In The Doritos Effect, author Mark Schatzker discusses the complex flavor profile that makes snack foods like Doritos and Coca-Cola irresistible. Everybody knows what Coca-Cola should taste like, but it’s very difficult to isolate exactly what’s going on. Do we taste a little bit of vanilla? A hint of lime? Maybe some cinnamon? It’s the same with Doritos, which are at once cheesy, garlicky, peppery, and packed with umami. Your brain can’t completely process their taste—which means it’s easy to consume large quantities without ever getting sick of that elusive nacho-cheesier flavor.
We decided to try to recreate this effect in our Test Kitchen. And after a little trial and error, we came up with a version of the addictive tortilla chip snack that’s pretty easy to make. Best of all, it only requires a few ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your fridge and spice rack: Parmesan cheese, chile powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and salt. (Okay, and tomato powder, which you most likely don’t have lying around, but it’s optional and the chips will still come out great without it.)
Here’s how to do it:
- Finely grind 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. tomato powder (optional) in a spice mill. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. Cut 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas into triangles. Pour vegetable oil into a large pot to a depth of 1 1/2″ and heat over medium-high until a frying or candy thermometer registers 350°F. Working in batches, cook tortilla triangles, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 2 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fried chips to prepared baking sheet to drain. Repeat the process with the remaining tortilla triangles. Add the drained chips to the mixing bowl with the spices, and, using a large spoon, toss until chips are seasoned.
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