Most people have a sweet tooth. It’s 4:00 pm and they want a Hershey bar like it will save their life. Or they can’t go to a baseball game without caving to the Carvel stand and its sprinkled sundaes in tiny helmets. Or even, and this gives me serious pause regarding their mental state, they love to sink their teeth into those ridiculous and increasingly crazy-shaped Peeps at every holiday. (I fully expect Just Born to come out with Peep shamrocks for St. Patty’s Day next year.)
Me, I have a salt tooth, and it’s a killer. It knows no bounds. It begs for Doritos, Cheetos, and barbecue potato chips. As I walk through Penn Station, it sniffs out the popcorn vendors and tries to convince me that it’s a completely beguiling food option instead of scaly fake-butter nuggets. It even asks for Saltines smeared with butter when things are desperate.
But for pure salinity and crunch, the combination of corn and salt seems to be the most satisfying to my salt tooth. Just like the mix of sweet and savory that makes balsamic vinegar, preserved lemons, or Thai curries so intriguing, corn’s slightly sugary taste brings out the best in salt. Think tortilla chips with lime. Think Corn Nuts. Think… Fritos. The greasy crunch of a corn chip is one for the ages.
Since I’m no longer 20 years old and can’t — not to mention shouldn’t — house an entire bag of corn chips in one sitting, I’ve turned, as I have with so many other snack foods that I love dearly, to the homemade alternative. Junk food can become real food with just a few tweaks: Using real butter, fresh orange juice, and the natural sweetness of figs in a homemade fig newton recipe, for example.
And so it is with my version of homemade Fritos. The corn chips that come from my kitchen won’t ook anyone out with that slick deep-fried mouthfeel that’s prevalent in the store-bought version (I mean, sometimes I really think I can feel the grease oozing out of the chip as I chomp down!), but they’ve got all the other signature moves: Intense savoriness, a slightly gritty corn texture, even a slight curl at each end.
For October Unprocessed, I’m using the leftover whey from a batch of homemade ricotta cheese as a naturally binding liquid. If you’re taking the plunge and making your own butter this month, use the leftover buttermilk the exact same way. Water would also work in a pinch, but because it’s less viscous and protein-rich, you likely won’t need the full amount. Add it last and separately from the egg and oil just until the dough holds together.
You can make enough homemade Fritos to fill a chip and dip bowl to overflowing in a half hour. Throw them onto a bowl of veggie chili. Use them to scoop up your favorite salsa. Double the recipe and fill a Fritos bag with your freshly baked version. See if anyone notices.
These homemade fritos steer away from the store bought grease filled bag while being healthy and keeping the delicious qualities that the others thrive on.
- 1 cup medium-grind cornmeal Preferably Organic from Bob's Red Mill, of course
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 cup plus 2 ounces whey or homemade buttermilk
- 1/4 cup plus 2 ounces olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk the cornmeal, flour, and salt together in a large bowl.
Whisk the egg, whey or buttermilk, and oil together in a small bowl, then stir into the dry ingredients to form a moist dough.
Cut a sheet of parchment paper and a sheet of waxed paper large enough to cover a standard baking sheet.
Turn the dough out onto the sheet of parchment paper and form it into a rough rectangle with your hands. Cover with the sheet of waxed paper and roll into a paper-thin sheet of dough with a rolling pin. If any dough starts to squeeze out from under the waxed paper, gather up the excess, place it back on an exposed corner of the parchment paper, and re-roll until you've maximized the space.
Peel the waxed paper off the dough and transfer the parchment paper to the baking sheet. Score the dough with a pizza or pastry cutter, marking a grid of 1/2-inch by 1 1/2-inch strips. You don't have to separate each little cracker; they'll break apart easily when they're fully baked.
Bake for 18-20 minutes. Transfer the parchment paper to a cooling rack and break the crackers apart as soon as they're cool enough to touch. Cool completely before serving (if possible; the cook always needs to test a few for quality control, right?).
About the Author
Casey Barber is a nationally recognized food writer and photographer, author of the cookbooks Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats and Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food, editor of the website Good. Food. Stories. and founder of The Casey BarberSHOP, an online shop for pop culture-inspired gifts. You can also find Casey on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
I have both the sweet and the salty teeth. When I want salty it’s usually chips and in a pinch flour tortillas browned right on the burner with butter and salt.
This is so fantastic, I’m a little emotional lol. I love Fritos and we have them whenever we have chili. It’s our family Christmas Eve tradition to have chili and Fritos while watching “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. I am so trying this!!
Casey, you’re kind of a genius. Have you ever heard of Frito Jets? They’re fritos dipped in dark chocolate and then refrigerated. Sweet Salty heaven.
These are so fun! Also, my grandma used to make us saltines with butter for a snack. What a great memory. 🙂
These look awesome. I’m like you, around 4 p.m. its salt for me!
I need to make these yesterday.
Okay, and after you’ve scarfed them all down as soon as they come out of the oven, what do you do with the other 23 hours and 50 minutes?
This might sound dramatic, but I think this might be the greatest day of my life. I love nothing more than I love Fritos, and to imagine a world where I can find a healthy version…well…I”m just beside myself right now. Thank you!
These look tasty. I’m wondering if you experimented with masa in this recipe instead of the cornmeal? Alto there’s no organic masa that I’m aware of. I’ve been experimenting with PAF out of South America for homemade tortillas–much softer than masa and cornmeal so maybe it wouldn’t work for a hard Frito
MyKidsEatSquid, I’ve done homemade tortilla chips with masa before – they’re also awesome but don’t have that real Frito taste. They do, however, make amazing baked chips in their own right!
Holy smokes. I love that junk food can be made at home – and be healthier than the store-bought variety. They need a new term other than junk food. Healthy junk food? Hunk food? Junkealthy food?
Not kidding. I just bought Fritos yesterday for my DH, who love, love, loves them. I’ll need to bookmark this for future reference. You are an genius … evil genius, but genius nonetheless.