Homemade vegetarian chalupa recipe

Forget about tacos, chalupas are where it’s at! Chalupas are like wonderful crosses between tostadas and tacos that borrow the best features of each. Chalupas are thicker and crispier than taco shells and they hold toppings better than tostadas! This recipe for vegetarian chalupas is loaded with tasty toppings – ranging from creamy Mexican crema to tangy salsa verde.

The main ingredient that you will need to make chalupa shells is masa harina. If you do not have masa harina, then you can order a bag on Amazon for just a few dollars! Here is a link to our favorite brand of our masa harina.

Allergen info

In addition to being gluten free and vegetarian friendly, these chalupas are also egg free and nut free. These vegetarian chalupas can easily be made vegan friendly and dairy free. All you have to do to make vegan chalupas is replace the queso fresco with a vegan cheese substitute and the crema with vegan sour cream or vegan yogurt.

Tips for making chalupa shells

  • Chalupa shells can come in a variety of shapes. Chalupa shells can come in a variety of shapes. Some chalupa shells are relatively flat and look more like tostadas and others have a deeper fold and look more like tacos. You can see in my pictures that I like to fold my chalupa shells into a shape that is similar to that of a taco shell. 
  • It is easier to make flatter chalupas with a gentle bend than taco style chalupas with a deep bend. If this is your first time making chalupa shells, I recommend making shells that are relatively flat with a gentle bend. The shells can crumble and break in two along the folding axis when you fold them into the shape of a taco. The easiest way to make chalupas shells is to elevate one edge of the shell two inches off the pan while it is cooking so that the shell is shaped more like a tostada with a gentle bend in the middle. You can also try folding some of your chalupas into taco shapes and leaving some more flat to see what works best for you.
  • It is much easier to control the thickness of chalupa shells if you use a tortilla press. In order to make chalupa shells, you have to press balls of dough into tortillas. If you do not have a tortilla press then you can use a cutting board to flatten the balls of dough, but it is difficult to tell how thick the chalupa shells are if you use a cutting board. They might end up being a little more thick or thin than you intended. It is much easier to use a proper tortilla press. We love this tortilla press – it is easy to use and sturdy with a reinforced handle.
  • We have a whole article on how to make chalupa shells! If it is your first time making chalupa shells, you should check out our recent cooking tutorial on how to make chalupa shells. This tutorial contains all of the tips and tricks you need to know to make sure the process goes smoothly.

Tips for making salsa verde

  • Avoid tomatillos that are overly soft. Ripe tomatillos are not soft like ripe tomatoes. Ripe tomatillos are firm, but not hard. 
  • Choose tomatillos with tan husks. Tomatillos come with thin encasings called husks around them. You can tell how ripe a tomatillo is by examining the husk. Tomatillos that are ripe will have a tan husk, whereas tomatillos that are not yet ripe will have a green husk. 
  • You will need a food processor or blender. All you have to do to make salsa verde is roast some veggies then blend them together in a food processor. This is the food processor we use and we absolutely love it. It comes with multiple attachments for slicing and shredding foods of different sizes and has easy to remove, dishwasher safe parts. 
  • We have a whole article on how to make salsa verde. This recipe covers all of the steps necessary for making salsa verde. However, if you are new to making salsa verde, or if you have any questions about making salsa verde you should check out our recipe for salsa verde.

vegetarian chalupa (taco bell style)

Additional toppings for vegetarian chalupas

This is a fairly minimal recipe for chalupas and there are many other toppings you could put on your chalupas. Since this is a recipe for vegetarian chalupas, I will stick to examples of vegetarian toppings. Here are some additional ideas for toppings that you could put on vegetarian chalupas

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce, shredded romaine lettuce, or shredded cabbage
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Mashed avocado or homemade guacamole
  • Hot sauce, mango salsa, or red salsa

Vegetarian chalupas

These homemade vegetarian chalupas are fresh, zesty, and delicious! They are filled with beans, onions, salsa verde, Mexican crema, and crumbled queso fresco. In addition to being vegetarian, these chalupas are gluten free, nut free, and egg free.
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Diet: Gluten Free, Vegetarian
Keyword: egg free, gluten free, vegetarian
Servings: 5 chalupas


Chalupa shells

  • 1 heaping cup masa harina
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil (for masa dough)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (for frying)
  • salt

Salsa verde (roasted tomatillo salsa)

  • 6 tomatillos
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 1/2 lime
  • 2 stalks green onion
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Other toppings

  • 8 oz black beans (about half a standard 15 oz can)
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 2 stalks green onion
  • 3 tbsp Mexican crema
  • 3 tbsp crumbled queso fresco


Chalupa shells

  • Combine the water, masa harina, and 1 tsp of vegetable oil in a large bowl then separate the dough into 5 equally sized balls of masa dough.
  • Set up a station to press your balls into tortillas. If you have a tortilla press, it's time to bring that out. If you do not have a tortilla press, you can use a large flat object such as a cutting board or a cookbook to press your tortillas.
    You should grab a gallon bag and cut one of the sides of the bag that is adjacent to the opening open. Then place a ball of dough in the middle of the bag and press it into a large flat tortilla using a large flat object. You want the tortilla to be around half a centimeter thick.
  • Next up, you need to cook your chalupas and shape them. Heat 1 cup of vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat then lay one of your tortillas flat on the pan. Cook the tortilla flat for 30 seconds. The tortilla should start to puff up.
  • After the tortilla has cooked flat for 30 seconds, it is time to shape it into a chalupa shape. If you want to make a relatively flat, tostada-like chalupa then you should use a spoon or tongs to elevate one side of the tortilla 1-2 inches off of the bottom of the pan. This should form a gentle crease in the middle of the chalupa. If you want to make a taco-shaped chalupa you should use a spoon to fold one side of the tortilla over the other side to make a taco shape.
    However you decide to shape your chalupa, you should hold it there for about 30 seconds. After 30 seconds the chapula should be solid enough to hold its shape.
  • Cook the chalupa for another 60-90 seconds. If you are making taco shaped chalupas, you should flip the chalupa half way through. In total the chalupa should cook for 2 - 2 1/2 minutes.

Salsa verde

  • Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them. Halve the white onion piece, tomatillos, and jalapeno.
  • Lay the tomatillos, onion, and jalapeno out on a baking tray then broil them on high for 3-5 minutes. The skin should begin to char.
  • Add all of the salsa verde ingredients to a blender and blend for 1-2 minutes.

Assembling the chalupas

  • Fill the chalupas with all of your toppings and you are done!

Ingredients and tools for making chalupas

Here are some of the ingredients and tools we recommend for making this chalupa recipe. We included a link to our preferred tortilla press for making chalupa shells. We love this tortilla press because it is sturdy, made from cast iron, and has a reinforced handle. We also included a link to the food processor we use to make salsa verde. This food processor is made with easy to remove, machine washable components so it is so much easier to clean than other food processors I have had.

Other recipes you will love

Are you looking for more recipes that are similar to this chalupa recipe? Here are some of our other favorite gluten free Mexican recipes! Many of these recipes are also made with masa harina. Keep these in mind if you have leftover masa after making chalupa shells!

a cooked chalupa shell

Check out our tutorial on how to make chalupa shells. This tutorial contains all of our best tips and tricks for making chalupa shells as well as pictures (so many pictures) of what you should be doing at each step of the recipe! 

salsa verde (roasted tomatillo salsa)

Check out our recipe for the salsa verde. This is the same salsa that we use in this recipe but the dedicated salsa verde recipe includes lots of extra tips on how to work with tomatillos and how to add some extra flavor to your salsa. 

Vegan and gluten free chalupas. Three vegan, gluten free, and dairy free chalupas with pinto beans, guacamole, and grilled veggies.

If you are looking for a vegan chalupa recipe you should check out this recipe for vegan chalupas with saucy pinto beans, roasted vegetables, and homemade guacamole.

Lentil tacos with a cheese shell

If you are looking for a fun twist on traditional Mexican food, check out our recipe for lentil tacos with cheese taco shells! You heard me right, the taco shells are made of cheese!

homemade vegetarian sopes

Have you tried sopes? Now is as good of a time as ever! These tasty vegetarian sopes are made with the same masa dough as chalupas and share many of the same toppings as our vegetarian chalupas. 

Three gluten free bean and cheese gorditas laid out on a gray plate. There is a bowl of lime sour cream and a bowl of guacamole next to the bean and cheese gorditas.

Are you looking for a simple recipe for gorditas? These bean and cheese gorditas are simple but delicious. These tasty gorditas are filled with cheese, beans, zesty lime sour cream, and homemade guacamole. That’s a lot of flavor for a filling that doesn’t need to be pre-cooked at all!

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