Homemade Tostadas

By Ann Fulton

A simple tortilla can be transformed into a golden, crisp tostada in under a minute. Then top with shredded meat, refried beans, cheese, salsa, and your other favorite toppings for a quick and easy, family friendly meal.
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Tostadas are an easy way to transform a soft tortilla into a crunchy base for all your favorite toppings–in under a minute. Taco night suddenly got a little more exciting!

 

Who doesn’t love Taco Tuesday?

No matter which night you enjoy the classic fare, a quick upgrade to a soft tortilla will create a deliciously crunchy base for all your favorite taco toppings and breathe new life into this casual meal.

An easy, economical weeknight meal for one, two, or a large family, the upgrade makes taco night especially fun for entertaining too.

So, what exactly is a tostada and how do you make them? Following are the details along with some helpful tips. I’ve also included lots of easy recipe inspiration, which goes far beyond taco meat and may be reason to add tostadas to the weekly lineup. 

What is a tostada?

A tostada is essentially an open-faced, crispy taco. And just like tacos can be stuffed with a variety of fillings representing a wide range of cuisines, tostadas offer a blank canvas for building crowd-pleasing meals with some fun factor. 

 

Transform a soft tortilla into a crisp, golden base for easy meals using your favorite meats, beans, cheeses, and veggies. It takes less than a minute per tortilla! 

How do you top a tostada?  

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. The following list, however, offers an excellent starting point. Keep in mind that layering ingredients allows for a mix of flavors and textures that create a satisfying, well-rounded meal.

  • Shredded meat like pulled pork, chicken, flank steak, or leftover chuck roast
  • Refried beans
  • Shredded cheese
  • Coleslaw or shredded lettuce
  • Pickled onions or minced red onions 
  • Avocado or guacamole
  • Salsa or chopped tomatoes

Similarly, international cuisines may inspire new ideas. Think Spicy Korean BBQ, Mexican carnitas, Mediterranean hummus, Caribbean fish, and Indian curried lentils–even good old American scrambled egg tacos. More inspiration and specific recipe links to follow. 

A simple tortilla can be transformed into a golden, crisp tostada in under a minute. Then top with shredded meat, refried beans, cheese, salsa, and your other favorite toppings for a quick and easy, family friendly meal.

One of our favorite ways to enjoy this easy meal is with leftover pulled pork or chicken. As an added benefit, tostadas will effectively stretch and reinvent those leftovers. I melt cheese on the crispy tostadas, then top with the warmed meat followed by something crisp or pickled. Cumin Lime Slaw is a favorite, as are Pickled Red Onions. Thin slices of avocado make a lovely addition too. 

A simple tortilla can be transformed into a golden, crisp tostada in under a minute. Then top with shredded meat, refried beans, cheese, salsa, and your other favorite toppings for a quick and easy, family friendly meal.

A restrained approach to topping will allow the crispy tostadas to truly shine. For a simple, protein-rich, vegetarian meal, I top tostadas with refried beans, crumbled cotija cheese (feta may be used as a substitute), and a few pickled onions. This easy combo has delighted even the most dedicated meat eaters I know!

Tips for constructing a great tostada:

  • Start with a “sticky” ingredient, like cheese, guacamole, refried beans, or pulled pork barbecue. This will help anchor a looser layer, like slaw or shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes.
  • If you want to eat the tostada with your hands, avoid piling the toppings too high, as they will likely fall off. Piled-high tostadas are best eaten with a fork and knife.
  • Wet ingredients like salsa are best added on top, where they won’t soak into the crisp tortilla. Similarly, drain off excess liquid in salsa and other “juicy” Ingredients to minimize drips when eating.
  • For maximum crispness, serve the tostadas soon after they are topped.

How do you eat a tostada?

A generously topped tostada is best eaten with a fork and knife, otherwise the toppings are likely to tumble off. A tostada that has been topped more judiciously, however, is destined to be finger food. Take a small bite to start; this will decrease the chance of the whole thing collapsing. A fork can then be used to scoop up any pieces that have fallen on the plate.

What are some fun themes and complementary ingredients?

  • Make a breakfast tostada, starting with guacamole and then adding scrambled eggs and a crumble of crisp bacon or smoked salmon. 
  • Enjoy a crisp, summery meal by topping with chicken, shrimp, or crab salad and then adding some chopped tomato, avocado, and/or corn, and a squeeze of lime.
  • Serve your favorite fish taco recipe on a tostada instead of in a tortilla.
  • Same goes for other meals that you serve in hard or soft taco shells. If using ground beef or turkey, it is helpful to start with a layer of refried beans or melted cheese—even guacamole—to anchor the meat in place.
  • For a simple, protein-rich, vegetarian meal, I top tostadas with refried beans, crumbled cotija cheese (feta may be used in a pinch), and a few pickled onions. The natural creaminess of refried beans is an ideal foil for the crisp tostada, and the easy combo has delighted even the most dedicated meat eaters I know!
  • Hummus offers an excellent alternative to refried beans and pairs well with all things Greek and Middle Eastern. (Think of Shawarma–a thinly sliced chicken–or your favorite Greek salad ingredients piled on top.)
  • Try spicy shrimp over guacamole and a sprinkle of corn or black beans.
  • Leftover chili works well if it’s thick or has been drained of excess juice.
  • Think to other favorite combinations like BLTs (or BLATs), Rachels and Reubens, fajitas, etc.

Can I reheat leftover tostadas?

I like to make extra when frying, and I’ve kept the leftovers for a week or so in the fridge. Leftover tostadas can be gently warmed in a very low oven, and I have had excellent results with warming in the microwave. Believe it or not, the tostadas crisp up nicely and do not become soft. Fifteen to 20 seconds is all it takes for a single tostada in my microwave. I often add a sprinkle of cheese so it melts at the same time. If topping with other ingredients that require warming, like leftover pulled pork or refried beans, I warm them separately.

What are the best oils for frying?

First I will point out that, for this recipe, the oil need not be really hot–it will be between 350℉ and 375℉, although a thermometer is not necessary. I use olive oil, and I know if the oil starts to smoke, it’s too hot. 

That said, the best oils for high heat cooking in general are peanut, canola, corn, grapeseed, safflower, sunflower, and sesame oil (the light variety, not the darker toasted) because they have a high smoke point (400°F or higher).

Following is a quick visual overview of the speedy process:

Transform a soft tortilla into a crisp, golden base for easy meals using your favorite meats, beans, cheeses, and veggies. It takes less than a minute per tortilla! 

A shallow layer of oil – just enough to submerge the thin tortilla – is all you need. When hot, the tortillas will turn golden almost instantly.

Transform a soft tortilla into a crisp, golden base for easy meals using your favorite meats, beans, cheeses, and veggies. It takes less than a minute per tortilla! 

When the bottom side is golden, flip and let the other side brown.

Transform a soft tortilla into a crisp, golden base for easy meals using your favorite meats, beans, cheeses, and veggies. It takes less than a minute per tortilla! 

Then allow the excess oil to drip back into the pan. When cooked in sufficiently hot oil, the tortillas absorb very little oil and do not feel greasy to the touch when eating. 

Transform a soft tortilla into a crisp, golden base for easy meals using your favorite meats, beans, cheeses, and veggies. It takes less than a minute per tortilla! 

Place the cooked tortillas on a paper towel-lined plate, and for added flavor, lightly sprinkle with salt.

Transform a soft tortilla into a crisp, golden base for easy meals using your favorite meats, beans, cheeses, and veggies. It takes less than a minute per tortilla! 

You can make as many or as few as you’d like. The process is quick and easy and adds a certain flair to taco night.

A simple tortilla can be transformed into a golden, crisp tostada in under a minute. Then top with shredded meat, refried beans, cheese, salsa, and your other favorite toppings for a quick and easy, family friendly meal.

Good tostadas are crispy, a touch salty, and form a delicious base for a variety of meal-worthy toppings. 

Recipe inspiration for your homemade tostadas:

Beyond these ideas, use your imagination to create mouthwatering tostadas with ingredients you enjoy. For example, this Scrambled Egg and Guacamole Breakfast Pizza would taste great as a tostada.

Similarly, you can reinvent last night’s chili, grilled fish, or rotisserie chicken as a tostada–you could even layer a tostada with reheated rice and leftover shrimp curry. Even chicken salad for a light, summery meal. Or hummus topped with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and black olives – or roasted vegetables and a sprinkle of feta.

The options are endless…and fun!

Homemade Tostadas
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 minute
Total Time: 5 minutes
Yield: as many as needed
A simple tortilla can be elevated into a golden, crisp tostada that forms the base of a deliciously easy weeknight meal. For more topping inspiration, refer to the post above.
Ingredients
  • Olive, avocado, or vegetable oil of choice
  • Corn tortillas
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Topping options: ¼-⅓ cup beans/meat per tostada (like refried beans [homemade or canned] taco meat, and/or pulled pork), cheese, avocado or guacamole, salsa or tomatoes, lettuce, coleslaw, onions or pickled onions
Instructions

Helpful tip: Tortillas will fry better when dry, so I like to place them on an ovenproof rack and bake them at 250°F for 5 to 10 minutes or until dry but not at all crisp. This is especially helpful with bags of older tortillas which, when stored in the fridge, often retain moisture. You may skip this step altogether with fresh tortillas that feel dry to the touch.

To fry the tortillas: Pour oil into a frying pan to about a quarter inch depth. Heat over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Tip: If you use your smallest skillet that accommodates the width of the tortilla, you’ll need less oil.

Using metal tongs, fry one tortilla at a time, using the tongs to ensure the tortilla is submerged. The tortilla will immediately develop bubbles. If not, the oil isn’t hot enough. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Use the tongs to peek underneath and flip when lightly golden. Both sides of the tortilla will cook quickly, about 30 seconds total, give or take. When golden on both sides, lift the tortilla out of the pan, letting the excess oil drip back into the pan. The tortilla should no longer be pliable. If not, let the oil heat up more before proceeding with additional tortillas.

Finishing Touch: Place the tortilla on a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the excess oil, and immediately sprinkle with salt to taste.

Tip: If you find the tortillas are browning too fast or the oil starts to smoke, reduce the heat to medium or medium low to allow the temperature to come down. This can happen when cooking multiple tortillas.

To keep the tostadas warm, place them on a baking sheet in a 200°F oven. If you’d like cheese as a bottom layer, you may add it and melt on the tostada this way too.

If you’re making multiple tostadas and get to a point where it’s difficult to submerge the tortillas, simply add more oil to the pan. When adding oil, do make sure to give it time to become hot before cooking another tortilla.

A few more things

Troubleshooting: Once you get the knack (which will take all of one or two tortillas!), making tostadas is easy.
Tortillas not becoming crisp or turning golden quickly? The oil is not hot enough. Simply give the oil more time to heat up.
Tortillas browning too fast? The oil is too hot. Reduce the heat and/or remove the pan from the heat briefly before proceeding.
The oil is smoking: It’s too hot. Remove the pan from the heat for a minute or two to cool slightly, and then adjust your heat down.

Helpful tips when building the tostadas:
• It helps to have something sticky on the bottom layer, whether refried beans, melted cheese, or even guacamole.
• To maintain maximum crispness, avoid adding wet ingredients, like salsa, first.
 Similarly, when using something that’s juicy, like shredded meat with a lot of cooking juices or a thin sauce, drain most of the liquid off before adding to the tostada. When eating as finger food, this will prevent a drippy tostada.

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