Tostadas

Tostadas to rival any restaurant made at home!

This tostada recipe will have everyone excited for tostada Tuesday – or any night you need a quick and easy dinner that everyone LOVES!  Shatteringly crispy tostadas are piled with creamy beans, grated cheese, juicy Mexican ground beef or shredded chicken (plus TONS of other options included), fresh shredded lettuce, bright tomatoes, and creamy avocados – does it get any better?!  This tostada recipe includes step by step instructions on how to achieve the crunchiest tostada shells (baked or fried), how to make the best beef or chicken for tostadas and all the best toppings. These tostadas can be prepped 100% ahead of time for a quick heat and eat meal that everyone will love!  And bonus, the meat is freezer friendly so you can get dinner on the table in minutes. 

showing how to top tostada shells by adding beans, cheese, beef, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream

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Tostada Recipe

I love tostadas because they are SO versatile, easy to make, and loaded with multiple flavors and textures all in one bite – crispy, crunchy, creamy, juicy, earthy, robust, spicy, cooling, fresh – ah, my happy place!  This Tostada recipe brings you all these flavors and textures in an easy weeknight meal that the whole family can agree upon. 

You can top your tostadas with Mexican beef or chicken that I made specifically for this recipe (both SO GOOD!), or any of your favorite Mexican proteins, leftover protein or my 10 Minute Mexican Chicken using rotisserie chicken.  No matter how you top your tostada shells, they are guaranteed to be a delightful addition to your weeknight dinner arsenal.

Why You’ll Love this tostada recipe:

  • DELICIOUS.  You know tostadas have got to be good when they boast all of the lovable, enticing qualities as tacos from the crunchy tostada shell to the juicy meat to the creamy beans, the crisp lettuce, to the silky sour cream.  To make these tostadas even better, I’ve included recipes for both ground beef tostadas and chicken tostadas – and they are phenomenal.  They are juicy, flavorful and once piled on the crispy tostada shells, the tostadas are unbeatable – I challenge you to find a restaurant that’s better than this homemade version ;).
  • CRISPY TOSTADA SHELLS.  I’ve included tips and tricks for the best homemade tostada shells you won’t find anywhere else – so shatteringly crispy every time!
  • QUICK AND EASY.  The tostadas are simple yet irresistibly delicious perfect for weeknights.  Just bake or fry your tostada shells while you cook up beef or chicken, gather your favorite toppings and dinner is served.
  • VERSATILE.  Tostadas are always a good idea whether for lunch, dinner, snacks, appetizers, or to impress at your next fiesta. You can go all out and make everything from scratch including the beans, salsa, and guacamole or you can go super simple with store bought. The tostadas can also be topped with virtually any protein or you can skip the protein all together and go vegetarian with bean, cheese and veggies.  As far as the toppings – there is no right or wrong!  Line up whatever you have on hand and let everyone layer their own tostada shells.
  • INEXPENSIVE.  Tostadas are very inexpensive to make with just corn tortillas (or make your own), beans, ground beef, and whatever toppings you choose yet they are so crave worthy I would spend big $$ on them.
  • GREAT FOR A CROWD.  Although we’re practicing social distancing right now, store this tostada recipe away for later because it’s the BEST to serve a crowd whether that’s your own family (no one waiting to pass around the toppings to complete their tostadas) or for a potluck, tailgating party, Cinco de Mayo, picnics, or swim parties.  You can fry up your tortillas ahead of time, keep the meat warm in the crockpot, line up all the toppings, and let everyone adorn their own tostadas. These hand-held heroes deliver all the flavor and addicting crunch without all the stress! 
  • MAKE AHEAD.  The tostadas and meat can be made days ahead of time and then warmed when ready.  You can also prep all of the toppings and store in airtight containers in the refrigerator.  Now all you have to do is warm the meat and eat!

WHAT IS A TOSTADA?

Tostada (pronounced tuh·staa·duh), means “toasted” in Spanish and refers to a flat, crispy tortilla that has been deep fried or baked (although fried tostada shells are more authentic) to create a rigid, golden, crunchy base. The tostada shell can be consumed alone, but is most often topped with refried beans, cheese, meat, lettuce, tomatoes and guacamole – much like a flat taco or open face sandwich. They are extremely popular at every Mexican restaurant and so popular that most grocery stores carry tostada shells- although homemade is so much better!

In Mexico, tostadas are often served with whatever fresh protein is available including tuna, shrimp, crab and octopus.  There are also more commonly eaten as snacks or sides to other Mexican dishes, namely soup and seafoods such as pozole, menudo, albondigas soup and caldo de pollo.

showing how to serve chicken tostadas by making a toppings bar cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and sour cream

Where do Tostadas Come from?

The tradition of tostadas dates back about 2,000 years ago and is said to be invented in Oaxaca, Mexico around the Monte Alban ruins.   Tostadas became a delicious and hearty way to extend and make use of leftover tortillas that were no longer fresh enough to fold for tacos but still fresh enough to be eaten. Frying or toasting the tortillas extended its shelf life up to weeks and in turn created the golden, crunchy, tostadas we all know and love today.

Today, tostadas can be found throughout the world, but Oaxaca still boasts its claim to tostada fame with the largest tostada in the world called a tlayuda which is as large as pizza!

Tostada Ingredients

Tostadas can be made countless ways with a number of different ingredients.  You literally could make a different tostada for the rest of your life by mixing up the protein, cheese, toppings or salsa.  That being said, there are a few essential elements to make tostadas.  You will need:   

Corn Tortillas

It might be tempting to pick up tostada shells at the grocery store (which is fine when you have zero time) but if you want the BEST tostada shells, then I recommend frying your own.  Homemade fried tostada shells taste far superior – SO crispy, hot and fresh – and they’re easy to make!  If you are looking for healthier tostada shells, you can also bake your tortillas and they will still taste great.

When purchasing corn tortillas, look for fresh, 100 percent corn tortillas.  Some corn tortillas also include flour but these won’t get crispy.  So, DON’T use La Tortilla Factory like I recommend for tacos (they are corn and flour) but instead use a brand like La Fe Tortilleria.  Also, look for the thinnest brand your grocery store sells – this will also ensure they get super crispy.

As far as oil, you can use peanut oil, vegetable oil or corn oil.  For baking, you can use any neutral tasting oil.

showing how to make tostadas by frying corn tortillas to make tostada shells

Refried Beans

Refried beans are the glue that all the toppings stick to so it is crucial that you use some sort of mashed beans or everything will slide off of your tostada!   Refried beans also add an irresistible creaminess that is heavenly with crunchy tostada shells. 

You can use pinto or black refried beans or make our own. You can also mash up other beans such as white beans, cannellini beans, and even chickpeas with a fork, or better yet, add them to your blender along with some sour cream.  If are opposed to using beans, then use a layer of mashed avocados mixed with lime juice and salt to secure the rest of the toppings.  

Meat

You can use any type of meat you like when it comes to tostadas from ground beef to ground turkey to pork to shredded chicken as long as it is generously seasoned so it’s nice and flavorful to hold up against the beans and toppings.  You also want to dice or shred the meat so it’s easy to eat without a fork. I’ve included two recipes specifically for this tostada recipe or you can use any of the following proteins:

CHICKEN

  • Shredded Mexican Chicken (Crockpot):  simmered with Mexican spices, salsa and green chilies for amazingly flavorful chicken that’s dripping with flavor and SO tender.   
  • Honey Lime Salsa Verde Chicken (Crockpot):  tangy, flavorful with just the right amount of kick all balanced by a hint of honey. 
  • Quick Mexican Chicken:  exploding with robust fiesta seasonings in a light sauce.  This chicken only requires 10 minutes start to finish by utilizing Rotisserie chicken for a juicy, easy shortcut.
  • Chicken Tinga: is another super quick and easy recipe made with shredded rotisserie chicken tossed in a saucy, smoky, spicy tomato chipotle sauce.
  • Quick Ground Turkey (from my tacos):  quick, easy, healthy and packed with flavor – you won’t even miss the beef with my secret ingredient!
  • Chipotle Chicken: smoky, robust and spicy. It is made with a wet rub which concentrates the flavor so the chicken only requires 30 minutes of marinating.  You may also marinate for up to 8 hours – whatever is more convenient for you!
  • Cilantro Lime Chicken: zesty, tangy and citrusy.  It requires 2-10 hours of marinating so you’ll want to save this dreamy chicken if you are short on time BUT so worth the wait.

BEEF

  • Beef Barbacoa (Crockpot): crazy juicy beef slow cooked until melt-in-your-mouth tender infused with a tangy, chipotle sauce spiked with cumin, oregano and lime juice – one of my favorites of all time!
  • Carne Asada: is the quintessential Mexican steak marinated in orange juice, lime juice, soy sauce and a splash of liquid smoke then spice rubbed with cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, garlic and onion. It’s juicy, flavorful and crazy good.

PORK

  • Carnitas (Crockpot):  juicy pork smothered in a dynamic fiesta spice rub then slow cooked with orange juice and lime juice all finished in the oven to create glorious caramelized crispy burnt ends. 
  • Salsa Verde Pork (Crockpot):  inspired by the aforementioned chicken but in juicier pork version.  It is tangy, flavorful with just the right amount of kick all balanced by a hint of honey. 
  • Ancho pork (from my tacos):  quick and easy 10 MINUTE recipe that’s exploding with flavor; chopped pork tenderloin is smothered in spices then cooked in skillet until golden then finished off with green chiles and lime juice.

Meat alternatives: 

For non-meat eaters, you can sauté some tofu with taco seasonings or omit it altogether and add a chunky salsa (see toppings) or sautéed veggies such as sweet potatoes, zucchini and/or corn.

Cheese

Queso fresco is traditionally crumbled on top of finished tostadas but you can also add shredded sharp cheddar, Monterrey or Jack cheese on top of the beans or even stirred directly into the beans to melt.

Veggie Toppings

Half the fun – and success – of tostadas are the toppings! It really makes them come alive with the explosion of tangy, creamy, crunchy all together.  Toppings are also a fun way to let everyone customize their own tostada shells.  Traditional tostada topping include lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream and avocados or guacamole but you can add whatever your heart desires. Here are some veggie topping ideas to choose from:  

  • Avocados: chopped or sliced avocados are the easiest avocado option and add a wonderful creaminess.
  • Tomatoes: seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes for a juicy, vibrant win or you can substitute with pico de gallo.
  • Pico de gallo:  is fresh tomato salsa that adds a vibrant, punchy freshness.  You can use my homemade pico de gallo recipe or store bought. You can make the pico de gallo ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Cilantro:  if you skip the pico de gallo, you can load on fresh cilantro and tomatoes instead for a fresh, zesty flair.
  • Pickle red onions:  I love pickled red onions!  They are bright, tangy, and punchy and a fantastic compliment to the creamy beans. 
  • Corn: if you skip the salsa recipes with corn, I recommend fresh charred sweet corn. You can also use canned sweet corn plain or char it in a skillet for an added smoky depth of flavor.
  • Fajita peppers: stir fried bell peppers are always a tasty way to mix up tostadas.  You can follow the instructions for the peppers in my Pork Fajitas recipe.
  • Other vegetables. sautéed or roasted zucchini, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. – pick your favs!
  • Jalapenos: amp up the heat with fresh jalapenos or I love pickled jalapenos.  They are especially great if you’re making a toppings bar so individuals can customize their spice level.   
top view of tomatoes, cilantro, onions, jalapenos, lime juice in a white bowl for the authentic pico de gallo recipe

Salsas and Guac

Last but not least, salsa, guacamole and sour cream that marry all of the flavor and textures together.   You can go as simple as store-bought salsa and sour cream or amp it up with homemade favorites like my 5-minute avocado crema or avocado corn salsa:

  • Sour cream or Mexican Crema: their refreshing, bright, silky creaminess compliments and cuts through the rich beans and meat.
  • Greek yogurt: is a great creamy alternative to sour cream if you are trying to save some calories. 
  • Dressings: instead of sour cream, try either Cilantro Lime Dressing or Tomatillo Avocado Ranch– they are SO addicting and make everything 10X better.
  • Avocado Crema: is my addiction and my preference over chopped avocados or guacamole and is what is shown in these tostada recipe photos.  Avocado crema is a marriage of avocados, sour cream and lime juice, is wonderfully silky, tangy and just takes minutes in your blender.  
  • Guacamole:  use my homemade guacamole recipe (amazing!) I use in my Street Tacos, your favorite recipe or even use store bought.
  • Salsa:  go with traditional restaurant style salsa, or chunky salsas with  varying textures and flavors like my black bean corn salsaavocado corn salsacharred corn salsapineapple salsa, or mango salsa– all SO good!
  • Hot Sauce: pass around the hot sauce for an easy, delicious way to customize heat.

How to Make Tostadas

I’m sharing how to make my FAVORITE ground beef tostadas, chicken tostadas and tostadas de tinga below, but with this simple guide formula, you can make tostadas with ANY protein!

  • Prep ingredients.  Begin by cooking or warming your protein and chopping your toppings so they are ready to adorn your fresh, warm crispy tostada shells.
  • Bake or fry Tortillas.  The best tostada recipe begins with crispy tostada shells.  I recommend frying up your own tostadas for the ultimate crispy experience – and yes, it is an experience. Instructions to follow.
  • Add Beans.  While the tortillas are baking or frying, warm the beans in a skillet along with some salsa.  The salsa not only adds flavor to the beans but adds moisture so the beans become spreadable.  The beans and salsa will seem too thick at first, but will come together beautifully as you keep stirring and warm through. If you’re making my ground beef tacos, I add the beans and salsa directly to the beef to simplify the process.  Spread an even layer of beans onto each tostada with a spatula – as much or as little as you like. 
  • Layer cheese.  Shredded cheese is optional, but if using, add it directly on top of the warm beans followed by warm meat.  Being sandwiched in between the warm beans and protein will help melt the cheese.  
  • Layer Protein.  Top the cheese with warmed protein of your choice. 
  • Layer Toppings.  Every tostada needs toppings! Create a topping bar after you chop the toppings so everyone can create their own favorite tostadas.  

How do You Make Homemade Tostada Shells?

You are welcome to bake or fry the corn tortillas to make tostada shells, but honestly fried tostada shells cannot be beat.  They are SO crispy you will be in tostada heaven!

Fried Tostada Shells:

Prepare tortillas

First, we want to poke the center of each tortilla 3 or 4 times.  This prevents the tortilla from puffing up too much when submerged in the hot oil; otherwise they puff up excessively and the parts of the tortilla that aren’t submerged don’t cook evenly.  Poking them with a fork allows the air trapped in the tortilla to escape so they don’t puff up as much.

Next, we dry out the tortillas to ensure they are crazy crunchy.  You can skip this step but it’s SO easy and hands off and really does make a huge difference and ensures maximum crispiness.To dry them out, bake for 10 minutes, switching sheet positions half way through.

cpoking holes in tortillas

Fry tortillas

Pour enough oil into a small cast-iron skillet so it reaches ¼-inch up the sides.  Heat the oil on medium high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F.  Protect your hands/arms by wearing oven mitts.  

Working with 1 tortilla at a time, add to hot oil and hold down with a metal spatula or potato masher to keep the tortilla flat and submerged in the oil. If the tortilla doesn’t bubble immediately, the oil is not hot enough.  Fry until fairly stiff, crisp and lightly browned, 45-60 seconds, flipping halfway through.  If the tortillas aren’t stiff and crispy, then the oil isn’t hot enough.

showing how to fry tostada shells by submerging in oil with a spatula

Drain Tortillas

Remove tortilla to the paper towel lined baking sheet using metal tongs, allowing excess oil to drip off.  Immediately sprinkle with kosher salt.  Repeat with all of the tortillas, adding additional oil if needed and heating to 350 before adding the next tortilla.

showing how to make tostada shells by placing on paper towels to drain after frying

Baked Tostada Shells:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Divide 12 corn tortillas between two rimmed baking sheets and lightly brush both sides with vegetable oil; sprinkle with kosher salt.  You can also spray with cooking but brushing with oil will produce crispier tostada shells.
  • Bake for 5 minutes then flip tortillas over, switch position of baking sheets in the oven and bake an additional 5 minutes or until they are golden and crispy.

Store-bought Tostada Shells:

While I highly encourage homemade tostada shells, you can also find fried tostada shells at your grocery store. If your store carries them, they should be located by the hard taco shells or tortillas.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Spread tostada shells out in an even layer on 1-2 baking sheets.
  • Heat for 4 to 5 minutes, or until warmed, keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

HOW TO MAKE BEEF TOSTADAS

My FAVORITE topping for tostadas is my taco ground beef that I use in my burritos and baked taco recipes – because this isn’t just any taco ground beef, it’s packed with flavor from browning the meat with sautéed onions, garlic and homemade taco seasoning then stirring refried beans and salsa directly into the beef – drool.  The filling becomes hearty yet creamy all at the same time – pure savory comfort food at its most addicting and it saves you the step of adding a separate bean layer to the tostadas!  Pile the creamy ground beef mixture on the crunchy tostada shells and load them with toppings and the intoxicating symphony of flavors and textures will have everyone coming back for thirds and fourths…

  • Cook beef and onions:  Cook up the beef and onions, crumbling the beef as you cook over medium heat.  When the beef is almost cooked through, add the homemade taco seasoning and the garlic.
showing how to make tostada recipe by browning beef and onions in a skillet
  • Add beans:  Stir in the refried beans, green chilies and salsa. Stir over medium-low heat until the beans are completely incorporated into the beef mixture.  The beans help thicken the meat up and add a delightfully creamy texture. 
showing how to make tostada recipe by adding refried beans, salsa, and green chilies to ground beef
  • Serve!  To serve tostadas, spread a generous amount of beef/bean mixture over tostadas shells, sprinkle with cheese and top with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado crema/sour cream etc. then dig in!
showing how to make best tostada recipe by topping tostada shell with refried beans, beef, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados and sour cream

HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN TOSTADAS

You can make Chicken Tostadas (or Tostadas de Pollo) with any of my aforementioned Mexican chicken recipes or I LOVE this easy chicken recipe.  The chicken gets simmered with chicken broth, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander, onion powder and garlic until shreddable tender.  The liquid reduces as it cooks, soaking into the chicken until it creates a thick sauce to toss the shredded chicken in.  And best of all – this Chicken Tostada recipe uses pantry friendly ingredients that require zero prep so you can make it any time!

  • Bloom spices. Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add all of the seasonings and cook for 30 seconds.  Add tomato paste and cook one minute.  Stir in broth, cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon and green chiles.  The cocoa powder and sugar might seem odd, but they mimic Mexican chocolate to add a mole depth and flair.
showing how to make chicken tostadas by blooming spices in a cast iron skillet
  • Simmer chicken.  Bring to a simmer, add chicken, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until chicken is tender enough to shred 25-35 minutes, flipping halfway through. Keep an eye on it towards the end, adding additional chicken broth if it evaporates before the chicken is done.   
showing how  to make chicken tostadas by adding chicken broth, green chilies and tomato paste to a skillet to braise chicken
  • Shred chicken.  Shred chicken into bite size pieces and toss in remaining sauce/juices in the pan, and a splash of lime juice.  Add additional chicken broth if desired for saucier chicken.
showing how to make chicken tostadas by shredding chicken
  • Warm beans. Add beans and salsa to medium skillet and heat over medium heat until warmed through, stirring until smooth. 
  • Serve!  To serve Chicken Tostadas, spread a generous amount of beans over tostadas shells, sprinkle with cheese, top with chicken followed by lettuce, tomatoes, avocado crema/sour cream etc. EAT!
showing how to make chicken tostadas by layering tostada shells with refried beans and chicken
showing how to make chicken tostadas by adding chicken tostada shells over beans

HOW TO MAKE TOSTADAS DE TINGA

Tostadas de Tinga are one of the most popular ways to serve chicken tinga.  The shredded chicken in saucy, smoky, spicy tomato chipotle sauce is the perfect companion to the cooling, creamy beans.  You can read more details about chicken tinga in my complete chicken tinga recipe post but for our purposes, here is how tot make Tostadas de Tinga:

  • Cook onions.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Once hot, add the onions and sauté for 4-5 minutes.   
  • Add sauce ingredients.  Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Stir in chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, fire roasted diced tomatoes, green chiles, chicken bouillon, dried oregano, dried cumin, dried coriander and salt.  Bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for 5 minutes.
showing how to make chicken tinga by adding chipotle chile peppers in adobe, green chiles, cumin and oregano
  • Blend sauce ingredients.  Transfer the tomato mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, taking care to let some of the steam escape or it can explode.
  • Add chicken.  Return sauce to the skillet and stir in rotisserie chicken.  Heat over low heat for 3 minutes. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper or chopped chipotles.
showing how to make Tostadas de Tinga by stirring chicken into chipotle sauce before adding to tostada shells
  • Warm beans. Add beans and salsa to medium skillet and heat over medium heat until warmed through, stirring until smooth. 
  • Serve!  To serve Tostadas de Tinga, spread a generous amount of beans over tostadas shells, sprinkle with cheese, top with chicken followed by lettuce, tomatoes, avocado crema/sour cream etc.
two tongs scooping up chicken tinga to serve

WHAT TO SERVE WITH TOSTADAS?

Tostada Tips & Tricks

  • Use correct tortillas. Look for fresh, 100 percent corn tortillas.  Some corn tortillas also include flour but these won’t get crispy.  Also, look for the thinnest brand your grocery store sells – this will also ensure they get super crispy.
  • Prep toppings first.  Prep all of your toppings before you begin making the tostada shells or protein so you can pile everything on warm, fresh tostada shells.  You don’t want to have to pause to do your chopping. 
  • Use correct oil.  Our goal of deep frying the tostada shells is to create a deeply golden, crunchy exterior.  To do this, you need an oil with a high smoking point (around 450°F/232°C) and neutral flavor.  If you select an oil with a low smoking point, not only will you have an incredible amount of smoke, but the oil will break down creating an unpleasant odor and unappetizing taste. Oils suitable for frying include: vegetable oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil and sunflower oil.
  • Use hot enough oil.  If the tortilla doesn’t bubble immediately once added to the oil, the oil is not hot enough. Also, if the tortillas aren’t stiff and crispy after removing from the oil, then the oil isn’t hot enough. Remove the tortilla and increase the heat and try again. 
  • Wear oven mitts.  You need to wear oven mitts to protect your hands and arms from splattering hot oil that the bubbles in the tortillas cause, especially because you will be in close proximity using the spatula to hold the tortilla down.
  • Use paper towels. Transfer fried tostada shells to a paper towel lined surface to drain. You don’t want them sitting in excess oil or they won’t be as crispy.
  • Don’t stack.  Don’t stack the tostada shells after frying or if they are at all warm or they will steam and you will lose that coveted crispiness. Line the tostadas in a single layer with a little breathing room in between each one.
  • Don’t pre-assemble.  Only assemble the tostadas once you are ready to serve for maximum crunchiness.  
  • Serve Chipotle style:  Create a toppings bar like they do at Chipotle and let everyone top their own tostadas for zero lag time.
  • Prep ahead.  Don’t worry about not being able to pre-assemble the tostadas; you can still prep ahead by making the tostada shells, protein and toppings then just reheat the protein when ready to serve.

How do you eat tostadas?

Eating tostadas can be a delightfully messy ordeal but I find using small bites is the best way to keep everything intact. Also make sure you use refried beans or mashed avocados to help secure the toppings. Don’t pile the toppings too high or expect an avalanche ;). To eat, pick up the tostada with two hands and eat it like a sandwich or slice of pizza.

CAN I DOUBLE THIS RECIPE?

Yes!  This tostada recipe is ideal to double or triple.  Just use the handy up or down arrows in the recipe card next to the servings and it will calculate the exact measurements for the ground beef.  You can also freeze leftover ground beef (or any protein) in portion size bags for a quick thaw and heat dinner.

WHAT CAN I MAKE AHEAD?

Tostadas are an ideal prep ahead dish.  While tostadas are very best fresh, they are still delicious if made ahead.

  • Make tostadas. The tostadas can be made up to 5 days ahead of time, cooled, then stored in an airtight container/freezer bag at room temperature.    
  • Make protein.  Make the ground beef, chicken or other desired protein and refrigerate for up to three days.  Gently warm in a skillet with a splash of water when ready to serve.  
  • Make beans. I don’t think you making the beans ahead of time saves much time because they need to be reheated anyway.  Still, you can combine the beans and salsa then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Toppings. The toppings can be chopped and stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator or small covered serving bowls.  The guacamole and avocado crema (if using) will keep for up to a day without changing color very much – just make sure to press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the guac/crema to prevent oxidation. 
showing how to serve tostadas by lining on a platter and drizzling with avocado crema

How to Store Tostadas

Tostadas should not be assembled before storing, rather store all of the components separately.

  • Tostadas:  Store cooled tostadas in an airtight container/freezer bag at room temperature to keep them crunchy. I know they stay crunchy for at least 7 days but we’ve never had any leftover after that to test!  
  • Chicken, Beef or Pork:  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Beans: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
  • Toppings:  Store in separate airtight containers or plastic bags for up to 3 days.

How to Reheat Tostada Shells

I honestly don’t usually reheat the tostada shells and just the meat, but you are welcome to reheat them if you wish.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Spread tostada shells out in an even layer on 1-2 baking sheets.
  • Heat for 3-4 minutes, or until warmed, keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVERS?

Leftover tostada shells are awesome to have on hand!  You can crush them up and add to salads like my Southwest Salad, Burrito Bowls, or soups like Chicken Tortilla Soup, Verde Chicken Tortilla Soup or Mexican Chicken Corn Chowder or break them up and serve as chips for dipping in Queso Blanco – yum!  You can also break them up and use in breakfast favorites Chilaquiles, Migas, or Huevos Rancheros.

HOW TO FREEZE TOSTADA Meat

The ground beef freezes very well so all you have to do is thaw the meat, heat it up, add to the tostadas and dinner is served!   To freeze:

  1. Prepare tostada meat according to directions.
  2. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Add filling to a freezer size plastic bag.
  4. Press bag flat and squeeze out excess air to prevent freezer burn.
  5. Seal, label and freeze for up to 3 months.

HOW TO REHEAT

  1. When ready to use, defrost tostadas meat in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Transfer filling to a skillet and warm over medium heat. 
  3. If the filling seems dry, stir in some water or salsa.

HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE Tostadas

  • Cast iron skillet:  A quality cast iron skillet is a must in your cooking arsenal!   It is perfect for frying tortillas for tostadas or for searing and creating a deeply golden exterior on everything from roast, to pork to chicken and seamlessly transitions from the stove to the oven. I love my super high quality Staub and Le Creuset.  They are a one-time pricey purchase that will last a lifetime.  You can also go with a more economical, trusty skillet like this one which  also works very well.
  • Large Jelly Roll Pan (15”L x 21:W x 1”H):  I use this pan all the time and is great when you don’t want food to overlap. This pan is commercial grade, 18-gauge aluminum for great strength and durability and can hold your heaviest food without warping.
  • Grease Splatter Screen: is SO helpful!  It stops 99% of splashes which keeps you safe and your backsplash and counters free of grease.  This multipurpose kitchen tool also doubles as a strainer, steamer, and a cooling rack and is rustproof and dishwasher safe with a lifetime guarantee.
  • Spider Strainer Ladle:  is a must for frying! This is my favorite one as it is more solid and durable than the similar products and it has an extra-long handle to keep you safe.  
  • Cheese grater: I use this kitchen tool constantly because FRESHLY grated cheese as opposed to bagged shredded cheese is always the way to go!  Using freshly grated cheese also saves money, tastes better, and MELTS better. 
up close of tostada topped with beef, beans, lettuce and tomatoes to show how crisp the tostada shell is

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Tostada

his tostada recipe will have everyone excited for tostada Tuesday – or any night you need a quick and easy dinner that everyone LOVES! Shatteringly crispy tostadas are piled with creamy beans, grated cheese, juicy Mexican ground beef or shredded chicken (plus TONS of other options included), fresh shredded lettuce, bright tomatoes, and creamy avocados – does it get any better?! This tostada recipe includes step by step instructions on how to achieve the crunchiest tostada shells (baked or fried), how to make the best beef or chicken for tostadas and all the best toppings. These tostadas can be prepped 100% ahead of time for a quick heat and eat meal that everyone will love! And bonus, the meat is freezer friendly so you can get dinner on the table in minutes. v
Servings: 12 tostadas
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

TOSTADAS

BEEF (see Notes for Chicken)

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced or 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tsp EACH ground cumin, ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt
  • 1 16 oz. can refried beans
  • 1 4 oz. can mild diced green chilies
  • 1/2 cup salsa (use medium for more of a kick)
  • hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste

TOPPINGS (pick your favs)

Instructions

TOSTADAS (See Notes for Baking Instructions)

  • PREP TORTILLAS: Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions; preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line tortillas in an even layer on two baking sheets then use a fork to poke the center of each tortilla 3 or 4 times (to prevent puffing when frying/more even cooking). Bake for 10 minutes to help them dry out and fry up crispier, switching sheet positions half way through. Meanwhile, prepare another baking sheet for fried tortillas by lining with several layers of paper towels. Don’t turn off oven.
  • FRY TORTILLAS: Pour enough oil into a small cast-iron skillet so it reaches ¼-inch up the sides. Heat the oil on medium high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F. Protect your hands/arms by wearing oven mitts.
  • Working with 1 tortilla at a time, add to hot oil and hold down with a metal spatula or spyder to keep tortilla flat and submerged in oil. If the tortilla doesn’t bubble immediately, the oil is not hot enough. Fry until fairly stiff, crispy and lightly browned, 45-60 seconds, flipping halfway through. If the tortillas aren’t stiff and crispy, then the oil isn’t hot enough.
  • Remove tortilla to the paper towel lined baking sheet using metal tongs, allowing excess oil to drip off. Immediately sprinkle with salt. Repeat with all of the tortillas, adding additional oil if needed and heating to 350 before adding the next tortilla. *To keep tostadas warm, transfer baking sheet to the oven at 250 degrees F until ready to serve.

BEEF

  • Brown beef and onions in a large skillet, breaking up clumps of beef as you cook. When almost browned, add all seasonings and garlic and continue to cook until beef is completely cooked through.
  • Add refried beans, salsa and green chilies. Stir over medium-low heat until the beans are completely incorporated into the beef mixture. Taste and season with salt and hot sauce or cayenne pepper to taste if desired.

TOPPINGS

  • To serve tostadas, spread a generous amount of beef mixture over tostadas shells, sprinkle with cheese and top with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado crema/sour cream etc.

Notes

Baked Tostada Shells:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Divide 12 corn tortillas between two rimmed baking sheets and lightly brush both sides with vegetable oil; sprinkle with kosher salt.  You can also spray with cooking but brushing with oil will produce crispier tostada shells.
  • Bake for 5 minutes then flip tortillas over, switch position of baking sheets in the oven and bake an additional 5 minutes or until they are golden and crispy.

PROTEIN OPTIONS

  • See post for TONS of Mexican protein options including chicken, beef and pork (& 10 Minute Mexican Chicken!)
  • If using any other protein (other than above ground beef recipe in which beans are added directly to the beef), heat 2 16 oz. can refried beans in a large skillet with ⅓ cup salsa until warmed through, stirring until smooth. 

CHICKEN TOSTADA RECIPE

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ pound chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tsp EACH ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder
  • ½ tsp EACH smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt, ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • ½ tsp EACH cocoa powder, sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 4 oz. can mild chopped green chiles 
  • splash of lime juice
  • 2 16 oz. cans refried beans
  • ⅓ cup salsa
CHICKEN
  • Whisk together all of the seasonings; set aside.
  • Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a large cast iron skillet or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add all of the seasonings (through cayenne) and cook for 30 seconds.  Add tomato paste and cook one minute.  Stir in broth, cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon and green chiles. 
  • Bring to a simmer, add chicken, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until chicken is tender enough to shred 25-35 minutes, flipping halfway through. Keep an eye on it towards the end, adding additional chicken broth if it evaporates before the chicken is done.   
  • Shred chicken into bite size pieces and toss in remaining sauce/juices in the pan, and a splash of lime juice.  Add additional chicken broth if desired for saucier chicken.
TOPPINGS 
  • Add beans and salsa to medium skillet and heat over medium heat until warmed through, stirring until smooth. 
  • To serve tostadas, spread a generous amount of beans over tostadas shells, sprinkle with cheese, top with chicken followed by lettuce, tomatoes, avocado crema/sour cream etc.

Tostada Tips & Tricks

  • Use correct tortillas. Look for fresh, 100 percent corn tortillas.  Some corn tortillas also include flour but these won’t get crispy.  Also, look for the thinnest brand your grocery store sells – this will also ensure they get super crispy.
  • Prep toppings first.  Prep all of your toppings before you begin making the tostada shells or protein so you can pile everything on warm, fresh tostada shells.  You don’t want to have to pause to do your chopping. 
  • Use correct oil.  Our goal of deep frying the tostada shells is to create a deeply golden, crunchy exterior.  To do this, you need an oil with a high smoking point (around 450°F/232°C) and neutral flavor.  If you select an oil with a low smoking point, not only will you have an incredible amount of smoke, but the oil will break down creating an unpleasant odor and unappetizing taste. Oils suitable for frying include: vegetable oil, peanut oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, canola oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil and sunflower oil.
  • Use hot enough oil.  If the tortilla doesn’t bubble immediately once added to the oil, the oil is not hot enough. Also, if the tortillas aren’t stiff and crispy after removing from the oil, then the oil isn’t hot enough. Remove the tortilla and increase the heat and try again. 
  • Wear oven mitts.  You need to wear oven mitts to protect your hands and arms from splattering hot oil that the bubbles in the tortillas cause, especially because you will be in close proximity using the spatula to hold the tortilla down.
  • Use paper towels. Transfer fried tostada shells to a paper towel lined surface to drain. You don’t want them sitting in excess oil or they won’t be as crispy.
  • Don’t stack.  Don’t stack the tostada shells after frying or if they are at all warm or they will steam and you will lose that coveted crispiness. Line the tostadas in a single layer with a little breathing room in between each one.
  • Don’t pre-assemble.  Only assemble the tostadas once you are ready to serve for maximum crunchiness.  
  • Serve Chipotle style:  Create a toppings bar like they do at Chipotle and let everyone top their own tostadas for zero lag time.
  • Prep ahead.  Don’t worry about not being able to pre-assemble the tostadas; you can still prep ahead by making the tostada shells, protein and toppings then just reheat the protein when ready to serve.
  • Small bites.  Eating tostadas can be a delightfully messy ordeal but I find using small bites is the best way to keep everything intact.

Make Ahead

  • Make tostadas. The tostadas can be made up to 5 days ahead of time, cooled, then stored in an airtight container/freezer bag at room temperature.    
  • Make protein.  Make the ground beef, chicken or other desired protein and refrigerate for up to three days.  Gently warm in a skillet with a splash of water when ready to serve.  
  • Make beans. I don’t think you making the beans ahead of time saves much time because they need to be reheated anyway.  Still, you can combine the beans and salsa then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Toppings. The toppings can be chopped and stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator or small covered serving bowls.  The guacamole and avocado crema (if using) will keep for up to a day without changing color very much – just make sure to press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the guac/crema to prevent oxidation. 

Storage 

Tostadas should not be assembled before storing, rather store all of the components separately.
  • Tostadas:  Store cooled tostadas in an airtight container/freezer bag at room temperature to keep them crunchy. I know they stay crunchy for at least 7 days but we've never had any leftover after that to test!  
  • Chicken, Beef or Pork:  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Beans: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
  • Toppings:  Store in separate airtight containers or plastic bags for up to 3 days.

How to Reheat Tostada Shells

I honestly don't usually reheat the tostada shells and just the meat, but you are welcome to reheat them if you wish.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Spread tostada shells out in an even layer on 1-2 baking sheets.
  • Heat for 3-4 minutes, or until warmed, keeping a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

HOW TO FREEZE TOSTADA Meat

The ground beef freezes very well so all you have to do is thaw the meat, heat it up, add to the tostadas and dinner is served!   To freeze:
  1. Prepare tostada meat according to directions.
  2. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Add filling to a freezer size plastic bag.
  4. Press bag flat and squeeze out excess air to prevent freezer burn.
  5. Seal, label and freeze for up to 3 months.

HOW TO REHEAT

  1. When ready to use, defrost tostadas meat in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Transfer filling to a skillet and warm over medium heat. 
  3. If the filling seems dry, stir in some water or salsa.

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8 Comments

  1. Mary Arredondo says

    Thank you for the various ingrediants. We called it chalupas in south Texas. We only us refried beans, lettuce, tomatoes,& cheese. Your tostada is amazing. Thank you

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome Mary! I hope you love mixing and matching for all sorts of fun combos!

  2. Pixie says

    Thank you, I had bought some to have on hand. The kind that are in the bags all crispy already, stacked on top of each other.. I thought it would be an easish dinner option. I was going to spread them with spiced up refried beans and cheese and pickled jalapeño slices! Instead, I’ll be trying some of your ideas and maybe get more at the store next time I stock up.
    Thank you for all the recipes and the ideas! That is a huge help for all your followers right now. Gettin a little tired of my own cooking already .
    Stay at home and be safe…

    • Jen says

      Way to go to think ahead Pixie! I’m so pleased you found this tostada post helpful – SO many options! Thanks for the well wishes – I’m definitely staying home and washing my hands a ton! I hope you stay safe and healthy as well!

  3. Layne says

    New favorite taco meat! Thanks for the easy, satisfying recipe!

    • Jen says

      Yessss! I’m thrilled the taco meat is a new fav- I make everything with it! Thanks so much Layne!

  4. Lisa Drzik says

    Thank you so much for your recipes, I can’t wait to try them i dis have 1 question, I read that you have a homemade taco seasoning recipe. Can you please share it, im am not fond of the taco packages you buy in the store, i would love to try yours. Thank you, Lisa

    • Jen says

      Sorry for my delayed response Lisa! This is what I use for 1 pound of meat:

      • 1 small onion chopped or 1 teaspoon onion powder
      • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
      • 1 tablespoon chili powder
      • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
      • 1/2 tsp EACH smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt
      • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
      • beef bouillon to taste