Loving Leftovers: How to Use Up Stale Tortilla Chips

Updated on August 11, 2020
Carb Diva profile image

Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

tortilla chips
tortilla chips | Source

If like me you grew up in the 1950s (or before), you no doubt were encouraged to eat your vegetables and clean your plate with the words, "Remember the starving ---------------" (fill in the blank). I didn't know where they lived, or why they were always hungry, and I didn't understand how my clean plate would help them to feel any less under-nourished.

But that mantra has stuck with me, even decades later. I abhor waste and find every possible way to use the bits and orts, the dibs of this and dabs of that. In months past we've looked at ways of using leftovers such as mashed potatoes, stale bread, meatloaf, ham, pasta, and rice.

Our final installment in this series is looking at ways of using up stale (and/or broken) tortilla chips.


Albondigas Soup
Albondigas Soup | Source

Albondigas Soup

Albondigas soup originated as an Arab dish imported to Spain during the Muslim rule of the Iberian Peninsula. The name is derived from the Arabic word al (the) bunduq (small round object) because of the meatballs' small, round shape. The soup eventually ended up in Mexico when the conquistadors were traveling about doing their conquistador thing.

Typically, meatballs are made of ground meat, seasonings, an egg, and a filler such as cracker meal or breadcrumbs. In this recipe finely crushed tortilla chips step in. The chips lighten the structure of these meatballs and also contribute sweet-salty corn flavor.


  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup finely crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 (15-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon dry oregano (flakes, not powdered)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 cup white rice, uncooked
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine the ground turkey, garlic, crushed tortilla chips, egg, and minced cilantro. Form into 1-inch meatballs.
  3. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
  4. Bake about 20 minutes or until the meat begins to brown and firm up.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large stockpot heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes, broth, and seasonings to the pot and bring to a simmer.
  7. Add the rice; cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.
  8. Add the meatballs. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  9. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Chicken Taco Casserole
Chicken Taco Casserole | Source

Chicken Taco Casserole

The food blog SixSistersStuff (yes, they really are sisters and there are six of them) features family favorites—home-cooked meals that are economical and quick enough for busy families. They also share home decorating and crafts projects.

From start to finish this chicken taco casserole takes only 45 minutes (30 of those are baking in the oven) and feeds 8-10.

Chilaquiles | Source


Chilaquiles is a terrific brunch dish, full of color, texture, and flavor. Simply bring salsa, black beans, and corn to a simmer in a large saute pan. Fold in tortilla chips, make a few divots in the mix, and break a large fresh egg in each divot. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated oven and revel in the praise and adulation.

FitFoodieFinds presents the perfect easy baked chilaquiles with avocado crema.

Chili Mac
Chili Mac | Source

Chili Mac

This recipe was born out of a lack of money, time, and patience (funds were short, the clock was ticking, and the kids were in the midst of a meltdown.) They loved it then, and 30+ years later this is still the meal that my family requests at least twice a month.


  • 1 pound dry macaroni, (my kids loved the kind shaped like wagon wheels, but any kind will do)
  • Two (15-ounce) cans chili, (use whichever type is your favorite)
  • 1 cup of salsa
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
  • 4 cups crushed tortilla chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Drain well and place in a large mixing bowl. Gently stir in the chili, salsa, 1 cup of the cheese, and the crushed tortilla chips.
  3. Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spread macaroni/chili mixture in dish; top with remaining 1 cup cheese.
  4. Bake uncovered about 25-30 minutes or until bubbly.

NOTE: You can omit the salsa if you prefer a less spicy meal. This is also a great place to "hide" additional vegetables—corn, cooked carrots, or diced zucchini, or tomatoes.

Peanut Butter Tortilla Chip No Bake Cookies
Peanut Butter Tortilla Chip No Bake Cookies | Source

Peanut Butter Tortilla Chip No Bake Cookies

According to the Food Timeline, no-bake cookies began during the Great Depression. When flour, eggs, and milk were in short supply, the family sweet tooth could be satisfied by combining oats or cornflakes with a sweet-sticky binder. If you enjoy sweet-salty tastes, and if you fondly remember peanut butter cornflake no-bake cookies, you'll love these confections made with tortilla chips.

I found this recipe for peanut butter tortilla chip no-bake cookies (and mouthwatering photos) on TheShabbyCreekCottage blog.

Tex-Mex Migas
Tex-Mex Migas | Source

Tex-Mex Migas

The people at Serious Eats can always be relied on for well-researched, beautifully photographed, and exhaustively written (and usually humorous) recipes. Their in-depth reporting on how to achieve the perfect Tex-Mex migas is no exception. They opt for making their own tortilla chips but take my word for it, you can use leftover bagged tortilla chips and still achieve a very admirable migas.

Tortilla-Crusted Chicken Strips
Tortilla-Crusted Chicken Strips | Source

Tortilla-Crusted Chicken Strips

Does your family love chicken "fingers?" You can actually make your own using this healthy recipe. Chicken tenders are breaded and baked, not fried. The spicy-smokey flavors of chili, cumin, and smoked paprika go well with a dipping sauce of Greek yogurt or cool, creamy guacamole.


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 pound chicken breast tenders
  • 2 cups crushed tortilla chips


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed 15x10-inch baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together flour and spices; whisk egg until whites and yolks are well-blended.
  3. Dredge chicken tenders with flour; shake off excess, then dip in beaten eggs. Finally, cover with crushed tortilla chips, pressing on the coating to make it adhere to the chicken.
  4. Arrange the coated chicken pieces on the lined baking sheet. Make sure that that's some space between each piece—don't crowd them together.
  5. Bake in preheated oven 10 minutes; carefully turn pieces over and return to oven. Continue to bake until chicken is done and the coating is crispy, about 10 minutes more.

© 2019 Linda Lum


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    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      13 months ago from Washington State, USA

      So Lawrence, which one is your favorite?

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      13 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand


      Its a good jobits lunch time, after reading this I'm hungry!

    • Shing Araya profile image

      Shing Araya 

      15 months ago from Cebu, Philippines

      A very delicious article, I am hungry aready. Thank you for sharing.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, what is "dock time?" Do you live on a lake? I enjoy all of these dishes. I'm almost tempted to purposely overbuy so that I can have the excuse to "use up those chips."

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      15 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      Love these ideas now that it's again dock time for us and lots of tortilla chips get to be opened without being consumed.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Oh well, there you go. All I have is an 8-pound black panther and he's on a diet, so I scramble for ways to use leftovers. Maybe I should just donate them to you LOL.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      But we never have stale chips....not with all the dogs and chickens....but if we did, these are great ideas. :)

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Thank you Ms. Dora. The soup is even better the 2nd day (assuming you have leftovers)

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      15 months ago from The Caribbean

      All these recipes are interesting. Like you, I hate waste. I especially like the first dish but I'm sure they're all tasty. Thanks.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Mary, don't touch those Doritos. They are highly addictive. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      15 months ago from Brazil

      Very inventive ways to use them.

      Sadly I haven't seen them here other than highly flavored Doritos in small bags. When I do eventually find them, I will know what to do with them.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Shauna, you are correct. Some foods do seem to be even better the day after (soup, beef stew, chili) and the chicken taco casserole is certainly one of those Thanks for your support. Let me know if you like it.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      15 months ago from Central Florida

      Linda, I love tacos. I've printed two of these recipes and will try your chicken fingers as well. My son loves anything chicken. I love anything cheese, so I'll make the chicken taco casserole one night when he's home. I'm guessing that dish is even better the next day.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Pamela, I'm not a big fan of spicy foods either. You can adjust the heat by removing the seeds and membrane from peppers, or just leave them out entirely. Honestly, I'm just there for the cheese.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Flourish, I would be more concerned about the sodium in this chips if feeding them to the wildlife. I hope your family enjoys these new ideas.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      15 months ago from Sunny Florida

      These recipes show you so many ways to not toss out chips. I particularly like Tex-Mex type food, and I like several of the featured recipes. I have to be careful as I don't tolerate food that is too spicy. I have been like that since my gallbladder was removed. I can always adjust any recipe to meet my desire. Thanks Linda for another way to not waste leftover food.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      15 months ago from USA

      This is an awesome way to ensure they don’t go to waste. I usually crush them up fine and toss them to the birds and squirrels. But then I get worried about what if the sharp little edges of the chips hurt their throats because they aren’t used to eating people food like this? I’d love to try some of those Tex-Mex recipes for my family.

    • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Lum 

      15 months ago from Washington State, USA

      Eric, tortilla chips have so much earthy flavor (and no gluten, if you care). My family loves Tex-Mex -ish foods and so I'm always trying to find new ways of cooking with corn chips.

      By the way, my older daughter and I went to Trader Joes yesterday and found that their chips are MUCH lower in sodium than all of the others. If you have a TJ's in your part of the world you should check them out. Chips (potato, corn, or whatever) tend to be very high in sodium.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      15 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful. Mine are when they pile them on at "taco" shops. I learned something here. I just assumed you put them in with refried beans a day or so later and tons of goat cheese. I love the grease. Easy peasy in microwave. Now I can do better.


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