Corn tortillas. Flour tortillas. There are proponents of both, opponents of both, and times when you want one and not the other.
There are enough “this not that” hot takes on the Internet to make your head spin. This piece is not one of them. Without dumping on the flour tortilla, though, I will say I generally prefer corn tortillas for their flavor, texture and versatility.
Whether you have a full package or just a few extra corn tortillas lying around, here are tips and ideas for using them.
Tacos, enchiladas and quesadillas. I’m just warming up here, so, yes, this is the “obvi” suggestion. There’s not a whole lot else you need me to tell you about how to put things on top of or into a corn tortilla, but I do have a few words of advice. Corn tortillas straight out of the package or refrigerator are not super pliable, so briefly warming them helps. There’s definitely the old microwave a stack in a damp paper or dish towel, but more and more I’m coming around to the skillet, which has the benefit of improving pliability and flavor.
For tacos, try heating the corn tortillas over medium to medium-high heat in a dry skillet (cast iron is good), or directly over the burner on about medium-low if you have a gas stove. Let the tortillas darken and even char in spots. For enchiladas, I found that adding a light coating of cooking oil spray to the tortillas kept them from turning to total mush in the sauce. There’s no need to let them get as dark as you would for tacos. A little bit, however, helps amp up that toasted corn taste. If you’re making quesadillas, you don’t need to worry about preheating the tortillas since they’ll warm and toast once you fry the assembled packet.
In soups. Soup feeling a little thin? No need to go for the flour or cornstarch when tortillas will not only do, but shine. Depending on how long your soup cooks for or what other mix-ins you might be adding, you can add the tortillas before you let the soup simmer so that they break down completely on their own, or you can let them cook briefly until they start to fall apart, after which you can blitz it smooth with an immersion blender in the pot. If you go the latter route, make sure you blend the soup before you add, say, your meat or other garnishes.
To layer a casserole or pie. Like lasagna but wish it was more like enchiladas? Like enchiladas but not the whole fill-and-roll thing? Go ahead and layer a nice big casserole dish with corn tortillas, alternating with your choice of saucy filling. This chicken and red sauce number from the reliable Pati Jinich is a winner. I also turned up a Tortilla Pie recipe in our archives that takes a similar approach, layering tortillas with a meat-tomato sauce and cheese in a deep-dish pie plate.
Chilaquiles. Recipes seem to never use the exact number of corn tortillas in a typical package. What to do with leftovers? Chilaquiles. In this Mexican dish, tortillas are fried then mixed with a sauce or salsa, along with the cook’s choice of meat, eggs and cheese. It can be finished on the stove top or in the oven. If you want a recipe, hop on over to these Red Chilaquiles (Chilaquiles Rojos), pictured above.
Chips. Here’s another strategy if you’re left staring at some extra tortillas with no intended purpose. Even if you don’t want to go to the effort of frying, homemade chips are an option if you bake them. The Kitchn has a primer to walk you through the process. Sara Moulton cleverly bakes tortillas to use as the topping for her White Chili Gratin With Tortilla Crust, pictured above. Tostadas are kind of like one giant chip on which you can pile your choice of toppings. Frying the tortilla is typical, but we adapted a Rick Bayless recipe to take advantage of the broiler.
Bowls. Remember when giant taco bowls were all the rage? (Are they still all the rage? I have a toddler, I don’t get out much.) Let’s bring them back! (If they’re not still here.) Since we’ve established you can bake corn tortillas into chips, you might as well bake them into a shape. I’m particularly intrigued by this Cooking Light recipe that has you coat tortillas with cinnamon sugar and then bake them on an inverted muffin tin to create a bowl for frozen yogurt. Follow the same strategy, minus the cinnamon sugar, for a savory, fun dinner option.
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