What to CookMexican CookingSnacksCooking with Scraps

A Mash-Up of Nachos and Chilaquiles

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I am supposed to be talking about cooking with scraps right now, telling you all about hardlikearmour’s smart use of cilantro stems in her salsa.

Photo by James Ransom

So here you go: It is smart. Herb stems are often discarded, but they are one of the easiest underutilized produce parts to incorporate into our cooking more often.


Honestly though, I’m having trouble focusing, because merely writing about her Tomato Arbol Totopos is making my mouth water—I want to head into the kitchen right now to make another batch. It’s no exaggeration when I say that after I had made these the first time for dinner, I loved them so much, ​I made them again for my next two meals. Yes, that’s correct, I made them again for breakfast and lunch the following day. (Pro tip: Make extra salsa and it will be easy for you to do the same.)

Photo by Bobbi Lin

Hardlikearmour's description of this appetizer as a cross between nachos and chilaquiles is apt. For any fellow skeptics of mushy foods, don't let the comparison to chilaquiles put you off. Just because these chips are coated in salsa doesn’t mean they're soggy—they’re ever-so-slightly softened but still crunchy, and the flavor is, as she says, "like the best nacho-​flavored tortilla chips you've ever eaten."

If you haven't yet planned a gathering for Cinco de Mayo, this recipe is reason enough to do so. Just be sure to invite your closest friends—the ones you're comfortable eating like a caveman in front of—this is a dish that calls for literal finger licking, not polite table manners.

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Tomato Arbol Totopos

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Serves 8 (give or take)

Tomato Arbol Salsa

  • 6 to 8 arbol chile pods (dried)
  • 1 tablespoon avocado or other neutral oil
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced cilantro stems (and/or leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin


  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, plus additional to thin
  • 1 to 2 generous pinches of kosher salt
  • 4 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled
  • 4 medium radishes, small dice
  • 1/4 cup pepitas, toasted
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped or torn cilantro leaves
  • 1 (16 to 18 ounce) bag sturdy, salted tortilla chips

Know of a great recipe hiding in the Food52 archives that uses an overlooked kitchen scrap (anything from commonly discarded produce parts to stale bread to bones and more)? Tell me about it in the comments: I want to know how you're turning what would otherwise be trash into a dish to treasure!

Tags: cooking with scraps, herb stems, cilantro, nachos, cinco de mayo