The perfect tortilla chip is hard to find — we know, we’ve tried. There are a lot of factors to consider, salt to corn flavor ratio, structural integrity, and shape. In the market aisle, you’re spoiled with choices, with wide-ranging variations on the simple snack including white corn, yellow corn, blue corn, triangles, rounds, strips, and scoops.
It’s pretty overwhelming. But as someone who has had most (if not all) of the brands available nationwide, I can say with confidence that none of them come close to being as good as what you can easily make with those stale tortillas at the end of the pack sitting in your fridge.
The perfect homemade tortilla chip is crispy, salty, and thick enough to handle being drudged through guacamole, and salsa. It’s also strong enough to handle the weight of mounds of refried beans, cheese, and whatever else you like on your nachos. You can use them as a base for your breakfast chilaquiles, win the cookout with your from scratch nachos, and have the perfect chip to dip and scoop in whatever you love to dip and scoop in, from cheese to guacamole, to salsa, to bean dip, and hummus!
And all you’ll need is three ingredients. So let’s make the best homemade tortilla chips you’ll ever eat and say goodbye to the store-bought stuff forever.
Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips
- Corn tortilla (white or yellow, whatever your preference)
- Neutral high heat cooking oil (pick your poison, canola, avocado, and vegetable are fine options, I used peanut so I could fry them hot and fast)
- Salt (kosher salt, sea salt, table salt, use what you’ve got. I like coarse ground Kosher personally).
You can get picky about what type of corn tortilla you want to use, but at the end of the day, I think the best practice is to use whatever you have in your fridge. Choosing between white and yellow isn’t that important — what you want to make sure above all else is that you’re using stale corn tortillas. Stale tortilla chips will crisp up better (they have less moisture!), giving you a crispier end result.
The best practice is to cut your corn tortilla the night before you plan on making chips and let them sit in the fridge or under a plate, unwrapped, until the next day. They’ll be nice and stale and perfect for frying. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t do this, but fresher tortillas will result in a more pliable chip, so at the very least throw them in the oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes to dry them out.
Stack anywhere between 4-8 corn tortillas and cut them into equal triangles. This will make enough chips for two servings of nachos. There are several ways you can cut your tortillas, I used very small street food-style corn tortillas so I cut them with a single horizontal and vertical cut, giving me four chips per tortilla. If you have bigger tortillas or want to produce more chips you can cut them into sixths, or use two to three equal vertical and horizontal cuts to make strips and triangles. My tortillas were clearly too small to turn into strips, so I went with triangles.
Personally, I prefer a big triangular chip that allows me to double dip or serve as a strong foundation to build homemade nachos on top of. So that’s how I cut my stack but you do you. (To reiterate: Once your tortillas are cut, let them sit for at least an hour (or let them sit overnight for chilaquiles) and fry when noticeably stale and dry to the touch.)
Heat the neutral cooking oil of your choice over medium-high heat until the oil starts to ripple. If this is your first time, cook your tortillas in batches, making sure not to let the tortillas crowd and overlap one another. They’re going to fry fast and if you aren’t prepared for that, you will burn your tortillas. My pan is only 10-inches, I make tortilla chips all the time so… I’m crowding. Don’t do this at home folks.
Flip your tortillas after about two minutes and let them fry for an additional minute on the other side and remove them onto a paper towel-lined plate or bowl to drain the excess oil. Don’t worry if your tortilla still looks white or yellow, they’ll darken after a few seconds out of the oil. If your chips are even the least bit brown while still in the oil, you fucked up, they’re burnt.
Before your chips cool, sprinkle a pinch of your favorite style salt. You want to salt your chips while they are still hot, this way the salt adheres to the chip instead of rolling off. This goes for any other seasonings you want to do. Mix it up and combine paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, chili powder, and cayenne pepper, and you’ve got yourself the best Dorito you’ve ever eaten in your life.
If you forget this crucial step, squeeze some fresh lime across your bed of chips and then add the salt afterward.
Once your tortillas cool you now have the perfect chip to dip, build nachos upon, or use for chilaquiles.
The Bottom Line:
This recipe is so easy to nail that after you’ve made your first batch of tortilla chips, you’ll wonder why you, or anyone, fucks with the store-bought stuff.
Instead of an over-salted chip that breaks on the way from the store shelf to your pantry, you have a structurally sound tortilla chip that provides a pleasing, audible crunch and can handle the thickest, sauciest and heaviest dips.