Tostada: Crispy fried corn tortillas topped with refried beans, cheese, avocado, tomato, shredded crunchy cabbage, and salsa. It’s like the ultimate giant nacho.
What is a tostada?
A tostada is a toasted tortilla. Tostada literally means toasted. The toasted tortillas turn into crispy, crunchy, giant round chips used as bases for other dishes. Tostadas can also refer to any dish that use tostada shells as a base. Think of them as an open face crispy taco or a crunchy flat taco. Anything that you can put in a taco, you can put on a tostada. Topped tostadas usually start with a base of refried beans (which help the other toppings stay on), meat, vegetables, and salsa. They’re savory, crunchy, flavor-packed goodness.
The difference between tostadas and tortillas
The only difference between a tortilla and a tostada is heat. Just like bread toasts to become toast, a tortilla needs heat to become a tostada. Usually tostadas are corn tortillas, but there are flour tostadas as well, they’re just more uncommon. A simple way to think of it is: tortilla = soft | tostada = crunchy
Homemade tostadas shells
Making tostada shells at home is the easiest thing ever and so rewarding. Warm tostada shells are amazing and when you fry up tortillas it gives them a different life and flavor.
To make homemade tostada shells, you can either make homemade tortillas, dry them out, and the fry them up OR you can use store bought tortillas and fry them up.
Personally, when I make fresh homemade tortillas there are never any left to turn into tostada shells so I always use store bought tortillas to fry into tostada shells.
How to fry tostada shells
All you need is oil and corn tortillas.
- Heat up a 1/4 inch of neutral oil in a small, heavy bottomed skillet or cast iron pan. You want the oil to reach 350°F. To test if the oil is hot enough, gently dip one edge of a tortilla into the oil. If it starts to bubble, the oil is hot.
- Add tortillas to the hot oil, one at a time, and fry, flipping once, until crisp, slightly puffy, and golden brown, about 1 to 1 and half minutes per side.
- Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels or a wire rack. Repeat until you have as many tostada shells as you need.
How to oven bake tostada shells
- Heat the oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a wire rack and place it on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Lightly spray or brush both sides of your corn tortillas and place them in a single layer on the prepped rack.
- Bake for 5 minutes, then flip and bake for another 2-3 minutes, or until the tortillas are crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. They’ll crisp up even more as they cool.
How to air fry tostada shells
If you ever just want to make one or two tostada shells, the air fryer is amazing.
- Preheat the air fryer to 370°F. Brush or spray corn tortillas with oil.
- Place the oiled tortilla in a lightly oiled air fryer basket and put an oven safe ramekin directly on top of the tortilla to weight it down so it doesn’t puff up too much while frying.
- Air fry for 4 minutes at 370°F, or until golden and crispy. Repeat as needed.
Store bought tostada shells
Store bought tostada shells are convenient and totally understandable if you don’t want to fry your own. If you’re going the store bought route, be sure to warm up the tostadas in the oven so they have that fresh from the fryer feel. Heat the oven to 350°F and lay the tostadas out in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 4-5 minutes, or until warmed through and toasty.
How to make tostadas
- Make the tostada shell. Crisp up your corn tortilla into a tostada shell.
- Top. Add a layer of warm refried beans, a bit of protein, shredded lettuce or cabbage, diced tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and cheese.
- Enjoy. Pick it up with your hands and dig in.
- Tortillas. All you need to make tostada shells are tortillas. Corn tortillas work best. I like the small street size corn tortillas, but if you prefer flour, you can use those as well.
- Oil. A neutral oil will help puff up and crisp your tortilla into a crunchy tostada shell. Any oil will work, but I like using a neutral oil (like grapeseed or canola) so it doesn’t detract from the tortilla flavor.
Toppings is where all the fun is at! Most tostadas start out with the crispy tortilla topped with refried beans, meat, vegetables, cheese, and then salsa.
- refried beans – refried beans give your tostada a little bed that helps hold the toppings on. You can use homemade refried beans or store-bought, just be sure to warm them up first so they’re hot and spreadable.
- meat – if you’re vegetarian, you can skip the meat and enjoy a refried bean tostada, but if you’re looking for extra protein, this is where you can get as fancy or as simple as you like. Either fry up your favorite meat with taco seasoning or go for a classic taco filling such as: birria, al pastor, barbacoa, chicken tinga, carnitas, or pork chile verde.
- vegetables – vegetables add crunch and color to tostadas. Try: shredded lettuce, shredded cabbage, diced red or green onions, avocados, cilantro, green onions, tomatoes, sliced radishes, lime
- cheese – you can use any cheese: shredded Mexican blend, queso fresco, cotija
- salsa – you can homemade some pico de gallo or your make your favorite salsa recipe. You can also use store bought salsa.
- crema – a little bit of creama or sour cream drizzled on top is a nice tangy touch.
Chicken tinga tostadas
Add 6 cloves garlic, 1/2 small can chipotle in adobo, 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes, 1 tsp Mexican oregano, and 1 tsp cumin to a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside. Heat up 1-2 tbsp oil in a skillet over medium heat and brown 1 medium onion, sliced. Stir in the blended sauce, 1 cup chicken stock, 2 bay leaves, and 4 cups cooked shredded chicken. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 10 minutes. Taste and season as needed. Use as per the recipe below. Makes enough chicken for 8-12 tostadas. Read more about chicken tinga here.
Soak 1 dried guajillo pepper in boiling hot water for 15 minutes. When soft, remove from the water, de-stem, and discard the seeds. Add the pepper to a blender, along with 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp Mexican oregano, 1 tsp cumin, 2 tbsp beef stock, and 2 tbsp white vinegar. Blend into a paste and rub all over 1 lb cubed chuck roast. Marinate for 2 hours or overnight. Brown 1/2 cup diced onion in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Add the marinated meat, a bay leaf, and 2 whole cloves to the pot. Barely cover the meat with beef stock and bring to a simmer over medium high. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook for 1 to 1.5 hours, or until the meat is tender and shreddable. Taste and season as needed. Use as per the recipe below. Makes enough barbacoa for 8-12 tostadas. Read more about barbacoa here.
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, add 1/2 lb of cubed pork belly, 1/2 tbsp Mexican oregano, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 chopped onion, 3 cloves of minced garlic, and 1/2 cup orange juice. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat, then turn down to the lowest heat. Cook, stirring, until the pork belly is soft and cooked through, about 1-2 hours. Shred the pork, remove it from the cooking liquid, and crisp over high heat. Taste and season as needed. Use as per the recipe below. Makes enough carnitas for 8-12 tostadas. Read more about carnitas here.
What do you eat with tostadas?
Tostadas are usually eaten on their own, like tacos, but if you’re wanting to make a feast, you can also serve:
- 4 corn tortillas
- 1/2 cup refried beans
- 1/2 cup protein of choice, per post
- 1 cup lettuce shredded
- 2 tbsp sour cream optional
- 1/4 cup tomatoes diced
- 2 tbsp onion diced
- 2 tbsp queso fresco or cojita, crumbled
- 1 tbsp cilantro chopped
Warm the refried beans in a small sauce pan over medium heat, while stirring. Loosen with 1-2 tbsp of water if needed to achieve a creamy consistency. Cover, keep warm, and set aside.
Heat up a 1/4 inch of oil in small skillet over medium high heat. When hot and shimmery, add in a corn tortilla and fry for 2 minutes, or until golden and crisp, flipping once. Let drain on paper towels or a wire rack.
Build the tostada: lay out both tostada shells and divide the refried beans on top, using the back of spoon to spread evenly. Top each tostada evenly with the protein, then add on the lettuce, sour cream, tomatoes, onions, queso fresco, and cilantro. Enjoy!
Estimated nutrition assumes chicken breast as your protein.
Amount Per Serving (2 tostadas)
Calories from Fat 67
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 2.8g18%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.