The only time I spent in the food industry professionally, I was working as a full-time waitress and a part-time counselor at a camp in northern Wisconsin.
And it was there that I burned myself for the first time. Ouch.
I’d signed up, willing to do anything. And by some act of grace, I wasn’t assigned cleaning duty. Instead, they put me in the kitchen.
Early mornings, before campers and counselors were awake, I’d walk in the dining hall, the scent of warm yeast in the air. I pulled trays of puffy doughs and freshly made eggs off the rolling warmers and set them in the buffet line. I collected dishes from round tables covered with plastic tablecloths.
During one of these days, I ended up burning myself slightly while I carried a hot plate, causing a small scab to grow over my left forearm.
In a lot of ways, I think it’s good to burn yourself early: it gives you a healthy respect for cooking tools, and you learn to act more carefully when you’re working with them.
But in my case that summer, that little wound brought about an irrational fear of being burned. I have avoided a lot of things since, like hot oil, bubbling and popping in a pan on the stove, which is something of a problem for a fried food lover like myself.
So the recipe that got me to conquer those fears would have to be a pretty special one, don’t you think?
Enter homemade fried tortilla chips.
These chips are everything I was looking for: something easy and wonderful to eat. Looking for an alternative that didn’t involve frying, I also found some baked options and tested those too.
Trust me when I say this: the fried version is better.
The instructions are so simple, I could recite them in conversation, without looking for my notes or consulting a resource, and that’s saying something:
Get a package of corn or flour tortillas (whatever you like best), and cut them evenly into triangles. Heat up some canola oil in a large skillet, and lay the triangles carefully in the oil, arranging them in a single layer and flipping them a couple of times.
And the oil is absolutely nothing to fear! You only need a shallow pool in your skillet that just coats the triangles. Not a huge, scary, bubbling vat of hot liquid.
When they’re lightly golden and crispy, take the chips out of the skillet and set them on paper towels to dry. You’ll want to add a dash of sea salt when they are still a little warm, so it can absorb right into the warm oil on each chip. Then you’re set.
That’s it. Really.
Cheap, easy, fast, tasty… and safe (phew!).
Cooking by the Numbers…
Step 1 – Cut the Tortillas
If you are using corn tortillas, which are formed as smaller circles, cut them into 4 equal pieces.
Using flour tortillas instead? Because they are generally larger than the corn version, slice them into smaller pieces. As demonstrated in the above photos, you can cut them into 8 small triangles.
Step 2 – Fry in Oil
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 1/2 cups of canola oil until hot, about 5 minutes.
Working in batches, add a layer of triangles, being sure they do not overlap. Keep them in a single layer to promote the most even cooking.
Continue cooking them on one side until very lightly golden, about 30 seconds to one minute, then flip them with heatproof tongs. Continue to cook them for just another 30 seconds to one minute, or until lightly golden.
Depending on what style of tortilla you use, the cooking times will change slightly. The flour version is a little thicker, and will take longer to cook, while the corn tortillas are thinner, and will not need as much time.
So stay close to the pan while you’re cooking to keep an eye on the color. They cook quickly! And who really wants brown, burnt chips?
Step 3 – Remove and Repeat
When they have finished frying, remove them and place on a large tray lined with paper towels in order to remove any excess oil.
Repeat Steps 2 and 3 with the remaining chips.
Step 4 – Season and Serve
When all the chips have been fried and allowed to cool just slightly, but are still warm, place in a large bowl and toss with sea salt to taste.
Serve them with your favorite dips, and enjoy!
Put Down That Bag of Store-Bought Nacho Chips
Don’t fear the hot oil. It’s your friend, not your foe! These homemade tortilla chips got me over my fear of frying, and for that, I love them.
In just a few short minutes, you too can make these crunchy goodies, a perfect base for all your dipping needs. Not to mention it’s a great way to use up those tortillas that have been sitting on your shelf, right before they’re starting to go bad…
These triangles of crispiness – almost too easy to justify posting an actual recipe – are delicious, with a bit of chewiness amidst the crunch and a perfectly salted flavor that complements a variety of dips, like pico de gallo, hummus, and guacamole.
You can easily double (or triple) this recipe. Just be sure to use a skillet big enough to accommodate a larger amount of oil and tortilla pieces.
Well, have I convinced you to make your own chips? What would you use as your favorite dip for these crispy little guys? Feel free to leave us a message in the comments below!
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Photos by Nikki Cervone, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published February 27th, 2009. Last updated: January 30, 2018 at 11:20 am. Additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
*Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her mantra? Restoring order and celebrating beauty through creative content, photography, and food. Shanna's work has been featured in Bon Appetit, The Kitchn, MSN.com, Everyday Health, Better Homes & Gardens, Houzz.com, Food News Journal, Food52, Zeit Magazine, Chew the World, Mom.me, Babble, Delish.com, Parade, Foodista, Entrepreneur and Ragan PR.