Masa Shapes: Totopos (Tortilla Chips)

Masa Shapes: Totopos (Tortilla Chips)

In our humble opinion, totopos, aka tortilla chips, are one of the simplest masa recipes to produce with arguably the highest return on investment. They've got all the right stuff--crunch, fat, salt, scoopability. We owe it to ourselves to take 5 minutes to prepare our own, sooner than later.

In this installment of our Masa Shapes series, we take you through the ridiculously easy process of preparing tortilla chips at home. Frying is our personal favorite method, but you can also opt to bake your tortilla chips, if you're looking for a healthier option. Follow these easy steps and you'll be hard pressed to return to store-bought tortilla chips again.

What is a totopo?

A totopo is a tortilla chip. Its name comes from the Nahuatl word tlaxcaltotopochtl, a combination of the words for "tortilla" and "thunder," roughly meaning "tortillas that are noisy to chew." The most common type of totopos are fried, however, some are baked and/or cooked on the comal.

What kind of tortilla should I use?

While store-bought tortillas are a tempting place to begin, it is far more delicious to start with a fresh tortilla that you've prepared yourself. Pro Chip Tip: The dryer the tortilla, the firmer the chip. So, if you're using a freshly-made tortilla, you'll either want to let it dry out a bit on the counter (between an hour, minimum and overnight, maximum) or in the oven for about 5 minutes at 350 F.

We used Masienda Heirloom Corn Masa Harina for the tortillas in our video, which you can purchase here. If you need a refresher on making a tortilla using masa harina, you can follow along the video below.

Fried Method

Cut a table tortilla into quarters, fifths, or sixths (strips will also work, if preparing for salad or soup topper). Preheat oil to 350 degrees F. Test a totopo by dropping into the fryer; if hot, it should sizzle immediately. When ready, drop the pieces of tortilla into the fryer and move around somewhat continuously for 30 to 60 seconds. With a slotted spoon or spider, remove from the fryer when golden brown (about 30 to 60 seconds), and transfer to a sheet tray lined with paper towel (optional). Let excess oil absorb into the paper towel and quickly transfer to a mixing bowl while still hot. Season with fine sea salt or any other seasonings (chili powder, citric acid, etc.) and toss immediately. They should be crispy and snappy.

Baked Method

Cut a table tortilla into quarters, fifths, or sixths (strips will also work, if preparing for salad or soup topper). Coat chips lightly with oil and place as flat and evenly as possible across a full sheet tray (with a resting rack), ideally not touching one another or the flat surface of the sheet tray so that air can evenly circulate between and around the chips. Place in oven set to 375 F and cook for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove and flip the chips over. Salt the chips before placing back into the oven. Cook for approximately ten more minutes, or until crispy. Oven-baked chips, even with oil, will never be quite as crispy as fried chips, but they’ll come close enough while feeling somewhat healthier.

A Note on Storage

Totopos are best enjoyed when fresh, however, they have a longer shelf life at ambient temperatures, compared to a table tortilla. When stored properly in an airtight container or freezer bag, totopos may be keep up to seven days (if cooked with oil) or even weeks (if baked without oil). That said, they may get a bit stale within a week. If so, you can try heating them back up for some additional crisp.