Fries come in all shapes and sizes, from the traditional shoestring fry to the large, hole-filled waffle fry. Although uniquely shaped, waffle fries are cooked similarly to every other fry. To achieve their signature waffle fry shape, potatoes are cut into pieces using a special waved cutter. As the potato is turned back and forth 90 degrees during the cutting process, the potato slices take on the appearance of miniature potato waffles, with both ridges and holes that lend a one-of-a-kind texture and crunch.
Waffle fries can be battered or plain, made with regular potatoes or sweet potatoes, and flavored in a variety of ways. This can make ranking different waffle fries difficult, but there are a few things that every waffle fry should have. The flavor of the potato should be paramount; if there is seasoning, it should not be overwhelming. The outside should be crispy and the inside pillowy, and they should not be dried out.
We tried eight brands of frozen waffle fries to find out which one came out on top and met all of our requirements to be named the best, and which sadly fell short.
Great Value Waffle Fries
Of the eight waffle fries we sampled, the Great Value waffle fries were the most disappointing. Immediately from the bag, we could see that these fries were extremely pale and lacked the variation of color found in most of the other fries. Even after cooking, there was only a slight hint of browning along the edges.
When we bit into one there was even more disappointment. These fries did not crisp nicely on the outside and offered only a slight crispness when we bit into them. The fries were unseasoned and the flavor was entirely bland, lacking even a basic salting. Additionally, the inside of the fry was both dry and overcooked, yet somehow still tasted raw. It is an almost impressive amount of contrasting problems. Overall, these fries really did not have many redeeming qualities other than the price. Honestly, though, we would happily spend a few more dollars to have better fries.
Pictsweet Farms Sweet Potato Waffle Fries
We get the idea behind these Pictsweet Farms sweet potato waffle fries with brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey. Sweet potatoes naturally offer a flavor profile that typically goes well with sweeter toppings. Sweet potato casserole topped with brown sugar and marshmallows is a popular holiday side dish. That sort of topping, though, does not transfer well to potato fry form.
First of all, not everyone likes sugared-up sweet potatoes, so these fries are already more divisive than others on the list. The main problem is, though, that adding sugar and honey to the sweet potato fries makes them more prone to burning, which they did. Despite following the cooking instructions, each of the fries went straight past caramelized into burned territory. The burned sugar flavor became the prominent flavor, masking any cinnamon flavor or molasses taste from the brown sugar.
The one thing we will give these fries is that they did have a crisp outside and a soft, moist inside so they were not a complete loss, but we cannot get past the functionality issues.
McCain Quick Cook Waffle Fries
We love the idea of these McCain Quick Cook waffle fries. While most of the waffle fries we tried took between 15-20 minutes to cook, these fries have a recommended cooking time of just 8-10 minutes. While they really did only take half the time of other waffle fries we tried, the problem is that even at their full bake time they tasted undercooked.
Our initial impression straight from the oven was not bad. The fries browned a little on the edges but remained a pale yellow on the surface, although they did appear a smidge washed out. The outside crisped up a bit. While we were not blown away, we did not expect to bite in and find the filling to be as hard as it was. Instead of being soft and melting in texture, we got a firm, undercooked potato inside. It is too bad because the overall flavor was decent, but we could not get past the texture.
We cooked these potatoes for 10 minutes -- the top end of the recommended cooking time -- and yet they still turned out poorly. We could have put them back in, but at that point it negates the reason to buy them in the first place, and we may as well buy a tastier brand.
Trader Joe's Seasoned Waffle Fries
When Trader Joe's says seasoned, it means it. While we did try a few seasoned waffle fries, Trader Joe's seasoned waffle fries easily had the heaviest hand. We were actually able to see clumps of seasoning stuck to the fries. These fries weren't just herby either, but full-on spicy. The spice mix consists of onion powder, white pepper, dried oregano, paprika, and chili powder mixed into the batter that coats the fries, and then an additional sprinkling of garlic powder, paprika, red chili powder, black pepper, and fried rosemary on top. For those keeping track, that is two helpings of paprika, as well as chili powder and red chili powder. While we enjoyed it, some may find these too spicy for them.
Because of all the spices and the batter, these fries have a darker brown hue to them than the other choices we sampled. We found that the coating, while delicious straight from the oven, did get soggy if left out for a long period of time. Aside from that, though, the inside was well-cooked and easy to bite through.
Alexia Sweet Potato Waffle Fries
After the disaster that was the Pictsweet sweet potato fries, we were worried about the Alexia brand sweet potato waffle fries. Thankfully, these ones were not only better than the Pictsweet but they also exceeded most of the traditional waffle fries we tried. Alexia opted to go the savory route instead of the sweet one, and the result was a delicious sweet potato fry.
The spicing on these fries was mild but still present and included salt, garlic powder, onion powder, chili pepper, red pepper, black pepper, and cumin. This combination provided a mild spice that allowed the sweet potato flavor to shine without becoming overly spiced like Trader Joe's. If anything, these may have even been underspiced.
The exterior of the fries was crispy, and the inside was soft and moist. The reason they do not rank higher, though, is that at the end of the day when you think of waffle fries, you think of regular potato, not sweet potato. While delicious, these fries are still not the pre-eminent example of the food genre.
Lamb Weston Super Crispy Waffle Fries
The Lamb Weston Super Crispy waffle fries were easily the most potato-forward of the fries we tried. This is likely due to the amount of skin still left on each potato. Each of the fries we made still had the skin on it, and one side seemed to be entirely skin as if the fries were only cut from the outermost layer -- and this was not necessarily a bad thing. These fries had a rich and pleasant potato taste.
We also have to say these fries absolutely lived up to their name and were, in fact, super crispy. Even after sitting out on the counter for a while, when we came back to our test subjects these waffle fries were easily the crispiest of all of them.
While these fries were not the overall winner of our taste test, they were absolutely a strong contender and we would never turn them down if offered. There just happened to be two choices that did the job better.
Ore-Ida Golden Waffle Fries
These Ore-Ida golden waffle fries taste exactly like what you would think of when you think of a waffle fry. The fries crisped up beautifully, taking on a beautiful pale yellow hue, and they browned nearly perfectly on the edges. Next to the Lamb Weston fries, these stayed the crispiest for the longest.
The flavor of these fries was also pretty much spot on. They were starchier and held their shape better than many of the other offerings, providing a delightful crunch. The Ore-Ida golden waffle fries were incredibly close to winning our top choice. There was just one problem; while they are salted, it is an incredibly light salting. As such, while the potato flavor was there, they came off almost bland because there wasn't enough salt to fully enhance the flavor. These waffle fries would have been perfect if they had been seasoned even just a little bit more.
You likely wouldn't notice the lack of flavor if you ate them with some kind of dip like ketchup, but we feel a waffle fry should stand up on its own and not need to be paired with something to be a complete side dish.
Alexia Seasoned Waffle Fries
For the Alexia seasoned waffle fries, we found no points of criticism; these fries did everything right. They offered the deepest golden brown color of any of the fries next to Trader Joe's. We worried this would mean the Alexia waffle fries would be over-seasoned like the Trader Joe's waffle fries, but quite the contrary. These waffle fries are lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and onion, which works to enhance the flavor rather than overpower it. The other varieties of seasoned waffle fries we tried all primarily tasted of the seasoning rather than the potato. Alexia lets the potato be the star while the seasoning helps to support its root potato flavor, the way it should be.
The texture was also precisely what we wanted from our waffle fries — crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The fries tasted distinctly potatoey and offered a similar starchiness as the Ore-Ida waffle fries without sacrificing flavor or becoming too starchy. Overall, Alexia's seasoned variety is the epitome of what a waffle fry should be, both in taste and appearance.
Read the original article on Mashed.