What to Do With Leftover Nachos

When I started thinking about this topic “What do you do with leftover nachos,” I said it out loud. My husband looked at me and said, “What are leftover nachos?” It’s true, we don’t usually have leftover nachos in our home.

For one thing, we tend to serve them “deconstructed” so all the ingredients can be returned to the cabinet and fridge and used in other things.

For another thing. . . teenagers. It’s like a light goes off on the roof signaling that dinner is ready and they all come running. Sometimes, I even know all of their names. At any rate, if you find yourself with leftover nachos or leftover nacho ingredients, we’ve gathered up some delicious options for using them. 

You can avoid having leftover nachos by serving deconstructed nachos, like a nacho bar, or by cooking only small portions at a time. If you do find yourself with a big plate of leftover nachos, save them for Migas or chilaquiles.

For a quick snack or lunch, put the leftover nachos into a quesadilla or use the leftover toppings on a baked potato. Finally, when it is time for dinner, make a casserole, stacked enchiladas, taco soup, or tortilla soup. 

Continue reading for ideas on how you can avoid having leftover nachos, the best ways to reheat them for a quick snack, and ideas for using leftover nachos in breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes.

Avoiding Leftover Soggy Nachos

1. Serve Deconstructed Nachos

Nachos are a staple food in our house. They are the default answer to “What’s for Dinner?” We serve “deconstructed” nachos at our house so that we don’t end up with leftover nachos that could become soggy in the fridge the next day.

I guess you could say we have a “nacho bar” rather than a pan full of baked nachos. That way, we can all put exactly what we want on our own plate and we can store everything separately for use in another meal the next day.

In fact, nachos are a fantastic way to use leftovers from a previous meal! Try a variety of toppings for your nachos:

  • Shredded cheese: cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Colby, Oaxaca, queso fresco
  • Melted cheese: Velveeta or other meltable cheese
  • Meat: Seasoned ground beef, shredded chicken, sliced grilled chicken, leftover brisket, pulled pork, or leftover pot roast
  • Veggies: roasted corn, sliced jalapenos, and other peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, onions, cilantro
  • Beans: refried beans, pinto beans, ranch-style beans, or black beans. 
  • Cool toppings: sour cream, guacamole or sliced avocados, ranch dressing or spicy ranch dressing
  • Spicy toppings: Salsa or pico de gallo

Really, when you serve up a nacho bar, you can use up your leftovers, or save the leftovers for a meal later in the week (like taco soup — Yum!)

2. Cook Single Servings In the Air Fryer

If you just love melting shredded cheese over crispy tortilla chips, but you don’t want leftovers, cook single portions for each person in your air fryer. It only takes about 2 minutes to make nachos in the air fryer at 320-350 degrees.

You can control portion sizes and only make what people will actually eat. That way you won’t have lots of soggy leftovers. 

How do You Store Leftover Nachos?

When you have a plateful of leftover nachos, you need a way to save them for later. If your nachos are only shredded cheese baked on tortilla chips, just cover them loosely and pop them in the fridge for up to 2 days. Just don’t let them sit around too long or the chips will be very soggy.

If the nachos are covered with toppings that have a high liquid content like refried beans, meat with sauce, beans, sour cream, or guacamole, consider removing the toppings before storing them in the refrigerator overnight. This will help the chips not be so soggy the next day.

How Long Can You Leave Nachos Out?

You should not leave nachos out on the counter for more than 3 hours. If you have dairy toppings like sour cream, you should refrigerate it within an hour.

Guacamole or avocado slices should be refrigerated within 2 hours and covered tightly to keep them from turning brown.

Reheat Leftover Nachos & Add Extra Toppings

An obvious solution to what to do with leftover nachos is to eat them like nachos. Use one of the following methods to crisp them back up, add a few more toppings and you have a quick lunch or afternoon snack.

3. Reheat Nachos in the Oven

You can reheat leftover nachos in the oven. Be sure to take off any sour cream, guacamole, or toppings like lettuce that don’t heat well before putting them in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the nachos on a baking sheet and cover them loosely with foil. Heat for 10-15 minutes then enjoy.

4. Reheat Nachos in a Skillet

Another quick option for reheating nachos is to heat them in a large skillet. Again, remove toppings that don’t need to be heated like sour cream, lettuce, and guacamole.

Spray the pan with just a little non-stick cooking spray. Place the nachos in the pan and cover them loosely with foil or a lid that is too big. (You want any moisture to run out of the pan, not drip back into it.) Heat on medium for 5-10 minutes until the nachos reach your desired level of crispiness and the toppings are hot.

5. Reheat Nachos in a Broiler

You can reheat your nachos under a broiler. Of course, you should try to remove any cold toppings before putting them in the broiler.

The challenge here is that the top tends to get hot and even burn before the middle and the bottom gets warm. So if you want to use a broiler, be sure to spread the nachos out into a single layer and make sure the toppings are also evenly distributed. 

6. Reheat Nachos in the Toaster Oven

The toaster oven works the same as the regular oven when you reheat nachos. Of course, you should use smaller batches. Start by setting the toaster oven to 225 degrees and removing the cold toppings from your leftover nachos. Cook the nachos for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on them so they don’t burn. 

Breakfast Recipes for Using Leftover Nachos

A great way to use your leftover nachos is to incorporate them into a new recipe. This is especially helpful if you need to stretch your nachos into multiple servings. Give one of these recipes a try. 

7. Nacho Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles is a warm, cozy breakfast dish that is quick and easy to make. It is also a way to use up the leftover nachos for breakfast. Chilaquiles are corn tortilla chips simmered in a sauce. Then you can top them with anything from a fried egg to assorted veggies. 

Ingredients:

  • Leftover nachos / additional fresh corn tortilla chips
  • 2 cups mild enchilada sauce
  • 1 ½ cups salsa
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-4 eggs, fried sunny side up
  • crumbled queso fresco
  • cilantro, sour cream
  • green onion
  • jalapeño slices

Instructions

Start by making the sauce in a large skillet. Combine the enchilada sauce, salsa, and seasoning and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Add fresh chips if you have them and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then add the leftover nacho chips and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. While they simmer, fry a sunnyside-up egg for each person. 

Serve the saucy chips topped with a fried egg, cilantro, chopped green onion, sliced jalapeno, queso fresco, and sour cream. Add a splash of Cholula hot sauce for a little extra kick

Nacho Chilaquiles
Nachos and warm, cosy breakfast

8. Migas (Leftover Nacho Fritatta)

Migas are another easy Tex-Mex recipe to use up leftover nachos for breakfast. They are a bit like a nacho frittata and a bit like scrambled eggs.

Migas are a great way to use up stale tortilla chips, leftover nachos, and other leftover bits you have in the fridge. This dish is welcoming and homey for breakfast or brunch, or anytime you are hungry.  

Ingredients

  • Leftover nachos, broken up into pieces (or fried strips of corn tortillas)
  • 6 Eggs (Beaten, add 2 tablespoons of cream for a fluffier product)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ½ Onion chopped
  • 1-3 Jalapenos chopped (remove the seeds for a milder flavor, leave them in for more heat)
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • ½ Shredded cheese
  • Salsa (serve it on the side)

Instructions

Prepare all of the ingredients. This recipe cooks very quickly. In a large skillet,  heat 1 tablespoon of oil, then add the onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Cook until fragrant (about 2 minutes).

Pour in the beaten eggs and scramble them until they are almost done. Still in the broken-up chips or tortilla strips and finish cooking 1-2 minutes until the eggs are done. Serve with salsa, sour cream, and fresh flour tortillas.

Lunch Recipes for Leftover Nachos and Nacho Toppings

9. Make Quesadillas

At our house, you are more likely to get a quesadilla than a grilled cheese sandwich. You can put almost anything in a flour tortilla, toast it, and have a quick lunch.

But, I know you are thinking, we are talking about leftover nachos. Yes! Put your leftover nachos in your quesadilla. 

Ingredients

  • Leftover nachos broken into bite-sized pieces
  • Flour tortillas
  • Butter
  • Refried beans 
  • Shredded cheese

Instructions

Butter one side of a tortilla. And lay it butter side down in the skillet. Sprinkle on some shredded cheese. Place nachos and refried beans on one half of the tortilla and fold it over. When one side is toasty, flip it over and toast the other side. You can add any other fillings or toppings you like. 

10. Nacho Average Baked Potatoes

See what I did there? If you are lucky enough to have a leftover baked potato and lots of nacho toppings left from last night’s big game, combine them for a hearty, quick lunch. A baked potato covered with beans, taco meat, and queso is delicious and filling. 

Supper Recipes for Leftover Nachos and Nacho Toppings

11. Stacked Nacho Enchiladas

A proper enchilada is a rolled corn tortilla baked in a casserole dish and covered with sauce. I have never bothered trying to roll the tortillas for dinner at home. I just stack them up like lasagne.

You can use leftover nachos along with tortillas or fresh chips to make a stacked enchilada casserole.

Ingredients:

  • Leftover nachos
  • Tortilla chips or corn tortillas
  • black beans, 1 can, drained and rinsed 
  • 28 oz can red enchilada sauce, can or jar
  • 1 cup red salsa (choose your favorite level of heat)
  • Cheese (pick your favorite, Colby-jack, pepper-jack, Oaxaca, queso fresco)
  • Optional: Cooked, seasoned ground beef

Instructions

Layer leftover nachos in the bottom of a baking dish. Add a layer of meat, beans, enchilada sauce, and salsa. Top wich cheese. Add another layer of more chips or corn tortillas and the sauce mixture. Add a final layer of cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

12. Leftover Nacho Casserole

This is similar to the Nacho Enchiladas. Combine your leftover nachos with some kitchen staples to make a hearty week-night casserole. Feel free to mix it up with whatever ingredients you have on hand.

Ingredients

  • Leftover nachos / additional corn tortilla chips
  • 1 lb cooked ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning
  • ranch style beans – 1 can
  • black beans, 1 can drained and rinsed
  • 1 can ro-tel (diced tomatoes with green chiles)
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 cups shredded cheese

Instructions

Spread the leftover nachos in the bottom of a lightly greased baking dish. Brown the ground beef in a large skillet. When the meat is browned, add the beans, ro-tel, and sour cream to the skillet and mix.

Pour half of the mixture over the nachos in the bottom of the baking dish and sprinkle with ½ the shredded cheese. Add another layer of chips, meat, and beans, and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Try it with nacho cheese-flavored Doritos. No kidding — it’s really good.

Nacho Casserole
Beef Nacho Casserole

13. Tortilla Soup with Leftover Nacho Croutons

If you have a handful of leftover nachos, but not quite enough to feed the whole family, make up a batch of this chicken tortilla soup. Then crisp up the leftover nachos in the oven and serve them on the side like a cheesy crouton. 

Ingredients

  • 6 c chicken broth
  • 3 cups cooked and shredded chicken (breasts and thighs work beautifully for this)
  • Small bag of frozen corn
  • Small sweet onion chopped fine
  • 1 can ro-tel (diced tomatoes and green chiles)
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • Minced garlic, one clove
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6-8 corn tortillas cut into 1” strips 

Instructions

Combine everything in a large stockpot. Simmer until the tortillas begin to dissolve (30 minutes). Serve topped with shredded cheese.

Use some of the crispy leftover nachos as croutons. This soup freezes beautifully and tastes better and better the longer it cooks.

14. Taco Soup

Use your leftover nacho toppings in the soup and the leftover chips as a topping. Taco soup is easy, filling, and freezes well. In fact, it tastes better a day or two after it was cooked.

When you have leftover nacho toppings like onions, jalapenos, & taco meat, throw together a soup. It is also very easy to convert this to a vegetarian dish by simply leaving out the meat and using vegetable broth instead. We do this at our house and cook the meat in a separate pan. Everyone is happy!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • ½ packet ranch dressing powder
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • black beans drained and rinsed – 1 can
  • ranch style beans – 1 can
  • kidney beans – 1 can
  • 10 oz bag of frozen corn
  • 1 can of diced potatoes, drained (optional)
  • 1 can ro-tel (diced tomatoes and green chiles) 
  • 6 cups beef broth

Instructions:

In a large pot, brown 1 pound of ground beef (or use leftover) along with the chopped onion. Season with 1 packet of taco seasoning and ½ packet of ranch dressing powder.

Add all the other ingredients and cook until it is hot all the way through. Serve with chips if you have any. Cornbread is also a great option for a side dish on a cold day. You can also top it with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Final Thoughts

I personally would hate to throw away perfectly good nachos. Save your leftover nachos in the refrigerator overnight and have them the next day. You can eat them for breakfast in Migas or chilaquiles.

Try a quick lunch by adding them to a quesadilla or using the toppings on a baked potato. Or save them for dinner and create stacked enchiladas, nacho casserole, or serve them with tortilla soup or taco soup.

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