. And I may be very wrong, but something tells me (and I will try it soon) this must be amazing with sweet potatoes.
Loved this recipe! My tasters were very skeptical about no chili on the Chili Cheese Fries, but all were converted at the end. It’s a daunting list of ingredients to look at, but the whole thing came together very quickly and easily. I used four russet potatoes and doubled the ingredients since there were three of us. I didn’t bother to peel the potatoes, just gave them a really good scrub. I baked them for about 40 minutes, and while they weren’t the very crispy crunchy fries I’m used to, the taste more than made up for it. The cheese makes the parchment paper a necessity. There were no fries left. That to me says success.
Originally published October 8, 2015
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Rather than follow the directions for slicing potatoes into 1/4″ planks, I opted to use my mandoline. These fries are very satisfying. My husband and I ate most of them straight from the pan before they even hit our plates! There is something comforting and almost primal about them. I particularly loved the crispiness and those fries on the edges that were mahogany brown. Then there were those fries that were almost in clumps due to the melted cheese clinging to them. Mmmm. What a satisfying dish. You could even just make a big old batch of these without the need for anything else. Next time I would add quite a bit more chili, but that is our taste and we do not fault the recipe for it.