Flautas de pollo, also known as taquitos de pollo, are a popular Mexican appetizer or snack made of shredded chicken wrapped in tortillas and then fried. The name “flauta” means “flute” or “fife” in Spanish, referring to the elongated flute-like shape of the rolled tortilla. Flautas can be made with various fillings, but chicken flautas are one of the most common varieties.
The tortilla is the key component that wraps and holds the flauta together. Authentic flautas de pollo are made with corn tortillas rather than flour tortillas. Corn tortillas have a richer, more complex flavor that pairs perfectly with the seasoned shredded chicken filling. They also tend to be smaller and thinner than flour tortillas, allowing for that ideal flute-shaped roll.
The tortillas are warmed to make them pliable enough to roll without cracking. This is usually done by quickly frying them in oil or heating them over a comal or griddle. Once warmed, the tortillas should be soft and flexible but still have some structure so they hold their tubular flute shape.
The Chicken Filling
The chicken is the star of the show when it comes to flautas’ flavor. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs are used to make the filling. The chicken is cooked until tender and then shredded or chopped into small pieces that can easily fit inside the tortilla rolls.
Simply shredding plain chicken on its own would be a bit bland. That’s why the chicken is tossed with a zesty blend of seasonings. Onion, garlic, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper are commonly used to give the chicken a boost of Mexican flavor. The chicken filling might also contain tomatoes, peppers, canned chipotle chiles, or other ingredients to add extra flavor dimension.
Getting the right proportion of filling is key. You want the chicken mixture to be tightly packed but not overflowing or the flautas will fall apart. The chicken should just reach the edges of the tortilla inside the roll.
Rolling and Frying
Once you have your tender chicken filling and softened tortillas ready, it’s time for assembly. Place about 2-3 tablespoons of the filling into the center of the tortilla. Fold one end of the tortilla up and over the filling, then fold in the sides and continue tightly rolling it up. You’ll end up with a filled tortilla tube that resembles a flute.
Traditional flautas have a crispy exterior shell and tender interior. This contrast of textures is achieved by frying. The stuffed flautas are fried on each side in oil until golden brown and crispy. Vegetable oil is most common, but lard or olive oil may also be used. The flautas puff up slightly as they fry, sealing the tortillas around the chicken filling inside.
There are many options when it comes to serving up these crispy chicken rolls. They pair especially well with flavorful salsas and sauces for dipping. Guacamole, crema, queso fresco, shredded lettuce, rice, and beans also make tasty accompaniments.
For a classic flautas appetizer plate, the fried flautas are cut on the bias into 2-3 pieces. They can be served upright in a row, leaning against each other for dramatic presentation. Garnishes and dipping sauces are artfully arranged around the plate.
Flautas hold up well so they are also popular portable snacks. Simply wrap them to-go and serve with salsa and dipping sauces on the side. You may also come across flautas de pollo on Mexican restaurant appetizer menus alongside other antojitos (little cravings) like tacos, quesadillas, and tostadas.
To summarize, the main ingredients that go into flautas de pollo are:
- Corn tortillas
- Shredded cooked chicken
- Chili powder
- Oil for frying (vegetable, olive or lard)
The seasonings and extra ingredients can be adjusted to taste preferences. But this combination of crispy fried tortillas, savory chicken, and Mexican spices is what defines the classic flautas de pollo flavor.
Flautas vs Taquitos
Flautas and taquitos are very similar appetizers. In fact, flautas are sometimes referred to as “taquitos de pollo” on Mexican restaurant menus and recipes. What’s the difference between flautas and taquitos?
- Fillings: Taquitos can be filled with a variety of meats or vegetables. Flautas are always made with shredded chicken.
- Tortillas: Flautas use corn tortillas while taquitos often use flour tortillas.
- Shape: The tubular rolls of taquitos tend to be shorter and fatter compared to the longer flute shape of flautas.
When it comes down to it, taquitos and flautas are more alike than they are different. They both involve rolling up a filling into a fried tortilla. Calling this appetizer one name versus the other often just comes down to regional differences in Mexico.
Flautas vs Enchiladas
Enchiladas and flautas are two classic rolled and stuffed Mexican dishes. But besides the method of rolling tortillas around a filling, they have some distinct differences:
- Tortillas: Flautas use thin corn tortillas. Enchiladas can be made with both corn and flour tortillas.
- Filling: Enchiladas have a wide variety of fillings including chicken, beef, cheese, beans, and seafood. Flautas are filled just with chicken.
- Cooking: Flautas are fried while enchiladas are baked with sauce on top.
- Shape: Enchiladas are shorter, wider rolls. Flautas are longer and more flute-like.
The sauces and extra toppings also set enchiladas and flautas apart. Enchiladas are smothered with sauce and melted cheese. Flautas are served with salsas and garnishes for dipping.
History of Flautas
Like many iconic Mexican recipes, the origins of flautas are hard to pin down. filled rolled tortillas likely date back centuries to early indigenous Mexican cooking.
One of the earliest recorded flauta recipes comes from a Mexican cookbook published in 1831. The recipe for “Tacos de Gallina” describes chicken tacos made by rolling tortillas around shredded chicken seasoned with chili peppers and frying them crisp.
The contemporary flautas of today are virtually identical to these early chicken tacos. Over generations, Mexican home cooks and street vendors refined the perfect ratio of fillings to tortillas. They came up with countless variations using different salsas and sauces to complement the flautas.
Flautas became more mainstream in Mexican restaurants and across the US in the mid 20th century. They emerged as a popular appetizer on menus across North America thanks to their crowd-pleasing combination of flavors and textures.
Flautas are enjoyed all over Mexico, but local varieties do exist. Some regional differences include:
- Northern Mexico: Flour tortillas may be used instead of corn tortillas.
- Yucatan: Habanero chiles are added to the chicken for extra heat.
- Oaxaca: String cheese fills the flautas along with the chicken.
- Sinaloa: Canned tuna often replaces the chicken as the filling.
But the core combination of corn tortillas rolled around shredded chicken and then fried remains at the heart of flautas across Mexico.
Common Fillings and Variations
While chicken is traditional, flautas can also be filled with:
- Shredded beef
- Refried beans
Some other flauta variations include:
- Flautas doradas – “Golden flautas,” stuffed with chicken and potatoes.
- Flautas de nata – Filled with a creamy goat cheese.
- Flautas de papa – Filled with mashed potatoes instead of meat.
Making Flautas at Home
Want to make your own flautas de pollo at home? Here is a simple recipe to try:
- 12 small corn tortillas
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Oil for frying
- In a bowl, mix together the shredded chicken, onion, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro, and spices.
- Warm the tortillas in a skillet with a bit of oil just until soft and pliable.
- Place about 2 tablespoons of filling on each tortilla near one edge. Roll it up tightly into a flute shape.
- In a skillet, heat 1/2 inch of oil to 360°F. Fry the flautas until crispy and golden brown, about 2 minutes per side.
- Drain on paper towels and serve with desired sauces or toppings.
That’s all it takes to make these tasty chicken taquitos at home! Adjust the seasoning to your personal spice preferences. And feel free to experiment with different fillings too.
Look for flautas in the frozen food section of many grocery stores. Popular brands like El Monterey and Jose Ole offer ready-to-cook chicken flautas that just need to be fried or baked before eating.
In the refrigerator section, fully cooked flautas can often be found near other grab-and-go Mexican foods. Brands like Del Real Foods make convenient pre-cooked flautas that just require a quick reheat before serving.
You may also find refrigerated or frozen veggie flautas made with fillings like potatoes, cheese, beans, or spinach inside the tortillas. These make a nice meatless appetizer option.
Where to Find Flautas on a Menu
Flautas are an appetizer menu staple at Mexican restaurants, taquerias, and Tex Mex establishments across the US. But besides restaurants, popular places to find flautas include:
- Food trucks
- Street fairs
- Sports stadiums
- Movie theaters
Look for flautas paired with options like guacamole, queso, rice, beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, and Mexican crema. Many restaurants offer flauta combination plates where you can sample flautas along with other antojitos.
The nutrition facts for a typical chicken flauta are:
- Calories: About 130kcal per flauta
- Fat: 6g
- Carbs: 15g
- Protein: 7g
Keep in mind that nutrition info can vary based on the specific ingredients and cooking methods. Homemade flautas fried in fresh oil may have fewer calories than pre-made frozen flautas. Dipping sauces also add extra calories. Still, flautas make a relatively healthy appetizer choice, especially when served with side salads.
The Takeaway on Flautas
Flautas de pollo have maintained their popularity for good reason. The combo of textures from the crispy tortilla and savory chicken filling is simply hard to resist! While traditional flautas use shredded chicken, feel free to get creative with fillings. Just maintain that signature tubular flauted shape and enjoy these Mexican bites as a starter, snack, or light meal.