Three Delicious Ways to Use Your Leftover Tortillas

Don't waste past-prime tortillas—repurpose them in these delicious recipes instead.

corn tortilla recipes
Photo: Getty Images

Whether you get tortillas from an artisan or a grocery store, you certainly want to waste as few as possible. Tortillas can keep in the fridge for a few weeks. But as they near the end, once they've lost some vitality and flavor, you might want to look past tacos, burritos, and quesadillas.

Though using fresh tortillas will enhance any dish calling for them, some preparations can thrive even with old tortillas. So next time you have a half-sleeve of tortillas past their prime, consider, rather than tossing them, these three tasty saves.

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Fry Them into Tostadas

Black Bean Tostadas With Sweet Potato and Poblanos on a Plate on a Table
Victor Protasio

Aside from pulling tostada bases out of a store-bought sleeve, the swiftest way to make tostadas is to reach for a pan and some oil. A cast iron pan works. You don't need more than a half-inch of oil, more than enough to cover even the thickest tortilla. The process is simple. Set the heat to medium-high. Slip in your tortillas whole. (Make sure none overlap.) Fry each for about a minute on each side, or until the crips, rock-solid texture extends from rim to core.

With tongs, remove newly made tostadas from the pan, gently shaking off extra oil. Carefully set them on a dish covered with paper towels, for catching drippings.

Now you have the wafery base of a hearty, crunchy meal. If you have freshly cooked or leftover chicken, beef, or pork, add it to your tostada. With meat and sturdy base, a perfectly filling and balanced tostada is complete with no more additions but a sprinkling of cotija and a squeeze of lime. A smear of refried beans on the surface of the tortilla also adds flavor. Plus, this addition can help to keep other toppings in place. Try tuna on a tostada. Or heap on one of the truly great tostada toppings—cool ceviche zinging with citrus.

Try it here: Black Bean Tostadas With Sweet Potato and Poblanos

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Make Morning Chilaquiles

Red and Green Chilaquiles
Chilaquiles are excellent for breakfast and just as good for dinner. Oven-baked tortilla chips get smothered in a cumin and coriander spiced red sauce, and rotisserie chicken comes in to save you time. Finishing with salsa verde adds tanginess, and fried eggs deliver crispy white edges and a runny yolk. Get the recipe: Red and Green Chilaquiles. Greg DuPree

When you want a breakfast that means business, look to chilaquiles, a Mexican dish of pan-fried tortillas, egg, and often other fixings. In a first pan, cook your eggs however you want, whether scrambled, over easy, or sunny-side-up. In a second pan, toast old tortillas in a light slicking of oil, building some crispness and color on each side. Once they've crisped some, add salsa so that it reduces some and the tortillas get a little soupy. Do you have guac in the fridge? A favorite hot sauce? A good melting cheese? Throw it all on the end, once you've topped your lightly pan-fried tortillas with egg.

Try it here: Chilaquiles With Fried Eggs

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Bake Tortilla Chips

Chicken Nachos
Greg DuPree

If you have a whole bunch of tortillas to use, baking chips might be the best way to go. Simply slice tortillas into quarters or sixths, coat them in olive oil and salt, and bake at 350°F for 12 to 20 minutes. You're done once the tortillas have lost their softness. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you cook:

For one, flour tortillas bake differently than corn tortillas. Many flour tortillas are made with oil or lard, making them crisp faster in the oven if you decide to turn them into chips. Additionally, tortillas of different sizes and thicknesses will bake at different rates. Small, thin tortillas crisp quickly. Wide, thick tortillas might take more time, likely a few more minutes.

Homemade tortilla chips are best while still warm. Sometimes if you leave them out for too long, they can develop an overly firm crunch.

Consider experimenting with seasonings, like granulated garlic, curry powder and cayenne, or smoked salt. And if you really want to go next level, the leap from fresh tortilla chips to great nachos is an easy one to make.

Try it here: Cheesy Chicken Nachos

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