Cactus Cut Potatoes and Dip
The source material for this is named for a plant that doesn't grow naturally in Canada, made by a restaurant named for an American city.
While all of that sounds less-than-Canadian, it's an appetizer that is high on the list of "things I have to eat when visiting home!" for many expats!
Boston Pizza Cactus Cut Potatoes Copycat Recipe
When I was taking requests for recipes to develop for “More Than Poutine: Favourite Foods from My Home and Native Land”, Cactus Cut Potatoes was a common one.
What was interesting here was that a few people mentioned having tried recipes online, but that they “weren’t right”.
I was curious, so I had a peek at a few of the copycat recipes out there - and immediately saw the problem.
The thing about cactus cut potatoes is that they’re not just thinly sliced, deep-fried potatoes. They’re *spicy* slices of deep-fried potatoes.
So, it’s not as simple as slicing up some potatoes and frying them. No, to get the right flavour for this recipe, you have to get a bit weird with it: Marinating them in jalapeno. More on that in a bit.
Replica Cactus Dip
For those unfamiliar with the source material, these jalapeno-flavoured deep-fried potato slices are accompanied by a flavourful - but relatively simple - “cactus dip”.
It’s just the following (full recipe follows at the end of the post):
Creamy Caesar dressing
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Finely chopped green onion
Crushed chilies / red pepper flakes
It’s best to make the dip the day before, as it gives the flavours time to meld overnight. The potatoes definitely have to be started the day before though, so that makes it easy to plan ahead!
As a note: I usually use the crushed chilies as is, out of laziness... but I think the restaurant uses a finer grind. If you want closer to accurate, you can grind the pepper flakes down a bit.
Secondly, I like to finely chop the green onions, to get the flavour throughout the dip. The last couple of time we’ve ordered this from Boston Pizza, though, they had fairly big slices of green onion.
So: Finely chop for better taste, or big slices for accuracy - your choice!
How to Make Cactus Cut Potatoes Like Boston Pizza
You’ll want to plan ahead when preparing these - they do best when marinated overnight, and the accompanying dip tastes better after allowing the flavours to meld overnight.
Ingredients for Making Cactus Potatoes
For some reason, I was using Yukon gold potatoes when developing this recipe. This was several years ago, so I’m not sure why I went that way.
While they turned out perfectly well, the cactus cut potatoes from Boston Pizza definitely look to be Russet potatoes. Which, you know, makes sense - a drier, starchier potato like Russet makes the best fries!
Jalapeno brine is a bit of a weird ingredient, and can require some planning ahead to obtain it.
The easiest way is to simply save the brine left from cans/jars of retail pickled jalapenos, until you have enough to make a batch of cactus fries.
You can keep it in the fridge, if you go through a lot of them... or collect it in your freezer, if you have to play a long game for this!
You can also make your own pickled jalapenos at home, which may prove to be a quicker way to obtain it.
If you can’t see yourself going through enough pickled jalapenos, you can always fake it:
Combine a cup of water, a cup of white vinegar, a Tbsp of sugar, and 2-3 cloves of garlic in a small pot. Slice up 8-10 jalapenos (or more, if you like), and add it to the pot.
COVER THE POT and simmer very gently for 30 minutes or so, without removing the lid. Let it cool with the lid on.
I am not kidding about covering the pot.
I learned the hard way - when developing the recipe for my Gluten-Free Air Fryer Jalapeno Poppers - that simmering fresh jalapenos can basically create pepper gas in your kitchen. The fumes are noxious and PAINFUL, so definitely be careful.
Don't get too close to the pot when you do take the lid off, and have a window open while cooking, if possible!
Oil for Frying
According to our local Boston Pizza, they use Canola Oil for frying their Cactus Cut Potatoes. SO, if you’re looking for maximum accuracy, there you go:)
Canola oil is generally seen to be the best oil for frying anyway - high smoke point, neutral flavour, etc.
It also gets points for Canadian-ism, in this case - it was developed in my home province, Manitoba! “Canola” is actually the combination of “Can(ada)”, with an abbreviation for “Oil, Low Acid”.
Anyway, that said, you can use any deep frying oil (ie: high smoke point oil) to make these - Peanut oil, safflower, sunflower, vegetable, etc.
Preparing the Potatoes
First, you’ll want to gently scrub your potatoes clean. You can peel them if you like, but the source material leaves the skin on (as do we!)
Then, you’ll cut them into thin slices - We definitely prefer to use a Mandoline for this, rather than fussing with trying to cut them freehand.
The thickness is up to you. We generally use the thinnest setting, which produces a potato chip-like finish: crunchy, as pictured.
The #2 thickness will generally yield a softer chip, not crunchy all the way though.
The source material seems to be about halfway between the 2 thinnest settings on our mandoline, but your mileage may vary.
Marinating the Potatoes
Originally, I pre-soaked the cut potatoes, as I do for any fries. It gets rid of a bit of the starch, allowing for a crispier finish.
Over time, I’ve decided that this step probably isn’t necessary, and is more or less accomplished or rendered redundant by the marinating step.
I do recommend blotting as much moisture off the potatoes as possible, using paper towels. This will help the potato slices absorb as much flavour as possible.
Then, the potatoes are marinated in Jalapeno brine - the liquid drained off from cans or jars of pickled jalapenos, whether store-bought or homemade.
I usually like to do this step with a gallon-sized plastic baggie, giving it a gentle shake every once in a while.
I recommend marinating for at least a few hours, but ideally overnight. You can’t rush flavour!
Deep Frying the Potatoes
Unlike my other fries recipes, you do not need to cook these at two different temperatures.
The thinner cut of the potato for this recipe means that you can cook and brown/crisp in one step, rather than pre-cooking at a lower fry temperature, before raising the temp to brown and crisp it to finish.
You can use a deep fryer, or a heavy pot. If not using a deep fryer, use a deep, heavy pot, filled to at least 4" deep.
Simply fry the marinated sliced potatoes in preheated oil, until crispy and golden.
Transfer to plate lined with paper towels, blot any excess grease before carefully transferring to serving plate.
Air Frying the Cactus Cut Potatoes
Personally, I prefer these done in the deep fryer, as they’re obviously closer to the source material, and I tend to be a stickler for accuracy 🙂
That said, you can definitely air fry these, much as you can any other fries.
I don’t know if it’s just our air fryer, or a thing in general... but I find that frozen potatoes cook - and brown - more evenly than fresh/raw potatoes.
So, once you’re done marinating, I recommend draining the potatoes out of the marinade, and arranging on a parchment lined baking sheet, before freezing.
To cook them, spritz with a bit of spray oil, and air fry at 380 or 400 for 7-10 minutes. Shake the basket every few minutes, until they’re as crispy as you like them.
The actual cooking time is going to depend on how thick you cut them.
This recipe is one of many fantastic Canadian recipes in my cookbook, "More Than Poutine: Favourite Foods from my Home and Native Land”. "More than Poutine" is a Canadian cookbook like no other - written by a Canadian living away, it includes both traditional home cooking recipes, as well as accurate homemade versions of many of the snacks, sauces, convenience foods, and other food items that are hard to come by outside of Canada! Order your copy here on this site, through Amazon, or through any major bookseller!
BBQ Sides and Desserts Recipes
Looking for a dish to bring to a cookout? Here are a few ideas!
Canadian Candy Bar Salad
Cold Smoked Potato Salad
Dill Pickle Waffle Fries
Gramma's Potato Salad
HopCorn - Hopped Popcorn!
Marie's Pasta Salad
Melon Ball Trifle
Pina Colada Bundt Cake
Roasted Corn & Potato Salad
Rum Runner Trifle
Smoked Cheese Balls
Sweet Corn Bruschetta
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Cactus Cut Potatoes & Dip
- 1 cup Sour cream
- ½ cup Creamy Caesar dressing
- ¼ cup Shredded Parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup Finely chopped green onion
- ½ - 1 tsp Crushed chilies / red pepper flakes
Cactus Cut Potatoes:
- 3 Large russet potatoes
- 1 ½ cups Jalapeno brine *
- Oil for frying
- Ahead of time, Whisk all ingredients together.
- Cover, chill until use - ideally overnight.
Cactus Cut Fries:
- Scrub potatoes before thinly slicing - we like to use a mandoline for this.
- Sandwich potato slices between layers of paper towels, blot dry.
- Toss dried potato slices with jalapeno brine, place in a covered container and allow to marinate overnight.
- Heat oil to 350 F (180 C). You can use a deep fryer, or a heavy pot. If not using a deep fryer, use a deep, heavy pot, filled to at least 4" deep.
- In small batches, fry sliced potatoes in preheated oil, until crispy and golden.
- Transfer to plate lined with paper towels, blot any excess grease before carefully transferring to serving plate.
- Serve warm, with Cactus Dip.