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Jan 9, 2013 09:29 AM

Recycling Corn Tortilla Chip Crumbs

I must state a disclaimer before posting the suggestion here written. The suggestion is not originally mine, and I cannot remember the source.

The idea is to use the tortilla chip crumbs as a thickener for chili and stews, and any other savory dish that needs thickening.

I had 2 sources of chips for which I had lots of crumbs. I ground them in an electric coffee grinder that is solely for making bread crumbs and grinding dried herbs.

I discovered that the fine ground crumbs were sticking to the grinder during the process which required about 5 repeats for the amount of crumbs available. The crumbs have stored in a glass jar.

The sticky characteristic made me get the empty bags in which the chips came to read the ingredient list. The cause of the sticking of fine crumbs is that both bags had oil as an ingredients. Uh oh!!

I once made bread crumbs from a home-baked loaf the dough of which contained olive oil. Again stored in a glass jar, but over time mold developed due the oil.

This current experiment with the chips is being tested for mold-free crumbs by refrigerating the glass jar containing the crumbs.

Has anyone ever tried this process?

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  1. Well, no, I've never tried it. Is your primary goal to see if mold develops? If you're mainly interested in storing for long term, have you considered freezing the crumbs?

    I end up with a fair quantity of tortilla chip crumbs (not ground up) and tend to use them as a "topping" for chili, bean soups, even a bit added to cornbread for some tooth.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tcamp

      My primary goal prior to grinding the crumbs to use them as thickener, especially for chili. It was the sticky characteristic of the crumbs that I did not anticipate. I'm hoping that mold does not develop.

      Your suggestion to freeze the crumbs is a good one. The only freezer we is part of the refrigerator which is dominated with stuff my wife freezes like herbs that were fresh when harvested in the summer, exotica like Icelandic lamb chops which are only available for a short period at WHOLE FOODS, all kinds of different bread rolls as go alongs in the Italian culinary tradition, plastic containers of small amounts of homemade soups that have been in there since the last millennium, etc.

      My stuff, and I too have lots of stuff, some of it experimental, is relegated to a lowboy fridge with no freezer.

      Thank you for your reply.

    2. I make chilaquiles with stale broken chips. And I buy unsalted chips with this eventual use in mind.

      1. You can also use the crumbs to coat chicken breasts and bake. Taste like breaded fried chicken. Top with salsa and cheese (if you like) serve with some beans and rice

        1. Mold isn't the issue but rancidity is. Staleness too. It's not the oil that caused the mold; mold doesn't grow on oil. It primarily eats other stuff. And of course chips have to contain oil as they're fried. Just make sure the chips are dry (toast them or the resulting crumbs/dust in the oven) and there's virtually no chance of mold.

          I always store the chip scraps in a Ziploc in the freezer and then do just as you've described. Once you bust them down they take up virtually no room -- it seems like you could take a whole bag of Doritos and they'd only take up about a tablespoon once broken down.

          Alton Brown pointed out that grinding the chips back into dust results in the only food product known to man which you can revert into its original state after cooking.

          I find they're pretty much good only for chili and related dishes because of their distinct flavor, but they're great for that. As noted above, watch out for the salt content; you may wish to salt your chili less.

          4 Replies
          1. re: acgold7

            Another option for thickening chili is masa harina, the dry corn flour used to make tortillas. It gets around this rancid oil problem.

            1. re: paulj

              Right, that would be the original and authentic way to do it, but I think the whole point of using chips, which I always have in the house, is to get around having to buy a bag of masa, which I would have no other use for.

              I'm at the point where I no longer actually thicken my chili at all, but I know a lot of people like theirs thicker than I do. When you use the chip dust, be careful -- a little goes a long way and you do need to be careful not to burn the pot as it does tend to stick/scorch.

              1. re: paulj

                I've used masa harina in previous chili cooking. In fact, I have it in the house along with stone ground cornmeal. Both products have been used for making polenta as well as for thickening chili.

              2. re: acgold7

                Thanks for the post. One may wonder why I bother, but I like to experiment. I thought that the tortilla chips would lend a flavor that plain corn meal or masa harina would not impart.

                I think I will try your suggestion and see what the results are.