What would life be like without tortilla chips? It’s unsettling to imagine. Happy hour would certainly be different. Our favorite snacks of chips and salsa, chips and guacamole, and chips with queso might not even exist — insert the screaming emoji face! Life would definitely be less bright without these crispy, salty delights. Tortilla chips have been a part of the American diet for a long time — nearly 70 years and we are happy they aren’t losing popularity any time soon. 

Today on the El Charrito blog, we are going to share the history of the tortilla chip and how it found its way into the hearts and snack bowls of people in Salinas, Monterey, and beyond. Stay right here to learn more and be sure to visit our authentic Mexican restaurant in Salinas for the Best Burrito in Monterey County and to enjoy other delicious eats and sweets. 

Tortilla Chips: A Happy Accident

Like many of our favorite things, the tortilla chip came to be on accident. Not only did it become beloved due to it’s salty, crispy texture, but also due to isn’t convenience and ability to complement a variety of dips — it’s really the most perfect snack. This perfect snack began as a result of the imperfection of an automatic tortilla-making machine. 

50 Years Ago in Los Angeles

The El Zarape Tortilla Factory and deli was co-owned by Rebecca Webb Carranza and her husband Mario. Their tortilla-making machine allowed them to produce nearly perfect tortillas in large quantities. However, it also produced quite a few misshapen tortillas as well. Instead of throwing them out, Rebecca decided to cut them up, fry them, and adding a little salt. Their Tort Chips, as they called then, were only shared with friends and family, but when others found out about these delectable snacks, it was soon clear that Rebecca had started something. 

A Snack Craze 

Once more people tried the Carranzas’ Tort Chips, the couple began selling bags of tortilla chips in their adjoining deli for 10 cents a piece. Eventually, the craze wasn’t limited to Los Angeles or even the West Coast; as we all know, the tortilla chip eventually found its way into the hearts and minds of people all over the United States. 

More History

Though Rebecca’s divorse caused her to sign over the tortilla chip business to her husband, history remembers her as the inventor of the beloved tortilla chip. She received the Golden Tortilla award as a way to honor her contribution in 1994 and in January 19, 2006 at age 98, she passed away. 

Also to note, the tortilla chip became the official state snack of Texas, and February 24 is National Tortilla Chip Day. Today, tortilla chips are sold in a variety of shapes, flavors, and styles. According to some sources, tortilla chips are outselling hamburgers and hot dog buns —  and even potato chips.

The next time you crack open a bag of tortilla chips or sit down to a happy hour of chips, salsa, and margaritas, be sure to raise a chip and thank Rebecca Webb Caranza.  

Hungry? Come to El Charrito, Salinas favorite authentic Mexican restaurant and enjoy our fresh salsa and tortilla chips!