When traveling in Mexico or dining out closer to home, I seek out antojitos — those little whims of street snacks and appetizers. My favorites include flavor-packed, handheld chalupas and sopes made from corn masa dough that has been transformed into crispy, crusty golden containers. They are perfect for Cinco de Mayo, but equally delicious any day of the year.
After a year of pandemic yeast dough and quick bread projects, it’s a pleasure to work with corn masa dough — it’s super simple and forgiving. This flavorful, gluten-free dough is used in the Mexican kitchen for everything from corn tortillas to quesadillas, tamales, dumplings and — of course — shallow rounds for sopes and chalupas that resemble small canoes.
If you live near a tortilleria, by all means purchase freshly made masa dough for the snacks. Most of us will have access to powdered corn masa in a Mexican market or large grocery store. It’s super simple to reconstitute the powdered masa with hot water for tortillas. For the recipes below, a bit of oil, salt and baking powder yields a tender result.
Once you have your corn masa dough ready, it’s time to make your fillings, though the number of fillings will depend on your available time and the number of guests you’re serving. I have three suggestions to get you started. The first — begin with firm tofu, which stands in for a less rich, albeit not very authentic, protein for picadillo; ground turkey or pork are other options. Potato, poblano and chorizo is another Pueblan-inspired filling, while shredded chicken with chipotle and avocado brings me back to Oaxaca.
Serve the sopes or chalupas with a generous spoonful of slightly warmed salsa or Mexican hot sauce. A sprinkle of fresh cilantro or sliced scallions brightens everything with color and flavor.
If you don’t want to make your own corn masa dough, you can always make the fillings and serve them tucked into hot tortillas for a fabulous taco party. If you go this route, know that corn tortillas need to be hot to be pliable enough to bend without falling apart. Brush a tortilla with some oil and lay the oiled side down on a hot griddle. Repeat with a second tortilla. After about one minute, when the tortillas are hot, sandwich them (oiled side in) together. Place about 1/3 cup of your hot filling in the center; fold and serve immediately.
Whether you make chalupas, sopes or tacos, any of these recipes would be a perfect way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. While May 5 marks the victory over France in the battle of Puebla, it’s not widely celebrated in Mexico. However, in the United States, the date inspires Mexican food and drink festivities. And it’s a great time to dip into our Mexican recipe repertoire.
Crispy Chalupas (or Sopes)
These are about as far from Taco Bell chalupas as you can get. Don’t be intimidated by working with corn masa; the dough is a joy to work with. Whatever shape you choose, the result will be crispy and delicious. Choose from any of the three toppings below, or come up with your own.
Caramelized Onion and Tofu Picadillo
Picadillo is a classic Mexican recipe that is served with rice, in tacos and as empanada filling. Here, picadillo — which is typically made with ground beef — goes vegan with carmelized onion, olives and crumbled tofu. It’s the perfect plant-based topping for your chalupas or sopes, and is a great recipe to have in your repertoire.
Potato, Poblano and Chorizo
Pueblo is one of the regions in Mexico where Cinco de Mayo is traditionally celebrated, and this recipe gets its inspiration from there. Potato, poblano pepper and chorizo come together with contrasting yet complementary flavors and textures for a delicious and memorable chalupa or sope topping.
Shredded Chicken with Chipotle and Avocado
If you’re looking for a super speedy topping for your chalupas or sopes, then look no further than this smoky, spicy recipe. Use rotisserie chicken (or any other leftover cooked chicken you have) and you’ll be done in 15 minutes flat.