Make it a Tostada Tuesday
How about Mexican tostadas for dinner tonight? Crispy tortillas, creamy refried beans, mellow ground beef and vegetables, and plenty of flavorful toppings add up to a delicious, crunchy experience.
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We all love taco night, but have you tried tostada night? The flat, crunchy tortillas piled up with toppings are a meal that appeals to every member of my family, especially because tostadas are so easy to customize.
While there are lots of different kinds of tostadas, including shrimp tostadas and shredded chicken tostadas, my family’s most requested is the picadillo I’m sharing with you. The combination of ground beef, potatoes, and carrots is savory and mellow, and the perfect starting point for a smear of refried beans and each family member’s favorite toppings.
I like to set up a little tostadas assembly station. If someone wants a bit of spice, they add slices of jalapeño. If they’re in the mood for crunch, they add sliced radishes and lettuce. And of course, they can scoop on creamy avocado chunks and add a final crumble of queso fresco. (As you might have guessed, I like my tostadas with the works.)
To make the tostada experience even better, there’s no silverware needed. But you’ll definitely want plates. Tostadas are a little messy, and that’s part of the fun!
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What are tostadas?
Tostadas are fried or toasted corn tortillas, usually with a base of black or pinto beans and then a protein on top. Beef or chicken tinga, shrimp, and picadillo tostadas are some of the popular varieties.
In Mexico, tostadas are a versatile and much-loved antojito (“little craving,” or snack) sold by street vendors in areas with heavy foot traffic.
Tips for easy tostadas
Short-cut ingredients and a little make-ahead cooking prep can help you get this recipe on the table in a snap.
1. Buy canned refried beans
Of course if you have homemade refried beans on hand you can go with them, but using canned refried beans will save you time. Simply reheat and spread on your tostadas.
2. Buy store-bought tostada shells
Although homemade tostada shells made from fried corn tortillas are traditional, mainstream supermarkets and Latin supermarkets sell pre-made flat tostada shells that are fried or baked. Some Latin markets also sell a variety called tostadas raspadas meaning “scraped.” For this technique from Jalisco, Mexico, the tostada is first cooked on a comal, then scraped and thinned out on a grinding stone. It’s sun-dried until dehydrated, and then fried. The result is a light, bubbly, crispy texture.
3. How to bake corn tortillas for tostadas
If your market doesn’t sell flat tostadas, it’s easy to make your own. Spray 8 corn tortillas with cooking spray, sprinkle them with salt, and set them on 2 oiled sheet pans. Bake at 400°F for 5 minutes. Turn the tortillas over, switch the pan positions in the oven, and bake until the tortillas are golden and crispy, 5-10 minutes more.
4. Make the picadillo ahead
To get a jump-start on my easy tostadas recipe, you can make the ground beef and vegetable picadillo ahead and chill it up to two days in the refrigerator. The other toppings are best prepared shortly before you plan to serve them.
How to make tostadas
Photo by Ericka Sanchez
My picadillo tostadas have only a few steps and if you take advantage of the shortcut ingredients, your dish will come together in 50 minutes total time. Make sure to use a large frying pan so there’s room for the vegetables and ground beef.
1. Prep the ingredients
Before you start cooking, you’re going to want to prep the toppings: Thinly slice jalapeño, radishes, and lettuce, and crumble the queso fresco. Then cut up onion, potato, carrot and a little more jalapeño for the picadillo. I like to use Yukon gold potatoes because they’re dense and creamy with almost a buttery flavor. But a russet potato will also work well.
2. Cook the vegetables
Start by heating vegetable oil such as canola in a large skillet or saute pan. Add the onion and cook until it begins to soften. Then add the diced potato and carrot and cook until they’re barely tender, 7-10 minutes.
3. Add the ground beef and tomatoes
Photo by Ericka Sanchez
Once the potato and carrot are al dente, it’s time to add the ground beef. I like to use 80/20 ground beef for this recipe because the 20 percent fat keeps the beef moist and flavorful. As the beef begins to cook, add tomato and chopped jalapeño and season with garlic salt and black pepper. Begin breaking down the beef into crumbles with a large cooking spoon. The beef will lose its pink color and cook through in about 5 minutes.
Stir in fresh cilantro, remove the picadillo from the heat, and cover it to keep warm.
4. Warm the beans and cut up the avocado
While the picadillo is cooking, you can microwave the refried beans until hot and cube the avocado.
5. Assemble the tostadas
If your dinner guests will be assembling their own tostadas, set out the tostada shells, beans, picadillo, and toppings (in that order) as an assembly line. If diners are going for “the works,” they’ll start by spreading a thick layer of warm refried beans on their tostada shells. Then they’ll add a scoop of picadillo, and finish with with tostada toppings: shredded lettuce, radishes and jalapeño, avocado, and queso fresco.
Get the picadillo tostadas recipe
Picadillo tostadas are a great meal that can be prepared in less than an hour. They’re perfect for a weeknight meal and the recipe can be easily doubled for a celebration party spread.
Feel free to change up the recipe with your favorite toppings, including sour cream or crema, guacamole, refried black beans, cotija cheese, and pico de gallo or hot sauce.
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