This practical recipe for Old Bay fries starts with frozen french fries, adds a bit of Old Bay seasoning blend, and ends with you dipping them in a glorious, so simple tangy horseradish aioli.
This recipe is great for summer fish fries, crab boils, and barbecues! It's super easy for you to make, and one of those recipes your guests will absolutely love.
Old Bay fries are a year-round fave, but the bright flavors of the dipping sauce just feel right at home in the messy, sticky heat of the summer.
🍟 About This Recipe
When we lived in Baltimore, Old Bay fries were everywhere. And since we moved away several years ago, the tin of Old Bay — with its unique blend of celery salt, paprika, mustard, black pepper, red pepper flakes — is the thing we reach for when we miss eating dinner in the harbor, watching boats go by.
While Old Bay is often used on seafood dishes, it's so good on freshly fried french fries served with a creamy, tangy dipping sauce. It's like "Ketchup who?" (I kid, I'm from Pittsburgh, we take our ketchup very seriously; It's just not the right partner for Old Bay fries, imo.)
I know it seems strange to create a recipe for something as simple as Old Bay fries, but we absolutely love making these so I thought I'd go ahead and give them home on the blog.
Most of the other recipes I've seen for Old Bay fries start with homemade french fries. Like made from whole potatoes. And while I love a good homemade french fry, they are a LOT of work!
So this recipe does start with frozen french fries — but I do still recommend frying them. Why? You'll get better Old Bay coverage with freshly fried fries! The hot oil helps the Old Bay stick. Plus it gives you a crispier fry.
Don't want to mess around with a pot of hot oil? You can definitely use your favorite frozen fry cooking method here too! Air fryer, oven, deep fryer, microwave... the choice is yours.
🥔 Ingredient Notes
Here are all the ingredients you need to make Old Bay fries! Pretty basic stuff, nothing too fancy, and you can totally choose your favorite type of fries. See recipe card for quantities.
- French Fries - Your preferred brand of frozen french fries, homemade french fries, or delivery fries! I do recommend starting with frozen fries and deep frying them, but you can absolutely use whatever kind of fry cooking method you like best here.
- Old Bay - Depending on where you live Old Bay can sometimes be a little hard to find — if it's not in the spice aisle of your grocery store, check the fish or seafood aisle! You can also order Old bay online.
- Mayonnaise - Whatever brand and style of mayonnaise you prefer!
- White Horseradish - Get the jarred stuff. It's preserved in vinegar which gives a really nice tang to the aioli!
- Lemon - You need both lemon juice and lemon zest here. Remember: Always zest before you juice!
- Onion & Garlic Powder - Honestly there are few savory snack recipes that can't be improved with this perfect pairing. They were a late addition to the horseradish aioli and also absolutely what it needed.
- Parsley - Not pictured, optional for garnishing. Fresh parsley if you have it, but dried is good too.
- Oil - For frying! You need a neutral oil like peanut, vegetable, or canola oil. Enough to fill the pot at least a few inches deep.
♨️ How to Fry Frozen French Fries
In a sturdy, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven, heat several inches of neutral oil to 400F. We actually want to cook the fries at 350F, but since the cold fries will drop the temperature of the oil when we add them, I like to overshoot when I heat the oil.
Heating the oil is actually the longest part of this process — make sure you keep an eye on it, and stir it occasionally to help carry the heat from the bottom of the pot to the top.
For these photos, I was making a pretty small batch of fries so I used a 3 quart cast iron enamel Dutch oven. If you're making a bigger batch of fries, you'll want a bigger Dutch oven.
TIP: Make sure you leave several inches of room between the top of the oil and the top of the pot — the fries tend to bubble a lot, you don't want the oil splashing over!
Submerge the fries in oil. Fry them for about 8-12 minutes, stirring occasionally until they start to brown around the edges.
When the fries are lightly browned and crispy, remove them from the oil to a cooling rack on a sheet pan.
You want the excess oil to drain off so they don't get soggy, which is why we're putting them on a cooling rack.
But we also want there to be enough hot oil left on them to help the Old Bay stick to the fries.
Have your Old Bay tin ready to go, and sprinkle it over the fries immediately.
Transfer the fries to a large bowl, give them a few good tosses to get them evenly coated. Add more Old Bay if needed.
Then set them aside while you make the dip. It really is that easy!
🥣 How to Make Tangy Horseradish Aioli Dip
If you thought making fries and adding Old Bay to them was easy, you're going to love how easy this horseradish aioli is. The bite of the horseradish with the creamy mayo and the bright acid notes from the lemon are so good with Old Bay.
Step one is to put all of the ingredients except for the lemon juice and lemon zest in a bowl. I think you can probably guess what steps two and three are, but I took photos, so I might as well share them.
Zest the lemon, then juice half of it it into the bowl. You can always add more lemon juice if it needs it.
Whisk until smooth and creamy — make sure no sneaky horseradish clumps are hiding inside.
That's it! That's literally it. Your zesty, creamy, tangy horseradish aioli is ready for dipping. So easy, so delish, so perfect for Old Bay fries.
What's an aioli? Ah, the ol' aioli vs mayo debate. Traditionally, an aioli is a garlic and oil emulsion, while mayo is an egg and oil emulsion. But in modern colloquial language, aioli often just means "seasoned mayonnaise dip." This does have garlic in it, so in a way it is an aioli. But since we're starting with store bought mayo, it's also not really an aioli either. Hope this vague explanation helped!
🌡️ Deep Frying Tips for Beginners
If you're new to deep frying, here's some tips to help you out:
- Use a heavy-bottom pot for your frying. For these photos I used a 3.3 quart Dutch oven that Buydeem gifted me (it's super cute and looks kind of like like a cupcake from the outside!) but a sturdy stainless steel stock pot or a larger Dutch oven will also work. Basically just don't use pots that are copper or aluminum.
- Have a good thermometer for your oil. A clip-on candy thermometer is good if you have a smaller or shallower pot, but if you're using a deeper pot I recommend a long-stemmed deep fry thermometer. The clamp holds the stem at an angle so you can be sure you're getting the temperature in the center of the pot. Adjust your burner regularly to maintain 350F. You may even need to turn the burner completely off for a little bit.
- DON'T WALK AWAY! Hot oil looks a lot like cold oil in the pot, it doesn't start bubbling and boiling like water does. It will start bubbling once you add your fries. You might need a higher burner temp than you think to get it to the right temp, but once it's at temp you'll likely only need the burner on low-to-medium to maintain the right heat while frying.
- Use a wide spider or slotted spoon to transfer your food in and out of the hot oil without splashing yourself.
Important: Dispose of your oil properly — don't pour it down the drain. You can either reuse your oil to reduce waste, or use a funnel to transfer the oil (once cool) back to the bottle it came in, then throw out the sealed container.
📋 Other French Fry Cooking Methods
While I recommend frying the french fries for the best results, you can definitely use your oven or an air fryer if you don't want to mess with a big pot of hot oil.
Just spray the frozen fries with an oil spray like PAM (or the generic versions) and toss them a large bowl with the Old Bay before cooking. The bigger the bowl the more room you have to toss, the more evenly the Old Bay will be distributed across your fries.
Repeat the tossing process with an additional sprinkle of Old Bay when they come out of the oven or air fryer if needed.
📖 Using Other Types of Old Bay
This recipe is so simple and easy, you can definitely follow this process with other Old Bay seasonings to make it your own!
- Spicy - Use Old Bay HOT! or add ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper to the fries. Stir 1 teaspoon Old Bay Hot Sauce into the aioli.
- Garlic & Herb - Use Old Bay Garlic & Herb seasoning.
- Blackened - Use Old Bay Blackened seasoning.
🍔 What to Serve with Old Bay Fries
Oh man, what can't you serve Old Bay fries with is the real question. Here's some of my favorite ways to serve them:
- With these Baltimore-inspired turkey burgers
- With these Baltimore-inspired cheesesteak sandwiches on ciabatta bread
- With steak for a mid-Atlantic take on steak frites
- With a classic burger, hot dog, or other barbecue or grilled food
- With fish sticks or battered fish tenders
- With crab cakes, lobster rolls, or clam chowder
👪 Scaling This Recipe Up
If you need to make Old Bay fries for a crowd, I recommend assuming a little more than half a pound of fries per person. This recipe makes one pound of fries, which is enough for about three or four people to split with a meal.
You may need to make the fries in batches, depending on the size of your pot. Don't overcrowd it!
Old Bay Fries with Horseradish Aioli Dip
Old Bay Fries
- 1 pound french fries (frozen)
- 1-2 tablespoons Old Bay
- 2-5 quarts Frying oil (peanut, canola, etc)
Deep Fried Old Bay Fries
- Heat the oil. Attach a clip on thermometer and fill a Dutch oven or sturdy heavy bottomed pot with at least 5-6 inches of peanut oil or other neutral frying oil. Leave at least 3 inches of room from the surface of the oil to the top of the pot. Line a sheet pan with paper towels and fit a cooling rack over it.
- Fry, baby, fry! When the oil is around 400°F use a wire spider to gently submerge the frozen fries in the oil. The temperature of the oil will drop immediately. Bring it back up to 350°F, this is the temperature you want to maintain while they're cooking. Adjust the burner as needed to stay at 350°F. You may have to work in batches. CAUTION: The oil will bubble and foam — be careful!
- Add Old Bay. When the fries are golden brown around the edges (about 8-12 minutes), remove them to the lined sheet pan and immediately sprinkle with Old Bay. Bonus: After giving them about a minute to cool and drain the excess oil, use tongs to transfer the fries to a large metal mixing bowl and give them a few good tosses to help evenly distribute the Old Bay.
- Garnish. Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve with lemon wedges and horseradish aioli on the side.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk well for about a minute to break up any horseradish lumps. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. TIP: Zest the lemon *before* you juice it.
- OVEN or AIR FRYER Old Bay fries: Spray with an oil spray and toss in a bowl with Old Bay before cooking to help it stick to the fries. Toss fries with additional Old Bay after cooking, if needed.