Chicken flautas are a simple combination of tortillas filled with chicken, then fried to crisp deliciousness. Top them with your favorite additions for a great appetizer, snack or combine with other dishes to make a meal.
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When I first went to Mexico many years ago, I was there as a volunteer in a center that hosted people from around the world. As well as helping with some of the program content, I had the job of being an extra hand in the kitchen.
Unfortunately for me, that didn't mean helping to cook (I was more the put-things-away-person), but I did at least get to enjoy the meals along with program participants.
A few meals came up in regular rotation and one of my favorites was flautas. They maybe don't have many ingredients, but I instantly fell for the crisp little bites, loaded up with toppings. And I wasn't alone in being a fan.
For whatever reason, though, they are one of those things in the list of foods I loved when I had them, but rarely make at home. But given we are all fans, I really should make them more. Especially since they are pretty easy, too.
Top tip: a great use for leftovers
You can absolutely cook chicken especially or these, but they are also a great dish to use up some leftover meat from another meal. Leftover roast, poached or rotisserie chicken would all work well in these.
Not to mention, these would be great to use up leftover turkey as well (hello Thanksgiving/Christmas leftovers!). While maybe less traditional, I can see these working with leftover shredded beef, pulled pork or roast duck as well.
What kind of tortilla should you use?
Traditionally, flautas are made with flour tortillas and taquitos are made with corn tortillas. Taquitos are always smaller (the name means "little taco"), while you use larger tortillas for flautas.
That said, it all depends on the cook and the region. While taquitos are pretty consistent in size and what you use, flautas can also be made with corn tortillas.
Here I used a medium-large soft corn tortilla. I opt for the soft corn or wheat and corn blend tortillas as I find them less likely to crack than regular corn tortillas. I have also made these with flour tortillas and that works really well, too.
Tips for forming flautas
These are very simple, as I say, but a couple tips to help them work well:
- Warm the tortillas before adding the filling - this helps to soften them so they are easier to roll. If not soft, they are more likely to crack.
- Don't over-fill the tortillas - you really don't need all that much chicken and if too full, it will just fall out as they cook.
- Secure the rolled tortillas with a cocktail stick - these are all too likely to spring open, so get some help! A cocktail stick holds them together while they cook, then you can remove it once the tortilla has crisped up.
Once formed, you are ready to cook! Make sure you have all of your toppings ready, as these are best enjoyed fresh, so you don't want to be fiddling around getting the toppings after. Plus, you'll be wanting to keep a close eye on them as they cook.
You can cook a few at a time, but I prefer to cook relatively small batches so you can keep track of them easily. It also saves needing to use quite as much oil as you only need enough for a smaller skillet/frying pan.
To save wasting oil, I let the oil cool, then strain away any bits that may have come out during cooking before storing it to use another time.
Other cooking methods
While frying is far and away the most traditional method, you could also bake these - they are just not likely to become quite as crispy.
To bake, first brush or spray the formed flautas with some oil to help them crisp up. Then either place them on a rack over a baking sheet to allow air to get around them as they bake, or place directly on a baking sheet and turn during baking. They should take around 15 - 20 minutes at 400F/200C.
I can see these also working well in an air fryer, too, but as someone without one myself (I know, how is that possible) I can't advise on timing.
Toppings for flautas
Flautas themselves are only two ingredients, but toppings can be as few or as many as you like. The toppings can really help add flavor and give a needed touch of moisture, too. Not to mention, they make the presentation look for fun.
Some common toppings include:
- Shredded lettuce - typically iceberg
- Pico de gallo (aka salsa fresca)
- Mexican crema - similar to sour cream, which you can use as a substitute if you can't get crema
- Salsa verde - this was always on there when I first had these in Mexico but I didn't have any this time round
- Cheese - you may find these with queso fresco or cotija, but other cheeses can work, too.
You might want to serve extra crema, salsa and some guacamole on the side to dip them in, too. Typically you would use pico de gallo or salsa verde, but as you prefer.
Chicken flautas may be simple, but they are packed with tasty flavor. Easy to customize with your favorite toppings, and great for using leftovers, there are so many reasons to enjoy these crisp and delicious bites.
Try these other Mexican favorites:
- Shrimp ceviche tostadas - a delicious combination of lime and chili cured shrimp over crisp tortillas.
- Sopa de lima - a wonderful lime-infused chicken soup with crisp tortilla strips on top.
- Mexican chorizo torta - a classic sandwich with juicy, spicy chorizo, refried beans and cheese.
- Plus get more Mexican recipes in the archives.
- 8 corn tortillas (see notes)
- 1 cup shredded chicken approx
- vegetable or canola oil for frying (you may need around 1 cup/240ml but most you can save to then re-use after)
Toppings (approx amounts)
- 1 cup iceberg lettuce around 2 leaves
- 3 tablespoon Mexican crema or sour cream if unavailable
- ¼ cup cotija cheese or queso fresco
- ½ cup pico de gallo (salsa fresca) or around ½ amount of salsa verde
- Warm the tortillas before adding the filling - you can do this by wrapping in kitchen paper and placing in the microwave for a few seconds, but the best was is to warm a dry skillet/frying pan over a medium head and cook for place a tortilla in for around 30 seconds each side (or more/less until just warm rather than crisp). I tend to warm one, start filling, and have another warming as I work to then fill next.
- Place some chicken in a line towards one side of the warmed tortilla then roll it up - you want it relatively snug so the chicken stays in, but bear in mind the tortilla will swell up a little as it cooks, so don't try to make it too tight or it will burst. Secure the tortilla closed by placing a cocktail stick through the rolled tortilla right through the middle (see photos above/video).
- Repeat with the rest of the tortillas and chicken, and get your toppings ready - shred lettuce, make pico de gallo if not already made, crumble cheese.
- Warm some oil over a medium-high heat in a skillet/frying pan that is just a little wider than the tortillas are long so a few can cook in at once, but without too much extra space. You want probably around ⅔in (2cm) depth of oil, so that it will come around halfway up the tortillas as they cook.
- Once the oil is warm, add a few flautas to the skillet. You don't want to over-crowd the pan and remember you need a little space for turning so leave a little space between them. Cook, turning now and then, for a few minutes until they are crisp outside (you can make them more or less crispy to taste).
- Carefully remove the cooked flautas from the pan, tip to one side to let any oil stuck inside drain out then place on kitchen paper to drain further before serving. Repeat cooking the rest of the flautas.
- Once ready to serve, top the flautas with the shredded lettuce, crema, cheese and pico de gallo (traditionally added in that order). You would typically stack them all together and top, though if easier, you can do on separate plates for individual servings.
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