When Good Food Goes Bad, Part II: Tortillas and Tortilla Chips

Tortilla chips go stale really fast in moist environments. REALLY humid places, like Georgia in the summer, can sog up a bag of crisps in mere minutes. It takes a little longer where I live for tortilla chips to be inedible, but they don't last more than a week after opening, usually.

I hate to throw out food, so I always try to figure out some way to use up stale and close-to-bad food, usually in some really awful culinary experiment, before throwing it away. So imagine my delight to find that there is actually a really good recipe for using up old tortilla chips.

Every culture finds a way to use up leftovers, usually starches and small amounts of veggies. In the U.S., we do it with casseroles. In Korea, bibimbap, which is a bowl of rice with small amounts of preserved or marinated veggies (topped with hot sauce, beef, and an egg, over-easy) is a great way for moms to use up bits of kimchi and fish cake. Fried rice, while glorious, is obviously the Chinese version of Tuna Surprise Deluxe Casserole.

In Northern Mexico, they make chilaquiles. Besides using up stale tortillas, it's apparently a great hangover food.

I don't eat many tortillas, but I do eat a fair number of tortilla chips. So when I read this recipe, which calls for frying stale tortillas in oil, I thought "Huh. That's pretty much a chip." I tested it out with chips instead of tortillas, and not only did it work well, but it probably took about 20 minutes less. But you can do it either way.

One note: if you have really salty tortilla chips, you can rinse them off with water before using them — they are going to get soggy anyway.

The recipe here is my take on chilaquiles from Epicurean.com.


Half a bag of stale tortilla chips
1 jalapeno pepper
1 can roasted mild green chiles
2 tomatoes, cooked (boiled or roasted)
1 pinch dried oregano (Mexican)
1/2 cup white cheese
2 T chopped onion
1/2 cup sour cream
salt to taste


  1. Grind the tomatoes in a blender with the oregano, jalapeno, green chiles, salt, and small amounts of water as needed until smooth but thick.
  2. In a skillet, heat the tomato sauce. Simmer for five minutes, add the tortilla chips, and remove from the heat. Add the cheese and allow it to melt.
  3. Top with onions and sour cream and serve.

You can also add chicken or leftover meat to this recipe. Some people like to throw fried or scrambled eggs on top.

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Will Chen's picture

Andrea, I am so hungry right now. Your post is so unfair.

Lynn Truong's picture

where is the line between stale and rotten chips? i'm looking at my bag o' unopened chips w/an expiration date of june 2006....

Andrea Karim's picture

Stale - your dog looks at you like you are nuts when you try to feed a chip to him. Rotten - the chip looks at you like you are nuts when you try to feed it to the dog.

Andrea Karim's picture

Wait until a LONG day of work has come to a close, and then go read our reader's Skittle-infused vodka recipe. No, wait. Take a high school econ test, fail, then wait for a long day of work to come to a close. THEN read Skittle-infused vodka recipe. THEN realize that you actually have several more hours of work before you go home to pack for Vegas.

Guest's picture

i am discusted

Guest's picture

Discusted? Wow, if that doesn't speak to a problem with our society, I don't know what does.

Guest's picture

haha second that, idiots these days!