Tlacoyos | A Prehispanic Mexican Recipe

Tlacoyos are a Prehispanic Mexican dish that consist in a corn thick tortilla filled with mashed black beans, cooked on a comal and served with different toppings such as salad, salsa and cheese.

Mexican tlacoyos served with various toppings and salsas.

Without a doubt, tlacoyos are one of the most popular Mexican snacks in the country and one of the healthiest as well. You can prepare this delicious dish at home with our video recipe and enjoy it with a warm café de olla in the morning, just as Mexicans does.

What are tlacoyos?

Tlacoyos are a Mexican preparation of pre-Hispanic origin. A sort of empanada prepared with corn dough (blue or yellow) with a thick consistency and a rhomboid shape.

Typically they are filled with mashed beans, fava beans or dried peas (alverjón), although we can also find them with other types of fillings like chorizo, mashed potatoes and chicharron en salsa roja.

The name tlacoyo is a deformation of the Nahuatl word tlahtlaōyoh, which means empanada de maíz desgranado (empanada made with corn masa), referring to the corn dough patties that were sold back in time in the regional markets such a Tlatelolco.

From the same word derive the other names given to this dish, such as clacoyos, tlayoyis, tlayoyos, tlatloyos. All referring to this nutritious and delicious Mexican dish.

Tlacoyos topped with shredded lettuce, pico de gallo and spicy tomato salsa.

Where to find tlacoyos in Mexico

Tlacoyos are sold mostly in the center of the Mexican republic and it’s not a popular dish in the north. I did not know the Tlacoyos as a child. In my State they are not so popular and, to be completely honest, I didn’t even know of their existence.

It wasn’t until many years later, when we took a road trip through central Mexico with my family and some friends, that we sampled these delicious garnachas (street food).

I remember we were sitting in a restaurant in Texcoco and waiting for the barbacoa we had ordered to be served at our table (we were starving!). Agustin (a friend) said to us that first they will bring us some tlacoyitos along with the consomé, you know, to open our appetite.

The blissful tlacoyos filled with black beans arrived and we devoured them in less than a minute along with the steaming barbacoa consomé. They were amazingly delicious!

Those are the tlacoyos we ate that day in Texcoco!

Fillings and variantions

Other appetizers also derive from this pre-Hispanic dish; like huaraches (oval corn tortilla), sopes, and the gorditas.

Besides from the traditional filling such as mashed beans; the tlacoyos can be filled with cheese, potatoes, meat, mushrooms, zucchini blossoms, and many other vegetables.

A healthy snack

Tlacoyo is undoubtedly a very healthy and nutritious Mexican snack. Where normally the snacks are fried in lard or oil; this one instead, is cooked on a comal with no oil added and in its preparation uses fresh and nutritious ingredients such as nopales salad, pico de gallo and lettuce; not counting the different sauces to accompany it and that are prepared without fat or heavy ingredients.

One more proof that our ancestors knew how to feed themselves and used those ingredients such as corn, beans and chili in the healthiest way they could.

Tlacoyos Recipe (step by step + VIDEO)

Start by preparing the red salsa

Roast the tomatoes together with the onion and garlic clove, you can use a comal, iron skillet or even the oven.

Once these ingredients are roasted, proceed with the chilies. Remove the stem and open the guajillo peppers with scissors, carefully remove as much of the veins as possible and all the seeds, then remove the stem from the arbol chilies.

Roast the chilies for a few seconds and taking care that they do not burn, once roasted, put them in a blender and add a cup of boiling water (it has to be very hot to soften the chiles). Add the roasted tomatoes, onion and garlic. Let stand for 15 minutes.

Once the resting time has passed, blend everything until obtaining a smooth sauce without lumps. Transfer to a bowl and add salt to taste. Set aside.

Prepare the pico de gallo:

Cut the tomato into cubes, chop the onion, cut the green chilies into small pieces. Put everything in a bowl and add the finely chopped cilantro.

Add the lemon juice and a little salt. Mix the ingredients very well and add salt. Set aside.

Preparing pico de gallo on a bowl.
Related: How To Make Pico de Gallo

Prepare the beans:

Heat lard or oil in a small pan over medium heat, add the beans and mash until pure. Cook stirring for 2-3 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.

Prepare the masa dough:

Place corn flour in a medium bowl. Add a little salt (optional) and slowly pour the water little by little while mixing with your hands. Knead little by little until you obtain a moist and easy-to-handle dough that doesn’t crumble in your hands and has a smooth consistency without lumps.

Corn masa ready inside a bowl.

Make the tlacoyos:

Divide the dough into 5 portions, this recipe is for 5 large tlacoyos but if you want them to be smaller you can divide it into 8-9 portions.

Take a portion of dough and make a ball, roll it into a thick disc as shown in the video.

A portion of masa flattened on a hand.

In the center of the masa disc, add some mashed beans and distribute them a little. Close by joining four sides, in the end you should have a sort of rhombus shaped tortilla.

A collage showing how to shape tlacoyos.

Give it the elongated shape typical of the tlacoyos while flattening with your hand carefully, so that the beans do not come out.

A hand holding a shaped tlacoyo.

Repeat the steps with all the dough portions and place the raw tlacoyo on a plate lined with cling film to avoid them from sticking.

Cook

Cook the tlacoyos on a hot comal or a non-stick frying pan, first over medium heat then lowering a little so that they cook little by little without burning (about 5 minutes per side).

The tlacoyos cooked on a comal.

As tlacoyos are fully cooked, transfer them between a clean kitchen towel to keep them warm.

Assemble

Place the tlacoyos on a platter, add some chopped lettuce on top, then add pico de gallo. Drizzle with the red salsa and finish with a good sprinkle of fresh cheese.

How To Serve

The traditional way of serving this street food in Mexico is by just adding a cactus salad (nopales) on top and some hot salsa. But here’s are also other toppings you might want to try:

PICO DE GALLO: This refreshing salsa is one of the most loved when serving this dish, use the recipe we share in this post or try this pineapple pico de gallo.

OTHER SALSAS: Besides the red salsa we propose in this post, try also our tomatillo green salsa, a smoky salsa de molcajete, or this amazing fake guacamole! And, if you’re into very spicy food, this delicious Mexican chili oil is to die for.

EXTRAS: You can also add Mexican crema or sour cream, but if you want to try real Mexican cheese, head over our queso fresco recipe.

Watch How To Make It

Tlacoyos: An ancient Mexican recipe

Tlacoyos are a Prehispanic Mexican dish that consist in a corn thick tortilla filled with mashed black beans, cooked on a comal and served with different toppings such as salad, salsa and cheese.
PREP 1 hour
COOK 20 minutes
TOTAL 1 hour 35 minutes
No ratings yet
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Servings: 5

Ingredients 

For tlacoyos

  • 1 ⅔ cup (200 g) masa harina
  • lukewarm water (as needed)
  • salt (optional)

For mashed beans

  • 1 ½ cup (250 g) cooked black beans
  • 1 Tbsp lard (or oil)

For salsa

  • 2 large (300 g) tomatoes
  • 3-4 arbol chilies
  • 2 small guajillo chilies
  • ½ medium (50 g) onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • salt

For pico de gallo

  • 2 small (200 g) tomatoes
  • 1 small (80g) onion
  • 2 green chilies
  • cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • salt

Acompañamientos

  • 2 cups lettuce (shredded)
  • cheese (queso fresco, mozzarella, feta or any cheese you prefer)

Instructions

Make pico de gallo:

  • Cut the tomato into cubes, chop the onion, cut the green chilies into small pieces. Put everything in a bowl and add the finely chopped cilantro.
  • Add the lemon juice and a little salt. Mix the ingredients very well and add salt. Set aside.

Make the beans:

  • Heat lard or oil in a small pan over medium heat, add the beans and mash until pure. Cook stirring for 2-3 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.

Make the masa dough:

  • Place corn flour in a medium bowl. Add a little salt (optional) and slowly pour the water little by little while mixing with your hands. Knead little by little until you obtain a moist and easy-to-handle dough that doesn’t crumble in your hands and has a smooth consistency without lumps.
    Corn masa ready inside a bowl.

Make the tlacoyos:

  • Divide the dough into 5 portions, this recipe is for 5 large tlacoyos but if you want them to be smaller you can divide it into 8-9 portions.
  • Take a portion of dough and make a ball, roll it into a thick disc as shown in the video.
  • In the center of the masa disc, add some mashed beans and distribute them a little. Close by joining four sides, as if they were the corners of a painting, in the end you will have a sort of rhombus shaped tortilla.
  • Give it the elongated shape typical of the tlacoyos while flattening with your hand carefully, so that the beans do not come out.
  • Repeat the steps with all the dough portions and place the raw tlacoyo on a plate lined with cling film to avoid them from sticking.

Cook

  • Cook the tlacoyos on a hot comal or a non-stick frying pan, first over medium heat then lowering a little so that they cook little by little without burning (about 5 minutes per side).
  • As tlacoyos are fully cooked, transfer them between a clean kitchen towel to keep them warm.

Assemble

  • Place the tlacoyos on a platter, add some chopped lettuce on top, then add pico de gallo. Drizzle with the red salsa and finish with a good sprinkle of fresh cheese.
Nutrition
Calories: 187kcal
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