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Homemade Poutine (a Canadian Classic)

Check out this Canadian classic – homemade poutine. Baked fries with creamy insides, melty cheese curds, all smothered in a rich beef gravy. I may be a biased Canadian, but I think you will agree it’s a scrumptious easy-to-make comfort food.

If you love French fries and gravy (smothered fries), you will love this easy poutine recipe. 

poutine on plate

Poutine is a Canadian classic that originated in Quebec in the 1950’s. It is now served worldwide in diners, on food trucks and even in high end restaurants. The French word poutine is slang for “a mess” and simply means “fries with cheese and gravy”.

In Quebec, poutine is pronounced poo-tin or poo-tsin. The rest of Canada and beyond pronounce it poo-teen. 

There are endless variations of poutine nowadays. For this recipe, we’re sticking to a more classic Canadian poutine – homemade fries (I prefer baking them), topped with cheese curds and a homemade beef gravy (well, mostly homemade). If you’re feeling lazy, don’t worry, we have a couple of shortcuts for you.

Serve the homemade poutine as an appetizer, a side dish or even a main meal (with an extra topping or two). I, for one, am happy to eat poutine as a meal 🙂 To balance the meal, a simple salad or tomato soup will work.  

Tips for Success

  • Good gravy:
    • This is a matter of taste. The flavor in a poutine comes from the gravy. If you like the traditional beefy flavor, try to get the best beef broth you can find. Epicurious has a good article on best beef broths.
    • My personal favorite is a can of Campbell’s undiluted beef broth (30% less salt). I use it at full strength without adding water. If I can’t get the lower sodium brand, I mix in some water. Otherwise the dish is too salty as cheese curds contain a lot of salt.
    • You can also opt for chicken gravy or to use a combination of beef and chicken broth. 
  • Hot gravy: Make sure the gravy is very hot when you pour it on. This helps make the cheese curds get melty.
  • Cheese: White cheddar cheese curds are used in authentic poutine recipes. See below on what they are, where to get them and how to substitute if necessary. 
  • Fries: Some like to start with crispy fries. I don’t fuss too much with this because as soon as you add gravy, they are going to soften. 

Where can I find cheese curds?

The only tricky part – mostly outside of Canada – is finding cheese curds, a key ingredient for authentic poutine. You’re looking for white cheddar cheese curds if possible.

What are cheese curds?

  • Cheese curds are just cheese, usually cheddar, that hasn’t been aged. To sell it legally in the US, the curds have to be aged at least 60 days to kill the bacteria.
  • Cheese curds have a mild, salty taste and springy texture. They don’t melt completely in a poutine recipe, just slightly.
  • They are most flavorful right after they are made and squeak against your teeth when you bite into them. Only when super fresh though. 
  • For this poutine recipe, cheese curds are best at room temperature. They will last for a few weeks in the fridge and can even be frozen. 

Where can I buy cheese curds?

  • Other than farmer’s markets where I get mine, an online search shows that white cheddar cheese curds should be available at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Walmart. Get this – you can buy a frozen poutine kit at Trader Joe’s which includes the fries, curds and gravy! Many large grocery chains will carry cheese curds as well. 

Best substitute for cheese curds

  • If you can’t find cheese curds, full fat mozzarella torn into little pieces, is the best substitute. Don’t use the shredded mozzarella – it will just melt.

FAQ 

What poutine toppings can I use? 

  • Bacon, smoked meat, cooked sausage, pulled pork, scallions, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms. Or whatever ever else you like.

How else can I serve poutine? 

  • How about a poutine bar! Set out the fries, cheese curds, hot gravy in a coffee thermos – and several toppings (suggestions above). Let guests make their own. 

How much potatoes do I need per serving?

  • This will completely depend on what else you are serving with the poutine and how big your eaters are. 
  • I typically figure 2-3 people per pound (250g) of potatoes. About one medium potato per person. 

Is homemade poutine unhealthy? 

  • Let’s be clear. This is not diet food. Lots of carbs, fat and calories. But I can assure you that our homemade poutine is better for you than the ones they sell in the chain restaurants. While not all portions are equal,
    • KFC poutine has 720 calories with 40 grams of fat.
    • MacDonald’s has a whopping 870 calories with 38 grams of fat.
    • Burger King’s is 740 calories with 41 gram of fat.
    • Wendy’s is 660 calories and 37 grams of fat.
    • And they all have a ton of salt. 
  • By comparison, our recipe for homemade poutine has 382 calories, 25 grams of fat (5 saturated) and half the salt. Much better. Portions matter of course. 

What other famous Canadian foods can I try?

  • Poutine often tops the lists, but other great ones are Nanaimo bars, Timbits (from Tim Hortons), maple syrup, Montreal bagels (St. Viateur), butter tarts, Nova Scotia lobster rolls, peameal bacon (also called Canadian bacon) and our Canadian maple cedar planked salmon

Shortcuts

  • Use store-bought frozen french fries
  • Use a store-bought packaged beef gravy. Based on taste tests, Insider says Knorr Classic Brown Gravy Mix is best. Influenster says Club House Organic Brown Gravy Mix is best. You’ll have to experiment here. And keep in mind, our homemade gravy only takes 5 minutes to make. 

Make Ahead

  • You can make the gravy several days ahead and keep it in the fridge. Reheat it on the stove or in the microwave. 
  • The fries can also be made a couple hours ahead. Just reheat them before serving at 400F/204C for 5-7 minutes to crisp up. 

Other types of poutine you can make

The sky is the limit. Here are a few variations to get your imagination flowing. 

  • Chicken pot poutine – scoop chicken pot pie filling over fries and cheese curds
  • Root vegetable poutine – for the fries, include various root vegetables with potatoes e.g. carrots, turnip, parsnip, sweet potato.
  • Seafood poutine – use lobster bisque as the gravy (thickened a little with cornstarch if you like)
  • Gnocchi poutine – instead of fries, use gnocchi
  • Butter chicken poutine – pour butter chicken sauce over the fries instead of beef gravy. 
  • Vegan poutine – try it with miso gravy and vegan cheese.  Vegetarians can substitute vegetarian gravy for the beef gravy.
  • Greek poutine – sprinkle with cooked shredded lamb and feta (instead of cheese curds)
  • Sausage poutine – you guessed it – use sausage gravy instead of beef. And top with some cooked sausage. 

How to make poutine

cheese curds on plate
Cheese curds used in authentic poutine
poutine on plate 1
To serve, place fries on plate, top with cheese curds and pour on hot gravy.

poutine on plate p2

 

poutine on plate
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Homemade Poutine (a Canadian Classic)

Check out this Canadian classic - homemade poutine. Baked fries with creamy insides, melty cheese curds, all smothered in a rich beef gravy. I may be a biased Canadian, but I think you will agree it's a scrumptious easy-to-make comfort food.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Canadian, Quebec
Servings: 3 (or two large portions)
Author: Cheryl, Two Kooks In The Kitchen

Ingredients

Fries

  • 1 pound (450g) potatoes, Russet or Yukon Gold (2-3 potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each, kosher salt and ground pepper

Gravy

  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 2 tablespoon oil (or meat drippings or butter)
  • 1 cup (230 ml) good beef broth Note 2 if using undiluted, full strength broth, use 3/4 broth and 1/4 water)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: a teaspoon fresh herbs like thyme or chives; and a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce.

Cheese curds

  • 1/2 cup (112g) white cheddar cheese curds - or more, room temperature (or substitute torn full fat mozzarella)

Instructions

  • HEAT OVEN TO 425F/218C. Line a baking pan with parchment or foil, sprayed with oil.
  • BAKE FRENCH FRIES: Peel potatoes if you like (I don't bother). Cut them into sticks of about 1/3 inch or 1 cm wide. No need to obsess - thinner will take less time to bake, fatter will take more. Optional: For crispier fries, soak them in a bowl of water for 30 minutes or more to remove some starch. Dry them well in a tea towel. Toss with oil, salt and pepper in a dry bowl. Spread on pan. Bake fries for 30 minutes or until nicely browned, flipping once half way through.
  • MAKE GRAVY: While fries are baking, make the gravy. Put 1 1/2 tbsp of fat drippings or oil into a small saucepan. Heat to medium. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until it starts to turn a very light brown. (It should be a loose paste. If too dry, add a bit more oil). Add broth and whisk/stir until smooth - about 3 minutes. Gravy will thicken. Add optional herbs and Worcestershire if using. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • ASSEMBLE: Place fries on a plate. Top with cheese curds. Pour HOT gravy over. Serve immediately. Dig in!

Notes

  1. Beef Broth: 
    • For beef gravy (traditional), my personal favorite is a can of Campbell's undiluted beef broth (30% less salt). It will NOT say 'ready to serve' on the can. I use it at full strength without adding water. If I can't get the lower sodium brand, I use full strength mixed with some water. Otherwise the poutine will be too salty as cheese curds contain a lot of salt. Epicurious wrote an article recommending the best beef broths if you're interested.
    • You can also use a combination of beef and chicken broth. Or just chicken broth. 
  2. Gravy options and shortcut:
    1. Chicken gravy: Instead of a brown beef gravy, you can also make a chicken gravy or combination of beef and chicken.
    2. Shortcut gravy, use a packaged gravy such as Knorr Classic Brown Gravy Mix or your favorite. 
    3. Vegetarian gravy: Use vegetarian broth and herbs. I also add green onions for extra flavor (saute them before adding flour). 
  3. French fries shortcut: Use frozen French fries and bake according to package directions. 
  4. To fry French fries (instead of baking them), here is a french fries recipe from fifteen spatulas.
  5. Make Ahead
    • You can make the gravy several days ahead and keep it in the fridge. Reheat it on the stove or in the microwave. 
    • The fries can also be made a couple hours ahead. Just reheat them before serving at 400F/204C for 5-7 minutes to crisp up. 
Nutrition values are estimates and depend on how much cheese curds and gravy used. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Homemade Poutine (a Canadian Classic)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 382 Calories from Fat 225
% Daily Value*
Fat 25g38%
Saturated Fat 5g31%
Trans Fat 1g
Cholesterol 20mg7%
Sodium 663mg29%
Potassium 796mg23%
Carbohydrates 31g10%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 10g20%
Vitamin A 2IU0%
Vitamin C 9mg11%
Calcium 155mg16%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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