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What are Tostadas?

Anna T.
Anna T.

Tostadas, a type of Mexican food, are corn tortillas served either fried, toasted, or baked and covered with a variety of different toppings. Typical toppings on tostadas are refried beans, guacamole, beef, cheese, chicken, lettuce, onion, salsa, or tomato. They are very similar to tacos except that they are usually left flat rather than folded in half. On most occasions, they are served as a main dish. Most people consider them one of the easier Mexican dishes to make because the preparation and cooking time is usually quick.

Chalupas are generally considered similar to tostadas. The primary difference between the two dishes is the type of tortilla used. A chalupa is usually made with a soft, flour tortilla while tostadas are made with harder corn tortillas. Chalupas are typically served flat and covered with toppings like tostadas, but the tortilla isn't always cooked. When making tostadas, the tortilla is normally cooked to ensure crispiness.

Tostadas may be served with guacamole.
Tostadas may be served with guacamole.

Tex-Mex cuisine is a phrase commonly attached to tostadas because of their popularity in the United States. Foods that are labeled Tex-Mex include any Latin American cuisine that became popular in Texas or other Southwestern states and is widely served throughout the US. These dishes may be identical or slightly altered versions of the original. In addition to tostadas, other foods frequently labeled as Tex-Mex are burritos, enchiladas, tacos, chalupas, guacamole, quesadillas, refried beans, salsa, and tamales.

Robust salsa is a traditional accompaniment to crispy tostadas.
Robust salsa is a traditional accompaniment to crispy tostadas.

There are a few differences between traditional Mexican cuisine and food that is considered Tex-Mex. The tastes of Mexican immigrants and Americans were not always the same, and as a result much of the Mexican food introduced to the United States was altered using slightly different ingredients and cooking methods. For example, pork is generally used instead of ground beef in most authentic Mexican recipes. In Tex-Mex cuisine, ground beef is much more common. Cheese is another ingredient that Americans often use in generous amounts in their version of Latin American cuisine.

A seafood tostada can be assembled using pan-fried fish fillets.
A seafood tostada can be assembled using pan-fried fish fillets.

Availability was another factor that may have influenced the differences between traditional Mexican food and its American version. Some food items that were readily available in Mexico may not have been as easy to acquire across the border. For example, certain recipes that may have been dependent on a particular type of chile pepper not grown in the US couldn't be made, so people often had to alter their recipes to work with ingredients that were accessible to them.

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Discussion Comments


@tolleranza - The Spanish word "carne" means meat in English so you know when you see a tostadas de carne then it is *not* vegetarian, and the article states that the tostadas usually come with beef or chicken.

And I remember from my Spanish class that "pollo" in Spanish means chicken so tostadas pollo would a chicken tostado.

I wish I could remember beef but all I can think of is the Spanish word "hamburgeusas" which meant hamburger in English (obviously), but I always loved the Spanish word for hamburger because I thought it sounded so much more sophisticated when I was in high school.

So the lesson here - do not order tostadas de carne if you are vegetarian!


Two Mexican foods or (as I can now correctly refer to them as after reading this article...) Tex-Mex foods that I truly want to try are these tostadas and tamales.

But now that I have researched a tostado and what makes them, I need to research what makes a tamale a tamale just in case they are too hot or have some crazy ingredient.

I have seen tostadas de carne on the Tex-Mex or Mexican restaurant and sadly my Spanish from high school evades me and I cannot recall what "carne" means in English so what does it mean in reference to a tostado?


@wavy58 - If you are eating a fried tostada, it won’t be as breakable as a baked or toasted one, so you could cut into it with a knife. You could slice it up into bite size pieces and eat them with a fork.

It is likely that you will still have problems with ingredients falling off the pieces, though. You might have to eat the stuff off of a section of the tortilla first, and then cut a piece of the tortilla to eat separately.

There really is no good way to eat a tostada. I don’t know why they were made the way they were, because it makes dining on them very difficult.


I went to a wedding reception once where they were serving mini tostadas as an appetizer. They were actually delicious and I keep hoping to see them at another party.

It was exactly what you would expect. A little fired tortilla with cheese, lettuce, tomato, beans and a little sour cream. No meat. They were great because its like having a perfect bite of Mexican food but it is not greasy or sloppy. They are probably a huge pain the neck to prepare but they are delicious to eat.


I love the flavor of fajitas, tacos, and tostadas, but they are just too messy to eat. I went to a Mexican restaurant on a date once, and I was too scared to order anything other than a salad and chips, because I would have made such a mess!

I know there’s got to be a better way to eat tostadas than picking them up like a pizza and crunching into them. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to avoid spilling the toppings all over myself, the table, and the floor when eating one?


I like to get tostadas when I go out to a Mexican recipe because they feel lighter to me. I'm sure that in the end they have as much fat and calories as anything else, but when I get tostadas I don't leave the restaurant feeling stuffed.

They tend to be heavy on the lettuce, tomato and beans and a little lighter on the meat and carb. Compared to eating enchiladas or a big burrito the tostada is almost refreshing.


I bake my tostadas, because I don’t like the greasy taste and feel of fried foods. I only have to stick them in the oven for a few minutes to get them crispy.

I chop up some avocado and saute some chicken in olive oil. I like to make my own pico de gallo by chopping up tomatoes, jalapenos, and onions. I scrape the seeds out of the jalapenos, because this helps reduce the spiciness.

The moisture from the avocado and pico de gallo soaks into the baked tortilla, keeping it from being too brittle. The flavor of the chicken goes great with the toppings.


I like fried tostadas with black beans, corn, and chicken. I fry the tortillas in hot canola oil until they turn golden brown. I heat the black beans and corn on the stove until they are warm, and I mash them a little to make them stick to the tortilla better.

Some people prefer to cook their own chicken for their tostadas, but I like using the canned kind. I save lots of time and trouble this way, and it tastes just fine. I heat it up a little in the microwave before mixing it with the beans and corn.

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    • Tostadas may be served with guacamole.
      By: Stuart Monk
      Tostadas may be served with guacamole.
    • Robust salsa is a traditional accompaniment to crispy tostadas.
      By: JJAVA
      Robust salsa is a traditional accompaniment to crispy tostadas.
    • A seafood tostada can be assembled using pan-fried fish fillets.
      By: tab62
      A seafood tostada can be assembled using pan-fried fish fillets.