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Learn how to fry corn or flour tortillas into folded taco shells, chips, or flat tostadas. All you need is a little oil, a skillet, and this simple shallow-frying cooking technique. No deep fryer required, I promise!

Someone flipping a corn tortilla in a black skillet with tongs.

I’m also including an oven baked method for taco shells and tortilla chips, too, just in case you’d rather. That means you officially have run out of excuses not to crunch.

How to fry crispy taco shells:

  1. Pour about 1/2” inch oil into the skillet and turn the stove on to medium or medium-high heat. Make sure the oil is hot enough (350 to 365 degrees) before adding a tortilla. If the oil is too cool, the tortillas will soak up too much oil.
  2. While the oil is heating up, line a baking sheet with paper towels and place a wire rack over it. Pop the baking sheet in the oven and heat the oven to 200 degrees. This will act as a place to keep the taco shells warm while you’re working.
  3. As soon as the oil is hot, use tongs to place one tortilla into the pan. It should sizzle immediately. Cook each tortilla for about 10 to 15 seconds.
    Make crispy taco shells or chips exactly once at home, and you’ll never go back to store-bought. They’re that good! Here’s how to fry tortillas, an easy technique I learned in Mexico, for the crunchiest, crackliest tacos, chips, and tostadas ever.
  4. Flip it over and fold the shell in half, holding in place with the tongs until crispy, another 15 seconds or so. Then take the fried tortilla out of the oil and sprinkle with salt while still hot. Keep the fried shells on the wire rack in a low oven to keep them warm and crispy until dinnertime.
    Make crispy taco shells or chips exactly once at home, and you’ll never go back to store-bought. They’re that good! Here’s how to fry tortillas, an easy technique I learned in Mexico, for the crunchiest, crackliest tacos, chips, and tostadas ever.

If you’re planning on making tostadas, there’s no need to fold the tortillas; just keep them flat and flip them to cook the other side.

How to make crispy taco shells in the oven:

Don’t want to mess with it? Just do it in the oven. You’ll get slightly unusual, flat-bottomed taco shells, but they’re all the better to fill up with the important stuff.

  1. First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Then you might need to make the tortillas a little more flexible. Working with several tortillas at a time, wrap in a barely damp paper towel and microwave until steamed, only 20 to 30 seconds.
  3. Next, place the tortillas on a clean work surface and lightly brush both sides with oil. Next, carefully drape each tortilla over two bars of the oven rack. (Using two bars is what gives them their shape.)
  4. Bake until crispy, 7 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

How to make homemade tortilla chips:

I break the whole thing down in my post on Homemade Tortilla Chips, but here are the basics.

For chips, I love the extra thin-style corn tortillas, made by Mission brand. They’re the crispiest and closest to restaurant-style chips! But you can use this technique for your favorite corn or flour tortillas, too.

To make the chips, place a stack of fresh tortillas on a clean work surface and cut the stack into triangles (like a pizza) with a sturdy knife. Each tortilla should make about 6 chips.

Bake your own Homemade Tortilla Chips in 10 minutes! Extra thin tortillas ensure crunchy snacks every time, perfect for salsa and guacamole.

To fry tortilla chips:

  1. First, heat ¼ to ½ inches of oil in a skillet or Dutch oven (or you can use a deep fryer).
  2. When the oil reaches 350 degrees, place a few of the chips in at a time to cook. Be careful not to over crowd the pot.
  3. Fry the chips for just a couple of minutes, until they are start to turn light brown, and then remove from the oil and let drain on paper towels.
  4. Sprinkle with salt or other seasonings while still warm. A squeeze of lime juice is nice too!

To make oven-baked tortilla chips:

  1. Before you cut the tortillas, lightly brush both sides with oil. Then stack them up and cut them into chip-sized pieces—about 6 chips per tortilla.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the chips out on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, and bake for about 6 minutes, then flip them and bake another 6 to 10 minutes until lightly brown.
    Bake your own Homemade Tortilla Chips in 10 minutes! Extra thin tortillas ensure crunchy snacks every time, perfect for salsa and guacamole.
  3. If they’re still chewy, keep them in longer, but keep an eye on them! They cook faster than you think.

Recipe tips and variations:

  • Best oil for frying: If you are frying corn tortillas, corn oil is the best choice. You can also use basic vegetable oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, or sunflower seed oil. You want a neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point.
  • Make sure the oil is hot enough. Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature of the oil accurately. If you don’t have one, wet the tip of your finger with water and drip just one drop of water into the oil. If it sputters and crackles, the oil is ready.
  • But not too hot. Cooking with oil can be tricky. If the oil starts smoking, that means you’ve passed the point and should let the oil cool down a bit.
  • Don’t crowd the pot. Too many chips or tortillas in the oil cools the oil down and prevents things from getting super crispy. It’s better to work slowly than rush.
  • Add more oil as you go. Depending on how many tortillas you’re cooking, you may need to add more oil. Just let the oil heat up again before adding more tortillas.
  • Paper towels are your friend. Paper towels really soak up extra oil (and extra calories) so feel free to break them out. When I make chips, I’ll layer them between batches of fried chips as I work. Not into paper towels? I keep a stack of clean wash clothes in my kitchen in my kitchen just for situations like this. Use them, then wash them!
  • Seasoning and salt. Once the tortillas are crispy, salt and season them while they’re still warm. Use a coarse salt or any other seasoning you like. A sprinkle of chili seasoning, a squirt of lime juice, or maybe even a dusting of homemade fajita seasoning.
  • Shelf life: Use what you make right away, or all your hard work may become chewy (humidity causes the chewiness). You can store them in a paper bag folded over and kept out at room temperature. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven to crisp them up again.

Great dip and salsa recipes:

Someone flipping a corn tortilla in a black skillet with tongs.

How to Fry Tortillas

Learn how to fry Corn or flour tortillas into folded taco shells, chips, or flat tostadas. All you need is a little oil, a skillet, and this simple shallow-frying cooking technique.
5 from 40 votes
Cook Time 55 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Servings 4
Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Calories 66

Ingredients 

  • corn oil or vegetable oil
  • 8 (8-inch) corn tortillas

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Set a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil for easy cleanup.
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add about ½ inch vegetable oil and heat to 350 degrees. Add one tortilla to the skillet and cook until it is blistering but still soft, 10 to 15 seconds. Using tongs, turn tortilla over and then immediately fold to form a taco shell.
  • Once the tortilla is holding its shape, turn until crisp and golden all over, 15 to 30 seconds longer. Transfer to wire rack and keep warm in oven while repeating with remaining tortillas.

Notes

  1. Best oil for frying: If you are frying corn tortillas, corn oil is the best choice. You can also use basic vegetable oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, or sunflower seed oil. You want a neutral-flavored oil with a high smoke point.
  2. Make sure the oil is hot enough. Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature of the oil accurately. If you don’t have one, wet the tip of your finger with water and drip just one drop of water into the oil. If it sputters and crackles, the oil is ready.
  3. But not too hot. Cooking with oil can be tricky. If the oil starts smoking, that means you’ve passed the point and should let the oil cool down a bit.
  4. Don’t crowd the pot. Too many chips or tortillas in the oil cools the oil down and prevents things from getting super crispy. It’s better to work slowly than rush.
  5. Add more oil as you go. Depending on how many tortillas you’re cooking, you may need to add more oil. Just let the oil heat up again before adding more tortillas.
  6. Paper towels are your friend. Paper towels really soak up extra oil (and extra calories) so feel free to break them out. When I make chips, I’ll layer them between batches of fried chips as I work. Not into paper towels? I keep a stack of clean wash clothes in my kitchen in my kitchen just for situations like this. Use them, then wash them!
  7. Seasoning and salt. Once the tortillas are crispy, salt and season them while they’re still warm. Use a coarse salt or any other seasoning you like. A sprinkle of chili seasoning, a squirt of lime juice, or maybe even a dusting of homemade fajita seasoning.
  8. Shelf life: Use what you make right away, or all your hard work may become chewy (humidity causes the chewiness). You can store them in a paper bag folded over and kept out at room temperature. Leftovers can be reheated in the oven to crisp them up again.

Nutrition

Calories: 66kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 1gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 1gSodium: 1mgPotassium: 4mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1IUCalcium: 2mgIron: 1mg
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Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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Comments

  1. This 100% doesn’t work for me. So frustrating. I used a thermometer had the temperature perfect. Each one came out chewy and soggy instead of crunchy. Really wish I could find instructions to make crispy fried flour tortillas – this one might be targeting corn tortillas instead. Do you have one for flour?

    1. Hi Hermes, I’m so sorry about that! This recipe does use corn tortillas so I’ll have to test out flour tortillas and get back to you. Sorry again. – Meggan

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