If you came expecting a fruity tart, sorry to disappoint.
But don’t go yet! Because today we’re asking, what is a torta? And you’ll love the answer.
A Mexican torta is a type of sandwich featuring a crusty roll filled with a variety of meats, cheeses, and toppings.
Spicy sausages and sauces are common, as are extras like refried beans, avocado, and peppers.
As for the meat, it could be chicken, carnitas, or steak. Though some tortas are vegan.
Sounds pretty heavenly, huh?
Read on as we explore this delicious dish, including the various toppings. You’ll soon discover why it’s so beloved by locals and visitors alike.
What Is a Torta?
Tortas are very different depending on the country they’re made in.
For example, Mexican tortas are hefty sandwiches loaded with protein, cheese, vegetables, and sauce.
However, in Italy, for example, a torta is a type of tart. They often feature a baked pastry case with sweet or savory fillings.
And in other countries, torta refers to a type of cake.
That said, today we’re discussing the wonder that is the Mexican torta!
They feature flavorful ingredients such as meats, cheeses, sauces, salsas, beans, and more, all loaded into a crusty yet fluffy bread roll.
Think of these bad boys like a taco-sandwich hybrid. So they’re even more hearty and satisfying!
What Does a Torta Taste Like?
Obviously, tortas taste different depending on the ingredients. They’re as similar yet varied as a platter of tacos.
However, the best way to describe them is to say they taste like hoagie rolls stuffed with taco fillings.
I mean, it makes sense that a chicken torta will taste wildly different from a steak torta, right?
And tortas stuffed with ground beef and cheese will have a third unique flavor profile.
You can even make vegetarian and vegan tortas! And those will taste nothing like those stuffed full of meat.
Though different, they all have plenty of delicious South of the Border flair.
Brief History of the Torta
It’s always nice when a recipe has an interesting and easy-to-define history.
Take eggnog, buffalo wings, and waffles, for example. Charting their history and how they came to the United States is simple.
Unfortunately, tracing the torta’s lineage is a bit more complicated.
French Occupied Mexico – Mid to Late 1800s
There are a few different versions of “history” where tortas are concerned.
Some foodies claim they appeared in the 1860s when France occupied Mexico.
During that time, French chefs brought many new dishes to the region, and baguettes were pretty common.
So, many people think they inspired this bread bun sandwich.
Mexico – 1900s
Others claim tortas didn’t appear until the 1900s.
According to this theory, a street vendor accidentally discovered the torta when he dropped a sandwich in a vat of salsa.
His customer ate and loved the sandwich anyway; thus, the torta was born.
The truth is, we can’t know for sure.
The dropped sandwich story seems fishy to me. After all, how many of us would willingly eat a salsa-covered sandwich we didn’t order?
Therefore, I think the French story is more likely.
However, it’s also possible that tortas are even older. For example, since wheat came to Mexico in the early 1500s, tortas could have emerged then.
Mexican people were eating sandwiches on wheat bread as early as the 1520s.
So it’s not a huge leap to assume they might have enjoyed some version of the torta, even if they didn’t call it that.
Whatever its history, the torta has been a staple of Mexican cuisine since at least the mid-1900s. And I’m thrilled it’s finally found its way to America.
The Right Bread for Tortas
In Mexico, people typically use two types of bread to make tortas: bolillo and telera rolls.
- Bolillo rolls are similar to French baguettes. They’re slightly smaller and a little softer but still thick, crusty, and absorbent. So they won’t fall apart even with all the wet ingredients.
- Telera rolls are more oblong-shaped and flatter. They, too, are thick and crusty and will hold up okay even when loaded with salsa, beans, etc.
In a pinch, you can also use French bread, Portuguese rolls, or any crusty roll with soft insides.
Whatever you do, though, don’t use sandwich bread or anything else that’s flimsy.
When it comes to tortas, bread is probably the most crucial ingredient. You want to ensure you get it right.
Types of Meat Used for Tortas
Fortunately, you have a lot more leeway regarding what meat you use.
Picking the correct bread is essential. However, you pretty much have free reign when it comes to meat.
Remember, though, plenty of Mexican flavor is what makes a torta a torta.
So, you’ll want to stick to Mexican-style meats or meats with Mexican seasonings. (Think cilantro, paprika, Mexican oregano, etc.)
That still leaves you pretty wide open, though. You can make tortas with chicken, pork, beef, or with no meat at all.
You may also want to consider using Chipotle or Adobo sauce to flavor whatever you choose.
In Mexico, one of the most prevalent torta meats is milanesa.
It’s a type of fried cutlet usually made from chicken or steak. It has a slightly crispy skin and a delightfully juicy center.
Here are some of my favorite torta meats:
- Chorizo (torta de chorizo)
- Carnitas (torta de carnitas)
- Carne asada
- Ahogadas (boneless pork butts)
- Tasajo (dried beef)
For a great meatless torta, try vegan tempeh.
Popular Torta Toppings
Like the meat, torta toppings can be anything you want them to be.
Cheese and veggies are some of the most common options, but they certainly aren’t the only ones.
Sour cream and other types of crema are popular, as are guacamole and salsa. Some people add refried beans, avocado slices, or pineapples to theirs, too.
Basically, if you can add it to a taco or taco salad, you can put it on your torta.
Here are just a few of the many options to consider:
- Black beans
- Lettuce, spinach, or cabbage
- Cotija or Oaxaca
- Queso fresco
- Corn kernels
- Crunchy tortilla strips
- Adobo or chipotle sauce
- Jalapeños (or other peppers)
- Various pickled veggies, such as radishes or carrots
Some torta recipes even have you dip them in a sauce before serving them.
For those, a tasty red sauce would work, as would salsa or salsa verde.
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