How To Fry Corn Tortillas


How to Fry Corn Tortillas

Learning how to fry corn tortillas is quite easy, and it allows you to enjoy delicious-tasting corn tortillas. Below we will walk you through all of the important information you need to know when it comes to frying corn tortillas as well as step-by-step instructions for how you can go about doing this. Be sure to check out all of the helpful information that follows! 

Folded corn tortillas on a plate

Fried Corn Tortillas

There are many different reasons why you may want to fry corn tortillas. Corn tortillas make excellent tortilla shells and tortilla chips. You can enjoy these simply by frying your own corn tortillas. You get to enjoy fabulous-tasting tortillas as a result. 

We are so excited to walk you through the step-by-step process for how you too can easily fry corn tortillas for any purpose you desire. There are two main ways you can fry corn tortillas, that is to deep fry the tortillas, or pan fry the corn tortillas. While both have pros and cons to them, we will walk you through what each process is. 

Deep Fried Tortilla Chips

When you deep fry corn tortillas, that is to place them in a lot of oil, cook them and make them hard. Typically, you need special deep frying equipment in order to deep fry any food. 

Pan Fried Tortillas

Pan fried corn tortillas are a method that almost anyone can do at home. This is to use a pan, pretty much of any size, add some cooking oil into the pan, and heat it so that it warms.

Once warmed, you can add your corn tortillas to the warm oil and fry them until they are soft or hard. 

What Oil to use?

Knowing which oil to use is very important. Selecting the right oil for frying is important because all oils have a risk of causing a fire when heated to specific temperatures.

It is important to know what temperature is needed for each oil you are working with to reach its smoke point. 

A smoke point when referring to oil is the temperature at which your oil is likely to begin smoking and catch on fire. Oil fires in the kitchen are especially dangerous, therefore it is very important to use caution and know what temperatures to avoid for each oil.  

When frying corn tortillas, we recommend that you use a high smoke point oil, so that you can fry the tortillas without the risk of the oil catching on fire. 


Cooking with oil it is important to know which oil you are using, and what the approximate smoke point of that oil. Some oils run the risk of catching on fire at lower temperatures than others do. 

Let’s look at some of the oils with a high smoke point, meaning that you can cook at higher temperatures with them. Then we will look at which oils are the best to use when pan-frying your corn tortillas. 

High Smoke Point Oils

high smoke point oils

Best Oil for Pan Frying

vegetable oil substitute for coconut oil
  • Peanut Oil                   450°F 
  • Refined Vegetable Oil 400°F to 450°F
  • Corn Oil                       450°F 
  • Canola Oil                    400°F

Now that you are aware of how important it is to appropriately handle your cooking oils, let’s turn our attention to how to make fried corn tortillas. 

Soft or Crispy Taco Shells

Turning Corn Tortillas Into Taco Shells

Did you know that you can easily turn soft corn tortilla shells into soft or crispy taco shells? You absolutely can. It all comes down to pan-frying your corn tortillas just right. Let’s look at how you can easily make crispy taco shells using soft corn tortillas. 

How to Fry Corn Tortillas for Tasty Soft Tacos

Ingredients needed:

Corn tortillas

Seasoning salt

Oil for pan frying


We recommend using a cast iron skillet, however, you can use other types of skillets. But please be aware that some do not handle hot oil very well. You will also need a pair of tongs, a thermometer, as well as a plate lined with paper towels. 

Step by Step Instructions

Begin by selecting your oil for pan frying. We have outlined several good options above. The best oil to use for pan frying or deep frying is definitely peanut oil, however other great alternatives include canola oil or refined vegetable oil.

But be sure to closely monitor their temperatures with a thermometer so that they do not get too hot. 

Pour your oil into a pan so that it is filled approximately ½ inch deep. Once the oil is added, place your skillet over medium heat and monitor the temperature of your oil with a thermometer. 

Heat the oil until it reaches approximately 350°F to 360°F. Once warmed, continue monitoring the temperature of your oil so that it stays within this temperature range. 

Now, take your corn tortillas one at a time, and add them to the oil. Submerge the tortillas in the oil for approximately 15 to 30 seconds, then flip and submerge once more, for another 15 to 30 seconds.

Once both sides of your tortilla have warmed, take a set of tongs and gently fold the tortilla in half. Hold it there with the tongues as it fries with ½ of the tortilla is submerged. Pan fry for approximately 15 seconds, then flip so that the top side of your folded corn tortilla is submerged in the oil. 

Continue frying with the new side submerged in the oil, holding your tortilla folded in half with your tongs for another 15 seconds.

Once it begins to hold its shape, remove the fried corn tortilla from the oil and place it onto your paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with your desired salt or seasoning salt, and allow them to dry. 

Repeat this process with your corn tortillas until you have enough soft corn tortilla shells pan-fried. Once they are all pan-fried, you are ready to load the tortilla shells with taco filling, serve and enjoy. 

fried corn tortillas vertical

How to Fry Crispy Taco Shells:

The key to pan-frying crispy taco shells is to cook them a little bit longer than you would for a soft taco shell. This is going to be the same, but in order to make them crispy, you want each side of your folder tortilla shell to remain in the oil longer. 

You can also watch the color of your corn tortilla as it fries in the pan. For it to be crispy, it will be a little bit darker than the lightly fried tortilla shell. 

To fry crispy taco shells, once again fill your pan approximately ½ inch deep with oil and allow it to warm to approximately 350°F to 360°F over medium heat.

Once warmed, add your corn tortilla to the oil frying for approximately 15 seconds on each side. Then using tongs, fold the corn tortilla shell in half, holding it in place with your tongs for approximately 30 to 45 seconds or until you begin to see it turn golden brown, and the shell holds its shape.

Flip the folded shell over and repeat the process with the remaining half of the corn tortilla. 

When the folded corn tortilla is fried so that it is crispy on both sides, remove it from the oil, and place it on a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle as desired with your seasoning salt of choice, or regular salt, and allow them to dry before serving.  

Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips

One of our favorite ways to enjoy corn tortillas is to make homemade corn tortilla chips. This is a very easy process, and fabulous way to enjoy your tortilla chips. 

What You Need for Homemade Corn Tortilla Chips

Corn tortillas

Oil for frying

Seasoning salt


corn tortilla strips in a white bowl

How to make Homemade Tortilla Chips:

To make homemade tortilla chips, begin by taking your corn tortillas, slicing them into triangles by placing them on a cutting board, and using a pizza cutter to slice them as desired. You can cut them into chip shapes, such as triangles, or you can cut them into strips. It is entirely up to you how they are cut.

Once they’re cut, take a skillet, and fill it with approximately ½ inch of appropriate pan-frying oil. Place the skillet over medium heat and use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil. Your desired range is 350°F to 360° F for pan frying. 

When your temperature range is reached, continue monitoring the temperature so that it stays within this range. 

To fry tortilla chips:

Once your desired temperature range is reached, add a handful of your cut corn tortillas. Pan fry for approximately 15 to 20 seconds on each side, before flipping them over. 

Continue pan-frying the tortilla chips for another 15 seconds, until they are crunchy and a light golden color. 

When the chips are crispy, remove them from the oil, and place them onto a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle them with seasoning salt and allow them to drip dry. 

Repeat this process with the corn tortillas until all of your tortilla chips or strips are pan-fried. 

Once the tortillas have dried, serve, and enjoy! 

Preparation Variations

How to make crispy taco shells in the oven:

Taco shells in the oven begin by preheating your oven to 375°F.

Next, you’ll need to warm the corn tortillas. You can do this either by putting them on a microwave-safe plate and covering them with a damp paper towel. Then microwave for approximately one minute until they are warm. Or you can heat a skillet over medium-low heat, and add each one to the skillet flipping each side to warm for a few seconds.

When the taco shells are warm, brush each side lightly with a high smoke point oil. Oils such as peanut oil or canola oil work well. Please see the list above for details. 

Next, place a cookie sheet on your bottom rack in the oven. Then take each prepared corn tortilla shell and drape it evenly over two wires on your top wire rack in your oven.

Bake in the oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes or until the corn tortillas are as crispy as you desire.

To make oven-baked tortilla chips:

You can also make oven-baked tortilla chips if desired. To do this, begin by preheating your oven to 375°F.

While your oven is preheating, brush both sides of your corn tortillas with a high smoke point oil. There is no need to douse them in the oil, you simply want a light coating on each side. 

Then stack your tortilla shells, and use a pizza cutter to slice them into your desired chip shape. 

Once cut, arrange your pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle the chips with salt, then place into the oven. 

Bake for approximately 6 to 12 minutes, or until your chips are crispy. Remove and enjoy! 

Pros/Cons of baking

Although baking your tortilla chips or shells might be preferred because you don’t have to deal directly with pan-frying oil, we believe that the results are not as good. We have found that the overall taste and texture are much better when the corn tortillas are pan-fried. 

fried corn tortilla strips from above

How Long Do You Pan Fry Tortillas?

To make corn tortillas into taco shells, as long as your oil remains in the desired range of 350°F to 360°F it will take approximately 15 seconds on one side pan frying a flat tortilla then flip it and pan fry the other side of you are flat corn tortilla for another 15 seconds, equaling 30 seconds of approximate pan frying time for the flat portion.

Then another 15 to 30 seconds for one side of folding your tortilla into a taco, followed by another 15 to 30 seconds of pan-frying the remaining half of your folded tortilla.

Giving you a grand total of approximately one minute and 30 seconds of pan-frying time for each pan-fried corn tortilla taco shell. 

To pan fry tortilla chips, it takes approximately 30 seconds on each side, giving you a total of 1 minute pan frying time for each batch of homemade corn tortilla chips or strips. 

The Best Way To Fry Tortillas

Our opinion is that the best way to fry tortillas, no matter if you are frying corn tortillas for taco shells, or for tortilla chips, the best way is to pan-fry them in a little bit of oil. This will give you the best overall texture and flavor to your fried corn tortillas. 

How to serve corn tortillas (with Mexican food)

Corn tortillas can be fried so that they are made into tortilla chips or taco shells. No matter what you choose to make them into, they are best served alongside your favorite Mexican food or toppings. Think of lettuce, tomato, guacamole, Pico de Guillo, beans, rice, sour cream, and all of your other favorites served alongside them. 

Toppings for Corn Tortillas

No matter if you are making your corn tortillas into tortilla chips or taco shells, you can top them both with similar and delicious toppings. 

Try enjoying your fried corn tortillas with:



Shredded lettuce

Sliced tomato



Sour cream

Ground beef

Shredded chicken

Shredded cheese

Pico de Guillo 

Recipe tips and variations:

Ways To Use Cinnamon Sugar Tortilla Chips

Not only can you top your fried tortilla chips with seasoning salt, but you can also choose to top them with a mixture of granulated sugar and cinnamon sprinkled over your freshly pan-fried chips.

When you enjoy your chips this way, they make the ultimate dessert or sweet treat chip. 

How to Fry Corn Tortillas for Mexican Enchiladas

You can also enjoy fried corn tortillas for Mexican enchiladas. However, when you are preparing fried tortillas for enchiladas, it is important that you only pan-fry them for a few seconds on each side before adding your filling and rolling the tortilla shells. 

We recommend that when you pan-fry corn tortillas specifically for enchiladas, you allow the oil to heat to approximately 350°F to 360°F. Once it is warm, add your corn tortillas to the oil. 

Allow them to fry for approximately 10 to 15 seconds on each side before removing them. Then once they have had a chance to drip dry, move right on to filling the warmed corn tortillas with your enchilada filling. 

Corn tortillas with white background

How To Make Tostada Shells In Air Fryer

To make tostada shells in the air fryer, begin by preheating your air fryer to 375°F.

While your air fryer is preheating take your corn tortilla and brush both sides with a high smoke point oil. 

Then place your tortilla shells into the air fryer basket. The size of your air fryer basket will determine how many tortillas you can air fry at one time. Make sure they are arranged in a single layer with space in between them for the air to move. 

Air fry for 3 minutes, then flip them over and continue air frying for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the tortillas are a light golden brown, and the shells are crispy throughout.  

Once they are crispy remove them from your air fryer. Repeat the process until all of your shells are air fried. 

Tips for Frying

Monitor the Oil Temperature. It is very important that he was a thermometer to continually monitor the temperature of your oil as you are frying your corn tortillas. Make sure to keep your oil within the 350°F to 360°F temperature range. 

How to Know They’re Done. It is important that you do not overcook your corn tortillas as they are frying. Really, you want them to be a light brown color and slightly crispy when removed from the oil. After they are removed from the oil and have had a chance to dry, they will likely become even more crispy.

Storing Tortilla Strips

Once your corn tortillas have been pan-fried, you want to allow them to dry on a paper towel lined plate.

Once the tortillas are dry, you can use them in your recipe, or you can store them for later. For the best storage, we recommend storing your corn tortillas in a dry location.

We recommend allowing them to completely cool to room temperature, then transferring them to airtight container and storing them in your cupboard or pantry.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you fry tortillas?

We recommend that your pan-fried corn tortillas in approximately ½ inch of high smoke point oil for a few seconds on each side until they are nice and crispy. 

Should I use flour or corn tortillas?

For the best taste as well as the most authentic flavor, you should definitely use corn tortillas rather than flour. 

Is there a way to make lighter fried tortillas?

If you wish to make lighter fried tortillas, as in a lighter color and not quite as crispy, you can simply pan-fry them for a few last seconds on each side. This will give you a very light brown color, with a slight crunch rather than being extra crispy. 

Can I Fry My Corn Tortillas?

Yes, we recommend pan-frying corn tortillas, because it is easy to do, does not require special equipment, and uses only a little bit of oil for frying. 

How to Fry Tortillas

Learning how to fry corn tortillas and surprisingly easy, and it allows you to enjoy fabulous-tasting fried corn tortillas. You can make corn tortillas into chips, tortilla strips, or even taco shells.

Really the options are unlimited, and they taste fabulous. We hope that you will try frying your own corn tortillas, following the simple steps, along with our word of caution. Give this recipe a try, and let us know what you think!

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Faith Has been cooking and baking for many years! she loves to share her recipes with the world, and hopes you will enjoy them too!

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