tuscan sweet potato fries

tuscan sweet potato fries

I blame Nigella for this recipe, and many apologies to all of you who make these sweet potato fries – they are worse than a bag full of peanut M & M’s – no way is it possible to eat just one. If you’re ready, then go all in. Fair warning. But just so you know where I stand on this topic – GO ALL IN.

Last week I was teased into indulging in olive oil, cream and buttery Italian liqueur thanks to Nigella’s new book, and now I couldn’t help myself from trying her method for making Tuscan Fries.

She credits Cesare Casella, a chef originally from Lucca, for inventing Tuscan Fries; potatoes deep-fried with aromatic herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme) and whole garlic cloves. Sounds delicious, no? But what really got me interested in the recipe was the method Nigella adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, a “revolutionary” fuss-free way to deep-fry, which involves starting with the potatoes in cold oil, heating to a rapid boil and frying to perfection in about 25 minutes.

tuscan sweet potato fries

I don’t like messing with deep-frying usually, but I became very curious and decided to give it a go. I didn’t have any of the waxy potatoes called for in Nigella’s recipe, so I forged ahead with a few sweet potatoes instead.

I also decided not to use corn oil. For both health and flavor reasons, I don’t cook with ultra-processed vegetable oils. It’s olive oil or nothing for the most part (well, except for really good butter and the occasional fling with duck fat, which also makes killer fries).

However, I saved the extra-virgin oil for another day and used a “light” olive oil, which I’m afraid after reading the excellent book Extra Virginity is just as scandalously corrupted and impure as a tanker full of cheap soybean oil. But what the hell. At some point you have to just move on and start frying.

tuscan sweet potato fries

Which I did, and I’m pleased to report that the recipe worked like a charm. The sweet potatoes emerged dark and crisp and were perfectly tender on the inside. The crunchy bits of fried herbs shatter into tiny shards that coat the potatoes, giving every mouthful a taste of them. The garlic slips out of the skin, golden and soft; just right for squeezing out onto the sweet potatoes for even more flavor.

I had some smoked salt and sprinkled some of it over everything, which kind of took it over the top into sweet potato fantastic-ness.

One more great thing – save the oil; it’s aromatic with herbs and garlic. I measured the oil after cooking as Nigella says she did in the recipe introduction, and recovered almost exactly all of it. So cold-start deep frying might not be such an indulgence after all.

tuscan sweet potato fries

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6

A deep fry thermometer is highly recommended here.


  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 ¾ pounds)
  • 1 ½ quarts “light” olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic, separated into cloves (unpeeled)
  • Handful each rosemary, sage and thyme sprigs
  • Smoked sea salt, kosher or sea salt


  1. Trim off the ends of the sweet potatoes (no need to peel them), stand them on end and slice down vertically into ½-wide planks, then into ½-inch wide fries. If the potatoes are longer than 4 inches, cut the slices in half.
  2. Put the sweet potatoes in a wide, heavy pot (I used a 4-quart casserole pot 10 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep); cover with the oil, place over high heat and bring to a boil. It should take about 5 minutes.
  3. Once the oil is bubbling vigorously, set a timer for 15 minutes. Use a deep-fry thermometer to adjust the heat if needed, keeping the oil somewhere between 275 and 300 degrees.
  4. After 15 minutes, carefully move the sweet potatoes around with a pair of long tongs to mix them around a little. Add the garlic cloves and continue frying for another 5 or 10 minutes, keeping your eye peeled that neither the potatoes or garlic gets too dark.
  5. Test a fry – carefully- for doneness. If they are golden and crisp and tender on the inside, toss in the herbs (stand back while you do this in case of splatters) and fry for another minute or so.
  6. Use a slotted skimmer to transfer everything to a towel-lined baking sheet. Blot briefly and sprinkle with salt; serve right away.


Recipe inspired by Tuscan Fries in Nigellissima



  1. Sweet potato fries…my absolute favorite!!! Love the garlic and herbs you used in this Tuscan version! Beautiful photos, Karen!

  2. These fries look incredible! I am thrilled you didn’t have any waxy potatoes on hand because I am such a huge fan of sweet potato fries. Your photos are absolutely stunning!

    • Hi Emily – Yes, it turns out that I’m glad I didn’t have regular potatoes either! Something magical happens to the sugars in sweet potatoes when they’re deep-fried, making them taste almost candied. Thank you for your kind words.

  3. Oh my those look insanely good!

  4. Hi Karen,

    Oh, Cesare Casella, Nigella and you. I’ll just spread the blame equally. How’s that? I can just see Chef Casella with sprigs of rosemary, sage and thyme in the pocket of his chef’s jacket. These things must be deadly – but I mean that in the nicest way. I can not wait to make them. I adore sweet potato fries.

    I am enjoying Nigella’s book. I think this is my favorite one. What do you think?

    As always, your photography is both awe and envy inspiring. Complimenti, amica!

    • Grazie, Adri – your comment made me smile.
      I remember seeing an image of chef Casella with the herb sprigs peeking out of his pocket – or did I dream that up? Either way, it’s a fabulous idea to scent oneself with fragrant herbs. I’ll take that over a splash of Acqua di Gioia any day.
      This Italian-inspired book of Nigella’s is coming very close to surpassing my up-until-now favorite How to Eat, my introduction to her articulate, engaging voice and very personal cooking style. Also, my kids were babies at the time and her writing on feeding children real food was a comfort to me in a world of chicken nuggets.

  5. There’s nothing I like more than sweet potato fries! These look wonderful!

  6. I just started following you today when I saw you on food gawker! I love sweet potato fries, so I’ll definitely be making these soon!


    • Angie, Ishita, and Paige – Thanks for stopping by! So glad to see new friends here.

      Another perk of this recipe is reusing the oil – I’ve been roasting vegetables with it today and it smells and tastes wonderful.

  7. I’ve heard of double fried potatoes but I’ve never heard of cold frying. Sounds amazing. Cant wait to try it.

  8. Yum! Can’t wait to try it.

  9. these look so delicious!!


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