Saturday, March 3, 2012

How to Make Healthy, Tasty Tortilla Chips

homemade tortilla chipsWhen baked corn tortilla chips first hit the market some years ago, I initially rejoiced, thinking they'd become my go-to choice for healthier nachos, chips & salsa, and other crunchy snacking. After trying many different brands, however, I remained sadly disappointed in their general lack of flavor, underwhelming crunch, and subtle, vaguely disturbing hints of staleness or unnatural ingredients. "Something ain't right," my palate said, but I gamely continued buying them because of their supposed nutritional superiority over regular fried corn tortilla chips.

That is, until I decided to try baking my own tortilla chips.

First, I sought out the right corn tortillas:  All-natural and non-GMO if at all possible, and ideally with 0 (or less than a handful) of grams of fat per serving (usually defined as 2 tortillas if using the smaller ones around 6" in diameter).

To prepare the oven, I moved both racks to the two middle levels and preheated to 400°F.  While the oven heated, I removed the first tortilla from the bag, very lightly oiled it on one side (use a natural cooking spray or a pastry brush or even your fingers), placed it oil-side down on a cutting board and lightly oiled the top, then sprinkled a little Kosher salt on top (you can skip the salt, or sprinkle with other seasonings like powdered garlic, chile powder, or even BBQ rub). I repeated these steps with the remaining tortillas 5 or 6 at a time, stacking them with the unseasoned side down and seasoning the top side. I then used a very sharp knife to cut the stack in half all the way through, and then again, to quarter the tortillas.
corn tortillas

Next, I placed the tortilla quarters on a baking sheet, and repeated the process with as many tortillas as I needed for the amount of chips I wanted to make.

making homemade tortilla chips

I placed the baking sheets on the middle racks and baked for 10 to 12 minutes, switching which rack was on top about half-way through to ensure even baking. There was no need to flip over the tortilla chips themselves, but I did need to watch them towards the end to make sure they didn't get too brown. The goal is a nice golden color:

recipe for baked tortilla chips

Once the chips were baked, I removed them from the oven and tasted one: YESSSS!!! Great natural corn flavor with a crisp crunch, and the little bit of oil enriched the flavor while adding only a trivial amount of fat.  There's been no going back to store-bought baked corn tortilla chips for me, especially since these are so quick and easy to make.

A few nights ago, I used my home-baked tortilla chips to make one of my favorite snacks: Chile-onion nachos.  Normally I use sharp shredded cheddar cheese, but this time I shredded some sharp hoop cheese from a recent farmers' market foray. I then sprinkled on some chile powder and topped with paper-thin slivers of sweet onion, then popped the baking dish in the oven at 400°F just long enough to melt the cheese and soften the onions.  Delish!

cheese & onion nachosIn the summer, Greg and I make homemade tortilla chips by keeping them whole after oiling & seasoning, and then toasting them on our grill instead of in the oven.  Grilling adds a more robust flavor--but make sure to use indirect heat and keep close watch because they cook MUCH faster on the grill and can easily burn.  We then break the grilled tortillas into large pieces with our hands, or use them whole for tostadas or other Mexican recipes calling for whole crispy corn tortillas.

If you make or cook your own corn tortillas, or have a favorite recipe using corn tortillas that you'd like to share, please leave a comment!

Zestfully yours,

PS:  Don't forget to check out our salsas for a tasty alternative to mass-produced supermarket salsa.

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