Tortilla chips (bypassing the tortillas)

More fun with masa harina.

I’ve been wanting to make tortilla chips but I don’t want to have to make the tortillas and do the usual frying to make the chips. I figured that I should be able to simply bake a dough made with the masa harina.

Luckily I hit upon it with my second attempt. My first attempt was with a basic corn tortilla recipe:

1 cup masa harina
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water

Mix that all together until a smooth dough is formed which doesn’t stick to your hands.

The usual recipes for chips will tell you to roll the dough to a 1/8th inch thickness. As if I could eyeball the rolled out dough and tell how thick it is. And do it consistently. Luckily the local TJ Max had a hand crank pasta machine for $25 so I bought it.
pasta machine
Of course, when I run my dough through it it’s not a perfect rectangle like that, more like a stretched ellipse.

The first batch wasn’t baked long enough. And I could tell that it wasn’t going to have the necessary snap. Beef jerky-like chewy tortilla chips aren’t what I’m wanting. So for the next batch I added some tapioca starch that I bought at the local health food store. I also knew that they were going to need some oil so I added some. Here’s the resulting recipe:

1 cup masa harina
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons oil
2 tablespoons tapioca starch

Put the masa harina and salt in the mixer bowl. Start the mixer and slowly drizzle in the oil. Leave the mixer running on slow. Put the tapioca starch in a small bowl and add the 3 tablespoons of water to it and mix well. Add to the flour mixture. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of water to the flour mixture and mix well. (First pour the 1/2 cup of water into whatever you used to mix the tapioca starch, to get all of the tapioca starch.)

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and roll each one into a ball. Flatten a ball and run it though the pasta machine on its widest setting, or whichever setting produces sheets that are 1/8th inch thick.

Place the sheets on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Don’t use one of those double layer insulated ones; these need the heat on the bottom. Use a rolling pizza cutter to score them to make tortilla strip chips. Bake for 25 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, then take it out and flip them all over and bake again for another 25 minutes. Take out and let them cool on the cookie sheet.

These had a nice snap and flavor. They aren’t salty enough for chips but the general flavor is right. I realized that they taste a lot like Fritos, which makes me suspect that Fritos are made with masa harina.

An obvious improvement would be to either increase the salt or to sprinkle some salt on them before baking them. It would be interesting to add flavorings to the dough when it’s mixing. For example, garlic power, or onion powder. Or some herbs or spices; cumin, for example. I also want to try adding some black sesame seeds to the dough before I roll it out; that should make for a nice appearance.

Update: see this link for everything you’ll probably ever want to know about how commercial tortilla chips are made. Here’s another link with some pictures; same text.

Edit: changed the oven temperature from 350 to 325, and changed the times from 20 minutes to 25 minutes. Increased the oil.


2 Comments on “Tortilla chips (bypassing the tortillas)”

  1. Jon says:

    This recipe is exactly what I’m looking for. I’ve tried just baking and they were hard as rocks; so, I figured I would need to add a bit of oil.

    Just curious – what the tapioca starch? Do you think I could substitute cornstartch?

    I’m going to try adding some flax seed meal.

    • Rusty Wright says:

      The tapioca starch is a binder, so they hold together and aren’t crumbly. An egg might do as well, but I was trying to make them vegan; not because I’m vegan, but just because. Do a google search on “tapioca starch vs cornstarch” and see what you find. People are using different starches for binders in gluten free recipes so you can find plenty to read.

      Adding oil to keep them soft sounds like a good idea. You could make some hot pepper oil where you keep dried peppers in the oil. Keep it in the fridge since it could develop botulism otherwise.

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