Chico's Tacos Flautas Recipe
It was more than a decade ago that I fell in love with the flautas at Chico's Tacos in El Paso, Texas. Chico's Tacos were brought back from Texas, special delivery, packaged in Tupperware that was more expensive than the actual tacos, frozen until I could get to them, and finally reconstituted (Thanks, Mom).
Eating Chico's Tacos once again did two things. First, it made the need to be able to eat them more consistently a necessity. Second, tasting the original rendition reestablished the flavor profile required to be able to do that. Crispy fried taquitos, covered in thinly shredded cheese, and drenched in red watery sauce — dripping, crunchy, melted cheese-drink-the-sauce flautas goodness.
Creating a recipe for a renowned dish is tricky. You can theorize, you can do trial and error, or you can do what was done here: Look to see what's out there already. There's no official site for Chico's Tacos and, as far as anyone can seem to tell, no officlal recipe out there for how to best make these signature tacos.
The two most prominent recipes out there are by The Stanton Magazine and Mexican American Border Cooking. They provide some really insightful guidance on different possible approaches to a successful dish. This recipe uses a home fryer and fresh ingredients for all components for a rendition that looks and tastes pretty close to the original. Oh, and don't forget the toothpicks. You need them to keep the taquitos closed when frying them. (If anyone knows a better way, please chime in.)
For the sauce
- 6 plum tomatoes
- 4 jalapeños
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the taco filling
- Olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 jalapeño, halved
- 2 garlic cloves, diced
- Reserved tomato and jalapeño mixture from taco sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- Dash of chili powder
- Dash of smoked paprika
- 1 cup water
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
For the taquitos
- Bag of corn tortillas
- Reserved taco filling (see above)
- Vegetable oil
For the jalapeño salsa
- 2 jalapeños
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Cheddar or Mexican cheese mix, for topping
- Taco sauce (see above)
The El Paso Taco Trail
A roundup of the city’s best offerings, from beefy burritos to modernist cuisine.
El Paso doesn’t get the attention it deserves in Texas. It seems so far away from everything—except New Mexico. And the culinary influences of the Land of Enchantment are blazingly evident in the Sun City’s cuisine, from the use of green chiles to the wide range of burritos. Perhaps more important to the culinary landscape, El Paso is only half of a city—the other half is Cuidad Juárez, on the southern side of the Rio Grande. The original name for Juárez was El Paso del Norte (the Pass of the North). Forty years after the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the 1848 agreement that annexed Mexican territory north of the Rio Grande to the U.S., El Paso del Norte was rechristened in honor of former president Benito Juárez. El Paso and Juárez are sister cities in the truest sense: the same family will often have members in both cities who visit one another every day. This bifurcation means that El Chuco, as El Paso is affectionately nicknamed, is home to Mexican food and tacos found almost nowhere else. Here is a roundup of notable restaurants and taquerias and other food establishments serving up tacos in El Paso. Let’s kick it off with a couple of places that have a presence in both cities of what is known as the borderplex.
Chico’s Tacos Green Sauce
2 Fresh Jalapenos
Boil whole tomatillos with cut up jalapenos (leave seeds) in enough water to cover them and boil until soft. Pour off excess water, blend tomatillos and jalapenos on liquefy until it is a smooth sauce. Add a couple tablespoons of lime juice and a little salt.
Eddie Guerrero would be proud.
Flautas Are Tacos Too
They’re rolled, they’re fried, and they’re delicious. And they deserve your respect.
T acos are worth fighting over. Wh at city can rightfully claim what taco? You can go to town on that one. Cheese or no cheese? Depends. Corn or flour? That’s up to you. Rolled or folded? Both. Yes, both—and I don’t mean burritos.
I mean flautas: the long, rolled, deep-fried corn tortillas packed with any number of fillings. The ones that resemble a flute (hence the name) are sometimes called taquitos and are part of the traditional category of fried tacos called tacos dorados (“golden tacos”). In 2015, this magazine made a stand by including chicken taquitos from San Antonio’s Los Robertos Taco Shop and flautas ahogadas (“drowned” fried tacos) from El Paso’s Tacoholics in our “120 Tacos You Must Eat Before You Die” cover story. But not everyone agrees. On Twitter, you can find misguided people referring to flautas as “taco cousins” and “taco-like objects.”
The argument is not exclusive to the web. In their 2016 book The Tacos of Texas, Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece write, “You roll a flauta, burrito, and enchilada you fold a taco.” They then confused matters by appending this parenthetical: “(except for taquitos of course).”
Confused? You should be. So let’s unravel these rolled tacos once and for all.
In the Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Gastronomía Mexicana—a mammoth encyclopedia that is as authoritative a text as there is on Mexican food—Mexico City chef and food writer Ricardo Muñoz Zurita describes tacos as “a snack prepared with a corn or wheat tortilla, stuffed with food and folded or rolled” (emphasis added). The entry on tacos dorados says nothing about their shape, but the accompanying photo is of a platter of fried tacos that have been rolled, not folded.
The rolled taco has even been the subject of fine art. It appears in Diego Rivera’s 1932 lithograph El Niño del Taco (The Taco Boy), in which a child is holding a rolled taco to his mouth as if it were a savory pacifier. However, in Rivera’s lithograph, the taco doesn ’t appear to be fried. The taco is simply rolled in an effort to contain its filling.
All of this gets wrapped up in the theory that food historian Jeffrey M. Pilcher put forth in Planet Taco, his worldwide survey of Mexican food: that the taco gained its name from the rolled-up paper dynamite plugs, “tacos,” that Mexican miners used to clear rock. “In retrospect,” Pilcher writes, “it’s easy to see the similarity between a chicken taquito with hot sauce and a stick of dynamite.” And—pow!—we have reason to believe that rolled tacos have been around as long as their folded cousins.
They’ve certainly long been welcome in the sister border cities of Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, and Del Rio, Texas, where they’re known as tacos tapatíos (tapatío is Spanish for “a resident of Guadalajara,” where folded or rolled tacos dorados topped with salsa and a loose shot of cabbage are a popular snack). These tacos tapatíos are served topped with a shock of crema, cabbage, and tomatoes, with salsa and sometimes guacamole on the side. Driving on and off U.S. 277 between Del Rio and San Angelo, one encounters enough walk-up taquerias, restaurants, and shacks serving these taquitos that the road should be renamed Tapatío Highway. In Sonora, there’s Taco Grill, a family-run joint, where chick en or beef tacos tapatíos come six to an order under a tattered blanket of cabbage. In San Angelo, they’re cooked up at Nacho’s Restaurant Cantina & Grill, Franco’s Cafe, and the three Hidalgo’s Restaurants.
The most famous place in Texas to get fried rolled tacos, though, is El Paso. And the most famous purveyor in El Paso is the Chico’s Tacos minichain, whose signature dish is a basket of rolled and fried tacos (and yes, they are listed on the menu as tacos) soaked in tomato water. For years they were sprinkled with cheese that resembled shredded orange packing peanuts in both appearance and taste, a fact that didn’t seem to discourage the countless locals who wandered into Chico’s well after midnight, looking for something to quench their post-clubbing hunger. The chain has changed little since opening, in 1953, but last year the hallmark bland cheese was discontinued by the manufacturer. The replacement product is, reportedly, “cheesier.”
If you’re willing to push back against the popular choice, though, there are other, better options in the borderplex. Ke’Flauta—a small counter-service shop decorated with customers’ napkin sketches—tops its traditional specialty with guacamole, crema, and queso fresco. But the best place to get taquitos in El Paso is Tacoholics, which opened as a food truck in 2010 before transitioning to a brick-and-mortar operation last year (a second location is in the works). Their bright flautas ahogadas are a direct response to Chico’s signature dish. “The idea was to freshen up the flauta,” says owner Jessie Peña. “I wanted to make it real, with real cheese, real sauce, just real.”
In other words, he wanted to create something that was appealing even when you’re not glassy-eyed drunk. Tacoholics’ flautas can be filled with steak, pork, chicken, or even tofu before getting a pour of tomatillo salsa. The finished order is a treat of crunchy tortillas that soften as you eat them but never disintegrate. Queso fresco and queso asadero add a salty spike cushioned with Oaxacan cr ema. They’re tacos worth fighting over. They’re tacos that Diego Rivera would have recognized and, I like to imagine, enjoyed, regardless of what they’re cal le d.
Mija, Yes you can have our secret recipe to homemade Chico’s Tacos
When we first posted this blog a month ago, the response was overwhelming! 14,589 views and over 400 shares on Facebook. Y’all really do love your Chico’s Tacos!
Many of you tried the recipe and we’re sharing your photos below. Some of you Mijas had some questions, so we answered them as well. Here’s a look at some questions about perfecting this secret Chico’s Tacos recipe.
Hopefully your questions were answered and if they were, then grab your large orange soda and let’s get cooking, Mijas!
Blender (Make sure you clean the Margarita mix out of it first, Mija!)
Salt (Add salt as needed. I’m a salty latina so I add a lot of salt!)
- Remove the stems from the jalapeños.
- Boil jalapenos and tomatillos in a saucepan with water until soft.
- Remove seeds from jalapeños. (Wash your hands after cause one time I forgot to and I rubbed my eyes afterwards and well, I didn’t think I knew that many spanish cuss words!)
- Place jalapeños and tomatillos in a blender, add a garlic clove, water and salt. Blend well. Add water and salt as needed. Set aside.
6 large red ripe tomatoes
Tomato sauce (1 to 2 small cans)
2 pounds of ground beef (Seasoning of the beef is optional)
Finely shredded cheese (Fiesta blend: Monterey jack with cheddar cheese. Or whatever type of cheese your cheesy heart desires.)
- Boil 6 ripe tomatoes in a pot with water until soft.
- Remove skins from tomatoes.
- Place tomatoes in blender. Add garlic clove, water, tomato sauce and salt. Blend well. Add salt as needed. Add water as needed to desired consistency. Set Aside.
- Brown ground beef in large skillet. (Add your favorite seasoning if you please.)
- In large skillet heat enough oil and place torilla in the oil. Turn it on the other side and then place it on a plate. Do this same step for the other tortillas. Make sure tortillas are soft so you can roll then easily.
- Add ground beef to tortillas and roll tightly but carefully so the tortillas do not break. (If they break…take a tequila shot. BUT DON’T BREAK THEM ON PURPOUSE JUST TO TAKE A SHOT, MIJA!)
- Place the rolled tortillas on a cookie sheet. (Make sure to remove the cookies you burnt the night before.)
- Bake in the oven at 350 degrees until crispy.
- Once the tacos are done, heat the sauce in a saucepan.
FINAL STEP: Add your tacos to a bowl. (Preferably those classic mexican bowls your mom gave you and you don’t have the heart to throw away.) Cover them with your sauce, cheese and chile and ENJOY!
Don’t forget to add some crispy crinkle cut fries to your meal because nothing says Chico’s Tacos like enjoying the leftover sauce with your Chico’s Tacos style fries!
Meet our Mija Chef: Susie Zambrano
I love how you gave a vegetarian option as well. I’ll be hosting a get together at the house soon and some of the guests are vegetarian! You’ve just inspired me! Thank you!
Oh how FUN! Glad I could help:) These are fun to make, they are going to love your cooking!
Can you make these for me when I get home? I miss Mexican food and if I remember right, they weren’t hard to make. Thank you thank you!
I love Mexican food but haven’t tried making flautas yet, you’ve inspired me!
I would make some vegetarian for me, but what a nice idea when entertaining!
These look delicious! I’ve never made flautas but you have me intrigued!
I’ve never made flautas at home, but I love them when I’m out at Mexican restaurants. Yours look absolutely perfect!
I’ve never had flautas before…which is crazy, because I love Mexican food! These look so great for a party or tailgate, and I’m always looking for recipes like this. I’m definitely pinning this for later
I have never heard of flautas before. That shows again how limited my knowledge is around Mexican food! We go crazy for these dishes and I would definitely enjoy making a batch one fine evening. Thanks for the info, comes handy!
That’s been another recipe on my I Should Really Try This list… You make it look so easy! No excuse, now, I have to! (I like anything that lets you use odds and ends of other recipes in a whole new dish… LOL)
Preheat oven to 200°F. Heat 2 tbsp. corn oil in medium skillet over medium- high heat. Add onions and garlic cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add tomato sauce pour water into empty tomato sauce can and swirl before adding to pan bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium low simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Stir shredded chicken and cilantro into skillet cook, stirring to coat chicken in sauce until mixture is warmed through season with Adobo remove from heat and set aside.
Heat remaining vegetable oil in medium skillet over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking. Cook the tortillas quickly, one at a time, submerging completely in oil, until soft and pliable, but not crisp, about 5 seconds each drain on paper towel.
To form flautas , spoon about 1½ tbsp. chicken filling into center of tortilla roll tightly to enclose filling, making cigar shape. Secure seam side of tortilla with toothpick. Repeat with remaining tortillas and chicken to make 16 flautas.
Reheat oil in skillet. Add prepared flautas to skillet seam side down, adding only as many as fit comfortably in pan without touching. Cook, flipping occasionally, until browned and crispy on all sides about 5 minutes. Transfer to baking pan and keep warm in oven until remaining flautas are cooked.
To serve, arrange shredded lettuce on serving platter top with flautas. Drizzle with crema and sprinkle with cheese.
You are now able to buy this recipe’s ingredients online! After you select your market, you decide if you want to have your items delivered or if you want to pick them up in store!
How to prepare shredded chicken
For the easiest shredded chicken, pick up a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store, remove the bones and skin, and shred with two forks. One whole rotisserie chicken generally yields about 4 cups shredded. To prepare 2 cups shredded chicken at home, transfer 1½ lb. bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts to medium pot add cold water to cover completely Add 1 packet GOYA® Cubitos Chicken Bouillon and 1 bay leaf. Bring water to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes until meat is cooked through (internal temperature of 165°F) and tender let chicken cool in broth. When cool enough to handle, transfer to cutting board remove and discard bone and skin. Using two forks, shred chicken. Reserve broth for a different use.
- ¼ cup butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup minced onion
- ¼ cup chopped black olives
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon oil
- ¼ teaspoon ground paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups cooked shredded chicken
- 8 flour tortillas
- oil for frying, or as needed
Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat stir flour into butter until smooth. Add onion to flour-butter mixture cook and stir until onion is softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Mix black olives, lemon juice, oil, paprika, black pepper, and salt into onion mixture cook and stir until heated through, about 2 minutes. Stir chicken into mixture and remove skillet from heat and cover.
Heat oil in a large, heavy saucepan or deep-fryer.
Fill tortillas with chicken mixture. Roll tortilla around filling and secure with a toothpick.
Fry the rolled tortillas, working in batches, in the hot oil until browned, about 2 minutes. Transfer fried tortillas to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon or tongs.
Chicken Flautas Recipe
Before we get started it’s worth mentioning that Flautas sometimes moonlight as Taquitos, and vice versa.
In Mexico, Flautas are traditionally made with corn tortillas. In the States, it’s common to distinguish Flautas by their use of flour tortillas, and if using corn tortillas they’ll be called Taquitos.
Confusing nomenclature aside, it’s worth noting that I am sold on using corn tortillas and will rarely use flour tortillas to make Flaquitos. But you’ll still get a nice reward if you choose to go flour, just keep in mind that you might have to decrease the baking time if you head down that route.
First let’s talk about the filling. As mentioned, Flautas aren’t too picky about their insides. You can use rotisserie chicken to streamline the process if you want. Or you can poach two chicken breasts in some salted water.
That’s what we did for this batch. Simply cover two chicken breasts with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or so — I usually use a meat thermometer and take them out when they reach 160F.
Salt the water with a few generous pinches, and for this batch I also included onion, cilantro, and black pepper. The onion and cilantro won’t flavor the chicken as much as you would hope, but they do make the kitchen smell good!
Once the chicken is cooked, let it cool for a few minutes and then shred it using two forks.
You’ll get about 3 cups worth of shredded chicken from two chicken breasts.
Add the chicken to a mixing bowl and give it some flava. Here’s what we used for this batch:
1/2 cup pickled jalapenos
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
2 cups shredded cheese
1 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper
For reference, we’re using some of these homemade Pickled Jalapenos:
But don’t fret about tracking down those exact items to make these Flautas. If you give your chicken some flavor and add plenty of cheese then you’ll be a happy camper.
Of course, that’s assuming you’ll be dipping your Flautas in a homemade Salsa. You’ll have time to make it once the Flautas go in the oven so give it a whirl. You’ll notice quite a difference compared to store-bought salsa.
And for some unknown, delicious reason I’ve found that these Flautas prefer a dipping sauce that is borderline volcanic. So I added two serrano peppers to this Avocado Salsa Verde to give it some serious zip.
If you want a milder version you can always cut back on the serranos (using 1/2 serrano is my usual starting point for Avocado Salsa Verde ). I’ll put instructions for this salsa in the recipe box below.
There are a couple tricks to keep in mind that will keep you away from Flauta Failure. There’s nothing more frustrating than rolling up the Flautas and having them split open and expose your naked filling to the world.
To prevent this, you need to make sure the tortillas are pliable before using them. There are a few ways to accomplish this…
You can heat up some oil in a skillet and flash fry the tortillas for 5-10 seconds. Or you can put them in some foil and bake them in the oven for 1-2 minutes. Or you can cover them with damp paper towels and nuke them in the microwave for 60 seconds or so.
The microwave is the easiest so that’s what I recommend doing for this recipe. You’ll end up with a pile of steaming corn tortillas that will graciously roll up without a peep.
Add a couple tablespoons of your filing to one side of the tortilla:
Roll them up snugly. To get them started, simply wrap the outer edge of the tortilla around the filling and give ’em a roll.
You should be able to rest these seam side down without them splaying open. If not, you might need to nuke the tortillas for a little longer.
This batch made 14 Flautas. I baked half of them and saved the other half for some on-the-fly meals over the coming days.
I usually just keep them in the fridge and use them over the next couple days, but these should freeze quite well too.
I almost always bake the Flautas instead of frying them it just makes it a more sustainable recipe for me and you still get that same great flavor.
To crisp them up in the oven you’ll need to add some fat. The simplest method is to douse them with olive oil spray, or cooking spray. That’s what I did for this batch. You could also use a pastry brush to give them a thin layer of oil, or if you want to turn Pro you can coat them with some lard .
They’ll need about 20 minutes in a 400F oven. Take them out when the edges are starting to brown.
I used to try to cook these until the entire tortilla is crispy, but this makes the edges too brittle. I’ve found it’s best to crisp up the edges and keep the centers pliable.
If you find yourself eating them even though they’re too hot to hold, then well done! They are best served immediately so I usually make sure the Avocado Salsa Verde is on the table before the Flautas emerge from the oven.
Double dipping is definitely allowed so be sure to give each bite plenty of the fiery sauce.
Chicken Flautas are such a great recipe to have in your kitchen repertoire. Once you’ve got the technique down you can get creative with the fillings. Here are the tricks to keep in mind:
The tortillas need to be pliable enough to prevent them from cracking open when you roll them. I usually nuke them inside damp paper towels for 60 seconds or so.
Bake them to the point where the edges are turning brown and crispy, but the center is still slightly pliable. I like this balance better than trying to make the whole tortilla crispy.
Serve them up with a sharp, fiery homemade Salsa. The sauce is half the recipe so no skimping!
Keep those tips in mind and you’ll always be able to rely on Flautas for some rewarding comfort food.
How to make Chico&rsquos Tacos at home
For anyone craving an El Paso favorite, I got this recipe from a friend on facebook:
- frozen beef taquitos (fry until crisp in oil 2-3 minutes)
- large bag finely shredded cheese (mexican mix good)
- One large can whole tomatoes (any brand, whole only- tried other combos, this works)
- 4-5 jalapenos (cut off stems, I leave seeds)
- 2 cubes tomatoe base boullion and 2 cubes chicken boullion
- 1 gallon water
- salt to taste ( should need almost none b/c of boullion cubes)
Boil can tomatoes with cubes in gallon of water until rolling boil for about 15 minutes.
Remove tomatoes only and blend on liquify in blender, return to pot of soup
Take fresh jalapenos and blend on liquify with a small amount of water. (you should see only very minute pieces)
Add jalapenos to soup. Remove from stove. Store in plastic containers.Can freeze some of this.
Deep fry beef taquitos until crisp about 2-3 minutes. Place in a bowl that has about a cup of hot soup, cover taquitos with cheese.
For their green jalapeno sauce,
8 fresh jalapenos
lime juice, salt
Boil whole tomatillos with cut up jalapenos ( leave seeds) in enough water to cover them and boil until soft. Pour off excess water, blend tomatillas and jalapenos on liquify until it is a smooth sauce. Add a couple tablespoons of lime juice and a little salt. If you want it really hot, Add some serrano chilis to this for increased heat.
- psychiccollectionpainter10012 said: So have many once’s is the can supposed to be? Cause I got one at Sam’s and it’s huge