What Is a Tostada?

And how are they different from chalupas?

July 07, 2023
Tostadas de camaron Mexicanas, shrimps mexican food in mexico, sea foods


Tostadas de camaron Mexicanas, shrimps mexican food in mexico, sea foods

Photo by: Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/Getty Images

Marcos Elihu Castillo Ramirez/Getty Images

By Layla Khoury-Hanold for Food Network Kitchen

Layla Khoury-Hanold is a contributor at Food Network.

Maybe you’ve seen tostadas on the menus of your favorite Mexican restaurants or spied the flat shells at your grocery store. If you're wondering what a tostada is, exactly, we know just the person to ask. We consulted Margarita Carrillo Arronte, a restaurateur, chef, global ambassador of Mexican cuisine and author of The Mexican Vegetarian Cookbook.

Mexican octopus tostada flat tacos with orange chipotle sauce


Mexican octopus tostada flat tacos with orange chipotle sauce

Photo by: EzumeImages/Getty Images

EzumeImages/Getty Images

What Is a Tostada?

A tostada is a flat, crispy corn tortilla that is typically layered with mashed or refried beans, protein, cheese and toppings such as lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and avocado. In Spanish, the word tostada means toasted.

While the exact origin of tostadas is uncertain, “it was a tortilla dry-roasted on the comal—a circular Mexican griddle—before the Spaniards," explains Carrillo Arronte, "It was deep-fried after they came and brought lard and oil." Nowadays, tostadas are almost always deep-fried, but they can also be dry-roasted, she says. "They are prepared all over the country, on the coast mainly with seafood and in the rest of the country with any other toppings.”

Think of tostadas as a flat taco with a blank canvas. “The toppings are unlimited, like tacos and tamales,” Carrillo Arronte says. “It can be refried beans or mashed, with some protein and some finely sliced lettuce, sour cream, fresh cheese crumbles, avocado slices and salsa.”

Tostadas are a versatile, anywhere kind of meal. In Mexico, tostadas are purchased from street food vendors, prepared at home or eaten at restaurants, Carrillo Arronte says.


Photo by: Cavan Images/Getty Images

Cavan Images/Getty Images

Tostada vs Chalupa: What’s the Difference?

Tostadas and chalupas are both made from corn, but Carrillo Arronte says that the main difference is that tostadas are thin and crispy, whereas chalupas are thicker, softer and smaller. In addition, a chalupa, which means boat in Spanish, has a slight curve to its shape, and tostadas lie flat. Finally, tostadas are typically deep-fried (sometimes dry-roasted on a comal), whereas chalupas are always cooked on a comal with lard.


Photo by: The Good Brigade/Getty Images

The Good Brigade/Getty Images

How to Eat a Tostada

Tostadas can be messy to eat, but Carrillo Arronte is adamant about the proper way to eat a tostada: “Always with your bare hands. Never with a fork and knife!” Use your thumb and pointer finger to pinch-grip the sides of the tostada and take small bites, starting with the side that has the fewest ingredients and then slowly working your way to the middle.

Tostada Recipes

Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm
,Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm


Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm ,Food Stylist: Jamie Kimm

Photo by: Antonis Achilleos

Antonis Achilleos

This riff pulls in a savory bean-and-beef mixture alongside crunchy, refreshing shredded cabbage.



For a dinner that eats like a seven-layer-dip meets chicken tacos, look no further than these pulled chicken tostadas. Layer crunchy corn tortillas with smoky chipotle chicken and a medley of toppings including coleslaw, sour cream and avocado.

Photo by: David Malosh

David Malosh

For this flavorful spin on the Mexican staple, shrimp gets marinated in a smoky sauce (don’t skip the step of toasting the chiles!), and then seared and piled atop crispy fried tortillas spread with mashed avocado.

Here, tostadas are topped with a mashed bean base, citrusy cabbage slaw and shredded rotisserie chicken. File this one away for an easy weeknight supper.

Photo by: Ryan Dausch

Ryan Dausch

This vegetarian version starts with a base of mashed refried black beans, plus tender boiled sweet potatoes followed by chopped pineapple for a hit of sweetness.

Photo by: Photograph by Andrew Purcell

Photograph by Andrew Purcell

A savory breakfast-for-dinner or weekend brunch option, these crispy tostadas are topped with melty pepperjack cheese, chorizo, a runny-yolk egg and fresh pico de gallo.

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