I love a corn nut. I think the crunchy, nixtamalized kernels are bigger than snacking, but that does not negate the fact that they are an incredible drinking snack. But corn nuts—also known as quico, cancha, and chupi—are not made with corn straight off the cob. These toasty little niblets are actually made with hominy—corn that has been treated with a basic solution to make it more delicious, nutritious, and digestible.
You can make your own hominy
You can make your own hominy, but you can also buy it dried or canned. I grew up eating the canned stuff as a side (with lots of butter), but, much like canned chickpeas, you can toss canned hominy with a little oil and throw it in the air fryer to make a crunchy, salty snack.
The hominy takes a little longer to crisp than the chickpeas, but the whole affair will take less than half an hour. Just grab a can of hominy (even better, grab “giant white corn,” a specific type of Peruvian hominy that makes incredible corn nuts), and drain it, rinse it, and drain it again. Let the puffy kernels dry out a little bit in the air fryer as it preheats, then drizzle with just enough oil to coat and air fry at 400℉ until crispy.
Then it’s time to season, which is the fun part. You could make ranch corn nuts with Hidden Valley powder, or use Kraft cheese powder to make cheese corn nuts. Old Bay corn nuts would be tasty, as would cajun corn nuts. Any of the Trader Joe’s seasoning mixes would also work well, and of course there is nothing wrong with raiding your spice cabinet and creating your own bespoke, flavorful powder.
The amount of corn nuts you make at one time will depend on the size of your air fryer; you just want to add enough hominy to create a single layer. For basket models, remove the tray so the hominy sits directly on the bottom of the basket for easier tossing.
How to make air fried corn nuts
- Canned hominy
- Olive oil, vegetable oil, bacon grease, any kind of cooking fat you like!
- Seasonings—whatever pleases you!
Drain the hominy in a colander and give it rinse. Break up any little nibs that are stuck together, then let it drain in the colander for a few minutes. Remove the tray from your air fryer basket, then add hominy to the bottom of the basket to create a single layer. Close the air fryer and set it to 400℉ to dry the hominy out and make it more receptive to fat.
Once the air fryer reaches temperature, drizzle the hominy with oil and toss to coat. Close the air fryer and cook for 13-22 minutes, shaking 3-4 times, until the corn nuts sound hard and crunchy when you shake them in the basket. Transfer to paper towels, season liberally—seriously, it is hard to over-season them—and let cool completely. (Corn nuts will continue to crisp up as they cool. Hot nuts=chewy nuts.)