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.
Fritos are not fried they are baked,so I don’t know how you are getting a greasy oil taste from the Frito Lay brand.
Fritos are absolutely fried – I worked on the brand for years. But even if they were baked, oil (or shortening) is how baked snacks get their crunch too. Most commercial snack foods, whether baked or fried, have the same amount of fat. That’s why the old commercial tag line “baked not fried” is not around anymore. Frito successfully sued because they were implying it was healthier.
Thankful to find others who are tweaking snacks to a healthful lifestyle. I grew up in the generation of crisp & salty. That is NOT healthy, but learning how to make them healthy has been an exciting journey for me, husband, children & grandchildren.
Bob’s Red Mill sells organic Masa.
We grind our own corn meal and whole wheat flour from organic grains. Can’t wait to try this Frito recipe. “Ain’t nothin better than Fritos”!!! Well, almost nothing. I’ll let you know how this turns out!
I just flash fried the baked ones I made…that made them very very close to Fritos.
Here’s what I came up with…
(some tweaking may need done…I just kind off threw it together)
1 cup Medium-Grind Cornmeal
1/2 cup Masa Harina
2 tsp sea salt or more to taste
1/2 cup water (maybe up to a cup – keep adding until you get a non sticky dough like consistency.)
Directions as in original, spray with PAM just before Baking.
Much closer to a Frito. I would still try a flash fry method. where after cutting the dough into strips, drop small amounts into 350-375 oil for 10 seconds, drain.
…or if you really want baked… spray the flattened “tortilla” with PAM and bake. I’m working on this right now and will report back shortly.
I would try using Masa instead of cornmeal. Basically a corn tortilla is just water and masa. Add the salt, bake briefly (or on very hot non-greased iron skillet/griddle, as traditionally done), cut your crackers, then flash fry at 350-375 for 10 seconds. I’ll try some and report back.
I just tried this recipe, and while they aren’t bad, they didn’t turn out like I hoped they would. Could be for several reasons: I may have rolled the dough out too thick, maybe the cornmeal I used wasn’t a good enough quality cornmeal, or it could be that my expectations were a chip that tasted exactly like Fritos. Not a total loss, and I’ll try again with a slightly different technique and/or a better quality cornmeal.
what you have here may be great, and its probably healthier than Frito brand, but it’s not fritos at all, its tostados. 1. fritos use masa, not cornmeal. 2. its only masa and water. 3. the DIFFERENCE between fritos and tostados or any generic corn chip, is that the wannabes are all baked first, the usual way, and then fried. If you want your snack to taste like fritos, the secret is to make regular tortilla dough (from masa) .. flatten it (in a tortilla press if you have one) and fry it, leaving out the middle step of turning it into hard tostados. salt it and enjoy. (the secret is not in the ingredients, but in the technique.)
Wrong on #2. Fritos have 3 ingredients: corn (masa), corn oil, salt. There is a very interesting YouTube video on the making of Fritos. The only water used is the initial soaking of the kernels to remove the husk.
Oops, I also should have noted that the masa used for Fritos is ground up corn kernels which have enough moisture to make a doughy texture. The masa I believe most people are citing in the comments is masa harina which is a flour which would need a liquid to make a dough.