15 Absolute Best Ways To Repurpose Tortilla Chips

There's a lot to love about tortilla chips. In all honesty, they're much heartier and more structurally sound than potato chips. These corn chips can be dusted with an array of different seasonings to give them cantina vibes or take them beyond being just a great base for nachos. And while there's nothing wrong with scooping your chips into a bowl of salsa or guacamole or just grabbing a handful from the pantry when you're craving something salty, these chips can get really old, really fast. 

We've curated a list of the best ways to use tortilla chips before they go stale. Some applications may require an especially sturdy tortilla chip, while others allow you to play with different textures, flavors, and even chip colors. Regardless, all of these different recipes are novice-friendly and will make you think about the humble tortilla chip in a totally new light.

1. Use leftover tortilla chips to thicken your soup or chili

Anyone who frequently makes soup at home knows how frustrating it can be to have your dish come out much more watery than you expected. Luckily, your pantry holds a secret ingredient to help bolster the consistency of your soup. And surprisingly, it's not cornstarch. 

You can add crumbled tortilla chips into your soup to help thicken it up. Scientifically speaking, this hack works because the starchy chips help absorb the residual moisture in the broth. Alton Brown uses this hack to thicken chili, but it can also work for almost any soup that you're working with — even if it's outside of the Tex-Mex domain. The only thing you have to be wary of when adding a sprinkle to your soup is that the pieces won't entirely absorb into the soup. Rather, they'll soften and offer a spongy mouthfeel. You can also play with different varieties of tortilla chips to add flavor to your soup or stick with plain chips for a classic flavor. 

2. Swap breadcrumbs for tortilla chips

Let's face it: Breadcrumbs can make or break your fried chicken. The crumbs are prone to getting soggy, which can make their texture difficult to stomach.  For a crispier crust on your chicken, swap out your standard breadcrumbs for tortilla chips. The crisp tortilla chips have a much more profound crunch factor than cornflakes or panko could ever dream of. Plus, nobody is going to know that you're using stale chips once you coat your chicken in them and pop them in hot oil. 

You can opt for very finely ground chips or stick to something a bit more chunky for your chicken. Use the classic dredging technique and coat your chicken in flour, then egg wash, and finish it off with a tumble through your chips. These coated chicken pieces are great for pairing with salsa, or you can stick with something more creamy and opt for a sour-cream-based dip or a chipotle aioli. You can also use this same technique to give your fish or crispy cauliflower a textural boost. 

3. Bury your chips in a layer dip

Everyone knows that tortilla chips are a great pairing for salsa and guacamole, but what do you get when you stack the two in a single bowl and invite more dips to the party? Layer dip!

This dip can be the center of the appetizer table and command "oohs" and "ahhs" from your guests. But if you truly want to make a layered dip that your guests will remember forever, you'll need to serve it with tortilla chips. A simple cracker just won't do. Rather, a tortilla chip has sturdiness and flavor that meshes well with layers.

Start by making your layer dip with refried beans, sour cream, salsa, cheese, guacamole, and whatever other toppings your heart desires. Fill up your bowl with chips, and your party guests will be set to dive into this dip and all the treasures underneath its surface. This is one occasion where you'll want to opt for a sturdy tortilla chip brand made for dipping, like the Mission rounds. 

4. Use tortilla chips as a topping for your casserole dish

Should tuna casserole be relegated to the back pages of American culinary history? Well, we're not here to debate that. But if you have a craving for this classic comfort dish, you might consider grabbing a bag of tortilla chips to top it instead of your classic breadcrumbs or crushed crackers. Tortilla chips have a unique, light crunch factor to them that can balance out an especially dense casserole layered with noodles, cheese, and protein. 

Like other crunchy additions, you'll want to layer your crumbled chips on top of the dish before you toss it in the oven. Adding a layer of melty cheese on top will help ensure that the texture of this dish is especially gooey — and it also gives it a nacho-like feel. 

You aren't just relegated to classic American casseroles when it comes to this dish. If you're tired of eating tacos (which seemingly isn't possible for us, but we digress), you can transform your weeknight meal into a casserole with ground beef, beans, corn, cheese, and crumbled chips on top. 

5. Transform your mac and cheese with leftover tortilla chips

While some people prefer stovetop-only mac and cheese, there is something undeniably delicious about a baked, crispy version of this classic pasta dish. There are tons of potential additions to mac and cheese to satisfy a craving for something crunchy on top, but tortilla chips might just be the best one. You'll want to crumble the chips into small yet discernable pieces before adding them to the top of your pasta and tossing the dish in the oven. When you pull the pasta out, you'll be rewarded with subtly salty noodles with a crisp topping. Plus, you won't have to worry about that heavy feeling often associated with eating a breadcrumb-topped dish.

You don't have to just stick to a Tex-Mex version of mac and cheese, either. While cumin and chipotle can add a subtle heat to your pasta, you can also opt to use tortilla chips on your plain ol' bowl of Kraft cheesy mac. 

6. Fry up a plate of chilaquiles

Chilaquiles are a breakfast dish that deserves so much more attention than it's often granted. This Mexican breakfast recipe is made by stirring and coating tortilla chips in salsa (or enchilada sauce) and then topping them with breakfast staples like eggs, chorizo, and cojita cheese. This is a remarkably customizable dish; you can add avocado slices, sour cream, shredded cheese, or really, whatever is in the back of your fridge. 

You can whip up your own batch of homemade chilaquiles with store-bought or homemade tortilla chips. You'll want to opt for an especially sturdy chip for this recipe since using a flimsy one will increase the chance that it will disintegrate into the sauce. You'll also want to make sure you grab a fork before diving into this breakfast dish since the wet and heavy ingredients make eating it with your hands nearly impossible. 

7. Crumble up tortilla chips for a great meatloaf binder

Meatloaf immediately comes to mind whenever we think of a "homestyle dish." Diving into a slab of it alongside garlic mashed potatoes just screams "Sunday dinner." But it's unlikely that you have ever tried a binder like tortilla chips in your meatloaf. 

Every meatloaf needs a good starch to help hold it together. While many meatloaf recipes will opt for soaked bread or breadcrumbs, tortilla chips are the easy way to add a Tex-Mex spin to this dish. You'll want to start with ingredients like ground beef, shredded cheese, onion, and tortilla chips. Mix them all in a bowl, along with the conventional egg binder, and bake it with a layer of taco sauce on top until it's firm. While you could also use this ingredient swap for a conventional meatloaf, adding these Tex-Mex ingredients can add an extra Southwestern twist to your weeknight dinner routine. 

8. Sprinkle crushed tortilla chips on your salad for an interesting crunch

We're always keeping our eyes peeled for crouton substitutes – even though there's arguably nothing wrong with the plain ol' bag of garlic croutons that you buy from the grocery store. Although these croutons have their merits on a Caesar salad, tortilla chips can provide a lighter alternative. Plus, the salty coating on the outside of the chip meshes well with a particularly acidic dressing or when you have an array of sweet ingredients on your salad, like blueberries, strawberries, or dried cranberries. 

You won't want to grab the bag of chips that was shoved in the back of your pantry for who-knows-how-long for this recipe. Opt for a sturdy chip with a lot of crunch, and get creative with your flavors. Lime chips can provide a great acidic boost to your salad, while cantina-style chips have a unique complexity and flavor that will elevate even the most basic garden salad into something spectacular. 

9. Use them as a crust for your quiche or savory pie

Quiche is a rather simple breakfast when you think about it; it's just eggs baked in a pie crust. But quiche has a sophisticated feel that scrambled eggs can't ever come close to. Even this high-class breakfast dish needs a flavorful upgrade at some point. 

Rather than considering what unique meats or fancy cheeses you can add to your egg filling, consider rethinking your pie crust instead. Instead of using a classic pie crust, try swapping it out with a tortilla chip crust. It resembles the same consistency as a graham cracker crust, but it's infused with salty flavors that will elevate your eggs. You'll want to crush your tortilla chips in a bowl until they're about the same size as a graham cracker or cookie crust. Then, add in a little melted butter to help bind everything together, press it into the crust, and pop it in the oven to firm up. 

When working with this type of crust, it's important to remember that the seasoning on the chips will influence the flavors of your egg mixture. So, you may have to dial back the salty bacon to accommodate for the chips' seasoning. 

10. Add them to your cookies for a satisfying crunch

Chocolate chip cookies aren't good enough anymore. We're always looking for ways to elevate this classic cookie, and it's not unreasonable to consider adding crumbled tortilla chips for a salty, crunchy boost. After all, someone out there thought adding potato chips to a cookie recipe was a good idea, so why wouldn't tortilla chips work, too? 

This is a great way to use up the leftover pieces at the bottom of the bag that would otherwise spill all over your shirt rather than into your mouth. Add the crumbles to the cookies after you've mixed in the primary dough ingredients to prevent crumbling them too much and overworking the dough. It's important to know that just like other crispy additions, tortilla chips don't stay fresh for long after they're exposed to air. So, you're best off adding them to cookies that you plan on eating the same day. 

11. Incorporate leftover tortilla chips into a snack mix

Pub snack mix may not be the first thing you grab when you walk down the chip aisle at the grocery store. These tubs, which can include everything from pretzels to generic Cheetos, are greatly underappreciated in the snack food world. After all, pub mix is often the Island of Misfit Toys for snacks that aren't good enough to eat a whole bag of on their own. 

So, when you have half a bag of pretzel twists, a handful of Sunchips, and the tortilla chip remnants of your late-night nacho craving, consider whipping up a homemade snack mix. There are no true rules about the proper ratio of snacks in a snack mix, but generally, you'll want to have elements that encompass savory, cheesy, and crunchy domains. The sheer variety of tortilla chip flavors just gives you room to play. For example, if your other components lack something cheesy, grab a bag of nacho cheese tortilla chips. Or, if you want something more zesty and complex, go for ranch-seasoned chips. 

12. Stir them into your scrambled eggs

Chilaquiles aren't the only breakfast tortilla dish that you can whip up at home. Migas are another way to integrate leftover tortilla chips into your breakfast routine. Though both chilaquiles and migas are made with tortilla chips, the latter involves cooking scrambled eggs and often a combination of onions, peppers, and other aromatics in a pan with the tortilla chip pieces. Although most migas recipes involve making your own tortilla chips in squares or strips, you can break apart store-bought tortilla chips in a pinch. 

Migas are easy to customize with tomatoes, cheese, and seasoning. The best thing about this dish is that you don't really realize the tortilla chips are there. Rather, they provide a starchy addition to the eggs that makes this dish all the more filling. You're not relegated to only eating migas for breakfast, either; they make a filling addition to your brunch table or when you're craving a light, easy dinner. 

13. Serve tortilla chips as the base for dessert nachos

Unfortunately, tortilla chips rarely receive any attention outside of the savory realm. They're most often plunged into tomato-based salsas, slathered in cheese, and used as a vehicle for seasoned chicken or taco meat. But with enough creativity and a pantry full of spices, you can transform your tortilla chips into a sweet dessert to end your meal.

The key to making these chips is to start with a plain variety. A little salt is fine because it can accentuate the sugar and spice notes, but too much can shift the profile to more savory than sweet. Toss your chips in a bowl with cinnamon and sugar before layering them on a baking pan and adding some of your toppings. You'll want to add anything that needs to melt, like chocolate, to the chips before they hit the oven. Reserve any fresh toppings, like chopped fruit or whipped cream, until after the nachos have come out of the oven. 

14. Add texture to your tuna fish sandwich

There are many common qualms people have about tuna salad. Some may find that the canned fish has a tinny taste that overshadows the other ingredients, while others just have a strong aversion to the mayonnaise that often accompanies the fish. While a bag of tortilla chips may not be able to remediate these issues, it does make for a unique bite and can add some novel textures to an otherwise one-note salad. 

The key to integrating a crispy element like chips into your tuna salad is to recognize that leaving the chips in the salad too long will make it unpleasantly soggy. And we'd argue that the chunks of wet, starchy chips could make tuna salad even worse. Instead, you'll want to crush the chips up and add them to your salad right before you plan on eating it. Or, you can use a sturdy chip as a vehicle for the salad. Tortilla chips tend to be lighter than the bread that tuna salad is often served, meaning that your protein can take center stage. 

15. Use leftover tortilla chips as a binder or a topping for your burgers

No summertime barbecue is complete without freshly grilled burgers. If you're looking to step up your patty game, consider finding some fun and interesting ways to integrate tortilla chips into your routine. One simple way is to serve your sandwich with a topping of tortilla chips. You can turn up the Tex-Mex by adding a bit of taco seasoning to your patties and drizzling on some melted queso, too. 

The other alternative is to use the chips as a binder for your burgers. It's a particularly helpful addition to black bean patties, which tend to come out extra crumbly. Like other uses for these chips, the starchiness is super helpful in helping the beans stick together with other flavorful additions, like quinoa and peas. For the best results, be sure to pulse your chips in a food processor until they're finely-ground so that they can more readily soak up and hold in that moisture.