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.
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
Deep Fry Thermometer
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.
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!
While my beef cooked, I prepped all my other toppings. I didn’t want to be distracted while I was making the 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.
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.
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.
Next, when your oil is hot, gently slide the dough into the hot oil. It should float immediately and start to 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!
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.
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.
If you like Tex-Mex these are a great change from the normal taco/burrito line up so give them a shot!