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DIY junk food: Master the spice blend

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Back in the ’80s, even before the X Games and its ilk came along touting “exxxtreme” this and “amped-up” that, there were Cool Ranch Doritos. The forebear of manufactured snack flavors, Cool Ranch set the bar for those of us who liked our chips dusted with something other than nacho cheese. We didn’t think about the unnaturally hued food and long list of unpronounceable ingredients on this new breed of chips; the snacks seduced us with their over-the-top tastes. But in her new book, Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats, Casey Barber proves you can score full-on junk food flavor minus weird chemicals or preservatives with an arsenal of homemade spice blends you can shake over popcorn or chips, rub on meat before grilling, or stir into sour cream and mayo for an instant veggie dip.


1 tablespoon Cheddar cheese powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon buttermilk powder

½ teaspoon dried chives

¼ teaspoon citric acid

¼ teaspoon dried lemon peel

1 pinch kosher salt

1 pinch Hungarian paprika

15 6-inch corn tortillas (about 1/2 a package) plus vegetable or canola oil for frying, or 1 16-ounce bag corn tortilla chips

• Blend the Cheddar powder, onion powder, garlic powder, buttermilk powder, dried chives, citric acid, lemon peel, salt and paprika in a spice grinder or mini food processor for 10 to 15 seconds to evenly mix and sift the ingredients. Set aside.
• TO MAKE FRESH CHIPS: Heat at least 2 inches of vegetable or canola oil to 350 degrees F in an electric deep fryer or large, high-sided pot. Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set an upside-down wire cooling rack on top.
• Cut each tortilla into 8 triangles (cut into quarters, then cut each quarter in half).
• Fry the chips until golden brown, about 4 to 5 minutes per batch. Transfer chips to the lined baking sheet with heatproof tongs or a metal skimmer or mesh strainer
to cool completely (about 10 minutes).
• When the chips are cool, place them in a zip-top bag, add the seasoning powder and shake to coat lightly. Remove from the bag and return the chips to the cooling rack, shaking gently to remove excess powder if necessary.
• TO USE READY-MADE CHIPS: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Spread the chips on two large baking sheets and heat about 5 minutes. Return the chips to the bag and add the seasoning powder. Fold the bag closed and shake gently to evenly distribute the seasoning.

MAKE THESE THREE BLENDS: Blend each combo in a spice grinder or food processor. All spice blends make a little less than 1/4 cup—enough for lightly coating 10 cups popped popcorn or a 16-oz.  (1 pound) bag of tortilla, pita or potato chips.

Barbecue: 1 tablespoon smoked paprika; 1 tablespoon brown sugar; 1 teaspoon kosher salt; 1/2 teaspoon each chili powder, garlic powder and onion powder; and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Taco: 1 tablespoon chili powder; 1 tablespoon ground cumin; 1/2 teaspoon each smoked paprika, dried oregano or cilantro, garlic powder, ground coriander and kosher salt; and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Sour Cream and Onion: 2 tablespoons buttermilk powder, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon dried chives, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon powdered sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon mustard powder


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