In 2007 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ran a national poll asking viewers what they thought was the greatest Canadian invention of all time.
It seems Canadians are prolific inventors. The winner was insulin – used to treat diabetes – followed by the telephone and the light bulb. But creeping into the top 10 was an invention that few non-Canadians have heard of. It’s a simple plate of chips topped with cheese curds and gravy, and it goes by the name of poutine. It polled higher than the electron microscope, the electric oven and even the concept of standard time, coming just behind the pacemaker and the Wonderbra.
Poutine was reputedly invented in 1957 in rural French-speaking Quebec, when a diner regular asked the chef to put cheese curds on top of his chips. Despite the chef’s protest of “Ça va faire une maudite poutine!” (“It will make a damn mess!”), he obliged, and poutine was born.
But the dish wasn’t quite finished. Although the story goes that gravy was added to keep the chips warmer for longer, it’s also what turned one man’s weird food taste into a national icon. A strange idea had now become a plate of crispy chips, saturated with sweet meaty gravy and topped with squeaky cheese curds. That mix of textures makes it comforting, moreish and satisfying.
It’s now served everywhere in Canada, from the roadside diners that invented it, right up to Michelin-starred restaurants, via street food stalls and, of course, McDonald’s. It is the unofficial official dish of Canada. In fact, if they could make it look good on a flag, the maple leaf’s days might be numbered.
So, while it may look like a plate of cheesy chips that’s been run over, when done well poutine is a treat unlike any other. As with all simple dishes, the devil is in the detail, so here are our tips for the perfect poutine.
Good poutine chips need to be two things. First, they need to be fairly thin so that the gravy can filter down when it’s poured on (and because this is a dish inspired by the French). Second, they must be crispy, so that when the gravy hits they absorb it to create a sloppy but still resilient texture.
Jamie has a perfect chips recipe in his new book, Jamie’s Comfort Food that makes them come out crispy every time. To summarise it, you need to use the right potato (we think Maris Piper is best) to get crispy outsides and fluffy insides, and you need to fry them twice – once at a lower temperature to cook though, then once at a super-hot temperature to get the outside crispy. Make sure you drain them of oil really well too – there is no space for extra moisture in poutine.
Don’t let anyone tell you poutine is just cheesy chips with gravy. I’ve tried that and it’s nowhere near as good, so there are only two options for the cheese. Hopefully you can find some real cheese curd – in Canada it’s pretty easy to get hold of – but elsewhere going to an artisan cheesemonger or a farm shop that makes its own cheese could yield results. They say it’s not real poutine if you can’t hear the squeak of the cheese.
Of course, the likelihood is you won’t be able to find any. So the next best thing and the closest in texture is a really good mozzarella. You’ll need about a ball per person (this is a once-in-a-while treat, remember) torn into pieces about the size of a bottle cap. It works almost as well, and still goes just about oozy in the hot gravy. Speaking of which…
To be honest, this is the most important bit. Instant gravy is a sin at the best of times, but here it is cardinal. Invest in great gravy and you’ll be far likelier to have great poutine.
Tradition states that the gravy should be light and not too thick, so all the chips get coated in it. Most recipes call for a mix of chicken and beef stock to achieve this. That’s all well and good, but I prefer my gravy thick and sweet. A homemade chicken gravy like Jamie’s Get-ahead gravy is a great base. Obviously that’s a lot of effort to go to, but if you’ve made some for a roast you can use the leftovers.
Whatever gravy you use, I make a thicker and sweeter gravy using lots of cranberry sauce and cooking it down a little further – that way it drips luxuriously over the chips and is absolutely rammed with flavour.
Authentic Canadian Poutine Recipe
Learn how to make real poutine at home with my Authentic Canadian Poutine Recipe. I will show you how to make it, as well as explaining exactly what exactly poutine is, for the uninitiated.
What kind of a Canadian food blogger would I be if I didn't have a recipe for Canadian Poutine on this blog? Poutine is a wonderful and delicious concoction of fries, gravy and cheese curds and is one of the most quintessential Canadian dishes! So if you already know how great this dish is and are just looking for a great, authentic poutine recipe to make at home, skip on down to the recipe. I've got you covered! If you'd like to learn more about Poutine, read on!
- 1 (14 ounce) package frozen French fries
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups beef broth
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 ½ cups cheese curds
Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
Spread fries in a single layer over prepared baking sheet.
Bake in the preheated oven until light brown, about 15 minutes.
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour vigorously. When mixture bubbles, reduce heat to low cook and stir until the mixture thins, about 2 minutes. Whisk in beef broth. Bring to a boil reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until gravy has thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Place fries on a serving plate or in individual bowls. Distribute the cheese curds over the fries pour hot gravy over the fries and curds. Serve immediately.
How to Make the Ultimate Poutine
I'm not sure where or when my fascination with poutine began. All I know is that I'm always compelled to order it when I see it on a menu, and that my perception of its quality is directly proportional to my level of inebriation. When I'm sober enough to know better, most poutine strikes me as pretty sub-par.
For the uninitiated, poutine is a dish born out of rural Quebec that consists of three ingredients: fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds. It's simple enough, but as with anything seemingly simple, the devil is in the details. Poutines fail because they don't strike the right balance of textures and flavors. A good version starts with a bed of fries that have crisp exteriors and soft, pillowy interiors. On top of that should be a generous portion of bite-size soft cheese curds that have a distinct squeak to them. Smothering the fries and curds is a brown gravy that has just enough beefiness and tang to make it stand out, but not so much that it overwhelms the other two components.
This past summer I went up to Montreal and managed to squeeze in a fair amount of poutine eating. Some examples I tried were so good—like the one from Comptoir 21 shown above*—that I wondered why I couldn't get something like that back in New York. Ever since, I've been on a journey to develop the ultimate poutine recipe, and I'm now ready to share it with you all. If you're looking for a poutine that you can whip up after you've already shotgunned a six-pack, this is not the poutine for you. There are no shortcuts here.
*Amazingly, this one had a vegetarian but still very meaty-tasting gravy.
Cheese curds can either be the easiest or most difficult step when making the ultimate poutine. If you have a source for great fresh cheese curds, it's as simple as buying them. If you don't, you're going to have to make them yourself. (Yup, I said I wasn't going to take any shortcuts here.)
The traditional curds for poutine should be soft, have a mild tanginess, and squeak when you bite them. This squeak is the result of long elastic proteins that form during the curd-forming process, which rub against your teeth as you chew. These proteins only exist for a short period of time, since they're dependent on the pH of the cheese. After the curds are more than a day old, their pH lowers and they lose their squeak (here's an explanation of the science of this process for those interested).
This means you need a source of incredibly fresh, day-of cheese curds, which can be a challenge for a lot of us. In my home base of New York, for instance, Beecher's Cheese is the only source I know of, although it's a bit of gamble because I've gotten both squeaky and none-squeaky curds there, and their curds have a sharper flavor than I like in my poutine. Still, they're the best bet in the area.
If you can't find great curds, the next best option is to make your own. With the right tools and patience, it's not all that difficult. I followed this recipe exactly, which required me to buy thermophilic culture, calcium chloride, and animal rennet, all inexpensive and easily obtainable online.
I started by heating the milk to 90°F, then added the thermophilic culture and calcium chloride and holding it at that temperature for an hour. Next I stirred in the rennet and waited another hour until the milk coagulated. With a long slicing knife, I cut the coagulated cheese into curds (whey separates from the coagulated milk as you do this) and let it rest for five minutes. Then I slowly brought the temperature of the curds and whey to 102°F over a period of 30 minutes. Once there, I cooked the curds at that temperature for another 45 minutes. I then drained the curds through cheesecloth and while they were quite nice looking, they had yet to develop a squeak.
The next step was to "cheddar" them while keeping them warm, which I did using a steamer insert above the remaining hot whey. After letting the cheese settle into a cohesive mass for 15 minutes, I cut the block in two pieces and flipped them every 15 minutes for two hours. The cheese was then solid enough for me to break apart into bite-size curds, which I seasoned with salt.
The curds have a great squeak and mild tanginess, perfect for poutine. I'll admit I'm not a cheesemaker, so I'm still tinkering with my technique (I'd like to get a little more tanginess in my future batches), but overall this is by far the best bet for those of us who don't have a proper cheese curd source nearby.
The main characteristic of poutine gravy is that it's brown, which usually means it's made with beef stock, although places like Comptoir 21 show that a roasted vegetable gravy can be just as good.
I stuck with the more common beef version, but didn't want to use canned beef stock because store-bought ones are never quite good enough. They're always too strong, too weak, artificial tasting, and/or overly salty. So I needed my own stock with just enough beefy flavor to give it some backbone, but not so much that it overpowered the curds and fries.
A traditional beef stock usually starts with marrow bones roasted with tomato paste, which creates a deeply brown and flavorful stock. Since I wanted something more subdued, I skipped the roasting and made a hybrid beef and chicken stock. I started by browning oxtails, beef shin bones, veal bones, and chicken necks in a large stock pot. After finishing those, I added carrots, celery, garlic, and onions, which turned a beautiful brown as they picked up the fond left behind from the roasted bones.
I deglazed with chicken stock, then added the meat, bones, and just enough water to cover, along with aromatics like thyme, parsley, bay leaves, and peppercorns. I let this simmer for three hours, then strained out the solids and separated the fat using a fat separator—you can also chill the stock and remove the hardened fat that collects on the surface. As for the meat from the oxtails, you can either shred it and add it to the finished gravy, or save it as a snack or pasta topper.
With the stock ready, the rest of the gravy was straightforward: I started it with a flour-and-butter roux, and once that was a golden blond color, I slowly whisked in the stock, simmering it until thickened.
Poutine gravies usually have a touch of tanginess, so I whisked in a tablespoon of rice vinegar, which is delicate enough to brighten a bit without making the gravy too sour.
Ultra-crisp fries are essential for poutine, since they need to retain their crunch even after the gravy has been poured on top. I knew I wanted a thick-cut frite-style fry for this, since those have a good ratio of crisp exterior to pillowy potato center.
I cut my skin-on russets into 1/2-inch strips and used the double fry method—first cooking them at a lower temperature to soften the potatoes, then frying them at a hotter temperature to crisp them. Typically I wash off the starch before frying the potatoes, but I wondered if leaving the starch on would yield even crunchier results, so I tried out both ways.
Both sets of potatoes cooked similarly on the first low-temp fry, but the non-rinsed fries almost instantly turned a dark brown in the hotter 425°F oil. More importantly, the rinsed ones were both crispier on the outside and softer within. Rinsing it is.
To bump up the crunchiness, I cooked my fries a minute longer than normal, which gave them a deeper golden color and crispness without compromising the interior. What actually made for the crispiest fries, though, was freezing them after the first frying step and then frying them the second time while still partially frozen.
Once the fries are done, assembly needs to happen quickly, so it's best to have all components ready to go. The curds should be soft and slightly (but not fully) melted. Having them at room temperature is the key to getting them there from just the heat of the fries and gravy alone. The gravy, meanwhile, needs to be hot enough to soften the curds, but not so hot that it melts them completely—if it's hot enough to burn your tongue, let it cool just a little before pouring it on.
Building the poutine is as simple as topping the fries with a healthy portion of room-temp curds, and then pouring the hot gravy on top. A garnish of minced chives is a nice fancy-pants touch.
This poutine was as close to perfect as I've had outside of Quebec. The fries retained a nice crunch and had excellent creamy interiors. My homemade cheese curds squeaked with each bite. And the gravy took it over the top with its robust, beefy flavor.
Poutine may have a reputation as drunk food, but when it's done right like this, it's really a thing of beauty, just as excellent whether you've been imbibing or not.
Kids Kitchen: Easy Poutine Recipe
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Welcome back to Sugar, Spice & Glitter! My newsletter is the best way to stay up to date with our delicious recipes, fun kids’ activities and travel tips. Please note, this post may contain affiliate links. For more details, see our Full Disclosure .
We’re interrupting our usual schedule of kids’ activities, positive parenting inspiration, and family-friendly food to bring you 31 days of Kids Kitchen Recipes and Activities.
Today, Nell from Rhythms of Play is sharing her Kid-Made Veggie Lasagna, and I thought we’d share one of our own kid-made meals as part of a Tour the World virtual food expo being hosted by my friend Meghan.
Here is an easy and delicious recipe for a Canadian classic that hails from Quebec — Poutine!
When we were in Montreal last summer, we actually went on a self-created poutine tour, having more than 10 renditions of the French Canadian classic. While there are lots of fun variations (favourites include a lobster poutine smothered in Bernaise sauce, butter chicken poutine, and a foie gras-topped poutine) we decided to share with you the standard – classic – poutine recipe that you can buy nearly all across Canada, especially in Quebec.
A great poutine starts with perfect french fries. We made frozen french fries purchased from a local restaurant, but you can use homemade french fries, as long as they are crispy! Nothing is worse than soggy fries… especially in a poutine.
My tips for perfect homemade french fries:
- soak your cut potatoes in salt water for at least half an hour and squeeze when removed to remove some of the starch
- batter your french fries if possible, in a flour-and-water mixture (or flour and beer!)
- spread your french fries out well on your baking sheet so that they aren’t crowding each other
- if frying, make sure the oil is very hot before starting and work in small batches
While the French fries are baking, prepare your gravy. I always save the drippings from a roast for making gravy, but you can also make a good gravy with bouillon cubes, flour, and broth.
Once the French fries are removed, sprinkle a generous amount of local cheese curds overtop. Cheese curds are simply small lumps of cheese that do not completely melt when added to dishes. They retain their waxy texture and amazing flavour, giving a great contrast to the crunchy French fries.
Finally, top with that delicious gravy. I like to half-cover the fries with gravy to have that contrast of some bare French fries to the ones smothered in sauce.
This is one dish that you want to eat as fresh and as hot as you can… some of us can’t even wait for the poutine to be portioned out before digging in!
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Jerk Chicken Poutine
This is the perfect Jamaican-Canadian mash-up, Jerk Chicken Poutine! It’s classic Canadian meets traditional Jamaican - a burst of deliciousness and the right amount of comfort in every bite!
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This is the perfect Jamaican-Canadian mash-up, Jerk Chicken Poutine! It’s classic Canadian meets traditional Jamaican – a burst of deliciousness and the right amount of comfort in every bite!
From the homemade fries to the homemade gravy to the perfectly marinated and smoked jerk chicken – what’s not to love?! So for those that don’t know, I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada – poutine is kinda like our thing! It’s a dish that combines French fries and cheese curds, which is topped with a yummy gravy! It originated in the province of Quebec (that’s east of Toronto), and it’s a dope, comforting dish! My parents were born and raised in Jamaica – jerk chicken is kinda like their thing! So I thought, why not combine the two to make JERK CHICKEN POUTINE! Ahhhhhhh, it’s the perfect, absolutely perfect, mash-up of the two! I’m telling you from now, you’re going to love this dish!
Recipe Tips and Notes
The Perfect Poutine Gravy – This is probably the most important part. If you have great gravy, you’ll most likely have a great poutine. Traditionally, the gravy is light and not too thick. However, I like a good, thick and boastful gravy. There’s, of course, the lengthier process of making gravy, however, I will share the quick version on this recipe, used by combining chicken and beef stock. You must use a good quality stock because this is what your gravy will essentially taste like – quality stock = quality gravy.
The Cheese – Do not use shredded cheese! You must use real cheese curds and in Canadian grocery stores, it’s quite easy to get a hold of. After all, is it really poutine if you can’t hear the squeak of the cheese? If you can’t find real cheese curds, the next best option is a quality mozzarella.
The Chips (French Fries) – First things first, the chips must be crispy! This will allow your dish to stay messily intact after being topped with cheese, gravy, and in this recipe, jerk chicken. There is a technique you should follow to allow for the crispiest chips! First start with the right potato – Russets, to be precise. Secondly, you must soak them for a few hours or overnight to remove the excess starch. Third, drain and pat dry. Fourth, fry them TWICE…yes, you heard me correctly. The first time at a lower temperature to cook them through then a second time at a high temperature to get them crispy on the outside. Lastly, you must drain them. You don’t want excess moisture and oil in your poutine!
The Jerk Chicken – What you need is a good marinade, some time to allow the flavour to soak into your chicken, a grill (recommended but not required) and that’s all! I have a quick and easy recipe on the blog – click here to access it. Don’t waste your marinade – turn it into a yummy sauce and add it to the poutine!
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups store-bought beef stock
- 1 cup store-bought or homemade chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- Kosher salt
- 1 freshly made batch homemade French fries from the Perfect Poutine recipe or about 2 pounds frozen thick-cut French fries, reheated following package instructions
- 12 ounces white cheddar cheese curds or mild white cheddar cheese, at room temperature and torn into bite-size pieces
Tips for the perfect poutine - Recipes
Classic poutine is made with crispy French fries, brown gravy, and fresh, squeaky cheese curds.
There are plenty of contributions to thank our Great Northern neighbor for — ice hockey, standard time, canola oil, the McIntosh Apple — but none as great as poutine (poo-teen). Yes this deep-fried, gravy-smothered, cheesy French fry concoction is a Canadian classic that makes chili fries look like child’s play.
This dish of fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds wasn’t so much invented as it evolved from its humble beginnings in a small dairy-farming town in Quebec in 1957. Legend has it that restaurateur Fernand Lachance was asked by a customer to combine French fries and cheese curds in a bag for convenience one night at his restaurant. When he looked in the bag and saw the hot fries had melted the cheese curds he declared the sight a “poutine” — slang for a “mess.”
The third and final ingredient in this heavenly concoction, gravy, was added in 1964 by Jean-Paul Roy at his restaurant in Drummondville, Quebec. He noticed customers ordering cheese curds along with gravy and a side of fries being an astute man, he decided to add the customer-created concoction to his menu.
Today, poutine, as is the will of the hosers, is ubiquitous throughout Quebec, even being sold at fast food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King in Canada.
So what makes the perfect poutine? Obviously, a balance of the key ingredient trinity, but let’s break it down further:
You can buy fresh cheese curds from specialty stores or your local dairy.
You need fresh, soft, mildly tangy curds for the perfect poutine. This may require some searching since cheese curds haven’t caught on quite as much in the U.S. as they have in the Great North. The perfect curds will squeak when you bite into them indicating that they are fresh. You can always go the route of swapping curds for shredded Cheddar, but just know that you are making the New Jersey favorite Disco Fries — definitely not poutine — but still delicious in its own right. Here are some cheese curd sources we are liking: West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe, Stoltzfus Family Dairy, and Beecher’s Handmade Cheese.
French fries undergo a two-step frying process to cook and crisp them.
Crispy fries are key to the success of your poutine dish because of all the soggy cheese and gravy that will be poured on top of them. For an end result of crispy exterior and soft interior, use the double fry method. The second trick, rinse your cut potatoes before frying to remove the starch. This will keep your fries from becoming too dark too quickly when frying. For more tips, check out our French fry guide for home cooks here.
Brown gravy is made from reduced beef stock thickened with flour or cornstarch.
A smooth, rich, brown, beef-stock gravy is the real flavor-maker in this dish. If you want, you can go all out making the stock from scratch by roasting beef bones, sautéing a mirepoix of carrots, onions, and celery, and then adding bouquet garni (peppercorns, parsley, bay leaf) before covering with water and/or chicken stock and simmering for at least three hours to bring out all the flavors. Then, strain and whisk your rich, beef-scented stock with a butter and flour roux to make thick, smooth gravy topping for your crispy French fries. Check out our gravy-making tips here.
This sea food putine dish is the essence of finest sea food tastes. The combination of shells, lobster and fish, will bring you the perfect mix of sea flavors. It goes best with equally delicate, light white wines.
- 1.5 cups White Potatoes cut into wedge fries
- 3 tsp Mixed Lobster Meat
- 8 Scallops mid-size
- 3 Cod Filets
- 6 tsp Cream Cottage Cheese
- 3 tsp Half Sliced Olives
- 8 tsp Olive Oil
- 2.75 tsp Coconut Butter
- 1 tsp Rosemary
- 4 Laurel Leaves
- 2.5 tsp Garlic finely chopped
- 4 tsp Chopped Parsley
- Cayenne Pepper & Salt to taste
Heat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine potato wedges, 2 tsp coconut butter, 1 tsp rosemary and salt. Put the potatoes into baking paper on the roasting pan and place it in lower third of oven. Roast potatoes for 25 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown.
For the Trieste sauce, whisk 8 tsp olive oil, 21/2 tsp of finely chopped garlic, and 4 tsp chopped parsley in one small bowl.
In a blender, mix 3 tsp of mixed lobster meat, 6 tsp cream cottage cheese, cayenne pepper and salt to the taste. Mix it until the lobster – cottage cheese dressing is creamy smooth.
Intensively wash the scallop meet and dry it. Season with salt and cayenne pepper.
Heat ¾ tsp of coconut butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add 3 tsp half sliced olives, 4 laurel leaves, 3 finely torn filets of cod, and scallop meet. Roast the mixture for about 6 minutes, while stirring it and turning the scallop meet once.
Add the Trieste sauce in to the sea food mixture.
Put the potato wedges into the high cup add the seafood - Trieste sauce mixture in the top. Add the lobster – cottage cheese dressing in the top of poutine. Decorate it with shell fish shells.
COOKWARE NEEDED: Oven, Baking Tray, Whisk, Knife, Bowls, Blender, Skillet, Measuring Spoons, Stirring Spoon.
Like this? We have more poutine recipes with meat right here on our site so make sure to check them out because they are amazing!
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Tips for making Poutine
- Don’t take your poutine too seriously. Be flexible and use what you have. You really can’t go wrong!
- When frying your French fries, make sure you are using the accurate temperatures. Use a kitchen thermometer or a fryer with a temperature gauge.
- Don’t forget to season your fries once they are cooked! Use sea salt or seasoning salts to being out the flavor.
- When ready to eat, you can broil it on high for 2-3 minutes to make the cheese melt faster.