Authentic Canadian Poutine is something that many people have strange ideas about, but it’s just a bed of fries topped with cheese curds, & gravy. Easy to make, and so trashy-good!
Originally published November 5, 2010. Updated on 2/13/2022
Back when I wrote this, it was in celebration of “coming out of the closet” as an immigrant, when I was still living in the USA.
Soon after I’d moved there, I encountered some pretty serious xenophobia. So, I decided to shut my mouth and let people assume I was local... for 4 years.
Felt great to be done with that nonsense.
Now here we are, 12 years later, and I’m back in Canada. Just the other day, my husband received his invitation to take the citizenship test here, and life is good.
There is nothing redeeming in nutrition OR appearance. It's not haute cuisine in the slightest. It may just end up clogging your arteries on sight.
It’s messy, kinda trashy, “2 am-going-home-from-the-bar, food truck kinda food.
Sometimes, I'm kinda embarrassed that it's sort of looked at as our national dish in Canada.
You know what, though? Proper classic poutine can be soooo good!
Done right - with a great recipe - when you're in the right mood for it, it can take the concept of "comfort food" to whole new levels.
Anyway, let’s get to it, I’ve got a LOT to say about this one... 🙂
What is Poutine?
Traditional poutine is a pretty simple dish from Quebec, consisting of fresh, hot fries, softened - not melted -cheese curds, and "gravy".
Sorry, I have to put that in quotes, as I'm a gravy snob. The most popular - and "correct" way of making the sauce for real poutine, in Canada, is to use a packet gravy mix from the grocery store.
I’m not about that, sorry!
While the specific origins of this iconic dish are disputed, it came about sometime in the late 1950s, likely rural Quebec.
Back when I was a kid - having it for the first time at Maxi Frites in Montreal - it was exclusively a Quebec thing.
In the 3+ decades that have followed, it’s blown up in popularity, to the point of becoming a staple of Canadian cuisine.
These days, not only can you get it outside of Quebec, there are entire chains of restaurants dedicated to the Canadian delicacy.
While I’m sure the fact horrifies many French Canadians, you can even get it at fast food chains, including Burger King! (Here in Canada, anyway)!
At it’s most basic, any easy poutine recipe is going to consist of only 3 main parts. Because it’s so simple, it’s important to get those 3 elements right, though.
Here’s what you need to know:
When making - or buying - fries to make this recipe, the number one consideration is that you’ll want them nice and crisp, to hold up to the smothering of poutine gravy.
The best potatoes for making homemade french fries - in general - are russet potatoes, and that holds true here.
Beyond that, it’s all in the technique - more on that in a bit!
Cheese curds can really make or break this recipe.
Ideally, you want fresh cheese curds - the freshest, squeaky cheese curds you can find!
White cheddar cheese curds are pretty much standard, but you can use orange or a mix or white and orange if you need to.
As a side note.. until I moved to Minnesota, I'd hear "Cheese curds" and think "poutine". If not poutine, then eat em raw.
I'd never in my life heard of battering and deep-frying them (The Minnesota standard!), and still find the practice sort of.. bizarre.
Use fresh, unbattered, NOT deep fried cheese for this, please! 🙂
I'm vehemently opposed to pretty much any sauce that comes from a powder (Aside from Swiss Chalet sauce, which I would probably *drink* if presented the opportunity), so I make my own from scratch.
It only takes a few minutes, no worries!
As a heads up, this is a very specific gravy, sort of a bastardized velouté sauce. Rather than being all chicken, it’s a mix of both chicken stock and beef stock, producing a light brown gravy.
While it’s authentic for this particular application, it’s not really a standard gravy, and it’s definitely something that many foodies would turn their nose up at.
It kind of tastes closer to KFC’s gravy - thinned down - than anything you’d serve at Thanksgiving.
So, you know, manage your expectations!
Traditionally, poutine is made with a very light (blond) roux. Well, I prefer a darker roux (more flavor!), which this recipe is based on.
The lighter the roux, the more thickening power, so if you want to go lighter, you'll need a bit more broth than this recipe calls for.
A Note on Servings
This makes enough sauce for 3-4 servings, feel free to double the recipe as needed.
If adding any other ingredients, just eyeball it all. You know how many fries you'd like in a serving!
How to Make Poutine
Full recipe follows, but here’s a quick walk through, with additional tips and details:
Using a sharp knife or French Fry Cutter, cut potatoes into french fries, place into a large bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes.
Drain, rinse well, and soak in cold water for another 30 minutes.
Once the hour is up, drain well and pat dry with paper towels.
I’ll usually cover a baking sheet with paper towels, spread the potatoes out, and dab with additional paper towels.
It sounds fussy, but the soaking and drying removes excess starch, and is necessary for extra-crispy fries!
- Remove cheese curds from fridge, allow to come to room temperature as you work on everything else. I’ll usually do this as I’m starting the first soak for the potatoes.
- If you’re using bacon, chop it into small pieces and fry until crisp. Set aside.
- If you’re using green onions, slice, cover, and set in the fridge until just before you’re ready to serve.
- If you’re using any other toppings, have them prepped before proceeding.
Make The Sauce
In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and pepper, stir well until fully incorporated.
Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until flour mixture becomes the color of peanut butter.
This is called a roux, and cooking it to this level will impart a nice, somewhat nutty flavor to the sauce.
Once the roux has obtained the right color, slowly add broth. It will steam like CRAZY, so be careful.
Allow to simmer on medium heat for a few minutes, until slightly thickened.
This is NOT supposed to be a thick gravy!
Once the sauce is a good consistency, remove from heat and set aside. (You can keep it on low heat if you’d like, just keep an eye on it!)
Cook the Fries
For the best results, I cook fries in two stages - once at a medium heat, to cook them through... then a second time at a medium-high heat, to crisp them up and brown them. So:
Heat oil to 360 degrees F
In small batches, cook fries for 10 minutes. This will NOT brown them, merely cook them.
As each batch comes out, transfer fries to a bowl or baking sheet, and allow the oil temperature to come back up to 360.
Once all fries are par-cooked / blanched, turn the heat up to 375, and allow oil to reach temperature.
In small batches, re-fry the potatoes until golden brown and crispy, about 3-5 minutes per batch.
Yes, it seems a little involved – but this is how to get fries that are cooked all the way through, and crispy on the outside!
To assemble the Poutine
Working quickly, mound hot french fries on serving plate.
Add a handful or so of cheese curds on top of the fries, stir slightly.
Smother with sauce, top with bacon and green onions - or other toppings - if using.
An authentic poutine recipe will be nothing but fries, fresh cheese curds, and gravy. Period.
That said, you can definitely have some fun with it. Personally, I’m of the opinion that if it doesn’t start with the 3 basic ingredients, it’s not poutine.
Start taking things away - or going too far with changing out the curds - and you’ll end up with something like New Jersey Disco Fries (gravy and cheese fries).
I’m sure they’re tasty, they’re just not poutine!
Anyway, some ideas for you:
Swap Out the Fries
... within REASON, of course!
I’ve seen poutine made with waffle fries, potato wedges, sweet potato fries... even tater tots. (Though tots definitely make me raise an eyebrow, LOL!)
Adjust the Gravy
Traditionally, the sauce is a chicken based velouté sauce.
Sometimes I’ve just in the mood for an all-beef gravy, as I find it has more flavor.
I’ve made this recipe using mushroom stock in place of all of the stock called for, that’s really tasty - especially with sauteed mushrooms on top!
Vegetarians can definitely use their favourite stock, whether vegetable or imitation chicken / beef.
Add some Protein
If you want to get wild with it, consider some of the options found at poutineries: Butter Chicken, buffalo chicken, popcorn chicken, smoked sausage, Philly cheesesteak, crumbled hamburgers, Korean bulgogi, vegetarian meat alternatives, fried eggs...
I’ve even seen sliced corn dogs on top. Bizarre!
Start out with my Smoked French Fries. You can also cold smoke your cheese curds, if you like.
This version is really good with some sort of smoked meat on top - Montreal Smoked Meat, brisket... whatever you like / have on hand.
This DEFINITELY stretches the definition of what constitutes a poutine ... but it’s tasty.
Country potatoes as the base, topped with cheese curds, crumbled bacon, chopped breakfast sausage, chopped up scrambled egg, gravy, and green onions.
Some will do Hollandaise sauce, but that’s a step too far, IMHO.
I like crispy bacon and sliced green onions on mine.
I love the extra flavor from the green onions and bacon, as well as the contrasts in flavours, textures, and colours, and temperature that they provide.
Tips for the Best Results
- For perfect poutine, cheese curds should be as fresh as humanly possible - a couple days old at max, if at all possible. Freshness and bringing them to room temperature ensures a nice squeak!
- Timing is essential. I find it best to take the cheese curds out of the fridge, then make the gravy. I’ll leave the gravy on low - or reheat it - while making the fries. You want everything ready to go when the fries are done.
- While it can be tempting to skip the step of soaking the potatoes... don’t. It really does make a huge difference to the finished fries, and will ensure you’ll have the best poutine possible.
- When deep frying, it’s best to do it in small batches. Too many fries at once will drop the temperature, and you’ll end up with sad, possibly soggy fries.
- If you really need to save time, buy your fries, and reheat them in an air fryer. Seriously!
How do you Pronounce Poutine?
It's not actually pronounced "Poo-Teen", as most people think. It's more like.. "poot-sin".
I confess, I'm lazy when it comes to using the accent, and usually just call it "poo-teen" also 🙂
How to Serve Poutine
Generally speaking, you’ll serve this on its own. Sure, you can buy it as a side dish for a burger or whatever, but this is a HEFTY dish.
So, have some forks and napkins on hand. Have a piece of broccoli if it makes you feel better, but that’s about it 🙂
How to Store Leftovers
Seriously, once poutine is assembled, that’s it - eat what you can, but don’t try to save the leftovers.
It’ll be a soggy damn mess that will not reheat into anything you’ll want to eat.
On their own, leftover gravy and fries can separately be covered and stored in the fridge for a couple days, to be reheated and assembled later.
Air fryers are FANTASTIC for reheating fries, btw.
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 through Amazon, or through any major bookseller!
More Canadian Comfort Food!
Whether you’re a Canadian in the US or not, we could all use some comfort food these days. Here are some Canadian Favourites!
Back Bacon / Canadian Bacon
Canadian Popcorn Seasoning Recipes
Dill Pickle Dip
Doughnut Holes - Timbits!
French Canadian Pea Soup
Homemade Deep N Delicious Cake
Maple Butter Tarts
Puffed Wheat Squares
Replica Swiss Chalet Sauce
Tiger Tail Ice Cream
Looking for even more Canadian recipes? Check out our full Canadian Recipes list!
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Authentic Canadian Poutine Recipe [With Homemade Fries]
- Deep Fryer
- French fry cutter
- 4 lbs Russet Potatoes scrubbed clean
- 12 oz Cheese curds
- Bacon Optional
- ¼ cup Butter
- ¼ cup Flour
- 1 ½ cups Beef Broth canned or tetra pack
- ¾ cup Chicken Broth canned or tetra pack
- ⅛-1/4 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper to taste
- Oil for deep frying
- Green onions thinly sliced, optional
- Cut potatoes into french fries, place into a bowl of cold water for about an hour. Remove cheese curds from fridge, allow to come to room temperature as you work on everything else.
- If using, chop bacon into small pieces, fry until crisp. Set aside
For the sauce:
- In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add flour and pepper, stir well until fully incorporated. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until flour mixture becomes the color of peanut butter.
- Once roux has obtained the right color, slowly add broth. It will steam like CRAZY, so be careful. Stir as you go, until sauce is smooth. Taste, add more pepper if necessary. Allow to simmer on medium heat for a few minutes, until slightly thickened. This is NOT supposed to be a thick gravy! Once the sauce is a good consistency, remove from heat and set aside.
For the Fries:
- Heat oil to 360 degrees F
- Remove fries from water, blot dry. In small batches, cook fries for 10 minutes. This will NOT brown them, merely cook them. As each batch comes out, put aside.
- Once all fries are par-cooked / blanched, turn the heat up to 375, and allow oil to reach temperature. In small batches, re-fry the potatoes until browned and crispy, about 3-5 minutes per batch.
To assemble the Poutine:
- Mound hot fries on serving plate. Add a handful or so of cheese curds, stir slightly. Smother with sauce, top with bacon and green onions.Serve immediately.