When I need a surefire hit for dinner I don’t have to look any further than tostadas topped with chicken and black beans.
Everyone in my family is a big fan of Mexican and Tex Mex, and tostadas are always happily greeted by guests—it’s lively food that instantly turns dinner into a party.
What Is a Tostada?
A tostada can refer to a fried tortilla by itself, though often (as in this case) it refers to the Mexican dish made with a fried tostada at its base and toppings piled on top.
Corn tortillas provide great flavor and crunch, and are usually gluten-free (but check the label to be sure). There are also some tortillas on the market that are made with a combo of corn and flour, which I really like. Straight flour tortillas would also work, if you prefer (you may have to reduce the frying time), but corn are more traditional.
Tostadas typically involve layering ingredients on top of the fried tostada: meat or protein such as chicken or beans, salad components like shredded lettuce and diced tomato, and maybe some of the toppings that you'd expect to see on top of a taco, such as cheese or sour cream.
I’ve picked a combo of chicken and beans along with an assortment of classic Tex-Mex toppings such as tomatoes, avocado, and cheese. But the main points of interest really come in the form of the vinaigrette, a zippy dressing with a little optional heat from chipotles in adobo, and then the crema topping—a creamy mix of sour cream, lime, and cilantro.
How to Make Easy Poached Chicken
The chicken for this recipe is quickly cooked in water, an easy technique called poaching. You can poach in plain water, but for more flavorful chicken, try adding seasoning to the poaching liquid.
For this recipe, try whole peppercorns, sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano, bay leaves, whole garlic cloves or halved shallots, and lemon slices. (When poaching chicken for different recipes, you might change up the seasonings to match the flavors in that recipe.)
The liquid left from cooking the chicken breasts won’t be flavored deeply enough to act as chicken stock on its own, but you can use it for things such as cooking rice or grains to infuse them with a bit of brothy flavor. Or freeze it, and use it to poach again another day!
How to Serve the Tostadas
This recipe is a combo of hot and cool, with the beans warm from the pan, and the rest of ingredients at room temperature or chilled. If you prefer you can serve the whole thing at room temperature, allowing the beans to cool before assembling. This is also useful if you are making the tostadas for a party. (Do you want to make those beans from scratch? Here's how to make them on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker.)
Tostadas are usually piled fairly high, so they call for a knife and fork, especially because you want to try and get some of everything, including the crispy tortilla at the base, in every bite.
But if you’re eating with family or good friends, I think there’s nothing wrong with using those last few pieces of tortilla to scoop up the rest of the toppings that surely be strewn across your plate.
More Easy Weeknight Mexican Recipes!
Chicken and Black Bean Tostadas
A little shortcut: If you don’t have time to fry the tortillas, you can cheat and crack open a hard corn taco shell and place the two halves on the plate as a base, then build the tostada from there.
- For the chicken:
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (3/4 to 1 pound total)
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Optional for flavoring the poaching liquid: whole peppercorns, sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano, bay leaves, whole garlic cloves or halved shallots, and lemon slices
- For the chipotle dressing:
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon lime juice (from about 1 lime)
- 1 teaspoon pureed chipotles in adobo sauce (optional)
- 1 tablespoon minced shallots
- For the cilantro crema:
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
- For the tostadas:
- Vegetable or canola oil for pan frying
- 4 6-inch corn tortillas (or tortillas with a blend of flour and corn such as La Tortilla Factory 50/50)
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 heart of romaine, thinly sliced crosswise into slivers (about 4 cups)
- 1/2 cup diced plum tomato
- 1 ripe avocado, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese, or crumbled cotija cheese
Cook the chicken:
Place the chicken breasts, salt, pepper, and any optional flavoring extras in a small pot. Add water to cover by 1 inch and place over medium-high heat.
Cover the pot and bring the chicken to simmer for 8 to 12 minutes until it is cooked through and registers at least 165°F with a digital thermometer. Exact cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken breasts.
Shred the chicken:
Remove the chicken from the heat and remove the chicken from the liquid. Scoop out 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and set to the side (the remainder can be strained and saved for another recipe).
When cool enough to handle, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Make the chipotle dressing:
In a small bowl or container with a lid, combine the olive oil, 1 tablespoon lime juice, the pureed chipotle in adobo (if using), and shallot. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make the lime crema:
In another small bowl or container, combine the sour cream, 1 teaspoon lime juice, and the cilantro.
Pan fry the tortillas:
Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until a tiny flick of water into the pan sizzles on contact. Pan fry the tortillas one at a time, for about 2 minutes on each side until lightly browned and fairly crisp.
Add a bit more oil if needed during the frying process. Transfer the tortillas to paper towels as they finish cooking.
Cook the garlic and beans:
Pour off any excess oil from the skillet, leaving a thin film on the bottom of the pan. Return to medium heat. Stir in the garlic and cumin and sauté for 30 seconds until you can smell the seasonings and the garlic starts to turn golden.
Add the beans and stir well, then add 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the beans are hot and the liquid reduces to a glaze on the beans—if it starts to look dry you can add a bit more of the reserved liquid.
Serve the tostadas:
Place each of the tortillas on a plate and pile 1 cup of lettuce onto each.
Divide the warm beans equally over the lettuce, then repeat the same process with the chicken, tomatoes, and avocados. Finally, top the tostadas with the cheese and cilantro. Drizzle the dressing evenly over the tostadas and finish with a dollop of crema. Serve immediately.