Cooking With Confidence
chalupa
Beef, Main Dishes, Spicy, Stuffing Stuff

Chalupas

by Nick

I was so excited to try my hand at some more fast food things after my breakfast sandwiches were so well received. After last week’s poll, it looks like people were most excited about the possibility of making a chalupa at home.

Let me start by saying that I’ve never actually had a Taco Bell Chalupa, although I did go through a Taco Bell phase in high school… That means I based my chalupa version off of what I could see in their photos which was some sort of chewy shell, seasoned ground beef, and various toppings.

Guess what: I nailed it!

It’s true that my shells are not as perfectly shaped as Taco Bell’s version, but cut me a break people. I consider that character! As you might guess, the only hard part about chalupas at home is the shell. Otherwise, you’re basically just making a taco.

Yield
Serves 3-4.
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Chalupas

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 Teaspoons cumin seeds (I left mine whole but you could toast them and grind them if you wanted)
  • 1 Teaspoon hot paprika
  • 1/2 Teaspoon cayenne
  • Pinch of salt
  • Chalupa Shell: (I found this recipe that I adapted. I was happy with it)
  • Makes 6 shells, I recommend doubling it so you have some room for error.
  • 2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 Cup milk
  • Oil for frying
  • Additional Toppings:
  • Grated cheese
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Sour cream

Helpful Equipment

Directions

1) Add oil to a large pan over medium-high heat. Once your oil is hot, add onions and let them cook for a few minutes until they soften. Then add all the spices and cook for another minute.

2) Stir in ground beef and cook over medium heat until beef is browned.

3) Prep other ingredients like lettuce, cheese, and any other toppings you want.

4) For the shells, add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl and stir them together. Then cut the butter in until it resembles pea-sized pieces. I just used my fingers for this.

5) Stir in the milk and bring the dough together into a ball.

6) Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface and divide it into 6 even pieces.

7) Heat about two inches of frying oil to 350 degrees in a shallow pan.

8) Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it out to a 6 inch circle.

9) Gently slide the dough into the hot oil. It should immediately float and puff. Let the dough fry for 30 seconds on side one. Use tongs to flip the dough over and gently fold the dough in half (like a taco shell). Hold the dough in that shape as it fries for 30 seconds. Roll the shell over to cook evenly. It should be done after about 2 minutes of frying.

10) Remove the shell and let it drain on a paper towel. When it's fried, it should hold it's shell shape. Repeat with all the shells. You can keep the finished shells warm in a 200 degree oven.

11) After the shell has drained and cooled, fill them with ground beef and lots of toppings.

I decided to get all my toppings ready before making my shells just because I assumed they would be best if we ate them as soon as possible. This turned out to be not completely true. The shells kept pretty well actually and were even good on day two.

The Ground Beef

You can definitely buy one of those packets of taco seasoning if you want, but the above recipe I used is really flavorful.

meat and spices

basic stuff.

Start out by adding your oil to a large pan over medium-high heat. Once your oil is hot, add your onions and let them cook for minute or two until translucent. Then add all your spices and stir. Cooking your spices for just a minute or two before you add the beef will really release their flavor. Just be careful to make sure they don’t burn.

Then add your ground beef! I used an 85/15 ground beef for this version.

Turn your heat down to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the beef is browned and it smells like tacos!

cooked beef

Smells good.

Other Stuff

While my beef cooked, I prepped all my other toppings. I didn’t want to be distracted while I was making the shells!

Toppings

Essentials.

Chalupa Shells

The shells for these guys is obviously the tricky part of this recipe. Luckily the dough is incredibly easy to make. It’s just the frying and shaping part that requires a bit of dexterity.

dough ingredients

Easiest dough ever.

To make the dough, just add all your dry ingredients to a bowl and stir them up. Then cut in your butter (the original recipe used shortening). I used my fingers to evenly incorporate the butter. Then add your milk and stir it together until the dough forms a ball.

Next, lightly roll out the ball with your hands and divide it into 6 even pieces. Roll each of those into balls and you’re ready to get started frying!

I doubled the recipe and here are my dough balls ready to be rolled out and fried.

dough

You’re shooting for the same size…

TIP. For the frying part, don’t use a really deep pot or pan. A deep cast iron skillet is perfect for frying these. The reason is that you only want your oil to be about 2 inches deep at the maximum that way you can easily tong your dough and shape it.

So get out your favorite skillet or pan and add enough frying oil (I used canola) to come a few inches up the side. You want your oil to be 350 degrees. As always when frying, I highly recommend a deep fry thermometer. They aren’t very expensive and if you’re oil is too hot or too cold, you’re shells just won’t fry up correctly.

While your oil is heating up, lightly flour a clean surface and roll out a ball of dough to roughly a 6 inch diameter circle. Try to make it as round as possible, but it doesn’t have to be perfect.

rolled dough

Kind of like a tortilla I guess!

Next, when your oil is hot, gently slide the dough into the hot oil. It should float immediately and start to puff up!

dough fry

It’ll puff up!

Each shell will only take about 2 minutes to cook. You have two choices. You could just fry it for about a minute on each side, turning it with tongs a few times to make sure it cooks evenly. That’s the easy way to do it and would give you kind of a chalupa tostada base that you could pile toppings on.

If you want a real shell though, this is what you have to do:

1) Let the dough fry for about 30 seconds on one side.
2) Use tongs to flip the dough over.
3) After you flip the dough, use the tongs to gently fold the dough in half. Hold the dough in that shell shape with the tongs for about 30-45 seconds on one side.
4) Roll the shell shape over to the other side to cook it evenly.

Sorry I couldn’t really take photos of this process. It all went down too fast. Don’t worry if you mess up one or two, eventually you’ll get the hang of it.

Here’s one of my finished shells!

perfect shell

How awesome is that shell?!

You can keep these in a warm oven (200 degrees) while you fry off the rest of the shells and then everybody can eat at the same time.

I ripped apart one of the chalupas so you could see the interior texture. They were nice and crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.

chalupa insides

Crispy on the outside soft on the inside!

These are larger than normal taco shells so you can really pile them high and deep with fillings!

So while I’ve never had the Taco Bell variety, I can’t imagine that their version is better than mine because these were really awesome. Whether you actually make the shells or just make flat tostadas to pile stuff on, chalupas are a definite win.

So much better than Taco Bell, these homemade chalupa shells can be filled pretty much any Tex-Mex filling!

If you like Tex-Mex these are a great change from the normal taco/burrito line up so give them a shot!

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52 comments on “Chalupas

  1. Tshez Louiese! This is a killer recipe with an outstanding easy to follow (for dummies – like me) So terribly impressed, so early in the morning. I'm already hungry.

    Love your blog!

    Penelope

    1. Be prepared to feed an army! This recipe feeds A LOT! I’ve change somethings, I am rating this a 4 star due to the excessive salt the first time I made it. 2nd time I made it, I soaked the beans overnight and then proceeded to follow the recipe using pork roast loin to help cut down on the fat. Added an extra tablespoon of garlic powder, 1/2 tablespoon of ancho chili powder and 1/4 cup of dried minced onion and let it cook adding 1 tablespoon of garlic salt in place of the regular salt at the end. Thought it was going to have to much liquid, but after shredding the meat and adding back to the crockpot, it was just perfect! TWO SIDE NOTES: 1.) Adding a potato while cooking will take the gassiness out of beans! 2.) Adding salt BEFORE the beans finish cooking guarantee they will remain hard – wait until the end to add your salt!

    2. Very tasty! But we thought it would have been better with at least twice the amount of beans. Also, I only used 2 c. water (which just covered the meat/beans). In addition to lettuce, tomato and cheese, we also garnished with diced avocado (guacamole would be great too) and sour cream. My kids suggested putting it in those flour tortilla taco bowls next time instead of over Fritos.

  2. Vive La Chalupa!

    I've been known to favor Chalupas, and yours look beautiful…………I only currently indulge through your photos — I'm off to have a mid morning of FF Yogurt, granola and something………..but your photos will be in my dreams this afternoon @ nap time ;)

  3. You

    Freaking

    Rock.

    Bookmarked. These chalupas are amazing. I don't think Taco Bell belongs in the same zip code as these beauties you made, Nick.

  4. It is 6:26 a.m. and I'm all fired up for chalupas . . . these look delectable, but I, of course, would have to add some HOT sauce to these puppies for maximum enjoyment. Delicioso!

  5. First things first: this looks amazing. Way better than anything Taco Bell could make.

    However, even though I realize this is in response to a reader poll, and you are recreating a fast food dish, I feel it should be make clear to your readers that the Taco Bell chalupa is a bastardized version of a real chalupa, and barely comes close to even resembling one. A real chalupa is made with a fried corn tortilla as the “shell”, which is more like an english muffin than anything else, and is sprinkled with queso fresco, and most certainly does not contain ground beef.

    I don’t want this to seem like a negative comment or anything reflecting your culinary skills… I am a longtime fan! I just think it’s a shame that most Americans think that Taco Bell’s version of Mexican food is anything close to authentic. The food at your local taquiera is twice as delicious at half the price! That is, of course, unless you cook the food in the comfort of your own home ;-)

    1. From Kelly:

      "No problem! I live in Alabama so it's hard to find good, authentic ethnic food here, but the one thing we do have is good Mexican food! I eat at the local taquiera about once a week or so, and chalupas are my absolute favorite thing on the menu, which is why I got so excited about your post!

      Here's a link I found for an authentic chalupa.

      I think the trick here is to use a homemade corn tortilla. The store-bought ones just won't puff up the way they need to. The end result is something very much like an english muffin in texture, though not as thick. The taquiera I go to has a choice of different meat fillings, and they range from slow-cooked and shredded chicken, pork, and beef to tongue and "cabeza" meat, which I know means "head" but I'm too scared to ask any further :)

      I think the reason it's so hard to find these good, authentic recipes is because they are family traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. You don't see many Mexican taquiera owners as bloggers, so their recipes don't show up on the internet. That said, I can tell you put a lot of effort into your recipes, and you've helped me out of a "whats-for-dinner" slump more than a few times!"

      Thanks Kelly for the info!

    2. Thanks for the comment Kelly. I’m not actually sure that I’ve ever had that. If you know of a link or recipe, could you comment with it?!

      Thanks!

      1. Hi,
        Love your shell recipe! Chalupas are endlessly variable. It’s all optional depending how carried away you want to get. Yes, crisped corn tortillas work, but so do the soft shells in this recipe!
        (And like Navajo Fry Bread, you can top these shells with butter, honey, agave nectar, cinamin sugar, confectioners sugar, cheese, mustard–of fill them like Sopaipillas with meats, sweets, anything.

        Take Nick’s/your recipe and add the following: I did not repeat his/your ingredients–these are in addition. This is a full throttle Chalupa!
        *A bottle of Chalula (hot sauce) (to add once served or constructed) (I am in Texas, Chalula even goes on eggs out here.)
        *A bowl of grated cheese: Monterey Jack, Colby, Cheddar-one or a combination of all three
        *A small bowl of diced onions–topping
        *A seeded diced jalapeno (use sparingly depending on how much heat you want)–as an optional topping or cook with the ground beef.
        *A bowl of lime wedges (one wedge squeezed over everything) the other added to your Corona or Dos Equis or Tequila shot.
        A bowl of sour cream–(Serve along side the Chalupa in addition to toppings, as follows: A bed of shredded lettuce, a bit of diced tomato, then a small (egg size)scoop of sour cream and a scoop of guacamole (see below). It’s called a guacamole salad–and often accompanies Quesadillas, Chalupas, Tacos, Enchiladas, Burritos, Flautas, Tamales–you name it. You can dip or spoon either onto each bite of Chalupa or eat as a salad. Chalula and Limes also accompanies the above. For Guacamole (use a fork mash a ripe (slightly soft) avocado with about a Tbsp each of minced onion, minced tomato, some add minced cucumber as well. Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and about a Tbsp of minced fresh cilantro–add the juice of 1/2 to 1 lime. Mash with a fork, you want it a little lumpy–or use a mocajette (big mortar and pestle). You can also serve with a bowl of store bought salsa, or picante, or pica de gallo,and tomatillo green sauce—the options are endless–they are–as topping instead of hot sauce, etc. (Pica de gallo is diced tomato and juice, onion, green bell pepper, jalapeno (start with a little), cilantro, and lime juice to taste. (Green sauce is tomatillo, red sauce is hot and tomato based.) You usually get both at a restaruant. And last but not least: *Refried Beans (Heat up Bush’s Refried, or mash your own from Bush’s Pinto Beans. Or make a pot of Frijoles (pinto beans) a day or two before—this is a way to use them up! If you make Frijoles, you’ll need a recipe for refrying them–it’s easy.)
        To serve: Spread the hot refried beans (or not) on the hot Chalupa shell generously, then add the meat (or not) or any meat and construct as Nick’s recipe indicates with various toppings.

        A couple of cold beers or little good Tequila, a good movie, and you are good to go. In my house—I have taken Taco Bell to the Taco Cabana level and included all the various toppings and sides common to TexMex cooking. Nick’s recipe will work for any meat, chicken, beef, pulled pork. That is the sheer joy of Mexican cooking–its totally efficient! Its a good conversational lingering informal meal. It’s not hard and all the fixings take less time than you would think.

        A real good site for Mexican cooking is–looking–Rick Bayless http://www.foodandwine.com I think…or google Rick Bayless (regional Mexican traditional cooking) and the other is all homemade everything!.www.Mexicoinmykitchen.com (traditional Mexican cuisine). You will also find variations such as TexMex, CaliforniaMex, ArizonaMex, New MexicoMex…I think through the four corners states as well.

        Barbara

  6. homemade chalupas earn a massive bravo from me–well done! heck, even though the filling looks great, i'd be satisfied with a shell or four–they're perfect. :)

  7. Hey Nick! I've enjoyed reading your blog although this is the first time I'm posting. Thanks for sharing yummy recipes, beautiful (and helpful) photos and good reading. I made these tonight. I really liked them, even though it was a bit time consuming. (I mixed the dry (bread) ingredients and butter yesterday without milk yesterday, which helped.)

    I had a bit of trouble after cooking the shells… they split in two when I tried to carefully fold them. Opps, just noticed I should have folded them as they finished cooking in the oil. I'll do that next time, although we ate them as tostadas and they were good with sides of beans/rice. At least I enjoyed them, Hubby did not like the shells, and would have preferred white corn tortillas, and something other than ground beef as well. Oh well.

    Ps. These make a sweet dessert also, just shake some cinnamon sugar over the top right after frying.

    Thanks for blogging!

  8. These are amazing! I followed this recipe for a project in school! Do you know where Chalupas came from, like how thye came to be?

  9. K I just made these tonight and they were a hit, I did not try your spice mix for the beef yet, I just used TB taco mix and I tell you it was amazing. The fried bread was easy and taste great, Thank you very much for this post!

  10. I can’t wait to try these. Your instructions were excellent and your pictures are awesome. Too bad it’s bedtime, or I’d be in the kitchen cooking up a storm. Your spice mix sounds so yummy to me. I’m going to use it rather than Taco Bell seasoning.

  11. These look great! Will definitely have to try. Sadly, as good as they look, I noticed the Yuengling Lager in the background first. :) Looks like a win/win combo.

  12. This is very very good omg I could just eat these! I recorded me making them I wish I could upload it to give the view you were trying to give. I love cooking at home i always recreate what I don’t want to spend $40 bucks on feeding a family of five!

    1. Funny I used vegetable spread and it tastes and smells sweet almost like funnel cake. I am going to get some powdered sugar and try it out as a dessert shell as well!

  13. So excited to see this. I love everything about chalupas they’re muy bueno! I will be trying these out tonight!

  14. This version of shells are not chalupas but in fact soft taco shells. The chalupa is a harden flat shell served with refried pinto beans melted cheddar, finely shredded lettuce and petite diced tomato. At times topped with guacamole, sour cream and spicey hot sauce. A crispy Mexican style pizza so to speak. Anything coming out of Taco Bell is not Mexican but a fabrication of what the big wheels like as a Mexican delicacy. Taco Cabana serves the next best thing to Authentic Mexican Style and for the real thing go to your local Mom and Pop Mexican Cafe. I should know, I was raised on it.

  15. What you have is Navajo Fry Bread. Used by the Southwest Indians at special Pow Wows. Anyway, poke a small hole in the center before frying and you won’t get the cup up in the center while frying…..

  16. Use the left over dough…Fry them then sprinkle both sides with cinnamon sugar, serve flat, pull into pieces drizzle with honey and eat…mmm

  17. I made these chalupas twice and they were heavenly!!!! But the third time I made them, they fell apart in the frying pan when I tried to turn them. It was a case of operator error. I did not mix the dough well enough, and that’s what caused them to fail. So if you have a problem like this- start over, and mix your dough longer!!!

    I’ve built off this recipe and made my own chicken parm. chalupas!!! They were fun and delish. This chalupa recipe is definitely a fun creative vesssel for a ton of experimentation!!!

  18. Yea! I am always looking for a new way to serve Mexican food and I will be rocking these soon – maybe, Sunday. I have never had a Taco Bell Chalupa, pretty much haven’t eaten much TB – it scares me :-). I think these will be awesome with some homemade Hatch Green Chile Salsa.

    Made the Brickle on Tuesday – yummy!!

  19. SORRY BUT THIS IS NOT A TRADITIONAL CHALUPA. THEY ARE MADE WITH FRIED TORTILLA, MASH POTATOE AND CHILE VERDE SALSA SHREDED CHICKEN, LETTUCE AND GROUNDED CHEESE

  20. What you’ve created is a “puffy taco”, diffidently not a chalupa. And forget the Taco Hell junk of an excuse for Mexican food. I live in south Texas were a real Mexican restaurant is never far away.

  21. My 11 year old & I used your recipe last night & it turned out great! The whole family enjoyed them! We had a few extra shells left over so she melted a little butter over them & coated them with cinnamon & sugar, they where delicious!! So from my my family & I to you, thank you for sharing with us!!

  22. I just made these tonight and wow. So much better than taco bell. Its so close to my naan recipe I might try frying these in butter next time I make curry! Thank you for an amazing recipe.

  23. as chef owner of a not so traditional mexican gastropub i know that the older generation knows what authentic mexican food really is. Culinarians have transformed not only mexican food but every cuisine under the planet LOL which can be good and ineresting at times. the younger generations grew up on taco bell and mcdonalds and thus have molded their palettes to expect that taste. If i were to serve traditional mexican fare my customers would be somewhat perplexed. so after leaving my restaurant i run across town and order a tostada with lengua (tongue) on a casera tostada shell and it is yum. i recently launched a “girls nite out ” menu and on the menu is a Beggars Purse which is nothing more than an empanada filled with a potato filling (we make our own flour tortillas) and although they are traditionally made with corn masa they were a hit and customers think we invented the wheel. I also have an item on the menu not doing well and i love a chalupa or as i would call it a pocketbook or as some call it a puffy taco and i was curious about what people think about them. I agree that the chalupa is made with corn masa and depending on the region of mexico you will find different versions. those of us that are older will always like our grandmothers version no matter what they made. I found this recipe interesting and similar to dough that is being made by a chef in san diego and he is making empanadas with it, i enjoyed reading everyones comments and i may try the dough recipe as it uses milk instead of water so i believe that it is thicker than a flour tortilla

  24. Taco Bell is my favorite fast food place, and I crave their chalupas. I tried this recipe with shortening instead, as the original used. When you make pies, shortening creates a flakier crust, so I thought my chalupa shells would be flakier, albeit less flavorful, but my priority is texture. The results were great. Not exactly like TB’s, but great. Some things I learned-

    Kept my temp at 350, but higher temps (maybe 355) were better. Still gotta work on keeping a consistent temp.

    My shells were dense, so I made them as thin as the dough could get. It got better, but still not perfect. I’m gonna find out what I need to tweak to get that crispy, borderline chewy texture that you get with TB.

  25. We just got a TB in Rochester NH. I have only been twice and got the chicken chalupa both times. My friend found your site. I am anxious to make them. I don’t really care if they are authentic. I just like them and want to try by hand at making them! Thanks for the recipe! Before she found the recipe I was thinking of frying Pita bread. I don’t think they would have worked.

  26. I think you did pretty well…..it isn’t a traditional chalupa but I don’t think you intended us to believe it was….you mention Taco Bell right off the bat…as for the filling…people can prepare it however they like….with or without salt, beans, meat, tomato….who cares….the dough was pretty good and accurate…couple different execution things I did different but in all it was pretty good. Thanks….I live in San Diego and eat a lot of “traditional Mexican” food…but every once in a while I just want something from Taco Bell….it’s a horse of a different color….would love to see you do a carne asada…

    1. Hey Monte, carne asada is one of those things where there is a million different ways to make it as I’m sure you know. I made a quick version of it a few years ago that is really tasty and easy to prepare. Check it out here. Thanks!

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