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People have never been able to resist the crunchy craving of deep-fried food.
Archaeological evidence shows we’ve been enjoying fried dough and other delights since ancient Mesopotamians invented frying pans, and our love for the practice has only grown in the millennia that followed.
It would take an iron stomach and a lot of time to sample every irresistible fried food around the world or even to try every variation on a theme – funnel cakes versus jalebi, zeppole versus beignets.
So not all fried foods can be mentioned in a single story, but there’s enough fried goodness to get you started at least.
Here are 30 of the best fried foods around the world to get you salivating for your next trip:
Vegetable tempura is known for its light-as-air batter, made with soft flour, eggs and very cold or sparkling water.
Though shrimp tempura is also popular, vegetable tempura encompasses a wide variety of ingredients, including mushrooms, lotus root and burdock, seaweed and leafy greens such as shiso, green beans, pumpkin and other hard squash, okra and shishito peppers.
It was introduced to Japan via Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century as a meatless option during holy fasting days.
Hushpuppies (US South)
These savory cornmeal croquettes have been a traditional accompaniment to fried fish throughout the US South since the Civil War era.
Also called “red horse bread” in South Carolina (after the species of fish with which it was served) as well as “three finger bread” or “red devils” throughout Georgia and Florida, the name “hushpuppies” was the one that stuck when tourists discovered the fritters in the early 20th century.
Churros (Spain, Portugal and Latin America)
Originally popularized in Spain and Portugal, these ridged pastry sticks are a sweet favorite for breakfast or snacking throughout Latin America as well.
The batter is piped through a star-shaped tip into hot oil to give the churro its signature shape. Churros are frequently dusted with cinnamon sugar and dipped into café con leche, hot chocolate or dulce de leche.
Simple pillows of fried yeast dough dusted with powdered sugar, beignets are synonymous with New Orleans’ French Quarter, where they’re famously served with chicory coffee at Café du Monde.
These fritters arrived in the South via French Canadian (Acadian) settlers in the 18th century, making the beignet a standard of Cajun culture and cuisine.
Mandazi (East Africa)
Like many fried delicacies, these fluffy, triangular pillows go by many names along the Swahili coast of East Africa. The yeast dough can be made with milk or coconut milk (if coconut’s involved, they might be called mahamri or mamri) and flavored with spices such as cardamom or ground nuts.
In Ghana and other places in West Africa, the dough is formed into round balls, and the pastries are known as bofrot or puff puff.
Indian jalebi are cousins to the Middle Eastern fried zulbiya and zalabiya – thin fried batter rounds that first made their way across trade routes in the medieval era. The batter is piped through a muslin cloth into the oil, then dipped in sugar syrup for a chewy-crunchy texture.
They are often eaten alongside other snacks such as samosas or with rabdi, a creamy sweetened milk.
Zucchini flowers (Italy)
Fried zucchini blossoms are a botanical bonus for gardeners: Squash plants produce flowers in spring, but only the female flowers will grow into zucchini by summer’s end.
Gardeners in the know pick the male blossoms and turn them into a delicacy, dipping them in a light batter and frying until puffy and golden. The flowers can also be stuffed with ingredients such as cheese, prosciutto, rice and herbs.
Cronut (United States)
A modern twist on the traditional doughnut, cronuts became the name on every dessert lover’s lips in the United States nearly a decade ago.
This hybrid of a croissant and a doughnut was introduced by pastry chef Dominique Ansel at his New York City bakery in 2013 and has inspired many imitators. The flaky, puffy pastry is filled with flavored cream, then topped with a glaze.
Fry bread (Native Americans in the US)
Fry bread, or frybread, is a byproduct of colonial displacement that has evolved into a complicated symbol for many tribes.
When Native Americans were forced from their farmlands onto reservations by the US government in the mid-1800s, they used the ingredients provided to them – such as flour, sugar and lard – to create this survival staple of a large, puffy round of dough.
Today, many Native cooks tweak their family recipes with ingredients such as locally milled corn and whole wheat flour.
Fried green tomatoes (United States)
Though they’re most usually associated with the South, fried green tomatoes have their origins in the Midwest. Recipes for this method of turning unripe tomatoes into a culinary confection appear in late 19th-century community cookbooks from Ohio as well as Jewish immigrant cookbooks.
However you slice them, fried green tomatoes are an American staple. They can be dunked in cornmeal batter or breaded with flour, cornmeal or cracker crumbs before frying.
French fries (Belgium and France)
The history and birthplace of french fries has been contested between Belgium and France, but the method of making pommes de terre frites has gone from haute cuisine to a fast-food icon beloved around the world.
As the lore goes, the name refers to the technique of frenching, or thinly slicing vegetables (in this case potatoes) so all the pieces cook evenly. Served alongside steak or a burger, with ketchup or mayonnaise, or topped with cheese and gravy, french fries go with just about everything.
Pakora is a catchall term for a variety of Indian vegetable fritters, which can be made with anything from potatoes and eggplant to cabbage and spinach as a base.
Traditionally made with a variety of chickpea flour known as besan flour, these fritters can vary in shape and size depending on the specific vegetables used. Bread pakora consists of slices of bread dipped in batter and deep fried, often with vegetables such as potatoes stuffed between slices.
Tostones (Caribbean and Latin America)
Fried once is great, but fried twice? Even better. Tostones are twice-fried green plantains with variations found throughout Latin American and Caribbean cuisines. Slices of plantain are fried once, then smashed and fried again to get extra crispy edges.
Like potato chips, tostones can be salted and eaten on their own, used as a vehicle for scooping up dips and sauces or as an edible vessel for other snacks such as pulled meats, cheese or ceviche.
Sicilian arancini have been delighting Italians since the 10th century with their combination of rice and savory fillings. Though these breaded fried rice balls are a traditional food during the December feast of Santa Lucia, arancini are eaten year-round.
They can be stuffed with fillings as diverse as meat ragu, mozzarella, eggplant, mushrooms and even pistachios. Arancini, also known as arancine, can be round or molded into a conical shape in honor of the Sicilian volcano Mount Etna.
Fofos de arroz (Mozambique)
The strong Portuguese influence on Mozambique’s cuisine can be seen in arroz de fofo, breaded and fried rice balls that feature garlic and bay leaf-seasoned cooked rice with shrimp in the center.
Though rice, garlic and bay leaf were introduced as part of Portugal’s colonization in the 1500s, shrimp are a local delicacy for this coastal country in southeastern Africa.
Chiko rolls (Australia)
Inspired by Chinese egg rolls, the Chiko roll was invented in the 1950s by an Australian caterer who wanted a substantial snack for his outdoor events that could be eaten “in one hand, with a cool beer in the other,” according to the official origin story.
Filled with beef and vegetables and deep fried in a pastry crust, Chiko rolls have moved beyond tailgate food for sporting events to an iconic takeaway food throughout Australia.
Onion bhajis (India)
While there are many varieties of pakora, one special version are bhajis, or onion fritters laced with aromatic spices. Onion bhajis are a flavorful teatime snack and street food in South India. With the thinly sliced onions creating a web for the batter to hold onto, they are light and crunchy.
Banh cam (Vietnam)
Though the name translates to “orange cake,” there’s no orange flavor in these deep-fried rice balls. Instead, these southern Vietnamese sweets are named for their visual resemblance to an orange. Made with tender glutinous rice flour and filled with mung bean paste, the balls are then rolled in sesame seeds and fried.
Banh ran is a similar variation found in northern Vietnam that is drizzled with sugar syrup and has a slightly hollow interior for the filling.
Scotch eggs (United Kingdom)
Possibly the most protein-packed bar snack in culinary history, a Scotch egg is a hard-boiled egg encased in sausage, then coated in breadcrumbs and fried until crispy.
They might be decadently rich, but they’re definitely not Scottish. Some say this salty snack was invented by the British retailer Fortnum & Mason in the 1700s, while others maintain it’s a British take on the Indian nargisi kofta, a curry dish that features eggs wrapped in ground lamb.
When craving crunchy fried chicken in Japan, look no further than katsu. These panko-breaded cutlets are a staple of many a meal, served over rice or with a curry. Katsu sauce, a sweet and tart fruity sauce, is also a classic accompaniment. Beyond chicken katsu, tonkatsu specifically refers to a fried pork cutlet, and gyukatsu is the beef version.
Fried calamari (Italy and Greece)
Batter-fried or breaded, served with a lemon wedge and either marinara sauce or a creamy mayonnaise-based sauce, this now-ubiquitous dish has gone from a Greek and Italian coastal specialty to high-end American restaurants to a mainstream appetizer.
First reported on by The New York Times in 1975, these simple rings of squid might not be as trendy as they were in the ’90s, but the seafood sensation remains on many a menu.
Fried chicken (Korean and American)
There are many ways to cook chicken, but two of the most popular (and crunchy) are American and Korean fried chicken.
American fried chicken is known for its thick and craggy crust, a result of dredging buttermilk-marinated chicken pieces in seasoned flour to build up the coating. Korean fried chicken has a thin, crispy batter coating that’s double-fried to get extra crunch, then coated in a gochujang-honey sauce.
Fried clams (New England)
Roadside clam shacks dot the New England landscape from Connecticut to Maine, selling the region’s most famous fried seafood. In New England, whole clam bellies are dipped in milk and then dredged in a cornmeal-flour breading before frying.
Typically served with tartar sauce, they can be enjoyed on their own or as a clam roll in a hot dog-style bun. Clam strips have the belly removed for a thinner, crunchier fried option.
Kibbeh (Middle East)
It’s the national dish of Lebanon, but versions of these fried meat-and-bulgur balls can be found throughout the Middle East. Minced beef or lamb is mixed with cooked bulgur wheat, onions and spices. It’s traditionally mixed and ground by hand, then shaped and fried.
Kibbeh can be formed into football-shaped balls, large discs or baked into casserole dishes. A raw version, similar to tartare, is known as kibbeh nayyeh.
Leche frita (Spain)
Leche frita, or fried milk, is a favorite northern Spanish street food. Milk is cooked with flour and sugar into a thick custard, then chilled until firm. The custard is cut into cubes, dredged in flour and eggs and fried. Topping the leche frita cubes with cinnamon and sugar makes it a sweeter treat.
Prawn toast (Hong Kong)
Prawn toast (or shrimp toast) is a simple savory snack consisting of shrimp paste smeared on white bread, then deep fried to a golden crisp.
It was popularized in Hong Kong – some speculate that the bread component in this dish came from British colonization – and has spread to dim sum menus worldwide. Sesame seeds are sprinkled on the prawn toast before frying in a British and Australian variation.
Deep-fried Mars bar (United Kingdom)
It’s one of the best-known experiments of “will it fry?” The deep-fried Mars Bar is a Scottish novelty that has inspired many imitators, from fried Oreos to Twinkies.
Originally created in a Scottish chip shop – supposedly as a dare – a frozen Mars Bar (a chocolate, nougat and caramel candy bar) is dipped in thick batter and fried just until the chocolate is gooey and slightly melted.
Fried pizza (Italy)
Naples, Italy, is famous for its airy, thin-crusted Neapolitan pizza, but pizza fritta is the lesser-known staple of the city’s pizza traditions. Long a snack in the poorer areas of Naples, this style of pizza was said to have been popularized during World War II when ingredients were scarce and bombings destroyed many of the wood-fired ovens used to make Neapolitan pizza.
These puffy rounds of dough are filling, and even more so when stuffed with ingredients such as ricotta, crushed tomatoes and pork cracklings.
Chimichangas (Southwest US)
Arizona lays claim to being the birthplace of chimichangas – deep-fried burritos that are now a staple of Tex-Mex cuisine.
Though two restaurants in Phoenix and Tucson offer competing origin stories, as with many Tex-Mex foods, the concept has multiplied throughout the Southwest. Burritos can be filled with rice, beans, cheese and meats such as ground beef, carne asada, pork or chicken, then fried until the tortilla becomes a crispy shell.
Chicharrons (Spain, Latin America and the Philippines)
Pork rinds may be popular with the keto set, but they aren’t a new creation developed by the big-name snack brands. Chicharron, or deep-fried pork skin, has been a method for making the most of every part of the pig for centuries. It’s most commonly associated with Spanish and Latin American countries, as well as in the Philippines.
It can be part of a main course when stuffed into tortillas, mofongo or arepas, as a crispy topping, or on its own with seasonings.