Mexican street cuisine, such as chalupas, tacos, gorditas, and tamales, occupies a particular place in our hearts because of its delicious carb and salsa content.
Although chalupas and gorditas are two different dishes, they share many similar components, which can confuse a tourist when ordering food from a street stand.
Without further ado, let’s look at the distinctions between chalupas and gorditas in the following paragraphs. Don’t stop until the end because we’ll show you how to create your own fried chicken chalupa with straightforward step-by-step instructions.
Related: Top 30 Most Popular Mexican Foods
All About Chalupas
Chalupas are a tasty fried masa antojito (snack) from Mexico (cornbread). The term chalupa refers to the concave form of the masa cake. The word is derived from the English word shallop (small sailboat).
Chalupas exist in a variety of forms and sizes, including torpedos and tiny bowls, which can be thick (like sopes) or thin (like tortillas and tostadas).
Fillings for chalupas include shredded chicken or pig, chorizo, ground beef, refried beans, and eggs. Shredded lettuce, cheese, chopped raw onion, and salsa are typical toppings for this fried snack, but you may also add tomatoes, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.
- 1 cup masa harina (masa flour)
- ½ cup plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup salsa
- 2 cups shredded chicken, such as from a rotisserie chicken
- ½ cup shredded lettuce
- 1 white onion, chopped in a small dice
- ½ cup crumbled cotija cheese
How to Make Chapulas
- Step 1: Combine masa, 1 teaspoon oil, salt, and 2/3 cup water in a large mixing bowl. With a wooden spoon, stir until a soft dough forms. Knead the dough until it is smooth, adding additional water or oil if necessary.
- Step 2: Form dough into 2-inch balls with your hands, then flatten each ball with the palm of your hand into a disc. Make a crater in the center of each disc with a wooden spoon, then form the dough into a little boat.
- Step 3: In the meantime, heat the oil. Warm 12 cups of oil in a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the chalupa shells when the oil begins to shimmer. Cook until golden brown and crisp, approximately 1 minute. Then, turn and fry until the second side is golden brown and crunchy, about 1 minute more.
- Step 4: Toss the chalupa shells onto a paper towel-lined dish using tongs. Top each chalupa with a tablespoon of salsa and chicken, lettuce, onion, and cotija cheese.
Your fried chalupa shells should be eaten right away. Otherwise, they can be preserved for 2–3 days in a sealed Ziploc bag at room temperature. The dough may be frozen for up to 3 months, but it must be thoroughly thawed in the refrigerator before frying.
All About Gorditas
Gorditas are maize dough pockets containing a filling, similar to extra-thick tortillas. Refried beans, cheese, potatoes, chorizo, chicharróns (pork rinds), braised pig al pastor, carnitas, carne asada, or even shredded chicken are typical fillings for gorditas.
Masa harina, the same nixtamalized maize flour to create corn tortillas, is used to make gordita dough. Gorditas are generally deep-fried or cooked on a comal (griddle) in Mexico. For a similar look, shallow-fry the gorditas at home. When cooked, the gorditas bubble up and form a pita-like hollow within.
A gordita can be made in various ways, but they always call for masa harina and water. For flavor, you can add baking powder, garlic powder, or cheese. The gordita is deep-fried after being cooked on a hot griddle, giving it a soft interior and crispy exterior. They’re thick, almost like a fat corn tortilla, which allows them to be split and stuffed like pita bread.
The meal can also be served as a light lunch or dinner or as an appetizer before a rustic main course like lamb birria. Although most gorditas are served salty, there is also a sweet variation known as gorditas de azucar, which is made with sugar and spices in the dough and a filling of chopped fruits and whipped cream.
- 2 cups masa harina corn flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil, plus more for frying
- 1 cup refried beans
- 1 cup shredded meat, like pork, chicken, or beef
- 1 cup shredded cheese such as queso de rancho, queso Oaxaca, queso añejo, or Monterey Jack
- ½ cup Mexican crema or sour cream, to serve (optional)
- ½ cup salsa, to serve
How to Make Gorditas
- Step 1: To make the dough, combine masa harina, water, and salt. Make 16 little balls out of the dough. Heat a big skillet, griddle, or comal over medium-high heat.
- Step 2: Using a tortilla press or a flat board, lightly flatten a masa ball between two pieces of plastic wrap. If you press it down too much, it will become too thin, much like a regular corn tortilla. It should be roughly twice as thick as a traditional tortilla. If you make a mistake and make it too thin, collect the flattened dough and shape it into a ball before trying again.
- Step 3: Place the flattened masa on the heated griddle after removing it from the plastic wrap. Cook for 10 to 15 seconds on one side, then turn it and cook for another 10 to 15 seconds on the other. This helps to seal the dough, making it easier to produce an air pocket. Cook for another minute on each side until brown spots appear.
- Step 4: At this time, the gordita should begin to expand and bubble up in the center or on the sides. That’s just what you’re looking for. To help the gordita inflate even more, lightly push down on the edges with a spatula or another tool. Remove it from the griddle and set it on a dish with a light kitchen towel covering it.
- Step 5: Cut a slit down the edge of one side with a butter or paring knife as soon as you can handle and hold the gordita (it should still be hot, but not hot enough to burn you). The gordita should open up and have a lovely tiny pocket where all the yummy contents are stuffed.
Can you find these dishes in big cities like Chicago?
Yes, you can. A simple Google search can show you many restaurants and food trucks that offer you these delicious dishes.
Does Taco Bell sell these apart from their popular taco?
Yes, they do, and you can try ordering next time.
In short, the primary difference between a chalupa and a gordita is that the chalupa’s shell is deep-fried. Despite its thickness, a chalupa’s shell isn’t greasy and will make a crunchy noise when you bite it.
While they both use the same corn-based flatbread, the chalupa is crispy on the exterior, and the gordita is soft and pillowy on the inside. You can also consider gordita a thicker version of a taco because these two resemble each other in many ways, ranging from appearance to fillings.