Skip the added fat by making your own crunchy tostada shells at home baked in the oven or air fryer. Homemade tostadas are super easy to make and get crispy without oil. All you need is one ingredient: corn tortillas! Then, add your favorite toppings.
Check out my cultural tutorial on how to eat tostadas, along with a loaded vegan tostada recipe.
What are tostadas?
Tostadas are a dish that has as a base a tortilla that has been fried or baked until it is crunchy. The crunchy "toasted" tortilla is then topped with a variety of ingredients like: beans, meat, seafood like ceviche, cheese, lettuce, salsa, avocado, sour cream and more!
Tostada shells are made of corn tortillas most of the time and are similar in taste to tortilla chips. So, it's kind of like a giant, circular tortilla chip with delicious toppings! Frisbee-sized nachos, if you will.
🧄 Ingredient notes
Making oven baked or air fried tostada shells only requires one ingredient!
- corn tortillas
The corn tortillas can be made of yellow corn or white corn (pictured). They will both brown up nicely. The yellow corn tortillas will have more color when baked, of course.
At the store, you're looking for store-bought corn tortillas. Look for the thinnest ones you can find, as they will air fry fastest and will be crunchy yet tender and not too hard to bite through.
Corn tortillas last a long time in the refrigerator, so I would suggest buying more than you think you need. I usually buy the pack with 100 tortillas.
Ways to use corn tortillas
- Tostada shells
- Make your own Tortilla Chips without oil
- Loaded Vegan Nachos
- Vegan Chorizo Potato Breakfast Tacos
- Kitchen sink tacos
- Breakfast Tacos with Spinach, Sweet Potato and Spicy Charro Beans
- Creamy Spinach, Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas
How to make tostada shells
In the Air Fryer
Place your tortillas in your air fryer in one single layer, not overlapping them. I have the Ninja Foodi and I can fit 4 corn tortillas in one layer on my air fryer basket.
Air fry them at 375 F for 3 minutes. Then, open the air fryer, flip them and air fry them again at 375 F for another 3 minutes, watching them closely toward the end of the cooking time. They are done when they are hard and golden brown.
They may need less or more time, depending on your air fryer and the brand of tortillas you have.
Baked in Oven
First, preheat your oven to 400 F.
To bake your tostada shells in the oven, place them on a cookie sheet or metal baking pan in one single layer, careful not to overlap them.
I can fit 6 corn tortillas on my half sheet baking pans. Then, bake them for 10-15 minutes. Check them at 10 minutes and if they are still soft or bendable, bake for another couple of minutes.
Watch them closely toward the end of the baking time, as they may bake faster or take longer, depending on how hot your oven is, the type of pan you're using and the brand of tortillas you have.
They are done when they are hard and golden brown.
Having trouble getting your baked tostada shells crunchy? See my troubleshooting tips below.
Vegan tostada toppings
Tostadas are like nachos or tacos, in that you have lots of choices with what toppings to eat them with. While they are typically eaten with shredded chicken or meat, you still have a plethora of toppings to choose from for meatless, vegetarian or vegan tostadas.
Vegetarian and vegan tostada ideas
- Tostadas de frijoles using refried pinto beans (choose vegetarian and/or fat free options at the store or make your own pinto beans at home, then puree them and heat in a pan)
- Refried black beans (choose vegetarian and/or fat free options at the store or make your own at home)
- Avocado Tostadas with sliced avocado
- Shredded lettuce (iceberg or romaine is best, since it's nice and crunchy)
- Shredded purple cabbage (the purple color is beautiful and it gives it a nice crunch instead of lettuce)
- Vegan rotel dip cheese sauce
- Vegan choriqueso - chile con queso with soy chorizo
- Vegan sour cream - store bought or homemade:Vegan sour cream (cashew cream) - our favorite!
- Vegan sour cream with silken tofu - low calorie
- Vegan sour cream with sunflower seed kernels - a nut-free, soy-free option
- Cooked plantain bananas
- Sweet corn kernels
- Brunch or Breakfast Tostadas with tofu scramble, avocado and beans
- Shredded jackfruit, seasoned with cumin, onion powder, garlic powder and lime
- Shredded oyster mushroom "chicken"
- Soy curl "chicken" salad
- Chickpea avocado "tuna" salad
- Braised chipotle tofu sofritas
- Pico de gallo (salsa fresca) or tomato salsa
- Green tomatillo salsa
- Hot sauce, like cholula, chipotle tabasco
- Fresh lime juice
Yes! Tostadas are usually made with corn tortillas, which are naturally gluten-free.
Most store-bought tostada shells are fried in vegetable oil, would yes, they would be vegan. However, some restaurants may fry them in animal fat, like lard or butter. So, you would need to check with your server.
Yes, they can. Mostly, old tostada shells will go stale, so they won't have that crunchy bite, they will be tough and hard to chew. But, fried tostada shells that are expired can go rancid because of the oil they are fried in. So, to check if they are bad, first smell them. If they smell bad, throw them out. If they smell okay, break off a piece and bite it. Is it still crunchy or is it stale? If it's stale, throw them out.
Store tostada shells in an airtight plastic bag or airtight container at room temperature. For homemade tostada shells, allow them to cool first before storing them.
No. Freezing tostada shells will make them soggy, because of the condensation and moisture. You CAN freeze corn tortillas, though.
Layer them with toppings like you would for nachos or tacos. Common toppings are refried beans, avocado, shredded lettuce and hot sauce. Then, enjoy them!
Do not heat tostada shells in the microwave, they may turn soggy or tough. It's better to heat them in the toaster, oven or air fryer for 30-90 seconds.
Yes! Make homemade tostada shells in the air fryer by air frying them at 375 for 3 minutes, flipping them and air frying another 3 minutes.
Use street taco tortillas to make mini tostadas! They can be baked the exact same way, in the air fryer or the oven. However, they may require slightly less time, since they are smaller sized tortillas.
Mini tostadas would be great as party food, as appetizers or for kids.
If you can't find street taco tortillas, you can cut large tortillas into a smaller size circle. Or, you can cut the corn tortillas in half, leaving you with half moon shaped mini tostadas.
Salted tostada shells
To make your tostada shells salted, brush a thin layer of water on top of the tortilla, then sprinkle lightly with salt. Then, bake or air fry.
Chili lime tostada shells
When the tostada shells come out of the oven or air fryer, squeeze a little bit of lime juice on the tostada, then sprinkle with Tajín or chili lime seasoning from Trader Joe's.
- Don't overlap your tortilla shells in the pan. Overlapping them will prevent them from getting crunchy.
- Keep a close eye on them and check on them frequently toward the end of the cooking time, to prevent them from burning. If they look like they're done, pull them out and see if they are firm/hard or still bendable in the middle. If they're bendable, cook another minute or two. If they are firm/hard in the middle of the tortilla, they are done.
My homemade tostada shells are not crunchy. What happened?
They were not cooked long enough. Or, they were overlapping other tortillas in the pan. They should be baked in one single layer, no overlapping.
The edges of my tostada shells are burning but the middle is not crunchy, what happened?
The heat was likely too high. Turn down the heat by 25 degrees (like from 375 F to 350 F). Your oven or air fryer may run hot.
My tostada shells are overcooked, burnt, help! What do I do?
Cook them for less time in the oven or air fryer. Check on them frequently toward the end of the cooking time, they turn from golden brown to dark brown and burnt quickly.
🗺 Cultural influences
Where are tostadas from?
Tostadas (literally means "toasted") are eaten in Mexico and other parts of Central America. Just as stale bread is re-purposed to make french toast, bread crumbs or croutons, stale corn tortillas are re-purposed to make tostadas.
💜 More recipes you'll love
If you love this air fryer tostada shell recipe, check out these other TexMex plant-based favorites!
Homemade Tostada Shells without oil
- Air Fryer or bake in the oven
- 4 corn tortillas white or yellow, store-bought. increase quantity for however many tostada shells you want to make
Air Fryer Instructions
- Place the tortillas in your air fryer basket in one layer (do not overlap them, if possible)
- Air fry the tortillas at 375°F for 3 minutes. Then, open the air fryer, flip them and air fry them again at 375°F for another 3 minutes, watching them closely toward the end of the cooking time.
- Gently press them in the middle of the tortilla. If they are still flexible they need a little more time. They are done when they are hard and golden brown. They may need less or more time, depending on your air fryer and the brand of tortillas you have.
Baked in Oven Instructions
- First, preheat your oven to 400°F. (If using convection or fan oven, follow air fryer instructions.)
- To bake your tostada shells in the oven, place them on a cookie sheet or metal baking pan in one single layer, careful not to overlap them. I can fit 6 corn tortillas on my half sheet 18x13 inch baking pans.
- Then, bake them for 10-15 minutes. Check them at 10 minutes and if they are still soft or bendable, bake for another couple of minutes.
- Watch them closely toward the end of the baking time, as they may bake faster or take longer, depending on how hot your oven is, the type of pan you're using and the brand of tortillas you have.
- They are done when they are hard and golden brown.