I love street-food snacks in Mexico but seldom do I see the same kinds of snacks in the U.S. unless I’m in a Mexican neighborhood.
One of my favorites is called chicharrones de harina, and they’re a puffy, fried wheat snack that gets doused in fresh lime juice and salsa. You may have noticed them hanging from a vendor’s cart, often resembling the shape of a wagon wheel. The most common way you see it served is in a plastic bag; you just squeeze the lime juice into the bag, add salsa, close the bag and shake it to distribute the lime and salsa. It’s the perfect to-go snack!
When you buy chicharrones de harina in the grocery store, they look like hard pellets and are almost always orange in color. The secret is to fry them evenly to get them to puff up properly. They don’t need to be fried for long; just long enough so that they look light and airy.
It’s OK if you burn the first few—you should definitely practice before starting to fry a large batch so that you don’t ruin them. They’re very inexpensive but if you can’t find them locally and are ordering them online, you’ll be glad you practiced before frying the whole batch. Practicing will let you determine whether you’ve got the right oil temperature, especially if you don’t use a thermometer to figure out if your oil is too hot or not.
As a rule of thumb with all frying, if you put a piece into the oil and it doesn’t start to bubble, it’s not hot enough yet. On the other hand, you don’t want the oil so hot that it begins to splatter, so try to keep it at a happy medium. Here’s a video to teach you exactly how to do it. That’s me with my Kenmore portable induction cooktop!
One 8 or 10 oz. bag of chicharrones de harina (can be found in most Latin grocers, in the Hispanic foods aisle at many mainstream grocers or online for less than $3/bag)
1 cup vegetable or corn oil
Salsa botanera or chamoy
Heat one cup of oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
Use the first few pieces to test and see how long they need to stay in to puff correctly and how hot the oil is in case you need to adjust the heat, so you can get a feel for how long they need to stay in the oil.
Once you begin cooking the chicharrones, be sure you have a slotted spoon to transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels so they can drain easily. If it seems that the chicharrones are not puffing evenly on both sides, use the slotted spoon to flip them over. Fry as many chicharrones as you want and then turn off your heat source.
When you’re ready to eat, put them into a bowl and squeeze lime juice over them and add as much salsa as you like. The lime juice will make the chicharrones crackle, which is completely normal. Don’t add too much lime juice or the chicharrones will start to disintegrate if you don’t eat them fast enough.
Store any leftover chicharrones (that you haven’t doused in lime and salsa) in an airtight container or bag, making sure there is no moisture. They’ll last for a couple of days, but you probably won’t be able to resist them for that long.