Traditional Latin American food is known for its fresh flavors, bright spices, and incredible texture combinations. In a single bite, you can enjoy sweet, tangy, creamy, spicy, crunchy, and juicy food all at once.
Tostadas are a Mexican dish that will delight your tastebuds while creating mild distress in the form of a potentially messy, sloppy meal. The best way to become comfortable eating tostadas in front of an audience is to practice.
How do you eat a tostada the right way? To eat a tostada without making a mess, use both hands to support the shell, take small bites, and eat over your plate. As for what to eat on and with a tostada, we have more tips to share in this article.
In this guide, we’ve offered suggestions for how to make a premium quality tostada as well as step-by-step guidance on how to eat it without making a mess.
Even with our careful instructions, practice makes perfect, so make tostadas as often as possible and enjoy every bite as you learn to eat them tidily.
What Is a Tostada?
Tostadas are popular Mexican dishes that begin with a toasted tortilla and can be topped with a wide variety of ingredients.
In Spanish, tostada translates to “toasted,” though quite often the tortilla base is deep-fried rather than toasted.
They’re traditionally used as a way to use up ingredients that may be near the end of their life. Toasting or deep-frying tortilla that is starting to go stale is a great way to refresh the flavor.
They can be topped with nearly anything you have on hand, which makes them a handy solution when you have a variety of small amounts of veggies, sauces, cheeses, or protein. Layer it all on a tostada and enjoy!
Tostada Vs Taco – What’s the Difference?
Tacos and tostadas are very similar in terms of their ingredients, but the major difference is in the “shell.”
Tacos are either hard, folded corn shells or soft, folded wheat or corn tortillas. Either way, they’re folded, making them easy to hold your toppings inside while your hands can easily and neatly hold the outer sides of the taco.
A tostada, on the other hand, is open. It’s almost the open-faced sandwich version of a taco.
The fact that the shell is used as an edible plate for the toppings can make a very pretty display, but they can also be very messy to eat, prone to breaking and dumping your toppings all over the place.
How to Make a Tostada
It is nearly impossible to make a tostada wrong but, just to be safe, we’re going to walk you through the process of making your own shell as well as give you a long list of ideas for potential toppings.
How to Make Tostada Shells
You can buy pre-toasted hard, flat corn tortilla shells at the grocery store much like you can buy pre-formed taco shells. They’re surprisingly easy to make at home with fresh corn tortillas, however, and the taste is beyond compare.
When you’re making tostada shells, keep in mind that the larger the tortilla is the harder and messier it will be to eat. Try to find smaller tortillas if you’re planning on toasting them for tostada night.
- Spread a few paper towels on your counter and place a cooling rack on top of them.
- Warm ¼” of oil in a skillet on medium heat.
- Using cooking tongs, carefully add a corn tortilla to the pan.
- Fry until the tortilla just starts to turn golden brown and then flip it over and repeat.
- It should take about 30 seconds per side.
- Remove the tostada from the pan and set it to cool on the cooling rack.
- Repeat until you have enough tostadas for your meal.
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat to make cleanup easy.
- Place a rack inside the baking sheet – this will allow heat and air to circulate underneath your tortillas, helping them crisp more quickly and evenly.
- Spread your tortillas in a single layer over the rack.
- Spray lightly with cooking oil on both sides of all tortillas.
- Bake for 5 minutes on one side and then flip them over.
- Check after 3 minutes, but allow them to toast until both sides are golden brown.
When you remove the baking sheet from the oven, allow your tostadas to cool before serving them.
If you’re more of a visual learner, here’s a great tutorial by Stephanie from Views on the Road on YouTube for making the perfect Mexican tostadas!
What to Put on a Tostada
As already mentioned, tostadas are a great way to use up odd bits of food that you aren’t sure what else to do with. You can layer just about anything on a tostada and, as long as you pair your flavors well, it’s going to taste delicious.
Traditionally, tostadas are topped with beans, ground beef or diced chicken or pork, and fresh vegetables and salsa.
Seafood tostadas are also more common in coastal regions. A salty, crisp tostada nicely complements ceviche, shrimp or crab, or tuna.
You can get creative with your tostada at home, topping it with all your favorite shredded or diced veggies, protein, and flavorful sauces. If you need more guidance, consider the following suggestions:
- Shredded chicken or pork
- Ground beef, sauteed in taco or chili seasoning
- Crumbled or fried tofu
- Pulled and seasoned jackfruit
- Baked beans
- Cheese, especially queso fresco or cotija
- Shredded cabbage or lettuce
- Diced tomatoes
- Red onions
- Pickled vegetables, such as hot peppers
- Grilled and diced veggies like zucchini or eggplant
- Pico de gallo
- Salsa verde
- Sour cream or crema fresca
- Hummus or bean dip
- Nacho cheese sauce
How to Eat a Tostada Without Making a Mess
The main reason most people avoid making or ordering tostadas is that they don’t know how to eat them without turning the entire dining area into a disaster zone.
Crispy tortillas are well known to crack, break, and crumble. When that crispy tortilla shell is holding up a mountain of toppings, the results can be disappointing.
Eating a mix of toppings off your plate with a fork is simply not the same experience as consuming it from a freshly toasted shell.
If you’d like our best tips on how to eat a tostada without making a mess, try the following process. Don’t be afraid to practice your skills as frequently as necessary.
Step-by-Step Instructions to Eating Tostadas Politely:
- Start with a tostada that is large enough to hold all your toppings but not a giant platter that you have no hope of holding together. In this case, bigger is not better. You’ll have much better success enjoying small tostadas.
- Hold your tostada with both hands, one on either side. Use your thumbs to support the center as much as possible, but remember to be gentle. If you press inwards, you can cause cracking or a center split.
- If your toppings are sky high and won’t fit in your mouth in a single bite, use your teeth to steal some of the toppings before taking a bite of the shell. This will make it easier to bite through the shell without losing your toppings everywhere.
- Accept the fact that some toppings will fall and always lean forward so that you’re eating directly over your plate.
- When you’re ready to bite into the shell, take small bites. They’ll create less overall damage and reduce your chances of having the entire shell cave in.
- After the first bite, continue taking small bites on either side of your first bite. Go back and forth to keep the bites relatively even.
- Continue taking these small bites until your tostada is finished.
- Clean up any toppings that you lost in the process using a fork and knife.
- Repeat with a new tostada until you’re full to bursting!
You don’t have to put your pinky out or anything, but these tips are sure to help you keep your cool on that first date.
Now that you have the basic tostada eating procedure in hand, here are a few more tips and tricks to keep your meal as tidy and enjoyable as possible.
Extra tips for eating tostadas:
- Always have napkins or paper towels nearby. You will certainly get some sauce on your face and hands at some point, so have something ready to help you clean up quickly.
- Experiment with different thicknesses of shells to see what works best for your personal eating style.
- Try to keep all your toppings either shredded or diced into small pieces. If you have to bite through a large piece of vegetable or protein as well as the shell, you’re increasing your chances of making a mess.
- Adjust your grip as necessary, putting your tostada down on the plate whenever needed to get a better handle on your food.
- You can eat a tostada with a knife and fork if you’re very self-conscious, but the shell will crumble and it will be more like a tostada salad than a tostada.
How to Eat a Tostada Salad
A tostada salad, or taco salad, is essentially a large tortilla that has been fried or baked into the shape of a shell. It is then filled with all the toppings you might enjoy in or on a taco.
To eat a tostada salad, you’ll mostly use a fork to eat the filling first.
As your bowl begins to empty, you can break off portions of the shell to add some crunch to your meal. You can either eat the shell like a chip, or you can scoop some of the fillings onto the piece of shell and eat it like a bite-sized tostada.
As a general rule, it is fine to eat the shell with your hands, but use a fork or even spoon to handle the filling.
What to Serve With Tostadas
Traditionally, tostadas are often served as a side dish with stew or a seafood bake, but they can also be a feature dish for your evening meal. They will pair well with a wide number of other Latin American dishes.
Think back to the menu of the last Mexican food restaurant you visited. If you can recreate any of the dishes they served, you’ll have a great selection of side dishes to serve with your tostadas.
Some of our favorite pairings include:
- Plenty of Fresh Salsa – A good salsa can be served with almost anything as well as used as one of the toppings for your tostadas.
- Bean Salad – Serving cold black beans mixed with corn niblets, plenty of fresh herbs, and some vinegar dressing is a perfect complement to tostadas.
- Mexican Rice – Mexican rice blends the sweet, savory flavor of tomatoes with the freshness of herbs like cilantro, parsley, and plenty of garlic. Of course, you can’t forget the spicy heat of jalapenos or other hot chili peppers and the acidic balance of a nice squeeze of lime juice.
- Fruit Salad – Fruit salad made with beautiful tropical flavors like mango, pineapple, kiwi, dragon fruit, strawberries, and fresh herbs like basil or mint are an excellent addition to any Mexican meal plan.
- Grilled Fruit – Grilled slices of pineapple, mango, pear, plantains, or other fruit are also complementary to tostadas, especially if drizzled with a rich balsamic glaze.
- Refried Beans – No Mexican dinner is complete without refried beans, either to use as a topping for your tostadas or to enjoy as a side dish.
- Corn on the Cob – You can boil your corn as you might for any other summer meal, but it will really elevate your meal if you fire roast the corn on your barbeque and sprinkle it with some fresh chili powder.
- Grilled Vegetables – Throw some zucchini slices, pepper halves, and any other vegetable you like to grill on the barbeque or under your broiler to serve with your tostadas.
What Is a Breakfast Tostada?
We’ve already mentioned that it’s nearly impossible to prepare a tostada wrong, and breakfast tostadas are a delicious way to bring a traditional evening meal into the early hours of your day.
You can top your tostada with any number of conventional breakfast ingredients. Consider some of the following combinations, but don’t be scared to experiment with your own imagination.
- Scrambled eggs, diced ham, diced tomatoes, and shredded cheddar
- Tofu scramble with plenty of veggies and spices
- Diced potato hashbrowns, crumbled bacon, a fried egg, and some salsa
- Refried beans, corn, diced green chilies, and fresh salsa
- Guacamole, diced red onion, and fried mushrooms
Similar breakfast foods include migas and chilaquiles.
Are Tostadas Gluten-Free?
Tostada shells are traditionally made of corn tortillas, which are naturally gluten-free, but not necessarily completely gluten-free depending on where and how they were produced.
Some manufacturers dust their tortillas with flour and others can accidentally cross-contaminate if wheat is also processed at the same facility.
If you’re buying pre-made tostada shells, look for the gluten-free certification. If you’re ordering tostadas at a restaurant, there are several potential gluten sources you need to be aware of.
Make it clear that you need your meal to be gluten-free and the chef should be able to tell you whether or not it’s possible to accommodate you.
Can You Make Tostadas With Flour Tortillas?
You can make tostadas with flour tortillas, but they will not work nearly as well. Flour tortillas don’t crisp as firmly as corn tostadas and are also more flimsy.
If you’re not self-conscious about making a mess with your meal and you’re really in the mood for tostadas and flour tortillas are your only option, go ahead and fry or bake your shells as crispy as you can.
Just understand that you’d probably be better of making tacos with flour tortillas instead.
However, if you’re not a traditional kind of person and you’re still worried about making a mess, you can make a normal tostada and put it on top of a fried flour tortilla for some extra stability in case the corn shell breaks apart.