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By the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living and the online course Build a Better Pantry on a Budget
Whether you make your own from scratch (YUM – learn how here in the go-to, be-all, end-all tortilla-making guide) or buy them at the store, regular flour tortillas are one of the thriftiest foods around.
They can be used in a wide variety of ways that go way beyond the taco, as delicious as that may be. In this article, find out some of the fabulous fare you can create with the humble tortilla.
You can fill a burrito with just about anything. When I lived in Mexico, there were “burrito ladies.” They were little old ladies who sat on the roadside frequented by tourists and locals alike, in a lawn chair with a cooler beside them. Within that cooler was gold, my frugal friends. The ladies had anywhere between half a dozen to a dozen types of burritos in combos many don’t think of and I use some of these as jumping-off points for my own burritos.
My absolute favorite was the picadillo burrito. Picadillo is a Mexican stew made with ground beef, potatoes, peppers, onions, and spices all simmered together in tomato sauce. A lot of the burrito ladies also added canned corn and green beans to it. When it’s simmered down to the point it’s saucy instead of soupy, ladle it into your tortilla, fold, and voila!
That brings me to the fabulously frugal part about Mexican burritos: you can add a lot of inexpensive ingredients to create something delicious. Beans, rice, potatoes, drained canned veggies – as long as you season it well, your burrito will be delicious. Another thing about Mexican burritos – they rarely add cheese unless you specifically ask for it. When making your own thriftrrito, you might consider leaving out the cheese too.
I also became an amateur taco connoisseur when in Mexico. Like the burritos, most of the time they didn’t contain cheese either.
The perfect Mexican taco is a serving of protein (whatever you happen to have on hand, well-seasoned with some chili powder and cumin works!), and some toppings. The toppings were usually diced onion, finely chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. To make this the Frugalite way, you can get cilantro in a squeezy tube in your refrigerated herb section at the grocery store and you can grab lime juice in the big lime green bottle. A little of that cilantro goes a loooong way. Dice up your onion, add a teeny bit of cilantro, drizzle in some lime juice, and stir – you’ve got your taco-topping.
Finish it off with your favorite hot sauce, pico de Gallo, or salsa, and you’ve got a delicious treat.
I’ve always likened quesadillas to Mexican grilled cheese sandwiches. You can make them super simple – just cheese and tortillas cooked on your stovetop, or you can go all in, adding veggies and meat to your quesadilla.
I’ve found the trick to getting melty goodness is to put a lid on your skillet and leave it open-faced initially. Then, once your cheese is melted, either fold the tortilla over or top it with a second one. Then squash it down with your spatula, flip, and put the lid back on.
This is basically the same as classic quesadillas, but you fill it with delicious breakfast things. I like to use scrambled eggs, veggies, and sausage or bacon as my filling along with the cheese. Dip it in sour cream or salsa.
You can wrap just about anything! If you’re Southern you’ll probably put ranch dressing on it. I like to use a combo of meat, lettuce, tomato, and any other yummy ingredient I have kicking around.
This is the be-all and end-all way to use up tortillas that might be going stale. Chilaquiles are generally served for breakfast in Mexico. You slice up your tortillas, fry them until they’re crispy, then smother them in either red or green enchilada sauce. Some folks add meat to the mix and others top it with cheese.
This is a side dish – you’ll often see it on a plate with eggs and beans. Learn more about making chilaquiles in this article.
Oh my gosh. This is a fast-fried tortilla smothered in cinnamon sugar. You simply throw some butter or cooking oil in your skillet and get it hot. Then drop your tortilla in. It’ll start to puff up and that’s when you know it’s time to flip it. It takes about 30 seconds to 2 minutes per side, depending on your skillet and how high you have the heat. When it’s golden brown on each side, move the tortilla to a plate lined with a paper towel and bury that bad boy in your cinnamon sugar mix. Meanwhile, start working on your next tortilla.
Shake the excess topping off your first tortilla and move it to another plate. Repeat with the rest of your tortillas. You may think you’ll just eat one. It’s more like one-half-dozen, they’re that good. Here’s a recipe for making them.
Soup or salad topping
Mmmm…. you can either bake or fry strips of tortilla then crumble them onto your soup or salad for some southwestern crunch.
I have used tortillas as the base of personal pizzas for years. This was an awesome way to get my kids pizza without spending a fortune on takeout. You can find directions here in this article on homemade pizza.
This is a lot like the breakfast quesadilla, except you’re simply wrapping your breakfast food in a flour tortilla to make a portable pocket of breakfast for your commute.
You can make yummy tortilla cups that look fancy enough to dazzle guests on a dime. Always cook your tortilla cups before filling them or the results won’t be great.
Preheat your oven to 350. Then spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. Place a tortilla into the muffin cup and fold it in to form a little bowl. Bake it for about 10-12 minutes or until the whole thing is crisp.
Take the cups out carefully to cool on a baking rack. Then fill ’em to your heart’s content. I like to make mini taco salads in these.
Pinwheels are just tightly-wound wraps cut into slices. The trick is to use something sort of thick to keep the slices together. Seasoned cream cheese works beautifully for this.
Martha’s moo shu
Are you a fan of Chinese moo shu? You can make those little pancakes – they’re awesome – or you can take a shortcut and use tortillas for this. My beloved Marth Stewart has a recipe for moo shu pork using tortillas that you can find here. Feel free to substitute the shredded pork with shredded-whatever-you-have-on-hand.
How do you use tortillas, that bastion of the frugal kitchen?
Are any of these ways you commonly eat tortillas? Do you have other tantalizing tortilla treats to add to the list? Let’s talk about tortillas in the comments section.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.
11 thoughts on “Nifty Thrifty Things to Do with Tortillas”
I take a warmed tortilla, spread hummus down the center, load the hummus-covered area with sautéed veggies (zucchini, onion, peppers), and roll it up. Makes a delicious, easy to eat meal.
We use tortillas in place of bread when out in the field. PB & J sandwiches etc. are easier and take up little room in the packs. No need to worry about getting stale or getting crushed.
Drop some butter in a hot cast iron pan, crack an egg on the butter, break the yolk. Press a tortilla down onto the egg and turn off the heat. Come back in a couple of minutes and fold it in half with the egg in the middle and walk away with breakfast.
We eat rice and beans frequently and they are deliciously completed with a cheesy tortilla. Carefully broil the tortilla until it begins to puff and brown. Flip it over and run under the broiler briefly. Top with cheese of choice and one more quick session with the broiler makes a delicious, slightly crunchy grilled-cheesy bit of deliciousness!
We LOVE tortillas around here! My favorite that’s not on the list is to get smaller flour tortillas (not a fan of the corn) and put Biscoff Cookie Spread (or you can use Nutella) and roll it up and enjoy. It’s a nice, sweet treat!
Love the ideas you gave, some I’ve never heard before will definitely be checking out. I’m also debating on getting a tortilla press in case SHTF, but not sure what I want or if it will be a good investment.
In a pinch, I’ve diced tortillas and put them on top of a single serving of soup. Not dumplings by any means but it will do at work when everyone is ordering takeout and you’re trying to be frugal.
Yummy thank you!!! 🌞
Great ideas! It’s also possible to make a tortilla bowl by putting a tortilla in a regular bowl and microwaving it for a short amount of time, around 30 seconds or so. It will harden and then you can do it again to make more.
For those who have microwaves, I have another trick I like to use – I put a tortilla on a plate or shallow bowl, making sure there’s a depression in the middle. I whip an egg with spices of my choice and pour it into the shallow tortilla-dish. I might sprinkle a little cheese on it. Then I microwave it, carefully, checking every 30 seconds or so, until the egg is cooked to the middle. I can then add salsa or hot sauce and fold it in half. Very easy clean up!
As a diabetic, who loves bread, I found the 5 net carb wraps to be an indispensable part of my diet. I use my wraps for all of the above mentioned ideas. My favorites are bean burritos, pizza and PB&J wraps. And on occasion, I’ve made individual pies using a ‘cup’ and tofu chocolate or pumpkin pudding.
For the cups, you can more easily make them by turning the muffin tin upside down and proceed from there and get perfect cups every time.
It appears that you’re only talking about flour tortillas (judging by your examples of what to do). I prefer corn tortillas for several reasons. 1) Lower carbs, 2) cheaper, 3) they make great tortilla chips, 4) taquitos, 5) puffy tacos!
You can buy 100 corn tortillas at Costco for less than the price of 40 flour tortillas. We make tortilla chips out of the ones that break (cooking spray, salt, lime, in the oven). Here in Texas, flour tortillas are the more “Johnny come lately” type. I never saw a flour tortilla until 1981, in a “soft taco.” We all figured they were from California. It wasn’t until the fajita craze hit in 1983 that flour tortillas were everywhere… and dammit, the price of skirt steak almost quadrupled overnight! I used to pay 59 cents a pound for skirt steak back in college. It was cheaper than ground beef and I craved the protein. By the fall, that same cheap cut was marketed as “fajita meat” and cost $2.09.
After college, my first job sent me to their San Antonio office for a year. That was 84-85. I was introduced to the puffy taco at a place called Henry’s on the west side of S.A. The home of the puffy taco. You deep fry corn tortillas. I visit every time I go back. Worth it. I make a decent imitation, but it just isn’t the same. Their picadillo taco is out of this world!
Tortillas make good hot dog buns!!