This post is also available in: Español
Guatemalan tostadas are traditional Guatemalan food often served as snacks or appetizers during the traditional holiday festivities. You typically spread Guatemalan tostadas with recado salsa (tomato sauce), refried black beans, and guacamole, topped with onion slices and cheese. In this post, I will share the recipes for the three types of tostadas, one of Guatemala’s more staple dishes. The holidays are a time of sharing with family and reconnecting with our roots through traditions and food, the perfect moment for this crunchy Guatemalan dish!
A Crunchy and Delicious Guatemalan Appetizer
Ask any Guatemalan about tostadas, and they will surely tell you which one is their favorite, even before explaining what a tostada is. The traditional Guatemalan tostadas have three basic spreads: guacamole, recado (tomato-based red sauce), and refried beans. Then, you top them off with crumbled cheese, sliced onions, and fresh cilantro and serve them as appetizers.
I love taking shortcuts that save time when making this delicious Guatemalan dish. For example, in most supermarkets, you find cans of refried beans; my favorite is the Ducal refried red beans. They come directly from Guatemala and are sold across Mexican grocery stores and most Walmart supermarkets.
Instead of frying the tortillas, you can buy a bag of crispy tostadas. You can also find cans of tomato sauce; I like to fry a diced onion and add it to the canned tomato sauce and a pinch of adobo, salt, and pepper. Anything to simplify without compromising taste!
What is a Tostada?
Tostadas are deep-fried or oven-toasted corn tortillas with different toppings to create delicious concoctions full of flavors like this Guatemalan recipe. Tostada literally means “toasted.” You will find many dishes across Latin America that include this browned tortilla as a base.
What I love the most about a tostada is its versatility. You can put anything you like or have at hand on top to make your own creations, adding veggies, sauces, and meat like pulled pork to tuna and anything in between. From these simple yet delicious Guatemalan tostadas to spicy avocado and chipotle shrimp tostadas, the sky’s the limit!
Who Invented Tostadas?
You may wonder where tostadas originate from, and you might be surprised to learn that they date back about 2,000 years! The beautiful city of Oaxaca is where most historians believe Mexicans created this delicious toasted tortilla.
The traditional toasting of tostadas became an ingenious way to extend the lifespan of leftover tortillas. Since folding a not-so-fresh tortilla into a taco was hard, frying them gave them a unique crunchiness, perfect for topping. Hence, the tostadas were born, turning days-old tortillas into the crispy tostadas we know and crave today.
What’s The Difference Between Tostada and Tortillas?
The difference is simple: tortillas are a type of soft flatbread made from grounded corn flour, while tostadas are crispy tortillas fried or toasted. Another difference is that tortillas are a staple Guatemalan food, usually taking the place of bread to accompany almost any meal.
On the other hand, tostadas are usually a whole dish on their own, with different toppings like guacamole, refried beans, chicken, ground beef, cheese, and almost anything you can pile up! You can even cut them into triangles and serve them as nachos or try this delicious Guatemalan recipe with my favorite toppings.
What are the ingredients for Guatemalan Tostadas?
This traditional Guatemalan recipe consists of crispy tostadas with different toppings and sauces. First, you usually spread them with three main sauces: Guacamole, recado sauce, and refried beans. Then, top them off with sliced onions, cilantro, and crumbling cheese for the finishing touches.
You can top a tostada with your favorite ingredients and endless combinations. Still, there is something special about the simplicity of this traditional Guatemalan dish that makes my mouth water!
How to Make Homemade Guatemalan Tostadas
Refry the Beans
- In a medium saucepan, boil the beans with enough water to cover them completely. Add one onion cut in half, the adobo, and salt to taste.
- Simmer on low heat for about 2 hours, moving them regularly and adding water when it starts to consume.
- Once the beans are soft, put them in the blender with the onion. Blend in batches until you have pureed all of the beans.
- Heat the oil in a saucepan. Finely mince the other onion and add it to the oil. Let it fry until golden. Don’t let it burn or turn black.
- Add the beans and stir them constantly until they reach the desired consistency. The beans should dry up into a thick paste. Cover and set aside.
- You can take a shortcut and go to a Latin grocery store and buy canned refried beans. It will cut your cooking time significantly.
Cook the Recado Sauce
- Boil the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and sweet pepper in 3 cups of water. After everything is cooked, remove the pan from the fire and let it cool.
- In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients into a sauce and put them through a sieve.
- In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil, add the sauce, the adobo, and salt to taste, and bring it to a boil stirring it until it thickens.
- Take the sauce out of the pan and put it in a bowl. Cover and set aside.
Mash up the Guacamole
- Place the pulp of the avocado in a bowl and mash it with a fork until it becomes a puree.
- Add the onion, lime juice, and oregano. Then season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and set aside.
Assembling the Guatemalan Tostadas
- If you are going with store-bought tostadas, skip step 2.
- Fry the tortillas in vegetable oil until crispy. Transfer the tostadas to a paper-covered plate and let them dry off.
- Once they have cooled down, spread four with guacamole, four with refried beans, and four with salsa.
- Garnish with thin slices of onion, queso Duro, and cilantro.
Tips for making the best Guatemalan Tostadas
- Soak the black beans overnight: Although black beans don’t need to be presoaked before cooking, I do it anyway, as my granny taught me. She used to say that it quickens the cooking time, but it also softens the texture, making them easier to digest. After soaking overnight, drain the water and rinse the beans before boiling them.
- Is your guacamole darkening? Who doesn’t hate when the guacamole turns brownish on top! I tried every cooking hack, and the one that always works is this: First, save the avocado pits when taking out the pulp. Then, after making the guacamole, put the pits back into it. Drizzle a little olive oil on top to make a thin layer, and cover with plastic wrap. It works like a charm!
- Great substitutes: When frying the tortillas, I prefer olive oil or soybean over vegetable oil, but you can pick the one you like best. You can also bake the tostada shells in the oven for a healthier choice. Or you can simplify your life altogether and go for store-bought tostadas!
- Don’t stack! You might be tempted to save space on your kitchen counter, but don’t stack your tostadas after frying. They will steam on each other and lose their distinctive crunchiness. So instead, what I do is I take out my cookie pan and line them up in a single row, with paper towels underneath to help soak up the oil.
Make Ahead of Time
Usually, Guatemalan tostadas take about 5 minutes to assemble. That is, if you have all the toppings, spreads, and sauces prepared a little ahead of time. I don’t recommend pre-assembling your tostadas until you are ready to serve to keep that coveted crispiness! But it doesn’t mean you can make a couple of things in advance.
My secret for having all the ingredients at hand? When I cook recado (tomato-based sauce), I always make a double batch. Then, I let the sauce cool, place it in Ziploc bags, label them, and pop it in the freezer. This delicious red sauce lasts over 3-4 months, sealed tightly.
Same with the black beans; you can keep them in the freezer for up to 6 months. First, follow the steps on this recipe on how to boil and “refry” the beans. Then, let them cool down and bag and tag like the recado. They will make each other company on your freezer! Whenever I crave my favorite Guatemalan dishes like the famous Paches potato tamales, I take out a bag, thaw, and use!
Thawing and Reheating
The best way to defrost any food is to take it out of the freezer and let it sit overnight in your refrigerator. Never leave food on your kitchen counter to thaw at room temperature; unwanted bacteria will have a party!
To reheat: pour the recado into a bowl, pop in the microwave for a couple of minutes, and you are ready to go. Likewise, you can reheat the refried beans in your microwave or put them on a frying pan and give them a quick stir.
How To Store Tostadas
As I said before, the tostadas Guatemaltecas should not be assembled before serving or storing. However, if you decide to make homemade tostada shells, you can fry the tortillas and store them up to five days in advance.
The trick is to let the tostadas drip on paper towels and allow them to cool down before storing. Then, stash them in an airtight container or Ziploc bag at room temperature to keep them crunchy. But I hardly ever do this, since these Guatemalan tostadas are so good, I never have leftovers!
What To Serve with Traditional Guatemalan Tostadas?
In Guatemalan cuisine, the tostadas are considered a delicious appetizer or snack. It’s what you usually eat when you’re waiting for the savory Guatemalan tamales colorados during Christmas celebrations. It is also the perfect Guatemalan dish for posadas navideñas, as everyone can get up and make their tostadas with their favorite toppings and ponche de frutas, Guatemala’s version of a hot fruit punch.
But one of my favorite memories from my childhood is when we went to Antigua Guatemala, one of the most magical places in the country. It was a family tradition to make the mandatory midway stop at San Lucas, Sacatepéquez, and eat tostadas de guacamole with a steaming cup of atol de elote. It is the ultimate Guatemalan comfort food combo for the colder weather of that region.
Other Traditional Guatemalan Recipes
- Traditional Guatemalan Enchiladas or Jardineras: A traditional Guatemalan dish, it is a relatively easy Guatemalan recipe. Made with a toasted tortilla topped with a vegetable mixture or escabeche, ground beef, and tomato sauce, it is one of my favorite authentic Guatemalan foods.
- Pollo en Jocón (Tomatillo Chicken Stew): This easy recipe for Pollo en Jocón is a traditional Guatemalan chicken stew, with a tomatillo and cilantro sauce, perfect comfort food for cold weather.
- Guatemalan Chiles Rellenos: This traditional Guatemalan recipe is somewhat different from the Mexican Chiles Rellenos. It is made with sweet peppers, filled with a concoction of beef and veggies, served drizzled with tomato sauce.
- Guatemalan Buñuelos: Buñuelos are fried wheat-based dough balls, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside, covered in white sugar, and served in a light syrup with a hint of anise.
- Guatemalan French Toast Style Torrejas: Very popular during Christmas and Lent, torrejas is a traditional Guatemalan dessert. It is a mouthwatering sweet dish that uses Panes Dulces (lard or sweet bread) as the main ingredient dipped in delicious syrup.
These Guatemalan tostadas are amazing for many reasons. First, they are so easy to put together. You are easy to make, and you can put anything you like or leave out what you don’t. And finally, this Guatemalan recipe is so good. They are my go-to appetizer during the holidays, snacks for the kids, or make them whenever I crave some good old Guatemalan food.
Ingredients for the Refried Beans
- 2 Lb of black beans
- 2 Onions
- 1 tbsp of Adobo seasoning
- Salt to taste
- Vegetable oil
Ingredients for the Recado (Red Sauce)
- 6 Tomatoes
- 1 Small onion
- 1 Garlic clove
- 1 Sweet pepper
- 1 tbsp of Adobo seasoning
- 1 tbsp of Vegetable oil
- Salt to taste
For the Guacamole
- 3-5 Hass avocados
- ½ Onion, finely diced
- 2 Limes
- 1 tsp of Oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Tostadas
- 12 Cold, thin tortillas (or 12 toasted tortillas)
- Oil for frying the tortillas
- Bunch of cilantro, chopped
- 1 Onion, sliced in rings
- 1 Queso Duro (crumbling cheese)
Refry the Beans
1. In a medium saucepan, boil the beans with enough water to cover them completely. Add one onion cut in half, the adobo, and salt to taste.
2. Simmer on low heat for about 2 hours, moving them regularly and adding water when it starts to consume.
3. Once the beans are soft, put them in the blender with the onion. Blend in batches until you have pureed all of the beans.
4. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Finely mince the other onion and add it to the oil. Let it fry until golden. Don’t let it burn or turn black.
5. Add the beans and stir them constantly until they reach the desired consistency. The beans should dry up into a thick paste. Cover and set aside.
Cook the Recado Sauce
1. Boil the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and sweet pepper in 3 cups of water. After they are cooked, remove the pan from the fire and let it cool.
2. In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients into a sauce and put them through a sieve.
3. In a large pan, heat the vegetable oil, add the sauce, the adobo, and salt to taste, and bring it to a boil stirring it until it thickens.
4. Take the sauce out of the pan and put it in a bowl. Cover and set aside.
Mash the Guacamole
1. Place the pulp of the avocado in a bowl and mash it with a fork until it becomes puree.
2. Add the onion, lime juice, and oregano. Then season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside.
Assembling the Tostadas
1. If you are going with store-bought tostadas, skip step 2.
2. Fry the tortillas in vegetable oil until crispy. Transfer the tostadas to a paper-covered plate and let them dry off.
3. Once they have cooled down, spread four with guacamole, four with refried beans, and four with recado salsa.
4. Garnish with thin slices of onion, queso Duro, and cilantro.
When frying the tortillas, I prefer olive oil or soybean over vegetable oil, but you can pick the one you like best. You can also bake the tostada shells in the oven for a healthier choice. Or you can simplify your life altogether and go for store-bought tostadas!