Tetelas Oaxaca

Tetelas are a prehispanic snack from Oaxaca and Puebla, a corn triangular empanada stuffed with black beans and cheese, and served with salsa. Get to know more about this delicious and authentic Mexican food.

Mexican Tetelas on a clay plate with salsa and cream bowls on the side.

What are Tetelas?

Tetelas are a Mexican snack from Puebla and Oaxaca consisting of a corn triangular empanada stuffed with various ingredients, usually refried black beans and sometimes cheese.

Those particular empanadas are unique in the country, being the first recorded to have a triangular shape which is a wonderful way for keeping the filling hot, making them a great to-go snack.

Unlike a quesadilla that are made with cooked tortillas, tetelas are first made with a raw tortilla, stuffed, folded, then cooked on a comal which makes them not only delicious but also healthy and nutritious.

Tetelas from Oaxaca placed on a clay plate.

The origin

The origin of this particular snack dates back to the Mixtec people. It is a typical dish representative of the region with three main ingredients:

The first is the local corn harvested and nixtamalized in a traditional way. The corn can be found in different variants of colors such as yellow, white, blue, or purple.

The second element is the black beans, which are cooked with hierba de conejo, an herbaceous plant that grows wild in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca. It has a flavor very similar to anise and that of the avocado leaf.

And finally, the third element, a good local cheese such as Quesillo (known also as queso Oaxaca).

They are widely consumed in the Pueblan and Oaxacan Mixtec region, where it is a very important food; sometimes it is part of the main meal of the day or dinner and is simply eaten with a spicy sauce.

Tetelas are easy to find during town festivals in Tecomaxtlahuaca and Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca, where they are considered a special treat.

Variations

Even though tetelas are from Prehispanic origin and the traditional stuffing was only mashed black beans back then, in modern days there are many variations on the filling, such as adding cheese or guisados like:

The Recipe Ingredients

Masa Harina. The one used to make tortillas, you can use the yellow or blue type and you can find it on Amazon or at any Mexican store; some supermarkets also have it available at the international aisle.

Beans. I am using black beans as the traditional recipe calls, but sometimes I just use any type of beans I have on hand, such as pinto or bayo beans. Even traditional refried beans work fine for this recipe.

Cheese. Quesillo (Oaxacan cheese) is the best option, but in case you can’t find it just use any string cheese you like and that melts nicely.

Ingredients for tetelas labeled with names and displayed on a marble surface.

Others. Onions, chili peppers, and lard to make the beans filling. You can swap lard with your favorite oil. Also, Mexican cream or sour cream to serve and your favorite hot Mexican salsa, I’ll leave you below some options with links to the recipes.

Step by step recipe

Place the beans in a food processor and process until pureed. You can also use a blender if you want.

Mashed black beans on a food processor.

Heat the lard in a pan over medium-low heat. Add chopped onions and chili peppers, then stir for a couple of minutes until vegetables are soft and slightly translucent.

Sautéed onions and chilies on a pan with lard.

Add pureed beans to the pan, mix, and cook while stirring constantly until beans are dry but still creamy and spreadable. Adjust salt to taste and set aside.

Black beans mashed and cooked for tetelas.

Combine masa harina, salt, and water in a bowl until you will have a soft dough that is similar in texture to play-dough.

Masa dough in a bowl.

Heat a cast-iron pan or comal over medium-high heat until smoky hot.

Pinch a bit of the masa dough and form a ball about the size of a golf ball.

A masa dough ball on hand.

Place the masa ball between 2 sheets of plastic and then press with a heavy dish or use a tortilla press to make a thick tortilla about 5.5-inch /14cm in diameter (read notes).

A masa dough disc pressed with a tortilla press.

Remove the top plastic sheet and then spread some beans puree in the middle of the tortilla. Add a little bit of cheese too.

Black beans and cheese in the middle of a masa dough disc.

Using the plastic sheet fold over one side of the tortilla towards the middle.

Folded right side to form a tetela.

Then, fold the other side to make some sort of triangle, making sure the narrow ends overlap a little bit.

Folded right and left side to make a tetela.

Last, fold up the bottom to close the triangle and gently press the tetela to flatten it a little bit and help the masa dough to stick.

A raw tetela just formed over a tortilla press.

Remove the corn cake from the plastic and gently place it on the hot pan. Cook for 2 minutes on one side, flip and keep cooking for 3-4 more minutes, and last, flip it again and cook until dark spots form on each side.

Cooked tetelas on a cast-iron skillet.

While the first piece is cooking you can keep making as many they fit on your pan. As they finish cooking, keep them warm in a basket or bowl wrapped with a kitchen cloth napkin.

How To Serve

Tetelas are served simply, just with hot salsa on the side and sometimes with Mexican crema and cheese. Check out our favorite salsas to serve this antojito:

Oaxaca tetelas served with cream and salsa verde.

How To Store & Reheat

Even though those Mexican treats are better to eat freshly cooked, if you got some leftovers just allow them to cool down to room temperature, then wrap them in paper towels and place them in an airtight container. Store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

To reheat, heat a non-stick pan with a little bit of oil or lard, add the corn cakes, and heat them up for a couple of minutes flipping them from time to time.

Watch How To Make It

Tetelas recipe cover.

Tetelas

author Maricruz
Oaxaca tetelas are a soft and healthy corn snack stuffed with black beans and melty cheese. Learn how to make them at home.
prep 20 minutes
cook 20 minutes
total 40 minutes
serving 8 tetelas

Ingredients 

For the dough

  • 1 ½ cup masa harina
  • 1 ⅛ cup lukewarm water (or more, read notes)
  • 1 tsp salt

For the filling

  • 1 cup black beans
  • ¼ cup onion (chopped)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp lard (or olive oil)
  • cup Oaxaca cheese or mozzarella (shredded)
  • salt (as needed)

To serve

  • Mexican crema (or sour cream)
  • Tomatillo red chili salsa (or your favorite salsa)

Instructions
 

Make the filling

  • Puree the beans in a food processor or blender until smooth.
  • Heat lard in a pan, add onions and jalapeño peppers and cook over medium heat until soft and slightly translucent.
  • Add pureed beans to the pan and cook while stirring constantly until beans are dry but still creamy and spreadable. Adjust salt to taste and set aside.

Make the dough

  • In a bowl, combine masa harina, salt, and water until you will have a soft dough that is similar in texture to play-dough.
  • Divide the dough into 8 equal-sized balls and keep them covered with a damp kitchen towel.

Make the tetelas

  • Heat a cast-iron pan over medium-high heat until smoky hot.
  • Place one masa ball between 2 sheets of plastic and then press with a heavy dish or use a tortilla press to make a tortilla about 6-inch (15cm) in diameter.
  • Remove the top plastic sheet and spread some beans puree in the middle of the tortilla.
  • Add a little bit of cheese on top of beans.
  • Using the plastic sheet fold over one side of the tortilla, then fold the other side patting it a little to seal it.
  • Fold up the bottom to form a sort of triangle and gently press the tetela to flatten it a little bit.
  • Remove the tetela from the plastic and gently place it on the hot pan.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes, flip and keep cooking until they’re a little browned.
  • Repeat with all dough balls. As they finish cooking, keep them warm wrapped with a kitchen napkin.
  • Serve with your favorite Mexican hot salsa and cream.

Notes

Just as regular flour, masa harina brands are different and might need more or less water that this recipe calls. So adjust the quantity accordingly.
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Recipe Rating




One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Thank you posting this recipe for tetelas, that’s why I love your blog, you always bring so much authenticity into your recipes and this one proves that. I’m going to make those tetelas right away and enjoy them with salsa de molcajete. Thank you!