Stop for a second and think about every curly fry you’ve ever eaten. As opposed to French fries, which are usually just sliced potatoes fried in oil and salted, curly fries tend to have a golden-brown coating on them, as well as a seasoning blend that’s heavy on the onion and garlic powders. And no matter what restaurant you go to, be it Arby’s or your local diner, you can expect to receive the exact same curly fry. In fact, if you were to receive a plate of plain curly fries without that crust or seasoning blend, they’d probably taste strange! What gives?
Someone posed this exact question to Reddit, and the answer is fairly simple: “Curly fries as a frozen product… were first mass produced by Simplot, who uses a specific seasoning blend. Once copycats came along, it became the seasoning of choice due to popularity.” Boise-based J.R. Simplot is one of the largest potato suppliers in the country (it supplies all potato products for McDonald’s, for example), so this seems to make sense.
A little digging reveals that curly fries are indeed a featured item on Simplot’s website, where they’re called SeasonedCrisp Savory Loops. Based on the ingredients listing, we can infer that the spiral-cut potatoes are tossed in a combination of wheat flour, corn meal, and rice flour, along with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, sugar, other spices, and preservatives. Competitors, including ConAgra’s Lamb Weston, also list a very similar product on their website, this one called Western Spicy Recipe Crispy QQQ’s.
Apparently, because we’ve come to expect curly fries to have a certain flavor, all producers of them are manufacturing them to taste essentially exactly the same way. Pretty interesting!
Now if we could only figure out why none of these companies are just calling them “curly fries”…