Learn how to make homemade tostada shells and eat them with your favorite toppings! These corn tortillas are nicely golden brown with a deliciously crispy crunch with every single bite you take.
Homemade tostada shells are crispy tortillas that are made by frying or baking corn tortillas until they are golden brown and crispy. Those crispy shells are typically flat and can be used as a base to make various tostada recipes.
A tostada is a Mexican dish that typically consists of a crispy, flat tortilla that is topped with a variety of ingredients.
The toppings for a tostada can vary widely but typically include frijoles refritos (refried beans), meat (such as chicken, pork, or beef), lettuce, cheese, crema or sour cream, and salsa.
Tostadas shells are usually sold at regional markets and supermarkets throughout Mexico and some parts of the US, but making them at home is really easy as you’ll need only two ingredients to prepare the homemade version.
Of course, the best homemade tostadas shells needs the best toppings, like my tostadas de camarón!
- Corn tortillas: Homemade tostada shells are traditionally made from gluten-free corn tortillas, as they have a great flavor and crisp up well. If possible, choose high-quality corn tortillas without any added ingredients or preservatives. You can use store-bought corn tortillas or make them at home with our authentic corn tortillas recipe.
- Vegetable oil: Any neutral oil that is good for frying, I like to use corn or sunflower oil, olive oil, or also avocado oil.
- Salt: It’s totally optional to sprinkle them with salt while still hot from the cooking oil.
Note: You can add flavor to the tostada shells by seasoning them with salt, chili powder, garlic powder, or any other spices you like. Simply sprinkle the seasoning over the tortillas after frying or baking them.
How To Make Homemade Tostada Shells
Frying (traditional method)
In a medium frying pan add about 1/2 inch of oil and heat over medium heat.
Use tongs to add a tortilla to the pan and allow to fry for about 20 seconds.
Flip the tortilla and keep frying until the tortilla is light golden brown.
Make sure to flip one or two more times to allow the tortilla to get evenly crispy.
Remove the shell from the oil and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper towels to remove excess oil.
Baking (healthier method)
Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C)
First brush a baking sheet with oil (or use cooking spray) and then spread out as many tortillas fit without overlapping them.
Then brush the tortillas with a little bit of oil on top. You don’t need to oil both sides as one is in touch with the oiled baking tray.
Bake the tortillas for 4-5 minutes and then remove from the oven and quickly flip them upside down.
Return to the oven and keep baking for 3 more minutes or until nicely golden and crisp.
Sprinkle the crispy shells with salt and enjoy!
- Don’t overcrowd the pan: If you’re frying the tortillas, make sure not to overcrowd the pan, as this will lower the temperature of the oil and result in soggy tostada shells. Fry them one by one as they take little time to be done.
- Pay attention to oil temperature: And don’t take your eyes off the tostadas shells because they can go from perfect to burned in seconds.
- Drain the excess oil: After frying the shells, use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove them from the oil and place them on a paper towel-lined plate. This will help to remove any excess oil and keep the tostadas crispy.
- Perfectly flat: To get flat store-bought style tostadas shells, use a potato masher to press down the tostadas when you are frying them. This eliminates air inside them and prevents them from puffing up.
- Serve them fresh: Tostadas are best when served fresh and crispy. If you need to store them, follow the storage tips below.
Toppings For Tostadas
Tostadas are a popular street food in Mexico and are also a delicious and satisfying dish that is perfect for a quick and easy meal. Here are some ideas to serve your homemade tostada shells with:
- Chicken: Use shredded chicken or top them with this Mexican chicken salad.
- Seafood: My favorite way of eating homemade tostada shells is with ceviche de pescado, there’s no other way of eating ceviche! And if you’re a shrimp lover, aguachile is the perfect topping too.
- Pork: Top your tostadas shells with flavorful chorizo to make chorizo tostadas.
- Beef: Use my deshebrada recipe or this salpicón de res (photo below). You can also use ground beef picadillo.
- Vegetarian & Vegan: You can use guacamole or this ensalada de nopales.
Homemade tostada shells can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. Follow my recommendations to store the leftover shells properly:
- Make sure the tostada shells are completely cool before storing them. Warm or hot tostada shells can create moisture in the container and make them soggy.
- Stack the tostada shells in an airtight container. I like to place a layer of kitchen paper between each tostada shell.
- Seal the container tightly and store it in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
- To keep your tostada shells crispy, don’t top them with any ingredients until you’re ready to serve them.
What’s the difference between tortilla and tostada?
Tortillas and tostadas are both made from corn, but they have different shapes and textures and are used in different ways in Mexican cuisine.
A tortilla is usually cooked on a griddle or comal and have a soft texture. A tostada is fried or baked until it is golden and crunchy.
Are tostada shells healthy?
Homemade tostada shells made from corn tortillas that are baked instead of fried can be a healthier option, as they are lower in fat and calories compared to the fried versions. Additionally, tostadas shells can be made healthier by choosing nutrient-dense toppings such as grilled chicken or fish, black beans, avocado, and fresh vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.
What can you use instead of tostada shells?
You can use baked tortilla chips instead of tostada shells. Arrange the chips on a plate and top them with your desired toppings.
For a low-carb option, use lettuce leaves as a substitute for tostada shells. Romaine or iceberg lettuce leaves can be used as a cup to hold your fillings.
More Tostadas Recipes
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Homemade Tostada Shells
- 1 frying pan or a large baking tray
- 20 medium corn tortillas
- sunflower oil (or any oil you prefer)
Frying (traditional method)
- In a medium frying pan add about 1/2 inch of oil and heat over medium heat.
- Use tongs to add a tortilla to the pan and allow to fry for about 10 seconds.
- Flip the tortilla and keep frying until the tortilla is light golden brown. Make sure to flip one or two more times to allow the tortilla to get evenly crispy.
- Remove the tostada shell from the oil and place on a plate lined with kitchen paper towels to get rid of excess oil.
- Use immediately with your favorite toppings or store for later in a container with a tight lid.
Baking (healthier method)
- Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C)
- In your largets baking tray spread out as many tortillas fit without overlaping them.
- Brush the tortillas with a little bit of oil on top.
- Bake for 4-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of your tortillas. Flip them and bake another 3-4 minutes or until nicely golden and crisp.
- Remove from the oven and place on a wire cooling rack for 5 minutes before serving with your favorite toppings.
- To store your homemade tostada shells, first make sure they are completely cool, then stack them in an airtight container layered with paper towels. Store them for up to 1 week in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
- If you’re frying the tortillas, make sure not to overcrowd the pan, as this will lower the temperature of the oil and they won’t crisp evenly.
- To get flat restaurant tostadas shells, use a potato masher to press down the tostadas when you are frying them. This eliminates air inside them and prevents them from puffing up.
Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.