What is a Chalupa?

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

Aficionados of Mexican cuisine may consider the chalupa to be a favorite meal item. This tostada platter consists of a deep-fried corn-based dough filled with the diner's choice of foods. Common ingredients include ground beef, beans, or shredded chicken and vegetables.

In some places, chalupas are served with salsa and sour cream.
In some places, chalupas are served with salsa and sour cream.

The word chalupa comes from the Mexican-Spanish word for a canoe-like boat. This is because the chalupa itself resembles such a long canoe when shaped and cooked. Made from masa dough, the flavorful wrap is shaped by a mold. Once fried, the thin dough yields a crispy, flaky cup-shaped edible container. The crunchy tex-mex cuisine can then be filled with whatever the cook or eater prefers.

American chalupas often feature sour cream.
American chalupas often feature sour cream.

No matter the filling chosen, a chalupa is almost always a savory meal. A chicken chalupa, for example, is typically a blend of shredded chicken marinated in a flavorful sauce, combined with vegetables such as chopped onions or peppers. Various salsas can be added to the filling as well, such as red and green varieties. When pork is used to fill the shell, it is also often shredded, while beef can be shredded or ground and cooked before inserting.

Vegetarians can also enjoy chalupas. The fried dish can be very fulfilling when stuffed with beans. Cheese can also be used to fill the tortilla. Any vegetables desired can be added for a full-flavored, rounded meal.

In terms of tortilla-based dishes, this meal is similar to the sope and garnacha. The sope is a similar dish that is shorter, denser, and softer. The garnacha is smaller, fried corn tortilla, and usually features fillings similar to those used to fill tacos.

American chalupas differ from the traditional Mexican creations. They typically feature a deep-fried flat bread, which is chewier and thicker than a traditional chalupa. The fillings used for these types of chalupas are usually ground beef-based, accompanied by cheeses, sour cream, and lettuce. Special sauces, bacon, or salsas may also be used.

When preparing chalupas at home, they can be baked for convenience. Many cooks mix the filler together, stuff the tortilla being used with the mixture, and bake the whole piece until complete. Tortillas can also be fried, then filled with any desired fillings that have been sautéed, fried, or prepared in any way preferred.

Smaller versions of the chalupa, called chalupitas, can also be made. These little snacks are often served as appetizers. To make a chalupita, prepare a smaller chalupa crust, and fill it with beans, pepper, and sour cream. This treat is comparable to nachos.

Sara Schmidt
Sara Schmidt

A graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, Sara has a Master’s Degree in English, which she puts to use writing for wiseGEEK and several magazines, websites, and nonprofit organizations. She has published her own novella, and has other literary projects currently in progress. Sara’s varied interests have also led her to teach children in Spain, tutor college students, run CPR and first aid classes, and organize student retreats.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


Since I don't eat much meat, my favorite filling when I make chalupas is pinto beans. I mix these with some ricotta cheese, picante sauce and make sure to add some taco seasoning, onions and a little bit of garlic.

I also like to top them with some avocado, cilantro and a little bit of cheese. These make a wonderful meat free meal and because they have a lot of protein in them leave me very full and satisfied.


I like to make dessert chalupas on the same night that I make savory ones. It gives a nice and seamless transition from the main course to dessert.

I fry the tortillas before adding the filling, because the ingredients wouldn't do well in the oven. I use chopped bananas, chocolate mousse or pudding, homemade whipped cream, vanilla ice cream, and bits of shredded fried tortilla for the filling.

I love the mix of the savory tortilla exterior and strips with the sweet interior. It's a lovely combination of salty and sweet.


@Perdido – I have a sort of unusual chalupa method. I fill mine with ingredients I use to make my favorite soup, but I leave out the liquid.

I love chicken tortilla soup, and the vegetables that go in it seemed like they would make the perfect vegetarian chalupa. So, I marinated them in chicken broth to give them extra flavor before cooking them.

I use black beans, corn, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and minced garlic as filling. Those all came from my soup recipe, but I also add red bell pepper for an extra kick.


I love making shrimp chalupas. I use boiled shrimp seasoned with old bay. I add tomatoes, onions, green leaf lettuce, and a bit of cocktail sauce.

My friends think I'm strange to depart from the traditional chicken and beef recipes. They say my filling would be more appropriate for a pita pocket, but I happen to enjoy shrimp in Mexican dishes more than other meat, so I see no harm in creating my own version of the chalupa.

Does anyone else have any unconventional chalupa fillings? I have a feeling I'm not alone.


To me, there is nothing more satisfying than a beef chalupa with pico de gallo. My husband makes his own taco seasoning and adds it to the beef while cooking it, and the flavor is bold and delicious.

I chop up jalapenos, tomatoes, and onions for the pico de gallo. I simply add some garlic powder and it is ready to add to the beef mixture.

I personally don't like cheese, but my husband covers his beef in grate cheddar and heats it until it melts. My chalupa is not as moist as his because of this, but it is far from dry. The juices from the vegetables keep it moistened.


@watson42- I remember that too. I have a friend who likes to go to Taco Bell every once in awhile, and while those chalupas are okay, the genuine kind sounds a lot better, and probably is.


I remember when Taco Bell first started to serve chalupas, several years ago now.I don't really think that they had anything to do with this way to define chalupa, though, since take out foods usually have no real resemblance to the real foods.

Post your comments
Forgot password?