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Never having been further into Mexico than Tijuana (and even then too young to remember it much), I’ve never experienced a chalupa in its native habitat.  But story goes, that in taquerias in the south of Mexico, a chalupa, which means boat, is made from masa dough which is fried in a boat shape (although some are fried flat) and filled with meat and topped with cabbage, salsa, crema, and a little cheese.

But a little further north, say in Guadalajara, chalupas are a quintessential street food, often sold from trucks or roadside eateries.  These are the chalupas we’re talking about today.  Man, they were good…. each one about 3 bites of intense deliciousness.

As a street food, chalupas (not to be confused with the ones sold at Taco Bell) are meant as a snack, eaten out of hand and are only about 4” across.  To achieve this, I made my own tortillas, and shaped them a little smaller and thinner than I normally would.  I have come to believe that the tortillas are a fairly crucial element to a good chalupa.

The idea for these came to me from a recipe in Gourmet magazine that was published on Epicurious.  They suggested that you cut down a regular-sized tortilla to 4 inches, but like others, I think that’s pretty wasteful and time-consuming.  If you don’t want to make your own tortillas, which I think is totally fun and delicious, you could use a regular corn tortilla (see the note from Gourmet in the recipe).

So it goes sort of like this…. Fry your tortilla in a little hot oil, to soften and cook it a little (I sprayed my cast iron griddle with Pam and they cooked up beautifully). Into said warm tortilla, you scoop some tomatillo salsa, top with shredded beef, pork or chicken, a little cabbage, a drizzle of crema, and a sprinkling of cheese.  Lay them out on a platter, overlapping the edges a little and dig in.  I served them with chips, guacamole, Mexican rice and black beans and we ate quite well.  This could be great party food (you could even let people create their own). 

I’m not going to say how many to make per person, but I will say that it’s impossible to eat just one…or two…or, well, you get the idea.  Make lots.  You won’t regret it.


Printable Recipe

For 12 chalupas

1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
12 (4-inch) corn tortillas (see cooks' note, below) or make your own!
1 cup shredded cooked chicken, beef or pork
2 to 3 tablespoons crema or crème fraîche thinned with milk or cream
1/3 cup finely chopped white onion (optional)
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/3 cup finely crumbled queso fresco or grated jack cheese
1 cup fresh tomatillo salsa

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 200°F.

*Heat 1 tablespoon oil in cleaned dried skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then briefly cook tortillas, 3 at a time, until softened and hot but still pale, about 10 seconds per side, adding more oil if necessary. Transfer tortillas with tongs to paper towels to drain briefly, then to a large shallow baking pan in oven to keep warm, arranging tortillas in one layer (overlapping slightly if necessary) and covering pan with foil.

Spread each warm tortilla with a little salsa, then top sparingly with a few shreds of meat. Add a little shredded cabbage and then drizzle with crema and sprinkle with onion and cheese. Serve immediately.

Gourmet Note:  If not making your own tortillas, look for tightly stacked tortillas in packs of 50 (they can be frozen). They are pressed tightly together to retain moisture and freshness and are available in Latino markets and some supermarkets. 

*I also think this step can be done in the oven - spray your tortillas with cooking spray and heat in a 375 degree oven for about 5 minutes.

Reader Comments (8)

Delicious! I need to give my hand a try at homemade tortillas as I've heard that they are hard to come by in Paris.

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

These look fantastic. I love cabbage slaw in tacos too. I do one (that everyone has done) with cumin seasoned black beans. I'm going to try this very soon. Thanks for sharing it!

June 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

I have never had Chalupas like this! They look so good. I've never tried homemade tortillas but I remember when I was a girl my mom had a neat tool for frying corn tortillas into taco shapes. Thanks for the great tortilla recipe. I will definitely try them.

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

This look wonderfully delicious!

June 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

It seems beautiful and delicious. Its shape is relatively novel.

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterally

I've never had chalupas but they look fantastic! I tend to love anything that has to do with Mexican food....and I really don't cook it enough. I've been meaning to try to make my own tortillas for a while...maybe this is just the push I need!

June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoanne

Hi Patrice,
We appreciate the comments your leave on our blog!

Yum - this recipe inspires me to throw a calupa party! I'm thinking of hosting a Japanese BBQ at some point too. Let me know if you come across any good recipes for that theme. I plan to whip up a simple batch of strawberry-infused sake to get me in the brainstorm mood.
Happy cooking...and eating!

June 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSharon@CSR

Love the simplicity of that BBQ recipe. I'll try that one out and keep you posted on the sake too.

June 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSharon@CSR

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