Tortilla Chips are deep-fried or baked wedges of Mexican Tortillas. They are traditionally triangular, as they would be if you cut up a tortilla into pie-shaped pieces for deep frying, but now you can buy round, purpose-made ones that were never part of a larger tortilla.
Commercial production of Tortilla Chips took off in the second half of the 1970s as nachos became popular. Most commercial ones are deep-fried and heavily salted, though you can now get baked ones that are lighter on the salt.
Corn Tortilla Chips
Made from corn tortillas.
Flour Tortilla Chips
Made from flour tortillas.
Blue Corn Tortilla Chips
Made from blue corn tortillas. These are the most expensive.
To make your own baked tortilla chips:
Heat oven to 400 F (200 C). Take 3 to 4 tortillas, and rub their tops with some water. Cut them into wedges as you would a pie — aim to make about 8 wedges out of a large sized tortilla, 6 out of a small. Arrange on cookie sheet, and bake until hard to the touch but not brown (about 10 to 15 minutes).
The taste is less satisfying than the fried Tortilla Chips, but you either can get used to it, or spray them with a low-fat cooking spray such as Pam before baking. Flour tortillas are less successful at baking; the corn ones work best.
To make your own fried tortilla chips:
Cut flour or corn Tortillas into wedges as you would a pie — aim to make about 8 wedges out of a large sized tortilla, 6 out of a small. Heat about an inch of oil (2.5 cm) in a frying pan until tremors start on the surface of the oil (if you have an oil thermometer, the temperature should be about 350 F / 175 C). Some people recommend tossing some bacon fat into the oil for better flavour. Fry a few at a time till they have crisped but not gone brown. Keep the number you fry at one time to a single layer of chips at a time: this is easier to turn and manage. It should take about 1 minute per batch. Turn out onto paper towel to drain. Both corn and flour tortillas make great fried Tortilla Chips. The flour chips even puff up a bit.
If you picture the ancient Aztecs dipping Tortilla Chips into guacamole, you’ve been watching too many Mel Brooks movies.