Garnachas: Mexican Popular Street Food

Garnachas is a popular Mexican street-food dish prepared with corn thick tortillas fried and topped with shredded beef, salsa, onions, and cheese. Learn how to make them at home with our easy step-by-step recipe.

Garnachas Mexican food close-up.

What are Garnachas?

Garnachas are a dish of Mesoamerican origins. The recipe consists of a thick corn tortilla topped with meat and sauce, fried, and then served with cheese, onions, and other garnishes.

These delicious street-side snacks can be enjoyed almost anywhere in Mexico. They are sold in markets, fairs, street stalls, near schools and offices. Almost any neighborhood has a stand at hand. When you are hungry and in a rush, a garnacha can be counted on to hit the spot!

Garnachas Mexicanas in an enamel plate served with cabbage salad.

The Variations

There are many types of garnachas and all of them are traditionally eaten with your hands, this can get a little messy due to the variety of toppings and fillings but with a little practice, they can be enjoyed on the run. No cutlery is needed!

Veracruzana: In the State of Veracruz, they are made using a regular corn tortilla drizzled with chipotle sauce and topped with meat, potatoes, onions, and cheese. The cabbage salad is not included.

In some regions of this state other ingredients are used to make them, such as black beans, minced meat, chayotes, and spring onions.

Oaxaca: Made with Pasilla Mixe dried peppers, a popular type of chile from that state, and the cabbage salad is called “chilito”. In the town of Juchitán the garnachas are cooked in a comixcal, a traditional clay oven.

Puebla: In the state of Puebla they are made usually with pork meat and folded in half (like a quesadilla) then served with salsa verde.

Yucatán: They are made like a thin sope and garnished with frijol colado (blended black beans), picadillo, and a salsa made with tomatoes and habaneros chilies called chiltomate.

CDMX: In Mexico City and pretty much in the whole state, a garnacha can be any type of street food made with a corn fried tortilla, so many dishes enter into this category. From sopes, huaraches, chalupas, fried quesadillas, and gorditas; to even tacos dorados and flautas.

About this recipe

I wanted to share with you and easy recipe you can make at home with ingredients you can find easily where you live or that you can sub at your convenience.

  • The base: You can make small garnachitas as I show you below or use store-bought corn tortillas.
  • The meat: I am using beef but feel free to swap it with shredded pork, chicken, or even a vegetarian version using mushrooms or zucchini instead.
  • The chilito: Aka the cabbage salad, use any type of cabbage you can find where you live and any type of fresh chilies you prefer.
  • The salsa: I made an easy guajillo and tomato salsa, feel free to swap the guajillo chilies with other types of dried mild-spicy peppers you have.
Close-up on a garnacha food.

How To Make Mexican Garnachas

Step 1: Cook the meat

Cook the meat in water with onion, garlic, and salt with your preferred method, such as on the stove, Slow Cooker, or Instant Pot.

I cooked mine in my Slow Cooker and took 8 hours at low. I like this method because I can leave all day the meat cooking and have it ready for dinner.

A collage showing beef cooked in a crock pot and shredded on a bowl.

Once the meat is cooked, transfer to a bowl and shred it using two forks, your fingers, or a mixer. Related: A Trick To Shred Meat.

Step 2: Make the cabbage salad

While the meat is cooking, you can make the cabbage salad (chilito). Wash and cut the cabbage, cut the onions, carrots, and chilies.

Place everything in a large bowl and add lime juice, vinegar, oregano, and water. Add salt to taste and mix everything thoroughly. Allow resting for at least 30 minutes or until needed.

Mexican chilito cabbage salad in a bowl.

Step 3: Prepare the salsa

Cut chilies longwise and discard veins and seeds. Cut them into pieces and place them in a small saucepan with the tomatoes cut into chunks. Add enough water to slightly cover them and cook until everything is tender.

Tomatoes and guajillo chilies boiled in a saucepan.

Allow to slightly cool down and then transfer to a blender with 2 cups of the cooking water. Add garlic, peppercorns, salt, and blend until smooth.

Heat the lard or oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the sauce and allow to simmer for 10 minutes so the sauce thickens a bit. Adjust salt to taste and set aside.

Salsa for garnachas cooked in a small pan.

Step 4: Make the corn base

Heat a cast-iron skillet or comal until smoky. Then set the heat to medium-low and keep it that way.

Place masa harina in a bowl. Slowly add water and knead until a smooth and non-sticky dough forms.

Divide the dough into 12 balls and cover with a damp kitchen towel.

A collage with two photos of masa dough and formed balls.

Take one ball and place it in the middle of two plastic sheets. Use your hands, a rolling pin, or a heavy dish to press and form a disc about 3.5-inch (9cm) in circumference.

Pressing the masa dough with a heavy dish to make a disc.

Carefully remove it from the plastic and place it onto the hot skillet.

Cook first for 1 to 1.5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes or until dark spots start to appear. Flip it once or twice while cooking.

If you’re quick enough, you can shape and cook in batches of 4-5 pieces each time.

A comal with 4 garnacha corn cakes cooking.

Place the cooked corn cake on a plate lined with a kitchen towel and repeat the steps until all masa dough is gone.

Step 5: Prepare and Serve

In a large pan heat about 3-4 tablespoons of lard or frying oil. Take one corn cake and place some meat on top. Then, carefully add to the pan so it will start frying. Add as many as they fit in your pan.

Four garnachas with meat frying in a pan with lard.

Carefully, add some sauce on top of each piece, then add one or two tablespoons of the oil so the meat and sauce will slightly fry on top.

Adding melted lard on top of a garnacha.

Once you see the garnachas are slightly browned and crispy on the bottom, remove them and place them on a serving plate.

Top with onions and cheese, then serve immediately with chilito (cabbage salad) on the side.

Mexican beef garnachas prepared in a plate.

Drinks to pair with

Those refreshing and delicious drinks pair nicely with garnachas, try some of them!

  • Tepache: Fermented drink made with pineapple and piloncillo.
  • Limonada: A sparkling and fun lime beverage.
  • Tamarind margarita: The classic Mexican drink with a tangy twist.

Make Ahead & Store

Even though I strongly recommend making, assembling, and eating your garnachas right away. You can still make some prep ahead of time.

  • Meat: Cook the meat, shred it and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Or freeze for up to 3 months, thaw and reheat before using it.
  • Sauce: Make it up to 3 days ahead and store in the fridge, or freeze it for up to 3 months, thaw, reheat, and use it as needed.
  • Garnachitas: Make the thick tortillas a few days prior and store in the fridge or wrap them in cling film, place in a zip bag and store in the freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw before frying.
  • Chilito: You can make the cabbage salad 2 days ahead and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Garnachas Mexican Food.

Mexican Garnachas

author Maricruz
Delicious, addictive, and easy to make at home. Those Mexican garnachas will leave you craving for more!
prep 30 minutes
cook 1 hour
total 1 hour 30 minutes
serving 24 garnachas

Ingredients 

  • 3 ½ cups masa harina
  • lukewarm water (about 2 ½ cups)
  • 1 medium white onion (chopped)
  • Cotija cheese (as needed)
  • lard or oil for frying (as needed)

For the meat

  • 1 ½ lb beef (brisket, chuck roast, flank, skirt, etc.)
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves (skin on)
  • 2 tsp salt

For the cabbage salad

  • ½ small cabbage head (thinly sliced)
  • 1 small onion (thinly sliced)
  • 2 large carrots (grated)
  • 3 jalapeño peppers (seeded and cut into strips)
  • ½ Tbsp oregano
  • 1 lime (juice)
  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • salt (to taste)

For the salsa

  • 1 lb tomatoes
  • 3 pasilla or guajillo chilies (seeded and cut into pieces)
  • 3 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 2 Tbsp lard (or olive oil)
  • salt (to taste)

For garnish

    Instructions
     

    • Cook the meat in plenty of water with onion, garlic, and salt with your preferred method (stove, Slow Cooker, or high pressure pot).
    • Transfer the cooked meat to a bowl and shred it. Set aside.

    Make the chilito

    • Place cabbage, onions, carrots, and green chilies in a large bowl.
    • Add lime juice, vinegar, oregano, and water.
    • Season with salt to taste and mix everything. Set aside.

    Prepare the salsa

    • Add guajillo chilies and tomatoes in a small saucepan and cover with water. Cook over medium heat until everything is tender (about 10 minutes).
    • Let everything to slightly cool down and then transfer to a blender with 2 cups of the cooking water.
    • Add garlic, peppercorns, salt, and blend until smooth.
    • Heat the lard or oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
    • Add the sauce and allow to simmer for 10 minutes or until it thickens a bit. Adjust salt to taste and set aside.

    Make the corn garnachas

    • Heat a cast-iron skillet or comal until smoky. Then set the heat to medium-low and keep it that way.
    • Place masa harina in a bowl. Add water little by little and knead until a smooth and non-sticky dough forms.
    • Divide the dough into 12 balls and cover with a damp kitchen towel.
    • Take one ball and place it in the middle of two plastic sheets.
    • Use your hands, a rolling pin, or a heavy dish to press and form a disc about 3.5-inch (9cm) in circumference.
    • Carefully remove it from the plastic and place it onto the hot skillet.
    • Cook first for 1 to 1.5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes or until dark spots start to appear, flipping it once or twice while cooking (form and cook as many cakes fit in your skillet).
    • Place the cooked corn cake on a plate lined with a kitchen towel and repeat the steps until all masa dough is gone.

    Assemble and serve

    • In a large pan heat about 3-4 tablespoons of lard or frying oil.
    • Take one corn cake and place some meat on top. Then, carefully add to the pan so it will start frying. Add as many as they fit in your pan.
    • Add some sauce on top of each garnacha, then add one or two tablespoons of the cooking oil so the meat and sauce will slightly fry on top.
    • Once you see the garnachas are slightly browned and crispy on the bottom, remove them and place them on a serving plate.
    • Top with onions and cheese, then serve with the cabbage salad on the side.
    Nutrition Information
    Calories: 191kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 1676mg | Potassium: 244mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 1348IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 45mg | Iron: 2mg
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    Recipe Rating




    One Comment

    1. 5 stars
      Omg I haven’t eat garnachas since I was a teen, thank you for the memories, I’ll definitely give them a try because you make it seems easy :)