Chalupas

published Apr 2, 2022
Chalupa Recipe

These deliciously crispy chalupas are worth the extended cook time.

Serves4 to 6

Makes16 chalupas

Prep30 minutes

Cook7 hours

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red and green tortilla laying flat with shredded meat, cilantro chopped onion and cheese on top
Credit: Susy Villasuso

Chalupas are part of the amazing world of antojitos in Mexico. Antojitos translates to “cravings” in English, and mainly consist of fast meals sold by vendors in the streets of Mexico, prepared very quickly and normally eaten standing and using your hands — no time for cutlery here!

These kinds of meals are very popular in Mexican culture. They are normally consumed as a quick lunch or late in the evening after a few drinks, and are characterized for always being very cheap and slightly indulgent. You can also find them being prepared by the señoras or cooks in busy market stalls.

Because chalupas have the colors of the Mexican flag, they are often served during celebrations such as Independence Day. They are found in the states of Hidalgo, Estado de México, Puebla, Guanajuato, and Guerrero.

The name chalupa comes from the canoes or small boats that were used as transport by the Mexicas in Tenochtitlan during pre-Hispanic times. You can still see these types of canoes used in Xochimilco where locals sell food or drinks to the bigger boats called trajineras that are used to transport all the tourists.

How to Make and Serve Chalupas

This antojito consists of a small corn tortilla that is fried with lard forming a vessel, hence the name. It’s then topped with a smear of homemade salsa — green or red (one is always meant to be spicier than the other). The tortillas get deliciously crispy, and the lard in the pan is used to baste the chalupas for extra flavor.  The chalupas are then topped with pulled pork or shredded chicken or beef and garnished with a bit of fresh cilantro and chopped onion.

For this recipe, I called on my favorite pulled pork recipe, which is prepared in the slow cooker with only a few ingredients. I love that all you need to do is dump the ingredients into the slow cooker and let it work its magic, making your prep much easier and something you can do ahead of time.

The salsas are also very easy to prepare and will keep well in the refrigerator for up to three days. That means you can have your pork and salsas ready to put your chalupas together in no time.

Ingredients You Need to Make Chalupas

  • Tortillas: Small (4- to 5-inch-wide) corn tortillas are normally used to prepare chalupas. You can use store-bought tortillas or try making them from scratch.
  • Salsas: A salsa verde and a salsa roja are used to make chalupas. The recipes vary depending on the cook, but the salsa verde is mostly prepared with tomatillos lightly fried or boiled, a fresh chili like a jalapeño or serrano, garlic, and cilantro, all blended into a smooth sauce. The red salsa is made with a mix of tomatoes, garlic, onion, and a spicy dried chili such as arbol, chipotle, or morita. The dried chilies are soaked in hot water until they turn soft and then blended with the rest of the ingredients to make a spicy salsa.
  • Toppings: Chalupas are traditionally topped with pulled pork or shredded chicken or beef, but you can also find them topped with fried potatoes, Mexican chorizo, refried beans, and queso fresco.
  • Fresh garnish: Finely diced raw white onion and finely chopped cilantro are commonly used to garnish chalupas, although shredded iceberg lettuce can also be used.
  • Lard or vegetable oil: For a fully authentic experience, use lard to fry the chalupas, which is what is used in Mexico. However, if you can’t find lard easily, you can use canola oil for frying and still make very tasty chalupas.
Credit: Susy Villasuso

Chalupas Versus Tacos

There is really no comparing chalupas and tacos because they are two distinct dishes. Chalupas are fried, crispy, and cooked with salsa on top. Tacos are just as tasty, but the tortillas are warmed just to soften them and then filled with a variety of savory fillings.

Chalupa Recipe

These deliciously crispy chalupas are worth the extended cook time.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 7 hours

Makes 16 chalupas

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the pulled pork:

  • 3 large cloves

    garlic

  • 1 3/4 pounds

    boneless pork shoulder or pork butt

  • 1/2 cup

    orange juice

  • 1/2 cup

    low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1

    bay leaf

For the red salsa:

  • 12 ounces

    tomatoes (4 small or 2 medium)

  • 3 unpeeled cloves

    garlic

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

  • 6

    dried arbol chiles

For the green salsa:

  • 1 (11-ounce) can

    whole tomatillos

  • 2

    medium jalapeños

  • 1 clove

    garlic

  • 1/2 bunch

    fresh cilantro

  • 1/2

    medium lime

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed

For assembly:

  • 1/2

    large white onion

  • 1 bunch

    fresh cilantro

  • 16 to 18

    small corn tortillas (4 to 5-inches wide)

  • 2/3 cup

    canola oil, divided, plus more as needed

  • 5 ounces

    feta cheese

Instructions

Make the pulled pork:

  1. Mince 3 large garlic cloves and place in a 2-quart or larger slow cooker. Add 1 3/4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 bay leaf. Cover and cook on the HIGH setting until the pork is fork tender, about 6 hours. (This is a good time to make the salsas.)

Make the red and green salsas:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 400ºF. Quarter 12 ounces tomatoes and place in a small baking dish. Add 3 unpeeled garlic cloves, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Bake until the tomatoes and garlic are soft, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the green salsa.

  2. Drain and halve 1 (11-ounce) can whole tomatillos and place in the blender. Coarsely chop 1/2 small bunch fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems until you get 1/2 packed cup and add to the blender. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 medium lime into the blender (about 1 tablespoon). Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Blend until smooth. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

  3. Finish making the red salsa: Remove the stems from 6 dried arbol chiles and place in a small bowl. Add enough hot tap water to cover and let them soak for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, wash and dry the blender.

  4. When the tomatoes and garlic are ready, squeeze the garlic out of the skins into the blender. Add the roasted tomatoes and juices and soaked arbol chiles (leave the soaking water behind). Blend until smooth. Taste and season with more kosher salt and black pepper as needed. Pour into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Assemble the chalupas:

  1. Use 2 forks to shred the pork directly in the cooking liquid and toss to combine. Transfer to a bowl.

  2. Finely dice 1/2 medium large onion (about 2 cups) and transfer to a medium bowl. Finely chop 1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems until you have 1 packed cup and add to the onions. Toss to combine. Crumble 5 ounces feta cheese (about 1 1/4 cups).

  3. Heat 1/3 cup of the canola oil in a 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Fry 16 to 18 small corn tortillas 2 at a time: Add to the pan and fry until light golde-brown and just starting to crisp, about 20 seconds per side. Spread about 2 tablespoons of the green salsa on top of each tortilla and continue to cook, very carefully basting with some of the hot oil, until the tortillas are golden and crispy around the edges, about 1 minute more.

  4. Transfer the green salsa chalupas to a platter and top each with about 3 tablespoons pulled pork. Repeat making 6 more green salsa chalupas, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Wipe out the pan and repeat the process with the remaining oil and tortillas, this time using the red salsa. Garnish the chalupas with the onion and cilantro mixture and feta. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The pulled pork can be made up to 1 day ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container. Reheat in a saucepan over low heat or in the microwave before assembling the chalupas.

Storage: Leftover salsa can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.