The Truth About In-N-Out Animal Style Fries

On any trip out to the Western United States, it's basically mandatory for foodies to stop at In-N-Out. The fast food chain has been around for decades, kept the same simple menu, and has been able to maintain a strong fan base without gimmicks. A strong and celebrity-filled fan base, that is: Kim Kardashian loves In-N-Out so much she once celebrated her birthday with an In-N-Out cake, Chef Gordon Ramsay once sang the chain's praises in the Sunday Mail, and according to ET, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have been known stop by the eatery.

In-N-Out's true claim-to-fame are its reasonably priced burgers that are loaded with flavor. There's nothing better after a long night out than a Double-Double loaded with the brand's famous spread and melty cheese. In-N-Out's draw is definitely America's favorite sandwich, not so much their french fries with a bad reputation. 

In-N-Out is also responsible for helping to drive the "secret menu" craze at fast food restaurants. Luckily, ordering the chain's fries "Animal Style" have helped the reputation of the side dish improve. It was an unlikely story of how the dressed-up fries came to be, and why they are essentially the only way most people like to enjoy In-N-Out fries these days. 

There's a standard way to order Animal Style fries

Animal Style fries may technically be a secret menu item at In-N-Out, but that doesn't mean that the chain just pretends as though the menu item doesn't exist. In fact, the fast food joint lists Animal Style on its website under the Not So Secret Menu section. The particular tidbit gives the specific order for the Animal Style burger, which includes a beef patty cooked in mustard, lettuce, tomato, cheese, pickles, extra spread, and grilled onions. 

If you order Animal Style fries, expect to get a plate of fries loaded with cheese, extra spread, grilled onions, and pickles. Essentially, it's the same flavors that make the burger so tasty, just piled on some fries. If you've never ordered them before, beware: you will make a mess. It's good to have a few forks and plenty of extra napkins on hand if you're trying them out. 

But they are still customizable

Even though there is a relatively standard way to enjoy In-N-Out's version of loaded fries, fans have still figured out how to play with the menu ingredients and make the side dish even more personal. Some Reddit users, like U/kawi-bawi-bo, have hacked the traditional Animal Style recipe by adding chopped chiles for a hint of spice. 

Another Redditor/loyal In-N-Out fan called U/BrutalBrockmire mentioned the invention of the Roadkill fries. Essentially, that's when you order french fries Animal Style and add a burger patty on top. It's definitely not a light plate of fries by any means. However, it is a good way to mash up the chain's major food groups into one messy fry boat. 

Reddit user U/FuzzyMang0s did a full explainer of the In-N-Out menu, listing all of the available toppings that are just begging to be added to fries. If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can swap the grilled onions for a whole grilled onion, just because it looks cool. If cooked onions aren't your thing, In-N-Out offers raw options too.  

They're a surefire way to enjoy In-N-Out fries

If you keep tabs of the ongoings at In-N-Out, you likely are aware that their fries are not exactly universally beloved. Take, for example, when the Los Angeles Times ranked 19 different fast food fries in 2019 and put In-N-Out's spuds dead last. Or how about this excerpt from LAist's not exactly glowing writeup of the taters: "The fries at In-N-Out are pale, limp, undersalted potato tubes that begin congealing into a soggy, oily mass the moment they emerge from the fryer." Ouch. They aren't bad if you smother them in sauce and other toppings that fit your fancy, but all on their own, these fries aren't a surefire hit for everyone. 

That said, a side of plain fries at In-N-Out will only set you back $2, so it's not like you're overpaying for this side dish. And hey, if you like a super basic, freshly prepared fry, then you are in luck. But if you want to take your super basic, freshly prepared In-N-Out fries to the next level? Animal Style is the way to go.

In-N-Out fries must be ordered well-done

The biggest hack In-N-Out fans have discovered for fixing the fries is by ordering them well-done. Once you try this out, eating the regular version of the infamous fries is essentially rendered impossible. A person who worked at the chain for 12 years suggested to Thrillist that customers request "fry well" to make sure the crispiness is amped up. One customer U/jio12345 took to Reddit to show their appreciation for an In-N-Out employee who ensured their fries were well-done. Other In-N-Out fans were quick to also praise the employee, as they are well aware of the restaurant's fry struggles. 

In fact, some customers believe that the only way to enjoy an authentic Animal Style fries experience is to order the spuds well-done so that the base can better hold the mountain of toppings. Texture can often make or break a dish, and it is mandatory that any good smothered french fry have a solid foundation. 

The lore surrounding Animal Style

In-N-Out's first location opened back in 1948 in Baldwin Park, California, but it would be some years before Animal Style arrived on the scene and took the fast food world by storm. The secret menu hack began in the 1960s, and as "In-N-Out: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain that Breaks All the Rules" author Stacy Perman explained to Eater, the local surfers may be to thank. Perman told the outlet, "This could be apocryphal. But the clean-cut kids behind the counter would see the surfer kids come in and call them animals. That's how we got 'Animal Style.'"

And what do you know, it sounds like those extreme sport-loving teens had some revolutionary culinary instincts. Per Eater, the kids apparently asked In-N-Out employees to load up their burgers with a specific combination of ingredients that we now know as "animal style." In-N-Out has never officially confirmed this origin story, but it does make for a fitting tale for a SoCal-based restaurant chain.

Animal Style has existed for decades

Again, while In-N-Out has not confirmed whether or not '60s surf punks were behind the creation of Animal Style, the company has given some background that suggests that story may indeed hold water to some degree. In 1961, according to In-N-Out's comprehensive timeline, "The first Animal Style burger is created in response to customer requests." Funny enough, Animal Style was around before the legendary Double-Double burger was even on the menu, which happened in 1963. 

The history surrounding Animal Style fries is not as clear cut as the slices of spuds themselves. It seems only natural for curious diners to mash-up the In-N-Out secret menu toppings with fries, so who knows when the first person was brave enough to give that combination a whirl. The history of Animal Style as a concept demonstrates that the flavor combination is really able to stand for itself. No matter how much time goes by, it looks like customers just don't get sick of going Animal Style at In-N-Out.

They're an elite menu item

In-N-Out has remained a titan of the industry without going public, becoming a nationwide chain, or making any major changes to its food lineup. CEO Lynsi Snyder has been open about the history of the brand, including its visibly small menu. Unlike McDonald's or Shake Shack, In-N-Out has about 15 items available to customers. The chain doesn't do limited-time specials or rollouts of new plates — they sell burgers, fries, shakes, and soda. The only change Snyder has made since taking the reins was adding hot chocolate in 2018, per Forbes

Even though In-N-Out's fries are a hotly contested item, they have stood the test of time and remained on the menu. (Hey, it's more or less a fast food law: You can't eat a burger without a side of fries.) Animal Style fries may have been born of necessity to up the flavor, but unlike the classic fry, you won't see this legendary modification option on the official menu.

Animal Style fries are easy to make at home

If you aren't lucky enough to live in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, or Texas, then you're going to have to travel to chow down on Animal Style fries at an In-N-Out location. But if you're cool with a knockoff version, the internet is full of copycat recipes for Animal Style fries, as the combo isn't anything too advanced. For the base, you can fry up your own spuds or use your favorite frozen variety. Bonus points if you have an air fryer to really crisp up the chips. 

As for the toppings, you need to caramelize some onions with butter and melt a few slides of American cheese over the fries. The spread is essentially a homemade version of Thousand Island dressing, which you can make with a mix of ketchup, mayonnaise, sugar, relish, and vinegar, per Dinner Then Dessert.

Online blogs like Domestic Superhero and Family Fresh Meals have pretty easy at-home recipes for the entire dish. While it's not as simple as going through the drive-thru, it does allow for you to customize the flavors of your Animal Style fries to make them all your own.

Some consumers think they're overpriced

Another major appeal of In-N-Out is the affordable price point of its menu. A cheeseburger will cost you around $3, and for an extra $1 you can get a Double-Double. However, the price point of Animal Style fries is highly disputed on the internet. Redditor U/integralof1overx pointed out that the price for fries nearly doubles from $2 to $4 if you order them Animal Style. However, In-N-Out only adds an extra charge for cheese, not the other toppings. "Are you really paying 2 dollars for a slice of American cheese?" the Reddit user wrote. Interestingly enough, as U/aj_og noted, an order of cheese fries also costs $4 — so you're essentially paying the same amount you'd pay for Animal Style but getting less ingredients. 

A few savvy diners have discovered a loophole for getting a cheaper version of Animal Style. U/MajesticCatNose suggests that patrons order regular french fries with grilled onions and spread, minus the cheese. If you aren't too heartbroken to part ways with the cheese, this may be a new hack for you. 

In-N-Out employees say the price is worth it

Although some diners may be wary of Animal Style fries due to the added cost, the workers say the price comes down to a lot more than a piece of cheese. The loaded fries are much more labor-intensive to make than the plain variety. Redditor U/MustangTris points out that there are two slices of cheese on the fries and the employee must steam the boat so that it gets hot and melty. "Every second counts so we can get you in and out but that takes longer for the other customers if you order an animal," they wrote. 

U/ElijahHenrry went into full detail on the process of making Animal Style fries, making it abundantly clear that the recipe, which includes lots of steaming and preparation, is much more involved and time-consuming than simply dumping the ingredients on top of the fries. "We don't just put a slice of cheese on a fry," they wrote.

There are ways to amp up Animal Style

As previously mentioned, the In-N-Out employees take several extra steps to serve up the perfect plate of Animal Style fries. It's labor intensive, but if made right, they're arguably worth the extra two dollars in the end. Reddit user U/Animal_T has an added hack that makes the fries even better, but it also creates more work for the employees, so it's something to be conscious of. 

The idea is that you ask for the animal fries to be assembled on the grill rather than being steamed. "It's the old school way of doing it. Tastes way better imo, but it's kind of a pain so don't be mad if they don't," U/Animal_T wrote. If you tried Animal Style fries and weren't a fan, this method may be just what it takes to change your mind. However, make sure to be polite and appreciative to the individuals who go out of their way to chef this up for you. 

Monkey Style is a rumored mash-up of two menu items

Whenever there's a fast food restaurant with a secret menu, there are daredevils looking to take it to the next level. That seems to be the case with the myths of In-N-Out's "Monkey Style" burger. The fabled mashup involves taking Animal Style fries and piling them on top of a burger. It sounds like no small feat for even the hungriest In-N-Out customer, and would probably require plenty of napkins. But it does sound like a uniform way to get a taste of every element in one bite. 

In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, In-N-Out clarified that the Monkey Style burger is "not officially on the unofficial secret menu," which feels a little bit like a riddle. If you're someone who feels like they must try the Monkey Style burger, you're probably better off ordering both elements separately and assembling it yourself at the table.