Copycat In-N-Out Animal-Style Fries

updated Sep 6, 2022
Animal-Style Fries

Yes, you can make the cult In-N-Out secret menu fries at home.

Serves6 to 8

Prep10 minutes

Cook30 minutes

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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

I’m a California girl through and through, and always make it a point to take visitors to In-N-Out Burger for juicy burgers and thick milkshakes. Their fries are a point of contention with many, since they aren’t as crisp when compared to their fast-food competitors, but there’s one way to order them that elevates them to cult status: getting them animal-style.

This not-so-secret, off-the-menu option means that the fries are topped with slices of American cheese and caramelized onions, then smothered in secret sauce. I like to think of them as french fry nachos with a burger twist, and I’ve cracked the code to making them at home.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

When It Comes to Fries, Frozen Is Just Fine

While you can certainly make the fries from scratch, I’ve opted to start with frozen fries so that I can focus on the onions and sauce instead and don’t have to fuss with deep-frying. The traditional animal-style fries use thin shoestring fries, but I once made the mistake of buying the golden fries from Ore-Ida instead and really loved the slightly thicker fries — they held up better under all the toppings.

By all means go with the fries you love best, whether they be thin or crinkle cut, but make sure to buy 32 ounces of them to make enough to feed everyone. Bake the fries on two baking sheets so they have plenty of room to get nice and crispy.

The sweet caramelized onions get cooked while the fries are in the oven, and they’re cut small instead of thinly sliced. Getting onions to caramelize without burning is a lesson of patience, as they take close to 45 minutes to get to sweet, jammy perfection.

Instead of constantly standing at the stove and monitoring them, I found that covering them traps in just enough steam so that they don’t burn and you only need to stir them every five minutes. These onions can be made a few days ahead or even frozen if you want to get a head-start for when the animal-style fry craving hits.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

The final touch, the secret sauce, is just a blend of easy-to-find condiments. Mix mayo for creaminess, ketchup and relish for sweetness and tang, and mustard and vinegar together to round things out.

When the fries are ready (and make sure you salt them!), pile them together onto one baking sheet, melt the cheese over them, and top with the onions and sauce. Hopefully you have some juicy burgers to serve alongside, but these fries would be just as tasty next to a grilled cheese or hot dogs.

Animal-Style Fries

Yes, you can make the cult In-N-Out secret menu fries at home.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 30 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil, plus more for the baking sheets

  • 2

    medium yellow onions, finely chopped

  • Kosher salt

  • 2/3 cup

    mayonnaise

  • 1/4 cup

    ketchup

  • 3 tablespoons

    sweet pickle relish

  • 1 tablespoon

    yellow mustard

  • 1 teaspoon

    distilled white vinegar

  • 32 ounces

    frozen french fries (do not thaw)

  • 6 slices

    American cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, season with salt, and cook until starting to soften, about 10 minutes. Cover and continue to cook, stirring every 5 minutes, until the onions are dark golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes more. Meanwhile, heat the oven and make the sauce.

  2. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat to 425ºF. Coat 2 rimmed baking sheets lightly with oil and set aside. Stir the mayonnaise, ketchup, sweet pickle relish, mustard, and vinegar together in a medium bowl until combined.

  3. About 20 minutes before the onions are ready, divide the fries between the baking sheets and spread into an even layer. Bake until the fries are light golden brown and crisp, stirring the fries halfway through and switching the baking sheets between racks, about 25 minutes total or according to package directions.

  4. Season the fries with salt. Pile the fries onto 1 of the baking sheets, arranging them so they sit in about 2 layers. Place the cheese in a single layer over the fries. Bake on the upper rack until melted, about 1 minute. (At this point, you can slide the cheese fries onto a serving platter if you don’t want to serve them directly on the baking sheet.) Sprinkle the onions over the cheese and drizzle with the sauce. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The onions can be cooked and the sauce made up to 1 day ahead. Refrigerate in separate containers and let sit at room temperature while the oven is heating and the fries are baking.