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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

An Easy Topping to Make a Bowl of Soup Seem Special

I often serve soup in bowls, just as is. However, sometimes I'm in the mood for something a bit more special. Maybe I need to bump up the calories, carbs or protein in a serving of soup, or I may just want the soup to be more visually appealing. Anyhow, here's one topping that I make from time to time -- deep-fried corn tortilla strips.

I know, the phrase "deep-fried" puts a lot of people off of the idea of making these. But they are simpler and produce far less excess oil than the phrase would connote. They are not at all fried in a deep amount of oil. In fact, I use about 4 tablespoons of oil to fry a batch for a few bowls of soup. There is normally about 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil remaining, which I save in a custard cup to use the next time or for sauteeing vegetables.

This is what I use:

  • a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, about 5.5 inches in diameter across the bottom of the pan and 3.5 inches high
  • about 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil to start the frying
  • 4 corn tortillas, cut into halves and then into thin strips
  • a slotted frying scoop
  • repurposed paper, such as the torn-open paper bag that sugar comes in
I heat the oil over a medium flame while I begin cutting the corn tortillas into thin strips. I test the oil by dropping 1 strip into the pan. If it sizzles and fries fairly quickly, the oil is ready. I remove that strip to the paper to drain. 

I fry the strips about 2/3 of a tortilla's worth at a time (a good-sized handful), turning the batch over a few times until they look lightly-browned. For a soup topping, the strips don't need to be perfectly fried as I would expect from making chips. Some will be more done than others, but on the whole they will be crispy. A batch that is large enough to top 4 bowls of soup takes about 5 minutes from start to finish and costs me about 25 cents.

By using a small-diameter saucepan, an oil depth sufficient for frying is achieved with less oil than a larger pot. In addition, because I turn the strips a few times during frying, the pieces do not need to be fully submerged in the oil to crisp up, as the sides of the strips are repeatedly exposed to the higher temperatures of the hot oil with the turns. 

After I'm done frying and the oil has cooled, I store any residual oil in a custard cup to use another time.

The soup in the above photo was a Mexican-inspired one, made with leftover taco meat, refried beans, canned corn, canned tomatoes, onions, seasonings, and Swiss chard from the garden. I topped this soup with a bit of shredded cheese and a handful of fried tortilla strips per bowl. The crispy texture of the tortillas contrasts nicely with the soup and gradually morphs into chewy morsels in the time from the serving of the soup to its full consumption. I served this soup with toast for most of my family. For me, with a smaller appetite, a bowl of soup like this is a full meal in itself.


  1. This also works if you bake it in an oven. I would probably use about 1 tablespoon of oil (prefer olive oil) sprinkled over the tortilla strips, which have been salted, for 15 minutes in a 375* oven. I agree, it makes soup so much more special.

    1. Hi Kris,
      I go back and forth with baking vs. frying on tortilla chips. Although I've never baked thin strips before. I'll have to do that soon, as it would save oil and I wouldn't have to watch over them while they cook. Thank you for your tip!

    2. And if you happen to have a toaster oven, that would be more efficient, still.

    3. Yes, you would want to factor in the cost of heating up your oven. I think these are delicious and you could use them as a snack, too.

    4. I do have a toaster oven, live and learn. It's in the pantry right now. Maybe this would be a god time to get it out again. Thanks for the reminder.


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