Snack Time

Homemade Trials: Tortilla Chips

Over the weekend, I cooked for a friend’s baby shower and the menu was a simple Tex-Mex buffet spread. As an appetizer, I made a boatload of guacamole and figured I could just set out a bunch of chips for the guac with various salsas and stuff.

I figured I would take the opportunity to do something I’ve had on the list for awhile: Run tortilla chips through The Homemade Trials.

Chips are surprisingly simple to make and I figured it might just make sense to do so especially if you need a lot of them.

Let’s see how my homemade version stacks up again two popular store-bought brands!

My Chips

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Just a moment please...

Yield
Varies
Prep Time
Total Time

I compare homemade tortilla chips to store-bought varieties for cost, time, nutrition, and taste!

Ingredients

Corn tortilla
Vegetable oil
Kosher salt
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Helpful Equipment

cast iron skillet deep fryer

Directions

1) If you’re using a cast iron skillet, pour in 2-3 cups of oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil is 350 degrees F. (I recommend using a deep fry thermometer to ensure proper temperature).

2) Cut corn tortillas into 8ths.

3) When oil is hot, add a batch of corn tortilla wedges and fry for 2-3 minutes, flipping occasionally with tongs, until the chips are a light brown color. When they stop rapidly bubbling, it means they are done.

4) Remove chips to a plate or bowl with a paper towel to drain oil and season immediately with salt. The chips will continue to crisp up as they cool. Repeat frying with all tortillas. Add more oil if the level gets low.

You can store cooked chips at room temperature in an air tight bag or container for 5-7 days. Be sure to let them cool completely before storing them.

I didn’t put actual amounts on the recipe because it doesn’t really matter. Just make as many as you need. Actually, make double the amount you need because you’ll be sad when they are gone.

While you can cook the chips in a deep fryer (if you have one) I still use a plain old cast iron skillet for mine. You don’t actually need a ton of oil to make the chips. I usually start with three cups of oil and then cut my tortillas into 8ths and add them to the hot oil (350 degrees F. is perfect). They only need 2-3 minutes to cook through.

Flip them occasionally with a set of tongs as they fry and they are done when they have mostly stopped bubbling (water is mostly evaporated) and the chips are a light tan color.

Not that hard.

Not that hard.

As soon as they are done, transfer them to a bowl or plate with a few paper towels so they can drain and keep on going with another batch. Season the cooked chips with a sprinkle of salt when they come out of the fryer.

If the oil ever gets low in the pan, just add another cup or so.

I made 50 tortillas worth of chips (400 chips) or about 2.5 pounds of chips in about an hour so it can go pretty quick once you get the hang of it.

Time

Lots of chips.

Lots of chips.

This is the easiest category to manage because obviously it takes some time to make them from scratch. No matter what, any store-bought brand will be faster than homemade.

Cost

This category might look close when you look at the breakdown but it’s really not.

costtortilla

One quick note: I believe there is a bit of a scam going on in the chip world and I’m going to confirm this when I buy more chips. I poured my chips out of the bags they were in and they weighed less than it said on the packaging. In other words, I think the weight on the packaging includes the packaging which is kind of dumb.

So while the package of Mission chips I bought said 13 ounces on it, there was only 12 ounces of chips in the bag. Go figure.

Anyway, imagine you are hosting a huge party and need 40 ounces of chips (the amount I made for the baby shower). That would cost you only $4 if you made them yourself, but anywhere from $5.20 to $8.20 if you bought the chips depending on brand. That’s a pretty sizeable difference.

Cost goes to homemade chips for sure.

Nutrition

This was an extremely hard category to calculate, but I did my best.

tortillanutrition

The reason it was hard to calculate had to do with oil usage. Essentially, I use five cups of oil during my cooking, but had 2 cups leftover in the pan at the end so you could say that three cups were used in the chips. The problem with this is that a good portion of the oil is actually soaked into the paper towels after the fry.

I think I underestimated the amount of oil that soaked into the towels (I guessed at 1/2 cup), but I think it was probably closer to a cup. Anyway, that makes my homemade version slightly higher in calories and fat than store-bought brands.

A second note: I double and triple checked the “La Favorita” chip nutrition info. Somehow their chips are literally half the calories and almost no fat for the same amount of chips. The only way I can figure this is possible is that they probably bake their chips or very lightly fry them.

So, at the end of the day, I’m calling this a tie. If you compare fried to fried, then it’s pretty close. If you baked your chips at home, they would be really close to the “La Favorita” nutrition info. You are essentially working with the same ingredients in any case so it makes sense that this is a draw.

Taste

The middle.

The middle.

This category was not close. Homemade chips are definitely better than store-bought chips. They are thicker and somehow crunchier and can hold up better to dips and cheese and anything you want to put on them.

If you look at the above picture, it becomes clear that manufactured chips don’t actually start with tortillas. Their chips are really thin and I would bet they make some kind of thin dough that they fry immediately to get the chips. Meanwhile, homemade chips are really thick and actually more filling than the store-bought kinds.

In a perfect world, I would only want to eat homemade chips. That’s all there is to it.

Conclusion

This one is hard because chips are just so easy to buy! Here’s what I would say:

If you’re going to buy chips, check out the nutritional info for them. I didn’t think the baked ones were noticeably worse than the fried ones. That’s a substitution I’m making from now on that I had never noticed until I looked at them closely.

Here are the two times that I’m definitely making my own chips:

1) If I’m cooking a really sturdy dish that needs a thick chip. Heavy nacho dishes, for example, would be a disaster on the thin, baked chip. You would have a huge soggy mess on your hands.

2) If I’m cooking for a special occasion or if I’m cooking a huge batch, I think it’s probably worth it to make them. That’s when you start to see some savings factor in and you end up with a better chip anyway.

What do you think? Do you ever make your own chips? If so, when do you take the time to do it?

28 comments on “Homemade Trials: Tortilla Chips

  1. I was hoping you were making the tortillas too! Not your most exciting recipe. I guess in Arizona its as common as making toast.

    1. Yea lets complain about a guy that gives you free amazing recipes multiple times a week for week! were you also hoping for pressing his own oil?, and BTW this looks great.

  2. I love this! I’ve always wanted to make my own chips, for the reasons you list…they just seem like they would taste SO much better. I’ve never pulled the trigger on it, but I may have to now. Thanks for this!

  3. I’d be interested to try this with some other flavors in lieu of, or addition to salt (Cayenne, or maybe something cumin/curry?)

    1. Nice call bill. Pretty much any seasoning in your pantry will go just fine on chips. I like a little chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, salt blend personally. I kept it simple for this version just so I had an even comparison. Good luck!

  4. I make these when the tortillas have been in the refrigerator or freezer too long, or if I have put them away and oops forgot for 2 or 3 days. I do this with pita bread, also, only I flavor and bake them. I have also discovered that using coconut oil is ok, using less than regular oil.

  5. I always make my own chips now. It all started when my store did not have any tortilla chips in stock, strange but true. I really wanted them so I just made them. There is no going back now! These are so easy to make and store bought chips just don’t taste good anymore to me. Mmmm now I want tortilla chips.

  6. I like to do this with pita bread, oven baked. I spray them with a little oil. My topping depends on what I feel like: garlic, aleppo pepper, sumac or ras el ranout. Mmmmmm :-)

  7. I think these would be a nice appetizer along with some homemade dips, definately ups the apps game!! I think i’ll try baking them once though, just to see how they come out, might be worth the save in calories (in these times of new resolutions ;-) )

  8. You can also get really excellent results by baking the chips in the oven after brushing them with oil and seasoning them. You have to keep an eye on them until you get the timing right, but they are really delicious (esp with some seasoned salt and cayenne pepper) and healthier I would imagine!

  9. When I owned a Mexican restaurant in California, we ordered fresh masa dough and several varieties of tortillas from a company in Oakland. We used a special, thin tortilla for making our chips, that didn’t puff up in the fryer. That may account for the nutritional differences.

  10. I have made these in the oven, with a little olive oil and salt, because I had a craving for them and only had tortillas. Honestly, they weren’t better than store-bought chips, but they were good enough where I couldn’t imagine why anyone would bother deep-frying them. I suppose it’s faster, but I won’t heat up three cups of oil for anything less than doughnuts.

  11. My husband goes through tortilla chips like nobody’s business, I can’t stop him! In the cost category, Mission tortilla chips from Costco are 7 cents an ounce. If it wasn’t for my husbands constant craving I would make my own though because they are better in the taste category for me! (and I just don’t eat as many, so the 3lb bag wouldn’t be worth it!)

    BTW just stumbled upon your website and love your kitchen experiments. Helped me solve a debate about mac and cheese (homemade vs. boxed) Thanks for all of your recipes and experiments!

  12. pssst…there’s a typo in your ingredients list. you used corn tortillas, not corn tortilla chips. I admit I was slightly confused, especially since the first picture is of frying – I thought you were making refried chips and they were some sort of vast improvement!

  13. It’s really not a sizable difference compared to most other recipes homemade vs store bought.

    If it took you an hour of work and you saved between $1-$3, you saved (or made) $1-$3 an hour, or less than half of minimum wage. Of course, since I’m sure they taste a lot better, it’s probably worth it!

    One other thing to note is the La Favoritas are probably much healthier than your homemade ones at only 60 cals per 10 chips… Just one thing to consider.

  14. We make tortilla chips here in Arusha, Tanzania, on a small-scale commercial basis, so I rather chuckled when I saw the ingredient list for this recipe – corn tortillas. That’s the hard bit.

    Nixtamalizing the corn, then grinding it to masa is a big part of the work. Then there’s making that into tortillas. The most difficult thing is to get the chips really thin, because that’s what the big manufacturers have led most people to expect. We can just about do it, but it requires considerable skill and practice.

    1. Thanks for the comment Steve. That’s funny that the big manufacturers lead people to the thinner chip. Personally I prefer a thicker chip that can hold up to toppings and stuff without getting soggy!

    1. Sure Katy! You can fry any tortilla really. They will have a much different texture though than the corn tortillas. If you’ve ever had a flauta at a Mexican restaurant, that is a fried flour tortilla so that’s the sort of texture you can expect. Good luck!

  15. Just wanted to let you know I tried these last night and they were AMAZING! I had some leftover corn tortillas from making enchiladas and this was an easy way to keep them from going bad that was also SO delicious (and way better than storebought). Thanks for sharing this recipe!! :)

    1. Hey Linda, they keep just like normal tortilla chips. So once they are cooled down, you can keep them in an airtight container for a week or two in the pantry. They will start to get a bit stale after that though. Good luck!

  16. I have a problem with my chips that they did not puff up when we fried or baked. Could any body suggest what I can make to improve their puffiness?

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