Are they tacos? Are they Mexican pizzas? Open-faced and covered in tasty toppings, the Tlayuda is something else entirely!
Sometimes known as flat-tacos, too, a Tlayuda is prepared using large corn tortillas that are then covered in cheese, beans, vegetables, meats, chilis, avocado, and as much spicy sauce as you can handle.
Local to Oaxaca, Mexico, a city famed for its culinary delights, tasty Tlayudas are hearty, filling, and wonderfully easy to prepare at home. Keep reading to discover Oaxaca’s worst-kept secret, the Tlayuda!
What is a Tlayuda?
If you’ve ever traveled to Oaxaca, then you’ll already be familiar with Oaxaca food, and there’s no chance you’ll have missed out on a Tlayuda or three. However, outside of Oaxaca and a few other spots in Mexico where Tlayudas are popular, it’s unlikely that you’ll often come across these tasty treats.
For that reason, Tlayudas are often best described as a form of taco (but they are not tacos). Tlayudas are traditionally prepared using large corn tortillas, but rather than being folded over like smaller tacos, the tortillas are oven-baked with Oaxacan cheese and beans, covered in toppings eaten more like a pizza (hence the name, Mexican pizza!).
Like tacos and pizzas, there are so many different varieties of Tlayuda that you can prepare. Although they are often served with meat toppings, we’ve detailed an excellent vegetarian Tlayuda recipe below. First, though, let’s take a quick look at the main components of a Tlayuda, so you can better visualize this Oaxacan favorite.
Tlayudas are prepared using large corn tortillas, and you’ll probably be able to find these in your local store. If not, then you’ll always be able to pick up a packet of white tortillas or whole-grain tortillas (they won’t be as authentic, but they still can be delicious).
You’ll need the largest tortillas you can find, which are ordinarily 12 inches in diameter. The tortillas need to be oven-baked, which gives them a crispy, crunchy texture.
Oaxacan recipes always make extensive use of Oaxacan cheese, a thick, spongy, stringy type of cheese that’s perhaps closest in taste and texture to mozzarella (although Oaxacan cheese is much stringier!).
Oaxaca cheese might be available at your local store or at a specialty cheese store, but it’s not that widely available outside of Mexico. If you can’t find it, then mozzarella is the second-best option. Tlayudas de Oaxaca is often a very cheesy affair, and other types of cheese are usually melted over the top, too (try cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, and any other cheese you have in the fridge!).
If you’re vegan, then just replace cheese with your favorite vegan cheese.
This is where you can get creative because Tlayudas can be prepared using as many or as few toppings as you desire. Start with a base of beans and Oaxaca cheese, and from there, you can add meat, vegetables, more cheese, sauces, and salsa.
If you’re veggie or vegan, then we highly recommend preparing a tofu-based topping. Use a tofu press to press and drain a block of extra firm tofu, then mix with spices such as chili powder and garlic before adding to your Tlayuda in place of traditional meat toppings.
Tlayuda recipe FAQ
How to pronounce ‘Oaxaca’ and ‘Tlayuda’?
Tlayudas originated in Oaxaca, and Oaxaca is both the name of the Mexican state and the city. But how do you actually pronounce Oaxaca? Perhaps not how you think!
The ‘Oa’ is actually more of a ‘wa’ sound, while the ‘xa’ is pronounced ‘ha.’ That gives you ‘Wa-ha-ca’; not ‘O-a-za-ca’ as many people try to pronounce it.
And what about Tlayuda? This is pronounced ‘tla-ooo-da.’ Tlayuda recipes are often misspelled in English, too, as ‘Clayudas recipe.’ This version is incorrect.
The word Tlayuda is of indigenous Mexican origin, and it comes from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca is where these tasty treats are most popular (it’s the local favorite; a signature dish of Oaxaca), but they are also common in other cities where Oaxacans have moved to, particularly Mexico City and Guadalajara.
What’s the best way to eat a Tlayuda?
Tlayudas are best when they are eaten fresh, hot, and covered in melted cheese and hot sauce. Toppings aside, because of their large size, they are often eaten on a large plate using a knife and fork; otherwise, things start to get messy.
You can eat it more like a large taco by folding it in half, but because the tortilla is crispy, it can easily break apart if this is the route you are going down. Have plenty of napkins ready if you’re eating by hand!
Tlayuda: the best taco in Oaxaca!
Tlayudas Oaxaca is one of the more unusual styles of ‘taco’ that you’ll find in Mexico (although we should remind you that they aren’t really tacos, but it’s still a good way to describe them!).
Prepared using large corn tortillas, then covered with all sorts of spicy toppings, Tlayudas Oaxaqueñas are surprisingly easy to prepare at home!
If you’re looking for new Mexican dishes to try cooking, then why not give Oaxacan food a go and bookmark our Tlayuda recipe.
Tlayuda Recipe: Oaxaca’s Famous Open-Faced Pizza Tacos!
2 large corn tortillas
1 c of shredded Oaxaca cheese
½ c of other cheese (e.g. cheddar)
14 oz packet of tofu
1 c of shredded lettuce
2 diced tomatoes
1 sliced avocado
2 c of black beans
1 minced garlic clove
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly chopped cilantro
Hot sauce to serve
Start by preparing the tofu topping. Press and drain the tofu, then crumble it into a skillet with a drizzle of oil, and fry with chile powder. Set to one side.
Next, prepare the beans. Drain the can of beans, then pour them into a saucepan on the stovetop. Mix with chopped onions, crushed garlic, chile powder, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash the beans, and allow to slowly simmer until the mixture has thickened.
In the meantime, preheat your oven to 450 °F, and place the tortillas onto a large baking sheet (if you have room for both; if not, you’ll need to cook the tortillas one at a time).
Coat the tortillas in the cooked beans, add half of your shredded Oaxaca cheese, and half the tofu filling. Place the tortillas in the oven and bake them for 5 minutes.
Once the tortillas have baked for 5 minutes, remove them from the oven and add your other toppings. Cover with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, slices of avocado, and then top with extra shredded cheese. Place the tortillas back into the oven, complete with toppings, then allow to bake for another 5 minutes (or until the cheese has melted on top).
Finish with a sprinkling of freshly chopped cilantro and some hot sauce, then serve while they’re still hot!