Home Articles Chalupa vs. Tostada (6 Main Differences)

Chalupa vs. Tostada (6 Main Differences)

Contemplating the difference between chalupa vs. tostada? Many Mexican food lovers find these two confusing.  

Despite their commonalities, there are six key distinctions setting them apart. Preparation, appearance, and texture are just a few. 

Chalupas and tostadas come from the same country. They also feature similar ingredients to make things even more perplexing. 

Homemade Mexican Chicken Tostada Flat Tacos

But upon closer examination, you can see these beloved Mexican foods are totally different.

Let’s unravel the layers of the chalupa vs. tostada to find what makes them unique.

Chalupa vs. Tostada (What’s the Difference?) 

These two Mexican dishes are a lot alike. Compare them side by side, and you’ll realize they’re more distinct than you think.

Here are the key ways you can tell one from the other. 

Origins

Each dish originated in Mexico, which is part of the confusion. Yet, they come from different regions.

The chalupa is from the states of Hidalgo, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Puebla. Except for Hidalgo, all these states are just south of Mexico City.

The tostada is from what’s known as Mesoamerica. This historical region spans from Central Mexico down to Costa Rica.

Ingredients

These Mexican street food favorites share many similar ingredients. But the shell is not one of them.

The chalupa features a fried masa dough (corn dough) shell. It’s typically boat-shaped, kind of like a taco. 

Common fillings include cheese, salsa, lettuce, and meat like shredded pork or chicken. Other variations may include beef, refried beans, eggs, or chorizo. 

The tostada has a flat corn tortilla shell. It’s piled high with all kinds of toppings. Chicken, pork, beef, and refried beans are all common proteins. 

Some tostadas feature seafood like white fish or shrimp.

But no tostada is complete without fresh toppings. Popular ingredients include salsa, guacamole, lettuce, onion, sour cream, and cheese. 

Appearance

One of the easiest ways to tell which is which is how they look.

Chalupas have a boat-shaped fried masa shell. Sometimes, it comes flat. But if you inspect it, you can see it’s not a corn tortilla. 

Tostadas come on a flat corn tortilla shaped like a plate. These can be miniature-sized shells, making them a great snack. Or, they can be much larger, turning a tostada into a meal.

Unlike the chalupa, the shell never changes shape. Otherwise, it would break!

Flavor & Texture

Both these savory Mexican dishes use many of the same toppings. So the flavor is quite similar. 

The shell, however, is where the clear distinction lies. 

The chalupa has a soft and crunchy shell. The tostada is all about the crunch. It comes on a crispy fried or toasted corn tortilla. 

In fact, tostada translates to “toasted” in Spanish.

Preparation

The preparation for chalupas and tostadas both start with the shell. Then, you add the protein, followed by the other toppings. 

Making the base, however, is very different. 

Chalupas start by shaping and frying masa dough. You can opt for the classic boat shape or make it flat. 

Once it’s ready, stuff the shell with your protein of choice, followed by the toppings.

The tostada shell begins by either frying or toasting a corn tortilla. Some people also prefer to use wheat. 

Next, you cover it with refried beans or meat. Sometimes, it comes with both. Then, you pile it high with your favorite toppings.

How They’re Served

Chalupas are common as an appetizer but can also be a meal

You can dress them up like you would tacos. Or you can pair them with other dishes like refried beans or a salad.

Tostadas are usually a snack or appetizer. Although, you can easily turn them into a meal by itself or with other dishes.

Mexican rice, pozole, and elote are a few ideas. 

Mexican Chalupa with Chicken Meat and Herbs Served with Sauce

What Is a Chalupa?

The chalupa is a common street food found in Mexico. It features a boat-shaped fried masa dough shell with savory protein and fresh toppings. 

Some versions forgo the classic shape for a flat base. But that doesn’t change the flavor or the texture.  

Thick or thin, the shell gives it a soft and crunchy texture. 

The ingredients you stuff it with can vary. But beef, pork, chicken, and refried beans are common proteins. 

Different Types of Chalupas 

Like tacos, chalupas come with many different fillings, all of which are delicious. 

Here are a few different variations you should try.

  • Bean chalupa. Refried beans are the main protein.
  • Breakfast chalupa. Add scrambled eggs, potatoes, cheese, and a protein of choice. Bacon, sausage, or chorizo are a few ideas. 
  • Meaty chalupa. Beef, pork, chicken, or chorizo are common proteins. 
  • Vegetarian chalupa. Skip the meat and use tofu. You can also add grilled veggies.
  • Taco Bell chalupa. It includes beef, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream. 
  • Cholula chalupa. It includes cheese, lettuce, and salsa only.
  • Chalupas Poblanas. This is a Pueblo-style chalupa with meat, queso fresco, salsa, and onion.
  • Chalupa Compuesta. It comes with beef and refried beans.

Cheese, salsa, and lettuce are classic toppings with all these versions. You can include other ingredients like sour cream, guacamole, or diced onion.

Is a Chalupa Considered a Taco? 

Despite the appearance, a chalupa is not a taco. I repeat, it’s not a taco. 

The signature ingredient of a chalupa is the masa dough shell. Tacos, however, may or may not have a corn-based shell. 

Some come with a soft or crunchy flour tortilla. Others come with a warm or fried yellow, white, or blue corn tortilla. 

There is also a difference in texture. 

Chalupas have a soft, crunchy shell that comes from frying masa. The texture of a taco shell ranges from soft to extra crunchy. 

Homemade Beef and Cheese Tostadas with Lime and Cilantro

What Is a Tostada? 

The tostada is a popular Mexican food. It features a crunchy, flat tortilla with protein and toppings

Shredded pork, beef, chicken, and refried beans are common. So are toppings like salsa, white onions, guacamole, and lettuce. 

In Spanish, tostada means “toasted.” Toasted or fried, you can find the tortilla shell prepared both ways.

Tostadas are very common as a snack or appetizer. Although, you can also make a meal out of it. 

Different Types of Tostadas 

Tostadas are extremely customizable. Even more so than chalupas. So you’ll find many variations. 

Some are very savory and meaty. Others are super fresh. Here are just some different tostada variations you’ll find.

  • Breakfast tostada. This comes with refried beans and a fried egg. 
  • Seafood tostada. Top it with shrimp, white fish, seared tuna, crab, octopus, or ceviche. 
  • Meaty tostada. Beef, pork, chicken, or chorizo are common.
  • Vegetarian tostada. It includes refried beans or grilled veggies.
  • Tlayuda tostada. This is a Oaxaca-style with refried beans, meat, Oaxaca cheese, avocado, lettuce, and salsa. It comes on a large shell the size of a pizza.
  • Chapulines tostada. This is the most adventurous version of them all! This tostada features fried grasshoppers.  

Like chalupas, the additional toppings will vary. Salsa, avocado, shredded cheese, cilantro, onion, and hot sauce are just the start.

Think of it like a taco. If you put it on a taco, you can put it on a tostada. 

How Is a Tostada Different From a Taco?

Both come with similar fillings. However, the main difference between a tostada and a taco is the shell. 

Tostadas come on a flat shell served open-faced. Tacos come in a folded shell that holds the ingredients inside.

The shell itself can also vary in ingredients and preparation. The tostada has a fried or toasted corn tortilla as a base.

Tacos have a lot more variation. Corn or flour, the shells can be soft, warm, fried, or super crunchy. 

Homemade Chalupa Topped with Chicken Meat and Herbs Served with Sauce

How to Eat Chalupas & Tostadas 

There’s no way to avoid it. Chalupas and tostadas are messy, but that’s part of the fun!

You can take any ingredients that escape and put them on another shell. Or, you can plan your attack. 

Eat a chalupa like you would a taco. Tilt your head to the side and take careful bites to avoid a mess. 

When eating a tostada, be gentle. Grip it too hard, and you’ll crack the base!

Instead, mindfully pinch the shell with both hands and eat slowly. 

Whatever you do, don’t grab a knife and a fork. Trying to slice and pierce either with a fork will cause a mess.

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Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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