It’s fair to say that one of the best things about living in America is the food. Whether you like German sausages, gyros, or greasy diner food, there’s probably a restaurant around the corner that serves one or the other.
This beautiful collision of cultures also created yet another wonder: Tex-Mex dining. Yes, Taco Bell has taken over our hearts and bellies with their Americanized chalupa and Mexican-inspired cuisine.
However, the TexMex cuisine we know and love can cause some confusion. If that’s not a chalupa, then what is? And if that’s a chalupa, then what is a tostada?
Although both are usually made from tortillas, their shapes couldn’t be more different. But we’ll get into that soon enough.
So, let’s dispel the confusion and answer any questions you may have when it comes to tostadas and chalupas.
What is a Tostada?
Who doesn’t love French toast? Not only is it a delicious treat and fun breakfast, but it also takes care of any stale bread you may have lying around. The same can be said for bread crumbs.
Well, tostadas transform stale tortillas into a beloved crunchy dish that is sure to satisfy all.
Tostada literally means “toasted,” so you know the crunch is a key factor.
At their core, tostadas are simply fried tortillas with the same level of crunch as a tortilla chip. These fried tortillas serve as a base for whatever you may want to throw on top: beans, meat, seafood, etc.
The Oaxaca region invented a specific kind of tostada, called the tylayuda tostada. The Oaxaca-style pizza has a layer of beans, cheese, and meat followed by any other toppings you may want. If you’re in Oaxaca, you may even be able to score one topped with fried chapulines, a type of grasshopper that’s a local delicacy.
What is a Chalupa?
Chalupas hail from south-central Mexico and are named after the boats that they both resemble and that people often ate them on.
A chalupa is made from corn dough that’s then pressed around a small container to form a shallow cup or bowl. They are traditionally topped with salsa, cheese, and lettuce, acting as a lighter snack.
Unlike tostadas, chalupas are generally not made from stale tortillas. To achieve the perfect shape, you have to make the dough yourself and press it before frying. However, both are made of the same ingredients, unless you use wheat tortillas for the tostadas. Tostadas are topped with different ingredients too, though that’s not always the case.
In America, chalupas are becoming increasingly popular due to the Taco Bell, TexMex version of this classic dish. Their chalupas are topped with lots of ingredients and meat, similar to a taco but not an actual chalupa. Plus, the bread in place of the tortilla is made from wheat and is much thicker.
Let’s get real here: Taco Bell has confused thousands!
What Separates them?
There are a few things that separate them, but the biggest difference is their shape. Tostadas are flat, while chalupas are curved and boat-like.
Tostadas can also be made from wheat tortillas as well.
Are the Ingredients the Same?
Both tostadas and chalupas are usually made from corn-based dough. However, tostadas are occasionally made from wheat tortillas too.
The toppings also vary, as traditional chalupas are less protein-heavy than tostadas.
How to Make Homemade Tostadas
Yes! Let’s do this.
There are two ways to make tostadas:
To bake them, preheat your oven to 400°F and lightly douse your tortillas in oil. Cook them for 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Check them periodically near the end–you want them to be as crispy as a chip, but not burnt to a crisp.
To fry them, heat some frying oil in a pan between 340-350°F. Slide one tortilla in and cook it for 30-45 seconds on each side. Flip it gently with tongs and hold it down below the oil with a spatula to prevent it from bubbling. Remove once nice and golden brown and place on a wire rack.
Remember, tortillas will burn fast if left unattended, so you’ll want to remain vigilant with these guys. And throw some salt on there while you’re at it. Maybe a squeeze of lime! Top them with whatever your heart desires: meat, beans, lettuce, pickled onions, etc.
Best Tostada Recipes
There are a million tostada varieties out there, but here are a chosen few:
- Tostadas de Pata
- Vegan tostadas
- Baja fish tostadas
- Roasted chipotle butternut squash, black bean, and goat cheese tostadas
- Beef tostadas
- Shrimp ceviche tostada
- Vegan tlayudas
- Mexican tlayudas
Whether you want to spice things up and try pickled cow’s feet or stick with a classic beef tostada, there’s something for all tastes here. I don’t know about you, but the roasted butternut squash sounds so good.
And almost all of these would be even better with a little cotija cheese thrown on top.
How to Make Homemade Chalupas
You can make these the Taco Bell way, which is essentially folded fry bread, or you can make them per tradition. Here, I’m going to cover the traditional Mexican chalupa, not the Taco Bell version. Don’t you worry: there are plenty of recipes online that explain it in great detail.
Making chalupas is a little more complicated than tostadas, since you need to actually make the dough. You could just fry corn tortillas and attempt to shape them as they cook (pulling at the edges with tongs), but that’s not a guarantee.
- 1 cup masa harina (corn flour)
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅔ cup water
Combine all your ingredients with a wooden spoon until they form a soft dough. Knead it with your hands, adding water or oil if needed, until it is a soft, smooth ball.
Divide the dough into 2" balls and then flatten each ball between your palms, like little saucers.
With a spoon, press an indent into the center of the dough and then curve the edges to form the shape of a boat.
Chalupas are traditionally fried in pork lard, which lends them their delicious flavor, but oil will do fine too.
Heat some oil on your stove and fry them for a minute on each side, keeping a careful eye on them. Remove with tongs and let dry.
Best Chalupa Recipes
For those of you looking to make your own chalupas, here are some great recipes to try:
- In-depth chalupa recipe
- Traditional chalupa
- Chicken chalupas
- Taco Bell Santa Fe Chalupa Recipe
- Vegetarian chalupas
Alright, I budged and found one single Taco Bell recipe, but the rest are traditional chalupas!
The second link has recipes for both salsa verde and salsa roja, so you can bet I’ll be adding those to my recipe book!
Chalupa vs Taco
While they have a similar(ish) shape, a chalupa is a fried, specially-shaped tortilla, whereas tacos are made with a flat tortilla.
Plus, taco toppings are generally more protein-heavy than chalupas, which tend to be lighter.
Chalupa vs Gordita
A gordita is essentially a very thick corn tortilla that has a pocket in the middle. Similar to an arepa, or a pita pocket. Gorditas are generally filled with beans, pork, beef, or papas con chile.
Chalupas do not have a pocket, nor are they stuffed. They are topped with yummy goodness, not filled with them. Also, chalupas are usually deep-fried, while gorditas are not.
Chalupa vs Quesalupa
The quesalupa is a Taco Bell-invented dish that only comes around once in a blue moon. Its base is the same as the Taco Bell chalupa, but they add in a lining of melted cheese, so it resembles a quesadilla.
Here’s an equation to make things more fun:
Quesadilla + Chalupa = Quesalupa!
Chalupa vs Chimichanga
Chimichangas are deep-fried burritos filled with rice, beans, meat, cheese, and maybe some veggies if you’re feeling healthy that day.
A chalupa is in no way, shape, or form a burrito. They are entirely different dishes. Plus, chalupas are a traditional Mexican food, whereas chimichangas are Mexican-American born.
Tostada vs Taco
Traditional tacos are made with a soft corn tortilla as the shell, though they could also be wheat.
Tostadas, on the other hand, are made with fried (or baked) tortillas, laid flat, so they remain crisp and almost act as a plate. Tacos can be folded and are more pliable in the hand.
Tacos’ soft shape helps contain bigger chunks of meat, too, like lengua or carnitas.
Tostada vs Sopes
I can see the confusion here. Just like tostadas, sopes are yet another way to transport delicious toppings from your plate to your mouth, but they vary in texture and shape.
Sopes tend to be much thicker than tostadas and are not made from leftover tortillas. Plus, they have a raised border to keep all the toppings from spilling.
To sum up: tostadas are flat and crisp, whereas sopes are thick and bordered.
Tostada vs Tostaguac
These two foods are not entirely different from each other. In fact, one is born of the other!
A tostaguac is made of the following ingredients:
- Any other toppings you may want (refried beans, shredded cabbage, crema)
The title “tostaguac” just means a tostada with guac on top. Simple enough!
Tostada vs Torta
A torta is a Mexican sandwich that varies depending on the region. The rolls, however, remain the same: tortas are either made with bolillos or teleras. You could stuff it with pork, refried beans, carnitas, fried cutlets, mashed potatoes, and much much more.
Of course, tostadas are not a sandwich, nor are they always wheat-based. Tostadas can be made with both corn and wheat tortillas.
Whew! This article answered questions I didn’t even realize I had!
Hopefully, you learned something new today and can now tell the difference between a chalupa and a tostada.
And, while the Taco Bell version may be delicious, it’s certainly not the original.