It s so hard to stop when you start munching on these crunchy chips that are often served as complimentary appetizers in Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurants. The origins of the tortilla chips can be traced to the flatbread that is a staple in Mexican cuisine, which is also called totopos or tostadas. But did you know that the tortilla chips that we know now are actually a product of an accident? In the late 1940s, Rebecca Webb Carranza had this great idea of repurposing the misshapen tortillas that their machines produced. She cut the rejected tortillas into triangles, and fried them, giving birth to the snack and appetizer we just can’t get enough of!
Tortilla Chip Trivia
- Doritos is the first “tortilla chip” to be launched nationally in the United States.
- There was even an award-giving body dedicated to tortillas! In 1994, the “Golden Tortilla” award was established to recognize those who had a great contribution to the tortilla industry. Tortilla chips inventor Rebecca Webb Carranza was one of its first recipients.
- In the movie Despicable Me 2, Gru wore a sombrero made out of tortilla chips!
- February 24 is the National Tortilla Chip Day.
Tortilla Chip Buying Guide
Tortilla chips are often served as appetizers in restaurants, but are also consumed in place of potato chips or popcorn during game days at home or even at the stadium, or even as finger food during parties and family gatherings. These are also easily made available with commercially produced tortilla chips being sold in supermarkets.
Tortilla Chip Production & Farming in Texas
Mexican cuisine is deeply ingrained in Texan culture. In 2003, tortilla chips and salsa were even declared as the Lone Star state’s official snack. This idea was suggested by a group of elementary school students who realized that tortilla chips were a standard fare in Texas, but is uncommon in other states.
Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants are easy sources of tortilla chips, some of which serve them for free as appetizers. There are also several Texas-bred brands that produce packaged tortilla chips, which are sold in supermarket chains, not just in local stores and farmers markets, but also in other states, even as far as Alaska!
Preservatives, Additives, and Chemicals
Most tortilla chips maintain that they are gluten-free and preservative-free. Some also declare a very short and simple list of ingredients composed of corn, different types of oil, and salt. However, it still pays to be vigilant in what is noted in the ingredients list as there are still some brands with some unrecognizable ingredients. Here are just some of them:
- Monosodium Glutamate – also known as MSG, this food additive can be derived from a non-essential amino acid, the glutamic acid. This is usually used to enhance the flavor. But there is still a controversy and a debate if MSG poses health risks. Some reported experiencing adverse effects such as headache, numbness, weakness, flushing, and muscle tightness. It was also linked to weight gain. However there are still no official studies and conclusions if MSG is safe or dangerous for consumption.
- Maltodextrin – a polysaccharide that is commonly added to packaged foods to improve its flavor, thickness, and shelf life. This white powdery substance can be derived from corn, however, it is highly processed, using acids or enzymes. Maltodextrin is considered by the US FDA to be a safe food additive and is counted in the total carbohydrate count in the food’s nutritional value. There are warnings that the maltodextrin may have a high glycemic index and might pose an issue for those with diabetes. But this substance is usually present in small amounts in food and therefore won’t have that much significant effect if taken moderately.
- Citric acid – This is commonly found in citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, oranges, and the likes. However, there is also a manufactured form that is used as a food additive and can also be found in cleaning agents and nutritional supplements. This manufactured citric acid is used to preserve the ingredients, to boost acidity in its contents, and to enhance the flavor. This is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA.
- Artificial Flavors – these are flavorings added in our food that is not extracted from organic sources such as plants or animals. These are usually present in processed foods and snacks. But while others do not recommend taking in food with anything artificial, there are no reported significant health risks associated with taking in these artificial flavors.
Tortilla chips are usually packed in sealed and/or resealable plastic pouches. These bags keep the chips away from air and moisture, causing it to be soggy and chewy. Who wants a soggy tortilla chip, right?
Enjoying Tortilla Chips
Tortilla chips can be eaten on its own, in its plain corn flavor, or infused with other herbs, spices, and flavors, just like potato chips. They can be fried or baked, with most consumers choosing the baked variation as it contains less oil and therefore, a healthier option.
Others upgrade their snacking experience by choosing to dunk their tortilla chips in dips like cheese, guacamole, and other creamy delights.
Found yourself opening a big, family-sized bag of tortilla chips but can’t finish it by yourself? Just make sure you put the chips in an airtight container, or reseal the bag to keep air from getting inside and turning your chips stale and chewy.
An unopened bag of tortilla chips can stay at its best quality for about two to three months from the date on the package. But once opened, it holds for about 1 to 2 weeks, if sealed and stored at room temperature.
Cooking Tortilla Chips
Flex your chef hat and whip up your own batch of easy peasy baked tortilla chips!
- Twelve 6-inch corn tortillas
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Brush both sides of the tortillas with oil.
- Cut the tortillas to make the triangle-shaped chips.
- Spread the chips out in a single layer on baking sheets and season with salt.
- Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until golden and crisp, rotating the baking sheets once midway.