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The History of Tortilla Chips

There are two separate claims as to who invented tortilla chips. While Rebecca Webb Carranza is widely credited with creating them, the Tamalina Milling Company claims its owner, Jose Bartolome Martinez, was the first to produce tortilla chips as a way of using up excess masa generated from the tortilla production process. Regardless of who first created them, we know that tortilla chips started popping up in southern California in the early 1900s, but weren’t widely popular until Frito-Lay got involved. Executives noticed the popularity of early tortilla chips, then called tostadas, at these restaurants and decided to make their own. Their creation? The now-famous Doritos, so named because the word is Spanish for “little golden things.” Underneath the seasoning, Doritos are simply golden tortilla chips, making them the first tortilla chips to be launched nationally in the United States. As the popularity of salsa, refried beans, and guacamole rose and nachos were invented, many companies began making their own tortilla chips, too. In the mid-1970s, Frito-Lay decided to create their own light, airy, mostly unseasoned tortilla chips for use with nachos, guacamole, and salsa. They called them “Tostitos” and marketed them as “authentic.” They even hired Mexican-born, American-raised actor Fernando Escandon — who had a slight accent — to do a series of commercials. The advertising campaign was successful and Tostitos became so influential that many people use the brand name to refer to tortilla chips in general. Today, tortilla chips are massively popular, available from many brands, and sell at higher rates than ever before.

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