Tostadas: A Culinary Tapestry Unveiled

Tostadas often fly under the radar compared to the beloved taco, largely due to their lesser-known status. 

Sure, tacos and tostadas share similarities. But there are distinguishing features that set these favorites apart. 

It’s high time we shed some light on these crispy delights, with an origin story … or two.

What is a Tostada?

“The main difference is that a tostada is flat and made on a crispy tortilla shell, usually corn. Tacos, while they can be made in crispy corn shells, are most commonly seen soft, folded, with either corn or flour tortillas,” Jessica Formicola, chef and blogger at Savory Experiments, tells AllRecipes.

A tostada is a crispy, flat corn tortilla, typically laden with layers of mashed or refried beans, protein, cheese, and an array of toppings like lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, and avocado. 

Translated from Spanish, “tostada” simply means toasted.

The exact origins of the tostada remain shrouded in uncertainty. But many agree that its roots trace back to a tortilla dry-roasted on the comal — a traditional Mexican griddle — prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, to ancient Mesoamerica.

“ … it was a tortilla dry-roasted on the comal — a circular Mexican griddle — before the Spaniards,” Margarita Carrillo Arronte, author of The Mexican Vegetarian Cookbook, tells the Food Network. “It was deep-fried after they came and brought lard and oil.” 

And there’s a reason tacos are folded and tostadas are flat.

“The tostada also boasts age-old origins traced back two centuries to the ancient Mexican city of Monte Albán,” the outlet Tasting Table explains. “When tortillas became less pliable and couldn’t fold around the food like a soft taco, the indigenous people began toasting them until they created a flat, crispy tortilla.”

Today, tostadas, which are usually deep-fried, are akin to a flattened taco, offering a blank canvas for creative culinary expression. 

“The possibilities for toppings are boundless, much like tacos and tamales,” Carrillo Arronte explains. “You might find refried or mashed beans, paired with protein, finely sliced lettuce, dollops of sour cream, crumbled fresh cheese, avocado slices, and vibrant salsa.”

In Mexico, much like in parts of the United States, they’re procured from street vendors, crafted in homes, or relished in restaurants.

Poached Egg Tostadas with Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa Recipe

These versatile treats aren’t restricted to lunch or dinner either. A simple ingredient like eggs can transform them into a delightful breakfast dish.

An example is the Poached Egg Tostadas with Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa — a new easy-to-make, heart-healthy recipe from the American Heart Association, ready in 15 minutes or less.

Poached Egg Tostadas with Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa
Servings: 4 (1 egg and 1/2 cup salsa per serving)

Nonstick cooking spray

4 corn tortillas (6 inches each)

4 cups water 

1 tablespoon white vinegar

4 large eggs


1 medium avocado, diced

1 medium Anaheim or poblano pepper, seeds and ribs discarded, diced 

1 medium tomatillo, papery husk discarded, washed and diced

1/2 medium tomato, diced 

1/4 cup diced red onion

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Arrange tortillas in a single layer on foil. Lightly spray tortillas with nonstick cooking spray. Using a fork, pierce tortillas to prevent them from filling with air. Bake 5-6 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Transfer to serving plates.

In a large skillet over high heat, bring water and vinegar to boil.

Once water is boiling, reduce heat and simmer. Break egg into cup then carefully slip egg into simmering water. Repeat with remaining eggs, avoiding eggs touching in water. Simmer 3-5 minutes, or until egg whites are completely set and yolks are beginning to set but aren’t hard. Using a slotted spoon, drain eggs. Place each egg on the tostada. 

To make salsa: In a medium bowl, gently stir together avocado, pepper, tomatillo, tomato, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, garlic and salt. Serve with tostadas.

Nutritional information per serving: 185 calories; 11 g total fat; 2.5 g saturated fat; 3 g polyunsaturated fat; 5 g monounsaturated fat; 186 mg cholesterol; 169 mg sodium; 15 g carbohydrates; 3 g fiber; 2 g total sugars; 9 g protein.

To find more tips for family mealtimes and recipe inspiration, visit


By Catherine A. Jones

Cathy’s writing has appeared in The Washington Post Magazine, USA Weekend, People,, The Miami New Times, and dozens of other media publications and online sites. Her opinion pieces have appeared on, El Tiempo Latino, and more.

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