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Dec 2, 2012 11:03 AM

Where to buy blue corn tortillas in Manhattan?


Just returned from New Mexico with a ton of green chile in my suitcase. I need to buy blue corn tortillas to make enchiladas and I can't seem to find them. Can someone recommend a place to buy good blue corn tortillas?


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  1. I've seen them in various shops in Spanish Harlem - on 116th. I've definitely seen them at the Associate Supermarket on 116 near Lex (right by the 6 train)

    1. Essex market
      Zaragosa Mexican Deli-Grocery

      3 Replies
      1. re: Hey19

        Hi tried both Essex and Zaragosa.

        Zaragosa doesn't carry blue corn tortillas.
        Essex does... but they actually aren't blue corn tortillas. They are white corn tortillas that have been dyed blue! Yikes. Know of any other places?

        1. re: ageusiatic

          ah sorry for the bum steer. I am sure I have seen them at Zaragosa, but come to think of it, they may have been the same brand as essex, and thus, not what you are looking for. Maybe you could call empellon or something, they could sell you some, if you came in at an off time. Im not sure they have blue tortillas, but they are certainly masa specialists, so maybe they have tips otherwise.

          For my education, what is the difference? I always assumed the difference was color and not much else.

          1. re: Hey19

            Hi - no worries. I'll keep looking and report back if I find anything.

            So about blue corn tortillas...

            Blue corn tortillas are just what they sound like - tortillas made from corn that is naturally blue. Blue corn is a genetically different beast than white or yellow corn and was created some time ago by the Hopi peoples of what is now Arizona and New Mexico. Blue corn is extremely important to the Hopi and plays a leading role in Hopi creation stories.

            There are many types of colorful versions of corn - red, orange etc however most of them are inedible and used for decorative purposes. Blue corn is one of the few edible versions (technically there are three primary strains of blue corn but let's not go there). One thing to know is that blue corn is a staple of New Mexican cooking - it is not common at all in Mexican cooking. There are a few states in North Mexico that do produce blue corn but it is a rarity.

            Blue corn tortillas differ from white or yellow tortillas in a couple of different ways
            1) They are blue (duh)
            2) The have a higher protein/ lower glycemic index
            3) The have a nuttier flavor
            4) They have a coarser and more granulated texture

            Issue #4 is particularly important for making New Mexican food. Take a really common dish – blue corn enchiladas with green chile. In New Mexican cuisine the tortillas, chicken and cheese are stacked (not rolled like Mexican), beans are added on the side, the whole plate is sauced with green and/or red chile and then baked. (Corn, beans and chile are the holy trinity of New Mexican cooking). If you use regular corn tortillas (or heaven help you flour tortillas) for this dish the tortillas turn into glop. Blue corn retains its texture and flavor.

            Wikipedia has a passable article with pictures on the subject

            Hope this helps – next time I should post about green chile.

      2. Send me the green chili and I will send you the blue corn tortillas.......
        I can't find Hatch chilis or similar anywhere here.

        Thanks for the head's up about finding them uptown, we generally only find them in Queens, and there is one brand, I recognize by sight, that is excellent. They make both blue and white corn tortillas, both terrific.

        6 Replies
        1. re: comiendosiempre

          FreshDirect has them sometimes.

          Foragers carried them a few years ago, not sure about now.

          1. re: comiendosiempre

            Can you tell me what brand? Maybe I can search that way...
            I've try a number of different approaches but have found it is near impossible to get good green chile (or red chile for that matter) in New York. There was a place in Chelsea that fedexs in whole green chiles but they are expensive, not terribly great and you have to roast them yourself. If you want good green chile the only way I know of involves a plane to New Mexico. That's how I get mine.

            1. re: comiendosiempre

              I'm assuming that you're only looking for fresh chiles? I know I've seen canned ones, for sure. Essex Market, IIRC, though I forget which vendor. And of course there are any number of places to order them online. I know they're available frozen as well, which might be better since canned ones are usually packed in some kind of brine, I assume. Kenny Shopsin has a number of dishes with them on his menu, he must be getting them somewhere.

              Hatch season is well over, though, so getting them fresh is a moot point until next July/August.

              1. re: sgordon

                Yeah - canned ones are available (Bueno and Ortega are the two main brands), but they tend to be pretty lousy. The canned stuff seems to be a combination of inferior product, brining, steaming and a chemical peel. So I avoid that. The commercial frozen stuff is also pretty lousy. It's really no way to treat a chile.

                Personally I prefer the chiles from the Chimayo region to Hatch chiles. I find them to be more flavorful, hotter and a little more earthy than Hatch chiles - but that's a personal preference.

                I've been trying to find good green chile for 10 years in new York. I'm convinced that the only way involves a plane to New Mexico (or rather two planes because there are no direct flights). Trick is to go during chile season and bring enough back to last the year. Funny thing is that there are so many people bringing green chile out of New Mexico that the TSA has posted rules on how to get it through security at the ABQ airport.

                1. re: ageusiatic

                  I ordered a bunch of Hatch chile peppers from FreshDirect (Melissa's Produce brand) and charred them on the stove, deseeded, and froze them over this summer... And then power loss from Sandy meant I had to throw out the contents of my freezer. :(

                  1. re: kathryn

                    New Mexicans all over New York are sorry for your loss. We lost power too, but we we're able to move the chile stash to midtown. In other words, we had no power but our chiles did.

                    One of the reasons that I like to buy chiles in New Mexico is that you can use a commercial chile roaster when you buy them. Charring them yourself is tough work.

            2. 99% sure the uptown ones are simply dyed, just like the ones downtown. You pretty much only see the same half-dozen brands anywhere in the city. I lived in SH for a couple years (fifteen years ago, mind you) and I never saw the real deal there.

              I've seen blue masa for sale at a few places if you want to make your own, though it was only fancy places like D&D unfortunately. Kalustyan's probably has it as well, cheaper, though I've never looked specifically for it there.

              1. Have you tried the various Mexican markets in Spanish Harlem? There is one right outside the 103rd Street stop on the 6 that is rather well-stocked. The others congregate around 116th St. and 2nd Ave.

                1 Reply
                1. re: JungMann

                  Thing is, blue corn really isn't a part of Mexican cuisine. It's Southwestern US cuisine. So it's not really surprising the blue tortillas being produced by Mexican manufacturers are just making them dye... they're making them for the Gringo market, it's not a part of their tradition at all.

                  I suspect that around here you'd either have to order them online, make them yourself, or MAYBE they'd have some at one of the fancier markets, like Whole Foods or something. (But WF's house brand tortillas are terrible, FWIW...)