Whether you go at a backyard get-together, housewarming party, or game night, a bag of chips and a tub of salsa are almost guaranteed to be part of the spread. To volunteer to make a contribution, the duo are right there with a liter of Coke in terms of effort – until you get to the fries aisle, of course.
When the hell have there been so many different types of tortilla chips?
Yellow corn or blue corn? Shovels or triangles? Slightly salty or slightly lemony? It’s enough to make you think that the party guest who volunteered to bake cupcakes from scratch did just fine.
For tips on where to buy the tastiest tortilla chips — and which ones to avoid — we asked 10 Mexican chefs what to look for. After all, they’ve perfected tortilla chip making themselves, whether it’s to serve in their restaurants, feature in their cookbooks, or simply enjoy them at home.
So what do they take away? Follow the six steps below and you’ll get the perfect tortilla chips every time.
1. Buy them from Mexican-owned stores or brands
Instead of heading to the grocery store for your tortilla chips, it’s worth doing a quick Google search first to see if there’s a Mexican grocery store nearby to make your purchase.
“My favorite tortilla chips are available at most Mexican grocery stores. It’s the unbranded one that’s probably made at the store,” said Chief Katsuji Tanabewhich owns six restaurants in North America.
If you spot perfectly golden tortilla chips in a clear bag with no brand name, you know you’ve found what you’ve been looking for. Tanabe said chips like these are made with real corn tortillas and are thick enough to use for everything from chips and salsa to making chilaquiles.
If there isn’t a Mexican grocery store near you, the best thing to do is support a Mexican brand. Esteban Castillo, the creator of Mexican cooking resource Chicano Eats and author of a cookbook of the same name, said he preferred Siete’s grain-free tortilla chips both for their ingredients and because the brand gives back to the Latinx community.
Lola Wiarbo Dweck, founder of Mexican cooking resource Lola’s Cocina, does the same. “I love that they’re made with avocado oil and chia seeds,” she said.
Dweck is also a fan of Mi Rancho 7th Street Corn Tortilla Chips, which are made with organic ingredients. “They’re as close to homemade as you can get!” she shared.
2. Look for the perfect thickness
If you want to prevent your chip from breaking while you’re picking up guac, consider thickness.
A “thicker size is closer to a homemade tortilla chip,” said Mely Martinez, the founder of Mexican recipe site Mexico in my kitchen. “Thin fries break easily and lack the corny flavor of a good tortilla.”
(For the record, Martinez said that if she didn’t get her tortilla chips straight from a Mexican grocery store, she would buy a bag of Xochitl shavings, which she says provide the perfect thickness.)
Castillo said the perfect tortilla chips aren’t too brittle or too thick; they are right. After all, you probably pair your fries with salsa, quac, or some other food, and too thick a fry can be overwhelming.
3. Look for chips made with nixtamalized yellow corn
To fully appreciate the corn flavor of your crisps, Maricruz Avalos, who shares Mexican recipes online, and Dora Stone, the creator of the Mexican recipe website Dora’s Table, bSuffice to say look for chips made from nixtamalized corn.
During the nixtamalization process, dried corn kernels are cooked and soaked in an alkaline solution, most often filtered water and lime. Not only are they tastier, but nixtamalized corn chips are higher in B vitamins.
Avalos uses them to make chilaquiles, “because they hold salsa so well”, and also as a garnish for soups, “especially for Aztec soup.”
Chef Carlos Gaytan says the best fries are made with yellow corn, period. “The others that are white or blue corn aren’t so crunchy because they absorb a lot of the oil they’re made with,” he said. “On the other hand, the yellow [corn] The tortilla, when fried between 375°F and 400°F, is super crispy and delicious.
4. Look for a short and simple ingredient list
A hint of lime, guac flavored tortilla chips, taco flavor – none of the Mexican chefs we spoke to opted for flavors like these.
“I don’t like lime tortilla chips. The artificial lime flavor really bugs me for some reason. I prefer to squeeze fresh lime over my fries,” Stone said.
Tanabe says he skips tortilla chips that are dyed blue, red, or green. The shorter the ingredient list on your bag of chips, the more homemade they will be.
5. They should not be too salty
Many Mexican chefs say that when it comes to saltiness, the perfect tortilla chips aren’t too little or too much. If your fries are too salty and you enjoy them with another salty food (like guac), the saltiness will be overwhelming.
Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack, the author of “Very good cookbook. says if she doesn’t get her chips from a local Mexican grocery store, she’ll to go for The favourite Where Xochitl tortilla chips, which she says are perfectly lightly salted and not too much.
6. Make sure they are triangle shaped
“I don’t like rounds or stripes or balls,” Marquez-Sharpnack said. If your tortilla chips are already the perfect thickness, they don’t need a special shape to be the perfect vehicle for salsa, queso, or guac.
With these tips in mind, you’re well on your way to buying the best tortilla chips. Now if only someone could help you figure out which salsa to go with them…