churros

Let’s be honest here: fried foods don’t have the healthiest reputation. But sometimes, that’s ok. Because you know what? Adulting is hard, and there’s days when you deserve something super-special, not-so-healthy, and definitely delicious just for getting through it all.

And if you happen to have a small, counter-size deep fryer, you’re most of the way there already. It’s one of those kitchen gadgets most of us get with the best of intentions, then shove into storage somewhere. And that’s a shame! It’s great for much more than just a handful of fries or some spring rolls, and the great thing about some of the best fried foods out there is that you can make them right at home.

Don’t have a little deep fryer? You might want to get one after taking a look through these delicious dishes, and if you’re not quite sold yet, you can use a deep pan filled with oil to achieve basically the same thing. (But carefully!) Of course, you can also pick most of these goodies up at fairs, street carts, and restaurants — if you look hard enough.

Whether you’re talking about battering and frying something you’d never thought about trying before, or whipping up a whole new dish that hails from half a world away, here are the fried foods you need to try before you die.

Fried pickles

fried pickles

If you’re having beer battered fish, hamburgers, chicken wings, or chicken fingers… what is it that you usually make to go on the side? Fries, right? That’s so boring!

Serve up your main with a side of fried pickles, and you’ll find that they just might be even better than fries. You can use any cut of pickles — slices or spears — but opt for a tangy, super-crunchy dill pickle, beer battered and sprinkled with bread crumbs, then deep fried… seriously, you’ll never look back.

Even better, they’re perfect for dipping in the same sauces you love with your fish and your chicken wings.

Churros

If you’ve had churros, there’s a good chance that what you tried were those pre-made, frozen ones. You might have even tried them at Costco. That’s absolutely not what we’re talking about here, because when you make them from scratch (or try them made fresh at an authentic restaurant) they’re so much better, they taste like an entirely different thing — and that’s something you need to try!

They’re just the right combination of crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and who doesn’t love the combo of cinnamon and sugar? They’re particularly perfect if you’re looking for something light and tasty to serve after dinner, at the point where everyone’s sitting around with a cup of coffee, some tea, or an after-dinner drink. No one’s really hungry any more, but you’d love dessert… that’s when you need to try a churro.

Beer battered hot dogs/rippers

No summertime weekend is complete without some hot dogs, but hot dogs can get a little boring. If you want to serve up something that’s familiar yet unique, dig out the deep fryer instead of the pan.

There’s a few things you can do — if you throw a hot dog into the fryer and cook it until the skin gets super crispy and the casing breaks, you’re actually whipping up a New Jersey favorite. They’re called rippers, and that’s exactly what Jersey staple Rutt’s Hut is known for. Love hot dogs that snap? This is snap to the extreme.

Or, you could opt for beer-battering your hot dog and then frying it. That, too, is pretty darn delicious. In this case, skip the bun and just dunk into the dipping sauce of your choice… though you’ll never go wrong with mustard.

Deep-fried Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are one of those things that we all know we should eat more of, but… ugh. They’re Brussels sprouts! There’s good news, though: you can absolutely deep fry them and make them into a side you actually want to finish.

You don’t even have to batter them; just clean them up and throw them in the oil. (Carefully!) Keep those loose leaves on the outside, and they’ll turn into some delicious crispiness. Sprinkle on some Parmesan, or whip up a quick, spicy sort of sauce for dipping, and you’ll find even the biggest sprout-hater will be singing a different tune. Even better? Add some bacon, because everything’s better with bacon!

Scotch egg

When it comes to Scotch eggs, there are extremes. Get a badly made one, and you’ll wonder what the fuss is about — it can be sort of like eating a rubbery tennis ball. But get a good and proper one, and you’ll know that this is what frying was invented for.

Scotch eggs are a bit different from many foods in that we know exactly who invented them: a company called Fortnum & Mason. The year was 1738, and they decided to wrap an egg in some meat and deep-fry it. Done right, the entire thing holds together so you get it all in one bite: a crispy exterior, flavorful sausage, and a soft-but-solid egg, and it’ll seriously change the way you think about breakfast. Whoever says England has nothing but bland, tasteless food (and yes, they’re from England, not Scotland) has clearly never had one of these.

Beignet

Everyone’s had a donut, sure, but a beignet isn’t your regular donut. There are actually two different types of beignet — the French kind, which is made with a choux pastry (similar to an eclair or cream puff), while the popular, New Orleans-style is made with a typical yeast-based dough that has more liquids than a donut dough. That extra liquid means it has more air pockets inside when it’s fried, and the final result is like biting into a soft square of pillowy goodness.

And you absolutely need to try a New Orleans-style beignet, because they’re not just a brilliant breakfast, they’re brilliant any time of the day — particularly with a cup of coffee. Where a donut tends to be dense, these are flaky, light, and if angels drink anything with their coffee, it’s definitely these.

They’re usually covered with a healthy coat of powdered sugar, so bring a napkin… and plan on eating more than one.

Deep-fried butter

No, don’t cringe! Just hear us out. The idea of deep-fried butter is certainly an artery-clogging nightmare for anyone who cares about their health in the least, but we’re not saying you should eat it all the time. But you should, however, give it a try.

It debuted at the 2009 State Fair of Texas, because of course it did. It’s not just a stick of fried butter, it’s actually butter that’s been whipped until it’s light and fluffy, then frozen and coated in a layer of dough. It’s only then that it’s deep-fried, and it’s heavenly. Don’t think of it as biting into a stick of butter, thick of it as a dough ball with a soft, melty, buttery center. You do like buttery, delicious, biscuits and croissants, right? It’s actually sort of similar, with the kind of crunch you only get from something that’s fried. See — it’s not as insane as you thought, right?

Fried green tomatoes

The idea of fried green tomatoes is one that’s been around forever. It sounds like something fancy southern ladies would serve at picnics, and there’s a good reason for that — they absolutely are a southern classic. If you’re anywhere outside of the American south, though, they sound a little weird and there’s a good chance you’ve just never had the chance to try these. If you can find a comfort food restaurant that serves them up, put in an order pronto. But if you can’t, just make them yourself — they’re easy, and they’re absolutely a fried food you need to try before you die.

They’re often made with green, not-yet-rip tomatoes, and that slightly sour taste pairs extremely well with the crunchy, fried coating.

Scraps

Right, so this is definitely a regional thing, but once you know what it is, you’ll be running out to grab some fish to deep-fry yourself. Depending on where you are, they’re also called crunchies, fish bits, or scrump, but scraps are essentially the super-deep-fried pieces of batter that come off of fried fish. The best place to get them is a fish and chip shop in the north of England, and honestly, ask for them anywhere else and you’re likely to just get a blank stare.

Just think of the last time you had fried fish. Did you break off a piece of batter, deliciously crunchy, delightfully crispy, and slightly fishy? Did you wish you could have a whole plate of just batter and skip the fish? This exists, and even more surprisingly, fish and chip shops have traditionally given the scraps away for free. They are by far the best part!

Rosettes

If you’ve seen these before, it was probably at fairs, carnivals, and Christmas markets. They’re traditional Scandinavian cookies, originally served around Christmas-time, and they’re delicate, deep-fried creations that look more like something you’d hang on the tree rather than eat. You probably gave them a miss in favor of something a little… less plain-looking? But you absolutely shouldn’t — they’re as delicious as they are delicate. Everyone should try them at least once.

And you can definitely make them at home, with the help of a special rosette iron that gets heated, half-coated in batter, then fried on the iron. If you want to spend a lazy afternoon making cookies one at a time, dusting them with sugar, and sharing something extra-special at dessert? These are your cookies.

Falafel

Selling the idea of a vegetarian meal to a die-hard carnivore can be tough… but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re looking for a vegetarian dish that’s packed with flavor and spice, and has all the firmness and bite of a burger, give falafel a whirl.

It’s been around forever — it’s a traditional food commonly seen in the Mediterranean, and while it was first made with fava beans and chickpeas, these days it’s most commonly just the chickpeas. They’re soaked, ground, and seasoned, then shaped into balls and deep-fried. Done right — and in super-hot oil — you get a crispy outside and a firm but not oily inside.

And they’re a flavorful, hearty center of a meal that’s guaranteed to satisfy even the most skeptical meat-eater. Serve with pitas, garnish with whatever veggies you like, and add a spicy sauce to top it all off, and you’ll have a meat-free meal that won’t get any arguments.

Deep-fried mac & cheese

Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? If you thought it was good on its own, you’ll really love all that cheesy, gooey pasta once it’s been deep-fried.

And if you can’t find it on a menu near you, you can always fry it up at home. In fact, it’s a great use for leftover mac and cheese. Take it out of the fridge (so it’s nice and firm), and use an ice cream scoop to form it into balls. Add some batter or breading, then toss your mac and cheese balls in the deep fryer.

It really is that easy, and instead of that leftover mac and cheese with the questionable texture, you’ll have delicious, deep-fried nuggets of cheesy goodness. No more worry about re-hydrating mac and cheese, and no more waste. It’s a win all around!

Deep-fried peanuts

Peanuts are a great snack, but the shells are annoying, right? It’s not just that they’re a ton of work, but they’re messy, too. There’s a solution: deep-fried peanuts, and yes, you fry them in the shell and everything turns out edible.

Sounds too good to be true, right? It’s not! Deep-fried peanuts are popular in pockets of the U.S,. particularly in the Carolinas, while they haven’t spread much further than that. They should, though — when they’re deep-fried, the shell stays crunchy but also turns edible. It’s so weird, we know! But you really should try them — and you can absolutely make them at home with a handful of regular, shell-on peanuts thrown in your own deep fryer… preferably with peanut oil.

Arancini

Anyone who’s ever seen a clip from Hell’s Kitchen knows that risotto is a big deal. It’s challenging to make, and once you’d had it, there’s another challenge: what to do with the leftovers, because let’s be honest, there’s only so much risotto a family can eat. That’s where arancini comes in.

Arancini is a traditional Sicilian dish that likely came first from the Arabian world. It’s delicious — and it’s something everyone should taste at least once, whether you make it yourself or order at at your favorite Italian restaurant.

It’s essentially leftover risotto, shaped into balls, then deep-fried. There are also fillers added for extra flavor, and there’s no right or wrong way to fill them. Pack your risotto around some cheese or ham, add some spices… it’s not just a great way to use up the risotto, but other leftovers, too. Toss them in some batter, fry them up, and you’ve got a super creative meal with no waste.

Zalabia

You’ve probably had fried dough, right? But you probably haven’t had zalabia, which is a Lebanese version of fried dough, a description that absolutely doesn’t do it justice. According to Hadia’s Lebanese Cuisine, zalabia is traditionally made from fermented dough and flavored with anise and sesame seeds.

What does that mean? If you like licorice, you’ll like zalabia — and even if you’re not a licorice fan, still, give it a try. The anise flavor in zalabia is incredibly mild, and they smell as good as they taste. The only catch is that if you make them yourself, you’ll want to make them right before you eat them, but honestly? That’s all right, because once you smell the sweet frying dough, you’re not going to want to wait.

Deep-fried caprese

Salads can get kind of boring — even the fun ones like Caprese salads. But if you could mix that tired salad with something a little more exciting, like, say, mozzarella sticks… that would be pretty amazing, right? If you agree, then deep-fried Caprese is a food you definitely need to try before you die. It’s got all the workings of a Caprese salad, but deep fried. And you know that makes every salad taste better.

It’s even pretty easy to make this one yourself, if you like. Just scoop the innards out of small tomatoes, fill with mozzarella cheese, cover them in batter, and fry.

They’re close to the perfect single bite, especially if they’re served with a balsamic-based dipping sauce. They’ll take a little time to make, sure, but two or three per person is plenty for an appetizer, and they’ll definitely become a much-discussed favorite.

Fried ice cream

Everyone loves ice cream, and fried ice cream is even better. The warm and crispy shell surrounding the still cold ice cream is a creamy and delicious dessert that everyone should try at least one time. But since your local Chi-Chi’s hasn’t been around to serve their popular dessert for a couple of decades, you may think all hope is lost. But if you can’t find a Mexican spot to serve up fried ice cream, it’s not impossible to make in your own kitchen. And you definitely should.

Just scoop the ice cream into balls and re-freeze them before you try to fry it — frying half-melted ice cream can only end in disappointment. Roll the frozen ice cream balls in a mixture of crushed Corn Flakes and cinnamon, then drop it in the hot oil. Only leave it in for about 10 seconds, and you’ll have a new favorite dessert to serve to guests.

Struffoli

Nigella Lawson says that struffoli is traditionally made in Italy around Christmas, but there’s no reason this can’t be enjoyed at any time of the year. It’s essentially marble-sized dough balls, carefully rolled, deep-fried, covered in honey, then arranged in a cone or wreath form. They’re great for parties or setting out on the table when you know you’re having people over and they’re going to want to nibble. But more than that, they’re great for making when you have help.

Rolling out the tiny dough balls of struffoli takes a long time and a lot of work, but if you have kids that want to help, that’s perfect. It’s time-consuming but not difficult, and the brilliant part of this one is the experience of making it. An afternoon making struffoli with your loved ones are the afternoons that make memories, and those memories will be treasured for a lifetime.

Deep-fried avocado

Deep-fried foods have a reputation as being unhealthy, but there’s nothing that says you can’t take one of the healthiest fruits out there and give it the deep-fried treatment. Avocados are high in vitamins and nutrients, they’re full of healthy fats, have been linked to lowering cholesterol, and it’s even thought they help your body absorb more goodness from other foods.

Deep-fried avocados? Heck yes! Just coat slices or spears in egg and bread crumbs, and dunk them in the fryer. Leave them there until they float, and if you love avocados, you can already imagine this is one seriously delicious side dish — or lunch. Whip up a healthy, yogurt-based dip, and you’ll never have an avocado go to waste again.

Banh ran

Legumes are a great thing to add to your diet, but if you’re sick of the same old, how about some banh ran?

In their most traditional form, they’re rice flour balls filled with red bean paste, flavored with jasmine flower essence, covered in sesame seeds, and deep-fried. They’re incredibly popular in Vietnam, and while they take a little time and effort to make, every bite makes it worth every moment of prep time.

Bonus? Those sesame seeds some with a ton of health benefits, too — as if you needed more of a reason to whip up a batch of these to munch on during your next movie night, instead of that boring old popcorn.

Cactus fries

It’s no secret that the state of the planet is a dire one, indeed. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, finding alternate food crops is incredibly important, and cactus is one of those crops — especially considering it can thrive in arid, hot climates.

Cactus pear has been eaten by people and animals alike for a long time, but it’s always been a last resort sort of option. It’s now being suggested that should change, and it should become a regularly grown and managed crop. And there’s awesome news: you can do some pretty amazing things with cactus, including slicing it into fry-shaped strips (after removing the pointy bits) and deep-frying it. Cactus fries are particularly tasty, with a hot and spicy dipping sauce. Plus, how cool is it to be able to say you’ve eaten a cactus?

Deep-fried pizza

Deep-fried pizza sounds like something worthy of the ultimate cringe factor, a trendy new idea that someone came up with after a few too many pints. But according to Giuseppe Mascoli, a pizza chef in London who was inspired by traditional Naples recipes, they’ve been deep-frying pizza for generations… because it’s amazing.

It isn’t exactly what you think, and it’s not throwing a whole pizza into a deep fryer. They essentially make the dough, shape it, then fry it in a pan. Top with pizza toppings (traditionally hot sauce, basil, and cheese), and serve. And that just sounds insanely good, doesn’t it? The deep-frying method gives you a pizza crust that’s light, chewy, and infused with the flavor of whatever oil you’re using. Opt for olive oil, don’t go overboard on the toppings, and you can absolutely enjoy a deep-fried pizza like generations of Italian families have.

Boxty

Think of Irish cuisine and you think of potatoes, but it’s not all just mash and chips. There’s boxty, too, and if you haven’t tried this potato dish, you’re missing out on a brilliant way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.

There’s always leftover mashed potatoes, right? They’re always kind of "eh" on the second day, but here’s what you do: mix some grated raw potato into your mashed potato, until it’s firm enough to form into a patty. Add some buttermilk if needed. Then, just fry in a thin layer of butter or oil until they’re golden, and when they’re golden, so are you. Top with anything from sour cream and chopped onions to a fried egg, because they’re great for any meal of the day, and you’ll never throw out mashed potatoes again. You might even make too much on purpose, just so you can have these super versatile potato pancakes the next day.

Zeppole

Zeppole are basically traditional Italian donuts, but they are so much more than that, too. They’re often made to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day, which also happens to be Father’s Day in Italy. (That’s March 19, if you’re keeping track.) They’re traditionally made with a yeast-based dough that can be shaped into a ball or into a fritter, and that’s where the fun starts.

They’re not just plain or powdered sugar donuts, they’re traditionally filled with custard, a pastry cream, or candied fruit… then sprinkled with powdered sugar! Of course, if you’re making them at home, there’s no limit to the sweetness you can add. Cherries, chocolate chips, whipped cream, sweet ricotta… those are all completely acceptable when it comes to bringing a little bit of Italy into your kitchen — and that’s why you need to give them a try. If you say you love Italian food, you should also be able to say you’ve tried these very traditional treats.

Deep-fried turkey

This was a fad that may have come and gone before you had the chance to do it, because let’s face it — who bothers cooking a turkey at any time other than Thanksgiving, and who’s going to risk screwing up Thanksgiving by setting the house on fire trying to deep-fry a whole turkey?

But here’s the thing — it’s totally worth it. There are, of course, a whole list of safety precautions that need to be taken when you do this, but it’s definitely worth picking up a turkey off-season and giving it a shot. Do it right, and it’s delicious. It’s moist on a whole other level, and that crispy, crunchy skin that everyone loves? There’s a lot of that. And now that there are fryers made specifically for frying turkeys indoors, you really don’t have any excuse not to try it, do you? It might just change your Thanksgiving.

Spice bag

So what on earth is a spice bag? That’s best explained by starting with where you get the original, and that’s at a chip shop or Chinese takeaway in Ireland, usually after a night out at the pubs. It’s pretty delicious even if you’re not half in the bag yourself, but if you have some friends over for some drinks, this is pretty much the perfect thing to serve them.

Different variations exist, but basically it’s some deep-fried chicken, french fries, and sliced chilis and onions (also fried), that are dumped in a paper bag or box, then covered with and tossed in a spice mix. That mix varies, too, and most places won’t share what’s in theirs — but usually it’s at least vaguely inspired by Chinese flavors, and includes things like five spice, curry powder, garlic powder, chili powders, and lots of salt. It’s pretty much the perfect thing to hit the spot after a pint or five of Guinness, and there’s a reason it’s Ireland’s favorite fast food item — it’s amazing.

Deep-fried strawberries

There are some words that seem like they should never be next to "deep-fried," and "strawberry" is definitely one of those words. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, because they’re delicious.

Getting them right takes a little bit of effort: the batter should be thin but not so runny it doesn’t cling to the berry, the fry time should be short, and you’ll have to eat them as soon as you make them. But when you do, you’ll find that if there’s a way to make strawberries better, this is it. Move over, chocolate-covered strawberries, you don’t have anything on these — and they might just be your new go-to romantic sweet treat. Sweet and juicy in the middle, crispy on the outside, dusted with powdered sugar… it’s a summer afternoon in a bite, and that’s a win no matter what the time of year.

Leche Frita

Yes, that translates to "fried milk," but hold on, hear us out. It’s a bit deceptive, as this traditional Spanish dessert is more accurately described as milk thickened with cornstarch, flour, and sugar, then heated with spices (usually cinnamon). It’s then chilled overnight, sliced, battered, and deep-fried. As a Spanish dessert, it’s often made with regular, dairy-based milk, but there’s also a Chinese version that uses coconut milk instead.

It’s sweetly unique, and it’s one of those things you’ll just need to try to be able to describe. Some like it cold, some like it hot, some like it with coffee and some with ice cream: it’s versatile, and super strange, and what’s better than the look on a guest’s face when you say you’re serving up some fried milk for dessert?

Deep-fried pumpkin fries

Sure, potato-based fries are great, but what about pumpkin fries? Seriously, it’s a thing, and given just how popular the Pumpkin Spiced Latte is, it’s safe to say that there’s a ton of people out there who would appreciate all that pumpkin-y goodness served up alongside a burger.

And they’re super easy to make — just slice the peeled pumpkin into fry-shaped spears, then deep-fry. Load them up with all the pumpkin spice you could want, and that’s it! And as if that’s not delicious enough, you’ll also need to save the seeds. Deep-fry those, too, while you’re at it, and you’ll not only have a delicious side, but a yummy snack for later. What’s better than a creative side dish, pumpkin spice, and an after-dinner snack, all rolled up into one little pumpkin?

Deep-fried pecan pie

When you’re talking pie and you’re looking for something different, pecan pie is already up there. It’s full of nutty, brown sugar-y, caramel-y goodness, and it’s the pie to make when you’re looking for something that’s not your traditionally fruity dessert. If you love it, though, you need to go just one step further and deep-fry it.

The easiest way to do this is when you’re making your pie recipe, don’t make it in a pie plate — make it inside little folded hand pies, and then deep-fry away. The crunch is next-level, and there is something ridiculously tasty about the deep, earthy, nutty flavor deep-frying brings out. Serve them warm with some powdered sugar sprinkled on the top, and you’ll seriously never have a pecan pie any other way. Even better? Add it to your Thanksgiving rotation for a totally unique pie that’ll stand out on a table of same-old.