Tostada is a Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 word which literally means "toasted". It is used in Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

 to name several different traditional local dishes which have in common the fact they are toasted or use a toasted ingredient as the main base of their preparation. There is a gender difference between "tostada" (feminine) and "tostado" (masculine), although they mean exactly the same. Tostado is used in reference to a specific degree of toast (coffee, roasted grains and seeds or bread toast), while tostada is usually the name of a particular dish.


Tostadas originated in Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

. They make maza from three different colored corn - yellow, red and a blue/purple. Once the maza is ready they are shaped into huge, round tortillas. These are then left out in the sun to dry and have all moisture removed. The drying process takes days or months depending on the amount of sunlight. Once the tortillas are completely dry they become tostadas. When people began learning about tostadas they realized how much better they were than regular tortillas because they could be kept for longer periods of time. As they discovered this, the corn farming culture became mobile.

Mexican tostada

In Mexico, tostada refers to a flat or bowl-shaped (like a bread bowl) tortilla
In Mexico and Central America, a tortilla is a type of thin, unleavened flat bread, made from finely ground maize...

 that is toasted or deep fried
Deep frying
Deep frying is a cooking method in which food is submerged in hot oil or fat. This is normally performed with a deep fryer or chip pan; industrially, a pressure fryer or vacuum fryer may be used....

. It also refers to the finished dish using a tostada as a base. It is consumed alone, as a dish known as totopo
Totopo, in Mexican cuisine, is a flat, round, or triangular corn product similar to a tortilla, best known as originating from Zapotec peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec region of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. There, the Zapotec women bake totopos in a clay oven known as a comixcal...

, (nachos
Nachos are a popular food based on nixtamalized corn, of Mexican origin associated with Tex-Mex cuisine that can be either made quickly to serve as a snack or prepared with more ingredients to make a full meal. In their simplest form, nachos are tortilla chips or totopos covered in melted cheese...

, in Tex-Mex cuisine
Tex-Mex cuisine
"Tex-Mex" is a term used to describe a regional American cuisine that blends food products available in the United States and the culinary creations of Mexican-Americans influenced by the cuisines of Mexico. The cuisine has spread from border states such as Texas and those in the Southwestern...

), or used a base for other foods. Corn
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 tortillas are the ones usually used to make tostadas, although in some regions it is possible, but rare, to find tostadas made of wheat
Wheat is a cereal grain, originally from the Levant region of the Near East, but now cultivated worldwide. In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize and rice...


Tostada initially has its origin in the need to avoid waste when tortillas went stale, no longer fresh enough to be rolled into tacos, but still fresh enough to eat. The old tortilla is submersed into boiling oil until becomes golden, rigid and crunchy, like a traditional slice of toast bread (hence the reason of its name). Then is served alone as companion for different kinds of Mexican food, mostly seafood, and stews, such as menudo
Menudo (soup)
The soup Menudo is a traditional Mexican dish, made with beef stomach in a clear broth or with a red chili base . Usually, lime, chopped onions, and chopped cilantro are added, as well as crushed oregano and crushed red chili peppers...

, birria
Birria is a spicy Mexican meat stew usually made with pork, goat, lamb, or mutton, often served during festive periods, such as Christmas, New Year's Eve, Mother's Day, and weddings. Originally from Jalisco, it is a common dish in some Mexican food establishments...

 and pozole
Pozole is a ritually significant, traditional pre-Columbian soup or stew from Mexico. Pozole was mentioned in Fray Bernardino de Sahagún's "General History of the Things of New Spain" circa 1500 CE. It is made from nixtamalized cacahuazintle corn, with meat, usually pork, chicken, turkey, pork...

. This last one is usually accompanied with tostadas dipped in sour cream.

A popular way to eat tostadas in Mexico is as a dish of its own. Beans, cheese, sour cream, chopped lettuce, sliced onions and salsa
Salsa (sauce)
Salsa may refer to any type of sauce. In American English, it usually refers to the spicy, often tomato based, hot sauces typical of Mexican and Central American cuisine, particularly those used as dips. In British English, the word typically refers to salsa cruda, which is common in Mexican ,...

 are spread onto the tostadas like an "open faced" rigid taco
A taco is a traditional Mexican dish composed of a corn or wheat tortilla folded or rolled around a filling. A taco can be made with a variety of fillings, including beef, chicken, seafood, vegetables and cheese, allowing for great versatility and variety...

, mostly like a pizza. Then is finally topped with the main ingredient, usually meat cooked and chopped specially to dress the tostada. In most cases, is cooked chicken meat or pork. The "Tostada de Pata" (chopped pork fingers in conserve) has become an icon of Mexican tostadas, and it is found in almost every place where tostadas are prepared. As a general rule, due to the flat and fragile body of the tostada, the main topping must be sticky or pasty enough to stay on top. This helps prevent the other toppings or garnishes from falling off while it is being eaten, although due its natural fragility, tostadas have the tendency to break when eaten.

In addition to ingredients typically used as taco fillings, tostadas are also popular topped with seafood, such as cooked tuna
Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of . Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an...

, shrimp
Shrimp are swimming, decapod crustaceans classified in the infraorder Caridea, found widely around the world in both fresh and salt water. Adult shrimp are filter feeding benthic animals living close to the bottom. They can live in schools and can swim rapidly backwards. Shrimp are an important...

, crab
True crabs are decapod crustaceans of the infraorder Brachyura, which typically have a very short projecting "tail" , or where the reduced abdomen is entirely hidden under the thorax...

, chopped octopus
The octopus is a cephalopod mollusc of the order Octopoda. Octopuses have two eyes and four pairs of arms, and like other cephalopods they are bilaterally symmetric. An octopus has a hard beak, with its mouth at the center point of the arms...

 and ceviche
Ceviche is a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of the Americas, especially Central and South America. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chilli peppers. Additional seasonings such as onion, salt,...

 or as companion for shrimp stew. Vegetarian tostadas only topped with vegetables, are rarer, since vegetables are considered only the staples used as a bed for the main ingredient.

Tostadas are also often served as an appetizer or snack, cut or crushed into tiny triangles accompanied with salsa, guacamole or beans for dipping. In this Mexican version of the tostada, which has its origins in Tex-Mex cuisine, tortilla chip
Tortilla chip
A tortilla chip is a snack food made from corn tortillas, which are cut into wedges and then fried . Corn tortillas are made of corn, vegetable oil, salt and water. Although first mass-produced in Los Angeles in the late 1940s, tortilla chips are considered to be a Mexican food, known as tostados...

s, also known as nachos, are served as an appetizer or meal, without toppings, but with sauce
In cooking, a sauce is liquid, creaming or semi-solid food served on or used in preparing other foods. Sauces are not normally consumed by themselves; they add flavor, moisture, and visual appeal to another dish. Sauce is a French word taken from the Latin salsus, meaning salted...

, salsa or melted American cheese and sliced chili for dipping.

Tostadas can be found almost anywhere in Mexico, but the state of Oaxaca
Oaxaca , , officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca is one of the 31 states which, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided into 571 municipalities; of which 418 are governed by the system of customs and traditions...

 perhaps has the largest one: the Tlayuda
Tlayuda, sometimes erroneously spelled Clayuda , is a handmade dish part of the traditional Mexican cuisine, consisting of a large and thin crunchy partially fried or toasted tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, asiento , lettuce or cabbage, avocado, meat , Oaxaca cheese, and salsa.They...

. Is as big as an average big-size pizza, but its main characteristic is it is topped with chapulines
Chapulines, plural for chapulín, are grasshoppers of the genus Sphenarium, that are commonly eaten in certain areas of Mexico. The term is specific to Mexico and derives from the Nahuatl language...

 (fried grasshopper
The grasshopper is an insect of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. To distinguish it from bush crickets or katydids, it is sometimes referred to as the short-horned grasshopper...


Cuban tostada

In Cuban cuisine
Cuban cuisine
Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisines. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a unique, interesting and flavorful blend of the several different cultural influences...

, tostada refers to a slice of hand made Cuban bread
Cuban bread
Cuban bread is a fairly simple white bread, similar to French bread and Italian bread, but has a slightly different baking method and ingredient list ; it is usually made in long, baguette-like loaves...

, cut lengthwise, buttered, and pressed. The bread is similar to French bread or Italian bread usually made in long, baguette
A baguette is "a long thin loaf of French bread" that is commonly made from basic lean dough...

-like loaves. It is the Cuban equivalent of toast
Toast is bread that has been browned by exposure to radiant heat. This browning reaction is known as the Maillard reaction. Toasting warms the bread and makes it firmer, so it holds toppings more securely...

. Typically, tostadas are served as a breakfast alongside (and perhaps dunked into) a hot mug of cafe con leche
Café con leche
Café con leche is a Spanish coffee beverage. More similar to the Italian caffe latte than to the French café au lait, café con leche is a coffee beverage consisting of strong or bold coffee mixed with scalded milk in approximately a 1:1 ratio...

 (strong dark-roasted Cuban coffee with scalded milk).

Puerto Rican tostada

In Puerto Rico, a tostada is almost the same as the Cuban tostada, but uses a different type of bread. Is a buttered and pressed portion of a pan de agua. Pan de agua is a baguette style bread, very similar to the Philippine Pandesal
Pan de sal is a rounded bread made of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, and salt. It has become a common food in the Philippines.-Description:...

 or the Mexican Bolillo
A bolillo is a type of savory bread traditionally made in Mexico, where it originates. It is a variation of the baguette, and is often baked in an horno de piedra....

, optionally served with Swiss cheese. The term is also used for toast
Toast is bread that has been browned by exposure to radiant heat. This browning reaction is known as the Maillard reaction. Toasting warms the bread and makes it firmer, so it holds toppings more securely...

ed slice of pre-sliced bread (tostada de pan especial), and for a local version of French toast
French toast
French toast or Eggy Bread, is a food made with bread and eggs. It is a Christmas time dessert in Portugal and Brazil.Where French toast is served as a sweet dish, milk, sugar, or cinnamon are also commonly added before frying, and it may be then topped with sugar, butter, fruit, syrup, or other...

, typical of Easter, consisting in milk-soaked bread, battered in egg and fried.

Mariana Island tostada

In the Mariana Islands, owing to their years as a Spanish colony, there is a uncommon tradition of the "tostada de agua," (literally, "toast of water"). This dish is made of a fried tortilla topped with minced seaweed, peppers, and meat (generally chopped shrimp, though many varieties exist). Anecdotally, the entire dish was wrapped like a burrito, dunked in sea water briefly (hence the reason of its name), to add salt, offsetting the intensity of the peppers, and then unrolled and cooked until the tortilla has hardened. It is then topped with cheese.

Colombian tostada

In Colombia, tostada refers to a green, unripe plantain
Plantain is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa. The fruit they produce is generally used for cooking, in contrast to the soft, sweet banana...

 which has been cut into sections, fried, flattened, fried again, and salted. These tostadas are eaten much like potato chips/crisps or French fries
French fries
French fries , chips, fries, or French-fried potatoes are strips of deep-fried potato. North Americans tend to refer to any pieces of deep-fried potatoes as fries or French fries, while in the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, long, thinly cut slices of deep-fried potatoes are...

/chips, often served as a side dish or a snack.

These are also known as tostones or "Patacones" in many Latin American countries.

See also

  • Chalupa
    A chalupa is a tostada platter in Mexican cuisine. It is a specialty of south-central Mexico, including the states of Puebla, Guerrero and Oaxaca. Chalupas are made by pressing a thin layer of masa dough around the outside of a small mold, and deep frying to produce crisp, shallow corn cups...

    , a cup shaped version of the Mexican tostada
  • Tostado
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