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04 March 2010

corn tortillas


People, I have a problem.

I'm in love with corn tortillas.

Oh, I'm still in love with my wonderful husband, who takes our daughter to the playspace on the island — to climb jungle gym equipment and feed pretend tea to her dolly — every morning about this time so I can settle in front of the computer and write these words.

(And live on Twitter for a bit. It's so easy to nibble on peoples word's, banter in that small space, and feel like I'm talking to my friends. It's also so easy to feel like I'm nattering away my life. And then I find these astonishing essays that connect me to myself again, like Amanda's piece on the beauty of taking care of ourselves, and I am grateful all over again for this internet that connects people sitting alone in rooms.)

And I adore our darling daughter, who spent a couple of hours yesterday playing in our yard while I weeded a raised bed before I plant potatoes. She traveled at her pace, picking flowers, talking to herself, and climbing the porch steps again and again. As I kneeled to separate roots from black earth, feeling the muscles in my back open to the sun again, I heard her come up behind me, babbling. I sat up and showed her: a worm in my hands. She watched it wriggle, touched it gently, then looked at me in astonishment. Then she was off to kick a big ball.

I love that having a kid means I can be a kid again too.

I love the smell of the daphne just off our front deck (all laundry should smell like this), the rollicking sound of Sharon laughing on the phone, the feeling of my fingers wrapped around the first cup of coffee in the morning. I love pickles dripping liquid, the sound of Little Bean's giggle when we tickle her, and the rhythm of rain on a tin roof.

I love driving into the tiny town of the expansive island where we live.

(And hey, if you're going to be anywhere near us this weekend, I'm speaking at the Vashon Food Summit this Saturday. Take a look at this lineup of impassioned people talking about food that matters to them. I'm honored to be a part of this, so grateful that I live in a place like this one.)

I love so much that I could go on typing all day. But I'm forgetting what I came here to tell you.

Corn tortillas. People, I have a problem.

That photo up there? That's corn tortillas browned in oil, then cut up for migas. My goodness, if you have not eaten migas before, get to it. (I say this as a week-old convert.) That's one of the endless ways you can eat corn tortilla goodness.

But since we have a toddler instead of a baby, we're just digging the quesadillas. ("Make yourself a dang quesadilla!" This line from Napoleon Dynamite is always in there while I'm grating the cheese.) Fast finger food with good ingredients.

Enchiladas. Warm soft tortillas torn off in strips, with a little butter and salt. Nachos — man, we love nachos more than two adults probably should. We're hooked in this house.

For the past week, however, it has been tortilla chips. Homemade tortilla chips. Have you made these yet? Until last week, I thought making tortilla chips must be hard. I mean, they taste so damned good, right? How could it be this easy?

Easy it is. I found this wonderful photo tutorial from my friend Alice at Savory Sweet Life. (Did you know that Alice has a gluten-free category on her website, as well? Thank you, Alice.) I made some 10 minutes later.

I'm always struck by how simple homemade food is. I used to think it would take much longer to make good food from scratch than grabbing something from the deli or takeout. It does take longer. Usually about 10 minutes longer, it seems to me.

(Also, it's really good for me if I make tortilla chips instead of buying a big bag. Big bags quickly dwindle into tightly rolled empty bags that need to go into the trash. Like I said, I have a problem.)

Sometimes I get letters from people begging me to work on a gluten-free flour tortilla recipe. I have to tell you — it's pretty far down the list. I don't really like flour tortillas. They feel so wan and enervated in comparison to the rugged goodness of a corn tortilla. And if you make your tortillas by hand — a skill I'm still improving — then you really won't want those packaged goods again.

But maybe you have a great gluten-free flour tortilla recipe you'd like to share here. Or one of your favorite uses for tortillas. I can't be the only one with this problem. Go ahead. Share.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

I could write a formal recipe here, but seriously? You don't need one. Here's what you do.

Take 10 corn tortillas.

Brush both sides with canola oil.

Cut them into 4 pieces each (for big tortilla chips) or 8 pieces (like a pie, for tiny crispy wedges that will shatter between the teeth).

Don't do them all separately, silly. Pile them up then drive that knife down.

Sprinkle with salt and whatever spices you like.
(I'm playing with smoked paprika, chili powder, pepper, and lemon zest. Also, cinnamon sugar.)


Lay each one out on a baking sheet (we put down aluminum foil) — this is honestly the longest part of this short task.

Bake them in a 375* oven. 10 minutes, then turn them all with tongs. (yes, this seems fussy. worth it)

Bake again, about 4 more minutes for the small chips, about 10 more minutes for the big ones. (What happens in your kitchen might be different.)

Are they crisp? Golden? Solid and airy as commercial tortilla chips, but warm? Ah yes.

Let them cool, a bit. (Come on, you don't want your tongue to be burned.)



At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Callie said...

Do you also make your own corn tortillas? It's also surprisingly easy and so delicious - it's hard to gather enough to make a recipe with them - they disappear too quickly!

At 9:59 AM, Anonymous Joseph J. said...

By the end of this post, my mouth was watering!

These gluten-free corn tortillas sound really delicious.

I think I know what I am having for dinner tonight!


At 10:11 AM, Blogger Cindy said...

Mmmmm....nachos. I could live on nachos. Tortilla chips are not safe in my house either. I'll have to give this a try.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger frantic foodie said...

Shauna, your posts take me up for a breath of air on a really busy day
thank you for your inspiration

At 10:13 AM, Anonymous dänika said...

my husband loves corn tortillas almost (almost!) as much as you do! He makes a huge batch every week, and has them at breakfast and dinner almost daily.

I'm allergic to corn, however, and have to rely on the ivory teff wraps I've found at my grocery store. They're okay, but just don't quite cut it sometimes, especially when I smell the hot corn tortillas cooking in the pan.

When I have a bag of tortillas in the pantry, however, I could live on cumin-spiced black beans, fajita-style peppers + onions, and guacamole. heavenly!!

(my stomach just growled!)

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Lori said...

I was totally expecting the recipe for the mouth watering migas shown in the link! Hopefully, that one is coming up next!

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Sarah Tolson said...

I have made fried corn strips for chiliquiles (a recipe you must try one of these days) but never baked tortilla chips.. I am off to make some so I can bless my kiddos with a sweet treat after school. :)

Thanks girl!!

At 10:26 AM, Blogger saffyre9 said...

I also have a problem with tortillas. I eat them All.The.Time. I use them as crackers since going gluten-free, cuz I don't like the taste of rice crackers. I'm also in love with nachos. That's my go-to snack at home, and my default order at new restaurants if I don't know if they're gluten-free-friendly.

I've made my own chips before - delicious. Have you tried them deep fried? OMG. Obviously less healthy, but...OMG.

My problem is finding soft corn tortillas in my town. It's difficult, all the stores seem to have is flour. Bleh.

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous Char said...

I've only been living gluten free for 2 weeks and I confess I am seriously missing the flour tortillas. I admit Shauna, your tortilla chips sound quick, easy, and yummy. But when it comes to burittos - corn tortillas don't do it for me.

I came across a gluten free flour tortilla recipe here -

I've come up with a flour mixture that is just white rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch/flour so I need to see if it will substitute well in the above recipe.

At 10:59 AM, Anonymous Katie @ The Well-Fed Newlyweds said...

I've had a stack of store-bought corn tortillas getting stale in the back of my fridge for some time. Thank you for inspiring me and giving me an idea of what to do with them! Migas might just be on this weekend's breakfast menu!

At 11:04 AM, Anonymous molly said...

Man, those are gorgeous.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Cook Scrap Craft said...

Is there a corn tortilla brand that you would recommend as best for celiac people? Stop 'n' Shop has small ones but I wasn't sure if those were good or not.

At 12:02 PM, Anonymous sarah said...

ooooh, now all i want to do is skip out of work early and have some migas and a beer and pretend its summer. your words bring me right to your island. so lovely. thank you.

At 12:11 PM, Anonymous Sean-Michael said...

Than you for the inspiration, I am now looking forward to corn tortillas. I have been dreading finding out I'm gluten intolerant and the main thing I would miss is the flour tortillas (can't stop eating gluten till after the blood tests or I'm told I'll get a false negative) I can buy gluten free flour and make bread, I've always been skilled with baking. However making flour tortillas have always escaped my family. Ever since I was a child and my mother made hot delicious PUFFY tortillas I loved the taste, but have been unable to make tortillas the traditional way. Maybe I'll try digging up my mother's failed but oh so delicious recipe and substituting gluten-free flour...if it comes out good I'll see about learning how to compact it into those amazingly versatile burrito wraps I love and share the recipe with you. Until then, I will use your inspiration for the myriad ways to prep corn tortilla goodness! Thank you again. I feel relieved, challenged and inspired.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I love corn tortillas as well! And I think it is safe to say that I may have an addiction. Corn tortillas remind me of Mexican food (my favorite cuisine and the inspiration for my gluten-free blog!)

My new favorite use for corn tortillas is with scrambled eggs for breakfast. Warm the tortilla a little (in a pan or in the microwave), keep the eggs slightly runny and use lots of cheese and hot sauce (I use Tapatio...)! Yum.

Every tried chilaquiles? A great Mexican dish that incorporates corn tortillas. I don't have a recipe of my own, but I'm sure there is one out there.

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Amy said...

Oh lord, when I figured out I could save stale corn tortillas by throwing them in a little hot oil in a whole world opened up! I love to take a whole small tortilla and shallow fry it slightly on both side, then topped with whatever's in the fridge and pantry, tostada style. Yum!

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Laura Sue said...

I love daphne. I have ordered one to plant this spring--which it is

At 1:13 PM, Anonymous alice said...

Loved reading this post. You are one of the reasons and inspirations on why I started to bake gluten-free. Congrats on your upcoming book too, so excited for all your hard work paying off.

At 1:41 PM, Anonymous Kristine said...

Migas. My best comfort fill-me-up-I'm-hungry breakfast hands down. Thank you for the reminder! and corn tortillas - yes. I used to love flour ones best, but now, I barely miss them : ).

Have a yummy day!

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I didn't realize until I looked it up that I have had migas before. There is a restaurant in NYC that calls it "Mexican Matzoh Brie"! Thanks for posting this article, I am excited to try and make my own chips. There is never a shortage of corn tortillas in my neighborhood in Queens, NYC!

Gluten-Free Fun

At 1:55 PM, Blogger snow71 said...

I grow up with corn and flour tortillas... being from New Mexico and all. But I have to say i sure so miss good flour tortillas (homemade) ..
I love huevos rancheros with a GF chile sauce.
oh something else we love
corn tortillas , mixed with scrabbled eggs. you can saute the corn tortillas strips with some oil, and then add your scrabbled eggs, - I like adding chile , or jalapenos, and sausage or anything really mushrooms onions, oh it all good,
I make a GF enchiladas as well, yumm now I am thinking of make dinner... enchilada (red or green) and pinto beans..
Oh i also do like to use GMO free organic corn.

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous susan said...

I come from Napolean Dynamite land. (Mormons love this movie), so I can tell you with confidence that Grandma says, "Make yourself a dang quesadilla." I tell my kids this all the time, too. And sometimes I might have slipped and said the big D instead of the little D.

As I don't like to cook, but I do like to eat, I've been reading your book and poking around your website for awhile now. I always come away hungry--for your good food and also wanting more of your good writing. I was wondering if you could send me some of those quesadillas you wrote about today?

At 3:53 PM, Blogger Lady Plate said...

I share your addiction, Shauna! I go through a pack of 36 corn tortillas per week, which (oh God!) comes out to over 100 per month! I think I may need an intervention.

Thanks for the cinnamon and sugar idea! (Kind of like a sopapilla, eh?) I'm imagining a little drizzle of honey just to top it off.

At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Clare said...

What temperature should I set the oven at?

At 5:50 PM, Anonymous Mystery_lover said...

Is it just me who has the recipe for the nachos showing up in teeny, tiny print? Luckily I figured out I could copy and paste into a Word doc so I could adjust the text to see it. First time I've had problems reading anything on this blog...wonder if its something on my computer? They sound yummy now that I can read the recipe!

At 7:53 PM, Anonymous La Niña said...

Hey Shauna-
The recipe is not showing up at all on my browser. Maybe it's me. On a Mac. Using Opera. I'm also getting a "blocked pop-up" message from your site that I've never gotten before.


I love making homemade tortillas. I've never had enough leftover to make chips. We are going to Mexico in April, and I've been practicing my Mexican Spanish- I had to laugh when I read in my Lonely Planet book that in Mexico a "burrito" is a little burro, so don't order one. Tacos, tortillas- they are fine and won't get you a small donkey when you order off the menu.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Sam said...

I can't see the recipe either - it's in tiny tiny text. Never had that proplem before!

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Mmmm, corn tortilla breakfast tacos - Best.Things.Ever

At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just thought I'd let you know, I just found out I am allergic to gluten and have been crying for days over pasta and beer and cookies. you blog made me feel a lot better.

At 4:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love reading your posts but this one has a huge gap in it where the instructions for GF corn tortillas should be. I've tried viewing using both Safari and Firefox but no luck!

At 5:46 AM, Blogger Anna said...

Its nice to know I am not the only one who could eat nachos and enchiladas and quesadillas all the time (well, not quite all the time, but almost). I don't think I really discovered corn tortillas until the past couple of years, but they are so good and so versatile.

At 7:39 AM, Anonymous Laura said...

I am also in love with corn tortillas.... preferably hand made corn tortillas..... PREFERABLY tortillas negras made by hand.... I eat them plain, warmed up on the comal, or sprinkled with a little salt.... sometimes I just put a little corn oil on the comal, let it spread around and then heat the corn tortillas on it before sprinkling with salt. It's nice to be able to use good salt and less of it then the packaged tortillas chips use.

I also like to cut them into strips and fry them in corn oil to use as toppings for pozole or other soups. Even though they're friend, they're fresh, and that makes them so much more enjoyable.

Corn tortillas are one of my favorite foods in the world.

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Eve said...

Corn tortillas are probably one of the most versatile gluten-free foods around. The kids and I were just making a list of all their uses!

In Chicago, we get El Milagro corn tortillas -- so cheap and so good. We love huevos rancheros piled atop warmed corn tortillas, with a choice of toppings. I've never tried migas before, but I will definitely make them this weekend as well as the tortilla chips.

Thanks, Shauna!

At 9:25 AM, Blogger samcarter said...

If you want the most awesome, easy homemade restaurant-style salsa to have with those homemade chips, make Pioneer Woman's Restaurant-Style Salsa. No lie, it is the best. I made one batch, tasted it, and tossed the storebought junk in the trash. You only need canned tomatoes, Ro-tel, a lime, onion, a smidge of cumin, salt and sugar, and cliantro. Oh, and a jalapeno, but I leave that out. It's on her site. SO. Good.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger gluten free mama said...

first--i love your blog--your stories, pictures and words of wisdom! i have been obsessed with corn tortillas for the past 8 years--ever since my son had an anaphylactic reaction to eating tainted corn tortillas at age 3! he is allergic to wheat, not celiac--so we have a slightly different concern!
i have googled, experimented and even imported from england pure gluten free corn tortillas! finally last summer by chance, i discovered nirvana!
there is a little place in chicago called "el popocatepetl". they make flour tortillas but in a completely separate factory. these days my son eats a lot of tacos, fajitas, quesadillas, and corn chips. it is the little things in life that really make a difference--who knew?

keep writing, you are awesome!

At 10:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Shauna! I have been making these exactly this way for my husband... but I don't have a brush to brush them with oil, so I just put oil on my hands and lightly coat the chips and then season with season salt and Mrs Dash-Hot & Spicy! He loves them and they are so easy! He likes that this way, we KNOW how much oil & salt we are having. Thanks! Kay Guest

At 1:46 PM, Blogger caroline said...

I love corn tortillas, but I hate how they break so easily-- I find it nearly impossible to use them for wraps and tacos. What's your secret? Or do you make your own? It also doesn't help that they seem to be sold in massive quantities, so a lot of mine end up getting dried out before I have a chance to eat them.

At 2:54 PM, Blogger Raine Saunders said...

I love home-made tortilla chips! We make ours often and do it with sprouted organic corn tortillas (to avoid nasty genetically-modified ingredients found in conventional corn) - the sprouted corn is healthier because the activity of sprouting helps to remove the phytic acid in the grain, which is a nutrient inhibitor of grains, legumes, many vegetables, and nuts.

Have you ever used coconut oil? We use it because it is replete in medium chain triglycerides and fantastic antibacteria and antifungal enzymes, and caprylic acid - and again, it avoids nasty genetically-modified organisms found in vegetable oils. These all help maintain a healthy gut flora and keep away digestive troubles.

Oh the joys of healthy oils (just like lard!). Coconut oil is also stable and full of saturated fats, so it can withstand high heat.

At 3:52 PM, Anonymous Sho said...


I love corn tortillas. They were also great to buy before our big snowstorm here in Virginia. A huge stack of them just sit right on the shelf and hardly take up any space. They keep well out of the fridge. They are also cheaper than a loaf of bread. They are a pantry must-have before any snowstorm, even for gluten-eaters (like the rest of my family.)

I love them with black beans covered with cheese, melted in the toaster oven. I also read a recipe where someone layered them like lasagne, with tex-mex ingredients in the layers, and baked in the oven.

Take care,


At 11:26 PM, Blogger livinglife said...

I have just stumbled across your blog ... and I am so glad! My daughter is going to love these gluten free corn tortillas! Definitely going on the menu planner for next week.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Oh Shauna, I just love your writing, but it always leaves me with a fresh bout homesickness. My parents have always had a daphne right outside their front door. My grandmother gave them the cutting when they were first married. It is my favorite scent in the world. I used to sit on our front step for hours reading or writing just so I could smell it. I can't wait to have a yard again so I can fill it with daphne.

Thanks for the lovely imagery to start my day.

At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Jennifer said...

I've just started making my own corn tortillas (couldn't believe how easy it is), and this recipe gives me reason to make a double batch. Thanks for sharing as always Shauna.

At 11:22 PM, Anonymous susan hayward said...

very lovely photograph, by the way. Nice light in that house of yours.

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Cookin' Canuck said...

It's so nice to read a post that is full of things that people are grateful for (with wonderful images, such as your daughter wandering about your garden) rather than their gripes. Great post, great recipe!

At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just last night we had warm corn tortillas with anasazi beans, fresh made pico, cotija cheese and avocado...yum!!!

At 10:19 AM, Blogger Christiana said...

I just came across your blog and its wonderful! I am now a follower! I love tortillas
I have my own blog too and would love to know what you think!

At 3:43 PM, Anonymous excelsior said...

The Moosewood Cookbook has a recipe for a corn tortilla casserole with cream, tomatoes, and cheese that is yummy!

Unfortunately since I've been living with someone who shouldn't do tortillas and tomatoes, I haven't made it in ages. But it is really good for any meal.

At 10:29 AM, Blogger allergymom said...

We love tortilla chips. But one kid is allergic to wheat and the other one to corn. Food for Life makes a good wheat and gluten free brown rice tortilla. (Look for the lot # ending in DV; they're made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.) When I don't want to use oil, I just wet my hands, flick water on the tortillas, salt, and bake. Yum.

At 10:44 AM, Anonymous Robin said...

Homemade tortilla chips: Hooray!

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Unknown said...


After we have our taco night, the leftover meat is used with corn tortillas and cheddar cheese - layered in a pan like lasagna, topping with smaller pieces for that crunchy top.

I first tried this in my small round corningware dish - perfect single sized serving.

At 9:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live on corn tortillas. My favorite is chilequiles (sp?) which is basically fried tortillas and onions, soaked in Mexican tomato sauce and served with an egg on top. We top with cheese and sour cream. OMG. Addictive. I knew I could be gluten free when I realized that I could still eat this.

At 7:00 AM, Blogger Katia said...

Yum!!!!! Do you have a corn tortilla recipe you can share??? The ones from the store are so gross. I now make my tacos as a salad...

At 7:28 AM, Blogger Chef Fresco said...

Love me some tortilla chips. I like em so much I bet I could throw em em over that mountain over there. (another Napoleon reference, love that flick)

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Evy said...

I usually fry them! I will try this for sure!

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Gina said...

A brand called Maria & Ricardo's makes a gluten free flour tortilla that is great! They have it out here on the East Coast at Whole Foods.

They are made with potato, tapioca, and sorgum flour so they aren't as grity as corn once you warm them properly.

At 7:01 AM, Anonymous Sprout said...

This photo is my favorite as of yet.
You've got great taste, my dear!

Thanks for always sharing with us :)

At 5:51 AM, Anonymous pipulu said...

I want corn tortillas and i hope i can build a family just like the one in your description.

At 8:45 AM, Blogger Larissa said...

my new favorite thing to do with corn tortillas is a recipe my dad taught me, that he based on something he ate at Cafe Jasper in Tucson, AZ.

Flat breakfast enchiladas.

two corn tortillas, between them goes enchilada sauce, cheese and sometimes veg or shredded meat or... whatever. bake with cheese on top for 10 minutes(some people like it just like that) but then we put a fried egg on top.

YUUUM, tortillas.

At 11:02 AM, Anonymous rasananda said...

Nice post.....I think i know that i am having for dinner to night.... thank you

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Mardel said...

OMG, I adore corn tortillas. When I first learned I had celiac disease, my first thought was "at least I can steal eat corn tortillas, how bad can it be". Corn tortillas are not safe in my house. I will wake up in the middle of the night and eat them all. I will hide them so that I have more for myself.

At 11:58 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Seconding on the "you must try this coconut oil. corn tortillas fried in coconut oil is one of the best things on earth. And since I'm not only GF, but sugar free as well? I neeeed these treats.

At 7:47 PM, Anonymous dawneymay said...

mmmmmm. I am JUST starting a gluten-free diet...this is my first day. I am so glad to see I can have corn tortillas. I, too, am in love with them! I love your site! It's just been added to my "faves".


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