These crispy loaded vegetarian fries are layered with cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, kimchi, and fresh cilantro. Slightly spicy, and so satisfying! Finish with a drizzle of spicy mayo, et voila, the perfect vegetarian snack or appetizer! Keeping it extra easy, this recipe uses frozen French fries.
Step right up to your next favorite addition to quick and easy vegetarian appetizers. This one is ready in under 30 minutes, bursting with savory, spicy flavors, and loaded with melty cheese. A combination that is truly hard to compete with.
It’s a vegetarian snack idea that’s up there with loaded greek sweet potato fries, and crispy baked rosemary garlic fries, but this one hits the spicy-cheesy craving instantly. Piled high with a combination of both Korean and Mexican-inspired toppings, it’s a match made in taste-bud heaven. Think loaded nachos, but better because — fries and kimchi (obviously).
What is Kimchi?
If you happen to be new to the wonderful world of kimchi, welcome, it’s delicious and you’re going to love it!
Kimchi is a traditional Korean side dish made of salted and fermented vegetables, including napa cabbage and Korean radish. Not to mention a whole lot of seasonings like garlic, ginger, chili powder, and more. There are many varieties that are determined by their main ingredients and seasonings.
What goes well with kimchi?
It’s spicy, sour, and savory, with a hint of sweetness. It adds texture and tons of flavor to a variety of dishes and meals. The short answer is that you can eat kimchi with anything.
It’s excellent on bibimbap rice bowls or other Asian-inspired rice bowls, in stir-fries, pad Thai, or fried rice. Love sauerkraut on veggie hot dogs? Give kimchi a try next time! Add it to scrambled eggs, omelets, or breakfast sandwiches. It’s even great on tacos.
Is Kimchi vegetarian?
Not all kimchi is vegetarian (or vegan). Often, kimchi ingredients include fish or seafood products, like fish sauce or fermented shrimp.
That being said, it is possible to find vegan – or vegetarian – kimchi in local stores. Better yet? Check your local Asian market. You can even usually find kimchi that meets other specific dietary needs like gluten-free or soy-free.
Two common brands of vegan kimchi are Mother-in-Law’s and Nasoya Kimchi. Do note that Mother-in-Law’s House Kimchi is not vegan, however. Just be sure to check the ingredient labels when purchasing to make sure it fits your needs.
Local to Minnesota (or the greater Midwest area)? You Betcha Fermentcha is vegan and super flavorful!
A delicious vegan and organic kimchi option is available in many grocery stores.
What You’ll Need
This is an easy recipe to make, but it does require a few ingredients you might not already have on hand. If you do, YAY! If not, you’ll be glad you have them after making these loaded vegetarian fries. Let’s cover what you’ll need (and substitutions).
- French Fries: Are you an overachiever? Go ahead and make your own homemade fries for this recipe. I like to use good ol’ storebought fries and crisp them up in the oven or air fryer – a super easy, quick solution to making loaded fries at home.
- Sharp Cheddar Cheese: Oh, you can’t have loaded fries without cheese! I always recommend buying a block of cheese and shredding it yourself for the meltiest cheese possible. No cheddar? Go ahead and sub your favorite cheese.
- Yellow Onion: It’s gonna get turned into the most luxurious caramelized onions. I like using yellow onions because they add more sweetness, but if you only have another variety, you can go ahead and use it.
- Kimchi: as discussed; and there’s not really a sub here because…kimchi fries.
- Gochujang Sauce: a thick and spicy-sweet sauce made from red pepper flakes, rice, fermented soybeans, and salt. It adds excellent flavor and is a key ingredient in Korean cooking.
- Scallions and Cilantro: fresh, flavorful garnishes!
- Spicy Mayo: this sauce tops the loaded fries and takes it over the top. It’s not just any spicy mayo, either, it’s made with a mixture of shichimi spice, and chili garlic sauce for ALL the flavor.
- If you really need to substitute the spices, you could use one or the other, or add a squirt of Sriracha, but I say go big on flavor.
What is Shichimi spice? So these loaded fries are just a fusion of flavors. Shichimi Togarashi is a common Japanese spice mixture, also referred to as Japanese Seven Spice because it’s a blend of seven ingredients. Togarashi is the Japanese name of a specific pepper, the main ingredient in this spice blend.
How to Make Loaded Kimchi Fries
It’s pretty easy to make these loaded vegetarian fries, it just requires a few cooking steps and then piling the goodies on top of each other (the best part!).
Step 1: The Fries
Arguably the most important part of loaded fries is the French fries! Proceed as directed with whichever fry method you go with. Frozen fries? Use those package directions and get ’em started in the oven or air fryer. As they bake away, you’ll assemble the rest of the ingredients so once they’re ready, it all comes together quickly.
Once the fries are baked, remove them from the oven, and push them all together, either in a big pile for group-noshing, or two to four smaller piles for individual servings. Top the pile(s) of fries with the shredded cheese and bake for an additional 2-3 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Step 2: Caramelized Onions
Oh, for the love of caramelized onions! Because we’re just using a little bit of onion for this recipe (about half of a large onion, but go ahead and adjust this depending on your onion preferences) it caramelizes up quite quickly.
Toss the onion slices in a heated skillet with melted butter, spreading them out in an even layer. Don’t worry about stirring them too often, because as they rest, that’s when the magic happens.
Once they are golden brown, toss the kimchi in to caramelize slightly too. Then, stir in the gochujang and set aside until ready to assemble.
Extra important note: heating kimchi does reduce (maybe eliminates?) the gut-friendly probiotics in this lovely fermented ingredient. If you’re hoping to have some of their touted health benefits, then do no heat the kimchi. You can easily add it on top of the fries without heating.
Step 3: Spicy Mayo
While the fries are a-cookin’ and the onions are a-caramelizin’, mix up the spicy mayo. It’s truly as simple as combining the mayonnaise and flavorful spices in a small bowl until combined. Taste test, and if needed, add a pinch of salt.
Step 4: Assemble
Ok, those cheesy fries are out of the oven and ready to be loaded! Spread the caramelized onions and kimchi across the top, drizzle on that spicy mayo, and garnish heavily with freshly sliced scallions (i.e. green onions) and chopped cilantro.
Then grab a fork, or those clean hands, and dig in (sharing optional). This recipe is great for about 4 to 6 appetizer-sized portions or 2-ish dinner-sized portions if you’re extra hungry and aren’t serving anything else alongside the fries (I mean, there’s not really a need to, is there?! Fries for dinner!).
Make Ahead & Storage
If you’re having a party and want to prep ahead of time, I recommend caramelizing the onion and storing them in the fridge in an airtight container, as well as mixing the spicy mayo and storing the same. Go ahead and slice those scallions, too.
When you’re ready to serve, you will want to make the cheesy fries fresh, then assemble them with the prepped ingredients.
Store any leftover fries (that’s a thing?) in the fridge in an airtight container. They aren’t the best leftover, but who doesn’t love some loaded fries late at night? Reheat in the air fryer or oven, or the microwave if you don’t mind a little softer fries. Heck, you can even go ahead and just nosh on them cold.
Looking to mix it up?
- Why not try some homemade queso instead of shredded cheese on top?
- Add a handful of black or navy beans on top for a little protein boost.
- Garnish with bean sprouts for added crunch.
- Add jalapeno for extra spiciness. Or avocado to balance it out.
- Squeeze a little lime for added acid and pizazz.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
How to Make Kimchi Fries at Home
- 28 ounce package frozen french fries, or fries of choice
- 1 ½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
- 2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 1 cup yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup kimchi, roughly chopped
- 1 Tablespoon gochujang sauce
- Scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced, for garnish
- Cilantro, chopped, for garnish
- Sesame seeds, optional, for garnish
- Fries: Bake according to package (or bake your own!). Sprinkle with salt, as needed. Once the fries are finished cooking, push fries closer together in either one large pile, or 2-4 smaller piles, and top with cheese. Continue baking until the cheese is melted and then set aside.
- Carmelized Onions: While fries are cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat and melt butter or heat oil. Add the onions and cook for 10-12 minutes only stirring very occasionally, until tender and beginning to turn golden brown. Add kimchi, if desired, and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes. *top with kimchi separately if you'd like the added probiotics. Stir in gochujang sauce, remove from heat, and set aside.
- Spicy Mayo: Meanwhile, make the spicy mayo in a small bowl by stirring together mayonnaise, shichimi spice, and chili garlic sauce. Taste test and add salt as needed.
- Once the fries are done baking and the cheese is melted, place on a large serving tray or plate (or individual plates) and top with caramelized onion and kimchi, drizzle on the spicy mayo, and top with scallions and cilantro for garnish. Sprinkle sesame seeds, too, if desired.
- *Look for cheese specifically labeled vegetarian, if needed.
Disclaimer: The nutritional information provided for this recipe is only an estimate. The accuracy of the facts listed is not and cannot be guaranteed.
By the Way…
This recipe is part of our easy vegetarian appetizer collection. Check it out!