Tlayudas are Mexican street food, a sort of pizza from the southern state of Oaxaca. They are traditionally made with a dinner-plate-sized corn tortilla that’s cooked until crispy, then topped with refried beans and a selection of thinly-sliced meats, local cheeses, and crunchy, cool lettuce or slaw. It’s often eaten open-faced, much like a pizza, but it can also be folded onto itself like a giant quesadilla. These street pizzas are named for the large tortillas upon which they are built, though there are acceptable substitutions that are easily available if it’s difficult to get authentic ingredients in your area.
We wanted to make our tlayudas accessible for everyone, and our initial concern was finding an acceptable tortilla. The corn used for these tortillas in Mexico has a higher starch content, which means the dough can be stretched to a greater size before their cohesion fails. Most stateside corn tortillas are significantly smaller, so we chose to use whole wheat tortillas, which are hearty enough to put in an oven and load up with toppings. Tlayuda tortillas are increasingly available in specialty stores, ethnic markets, and online.
At the start of cooking a traditional Oaxacan tlayuda is brushed with asiento, unrefined lard mixed with toasted chicharron, or pork skin. This imparts a bunch of flavor, but can be off-putting to a home cook who isn’t interested in using lard, or to vegetarians and other people with specific diets. The simple answer? Leave it off. Chef Rick Bayless brushes his tlayudas with roasted garlic oil; we opted to add extra flavor to our refried beans with Pasilla de Oaxaca Chiles. These smoky chiles are a secret weapon, loaded with pork-like flavor. Incorporating them into the refried beans helps replace the flavor of asiento without additional fat.
Choose whatever sort of cheese you like, but remember, the tlayuda is only going to be in the oven for 7 minutes, so if you want the cheese to melt your need to select carefully. Asadero is a great choice, as is—perhaps unsurprisingly—queso de Oaxaca. We used crumbly, salty queso fresco, so the cheese could punctuate each and every bite. Top it with fresh lettuce or slaw drizzled in lime juice for great texture and a fun, fruity finish. Top with tomatoes and dig in!
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon Roasted Minced Garlic
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1, 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed (if you prepare your beans from scratch, use about 2 cups)
- 2 Pasilla de Oaxaca Chiles, rehydrated
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 4, 8-inch whole wheat flour tortillas
- 1/2 cup shredded Mexican cheese
- 2 cups shredded cabbage or lettuce
- Juice from 1 lime
- Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees or grill to medium-high heat.
- Boil hot water and pour over Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles. Steep for 5-8 minutes, then drain. Remove seeds and membranes and chop.
- In a small skillet, heat oil to medium-high heat and add onions; cook for about 5 mins until translucent. Add Roasted Minced Garlic and Ground Cumin, cook for 1 more minute to combine flavors.
- In a food processor, add beans, onion mixture, chopped Pasilla de Oaxaca Chiles, brown sugar and about 3 tablespoons water. Blend until smooth.
- Add salt and pepper to bean mixture to taste.
- Lay tortillas on a baking sheet or on aluminum foil for the grill. Do not overlap tortillas, use 2 baking sheets.
- Spread bean mixture and cheese on tortillas and bake 5-7 minutes in the oven or on the grill until edges of tortillas become crisp and brown.
- Combine cabbage, lime juice, and cilantro for slaw topping.
- Cut into triangles and serve with slaw and diced tomatoes.