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A chalupa is a tortilla-based dish from Mexico. Imagine a hard-shell taco, but bigger and thicker. Food historians believe that chalupas originated from Mexico’s south-central region, specifically in Hidalgo, Puebla, Guerrero, and Oaxaca. When Mexican cuisine became popular worldwide, chalupas were among the authentic Mexican dishes that were introduced to a global audience that enjoyed eating this food immensely. Today, many fast-food restaurants specializing in Mexican cuisine sell their version of the chalupa.

Chalupas Trivia

  • It is a common belief that chalupa got its name from the boat it resembles (if you turn the tortilla upside down, you will see the resemblance). The book Encyclopedia of Latino Culture: From Calaveras to Quinceaneras provided a description: “Like little boats, the chalupas are then loaded with all kinds of garnishes, although traditional chalupas from Cholula are dressed only with salsa, shredded lettuces, and crumbled cheese.”
  • Tiffany Harelik, in the book The Big Bend Cookbook Recipes and Stories from the Heart of West Texas, wrote: “Chalupa. Literal translation: small rowboat.”
  • Chalupas, described by Jeffrey M. Pilcher in the 2017 book Planet Taco (A Global History of Mexican Food), is an “open-faced antojito from central and southern Mexico.” Antojitos – or “little cravings” – refers to street food eaten as snacks or appetizers, usually small in size. Chalupas are classified as antojitos but the size of this food is enough to make an adult feel full.

Chalupas Buying Guide

When buying chalupa, do not be surprised if it looks different compared to the chalupa you had somewhere else. Variety is perfectly normal. Some chalupas come in the form of a folded corn tortilla while other versions of the chalupa come in the form of a flat corn tortilla. This is why the chalupa could be mistaken for a frybread or a tostada, while a smaller-sized chalupa with a thinner corn tortilla shell could be mistaken for a taco. 

For those who are not very familiar with Mexican cuisine, it is easy to find tortilla-based food confusing. You don’t know which is which because oftentimes, they all look the same. The book Encyclopedia of Latino Culture: From Calaveras to Quinceaneras explained: “For the untrained eye and palate, the chalupa may seem like a sope or a huarache or even a thick tortilla, but they are different enough with a distinctive flavor and preparation to justify giving them different names.”

Chalupas Production & Farming in Texas

To make a chalupa, deep fry a corn tortilla and slightly fold it in the middle. This will hold the fillings. The tortilla should look like the shape of the shell of a hard/fried taco, only thicker and bigger. It is usually filled with shredded meat, vegetables, chorizo, beans, chopped onions, pepper, and red salsa.

Production of chalupas is year-round since the ingredients used in making chalupas are available in Texas all year. In terms of production, chalupas are typically produced in Mexican cuisine restaurants cooking or Mexican cuisine-inspired fast-food chains. Food trucks that sell Mexican food also contribute to the annual production of chalupas. Small, local businesses are also growing and a common niche here is food, which includes Mexican cooking and cuisine. All of these contribute to the production of chalupas in Texas and the US and help explain why more and more Americans feast on Mexican food regularly.

Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:

Processed foods like frozen chalupa which contains cheese, meat, vegetables, and other ingredients. This will immediately go bad and will not last on the shelf without the aid of preservatives and other additives.

  • Oxidants/reductants – These are used to improve the dough. Some examples are azodicarbonamide (ADA), ascorbic acid, and l-Cysteine.
  • Emulsifiers – This is a crumb softener or dough conditioner. Diacetyl tartaric acid (DATA) esters of mono- and diglycerides (DATEM), polysorbate, calcium stearoyl-lactylate (CSL), and sodium stearoyl-lactylate (SSL) are some examples.
  • Hydrocolloids – These act as stabilizers, thickeners, and gelling agents, affecting the stabilization of emulsions, suspensions, and foams, and modifying starch gelatinization. Some examples are xanthan gum, guar gum, and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC). 
  • The purpose of the use of preservatives in bread and similar products is to inhibit the growth of molds and thermophilic bacteria. Here are examples of preservatives: propionic acid, sorbic acid, and benzoic acids

Store-bought tortillas that you will use in making chalupas may contain chemicals necessary to make the product appealing and to improve shelf-life, among others.

  • Flour additives – riboflavin, niacin, biotin, folic acid iron. These enrich the flour to make it nutritious.
  • To enhance gluten formation, strength, and stability, chlorine ascorbic acid lipoxygenase is added, while sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) is used as chemical leavening.
  • Leavening acids commonly used in a tortilla are the following: sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS), sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP), sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP), monocalcium phosphate (MCP), and calcium acid pyrophosphate.
  • Store-bought tortillas also use preservatives during production, including anti-mold agents (calcium propionate, sodium propionate, and potassium sorbate), sorbic acid, sodium benzoate, and methyl/propyl parabens.
  • Emulsifiers used in tortilla production include sodium and calcium stearoyl lactylate (SSL) and (CSL), ethoxylated mono and diglycerides (EMG), polysorbates (PS), succinylated monoglycerides (SMG), and diacetyl tartaric acid ester of monoglycerides (DATEM).
  • Tortilla production also includes the use of gums (hydrocolloids) and fibers as dough conditioners, like guar gum, carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan, and sodium alginate.


For restaurants with take-out or delivery options, expect the chalupa in a safe and secure take out food box with a cover and a carrying handle. If you are buying from a food truck or a food stand that expects customers to eat the food there, the chalupa is served on a food container (box or plate) made of cardboard, styrofoam, or plastic. If you are buying chalupas from the frozen section of the grocery, packaging involves a sealed plastic wrapper inside a cardboard box. 

Enjoying Chalupas

Mexican fast-food and restaurants as well as food trucks serve freshly-made chalupas you can eat there. Request for a take-out and bring it at home, at work, or anywhere you can snack. You can eat chalupas with bare hands so eating utensils is not necessary. Recipes are available online if you want to feast on home-cooked chalupas.

Food companies mass-produce ready-to-eat chalupas in a box sold in the frozen section of the grocery. If you are eating chalupas-in-a-box, make sure to read the instructions on how to prepare the food. You can use either the oven or the microwave to do this.


Leftover chalupa will keep for at least a week if stored properly in a dry, clean, sealed container placed in the refrigerator. You can take it out from the fridge anytime and reheat in the oven at 200 degrees F. until heated through, which is approximately five minutes.

Make your own chalupas

Chalupas are delicious, easy to make, and easy to eat! The ingredients are not hard to find and cooking usually takes less than an hour. Home-made chalupas are great for sharing with family and friends.  


This recipe yields four chalupas.


Chalupa beef filling:

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • ¼ onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons roasted and ground cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne powder
  • salt

For the chalupa shell, you have the option of buying a frozen tortilla or making it from scratch. If you are buying a frozen tortilla, simply follow the instructions indicated in the package.

Home-made chalupa shell:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoon of butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • oil for frying

Additional Toppings:

  • Grated cheese
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sour cream


  • Step 1. Sauté onion over medium heat. Add all the spices and cook for another minute.
  • Step 2. Add ground beef and cook over medium heat until beef is browned.
  • Step 3. To make the tortilla shell, mix all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. 
  • Step 4. Add the milk to the dough. 
  • Step 5. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface and then break it into 6 even pieces.
  • Step 6. Roll each out to a 6-inch circle.
  • Step 7. Deep fry it in a pan, 30 seconds on each side. Fold it during frying. Fry evenly.
  • Step 8. Remove the shell and let it drain on a paper towel. 
  • Step 9. Once the shell has drained and cooled, put the fillings in and add toppings.



  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 370 18%
  • Carbs: 26g 9%
  • Sugar: 4g
  • Fiber: 4g 16%
  • Protein: 13g 26%
  • Fat: 25g 38%
  • Saturated Fat: 8g 40%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 35mg 12%
  • Sodium 570mg 24%
  • Vitamin C 3.6mg 6%
  • Vitamin A 300IU 6%
  • Calcium 150mg 15%
  • Iron 1.8mg 10%
  • Vitamin B12 84%
  • Potassium 325mg 9%
  • Vitamin B6 48.6%
  • Vitamin E 1.4%
  • Manganese 36%
  • Magnesium 24.2%

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