Like many of my favorite foods, I discovered sopes while visiting a restaurant where they were the only vegetarian thing on the menu. It really is one of the advantages of having dietary limitations, you know, being coerced into trying new foods that you otherwise might not, and in this case having them turn out to be awesome.
In case you aren’t familiar, sopes are an incredibly delicious Mexican treat – crispy fried little corn cakes, topped with pretty much anything your heart desires. When that first order of sopes was placed in front of me, tostadas were the first thing to come to mind, but instead of a thin tortilla shell, what I got was more like little corn cakes, with some thickness to them and lots of crispy edges. I was in love, enough so that I repeatedly returned to a restaurant even though I knew they’d be the only thing I could order.
It took me a really long time to work up the nerve to make my own sopes, but when I did, it was so worth it. They are a bit tricky, but also fun, if you don’t get too hung up on each one being super perfect and try to enjoy the process.
Masa harina is the key ingredient you’ll need to get your hands on for the shells, and fortunately, it’s available at most supermarkets. This actually came as a big surprise to me, but once I headed into the international foods section, there it was, right between some rice and cornmeal. Who knew?
You’ll be making a simple dough out of the masa harina, and keeping it moist is one of the main challenges. Try to work quickly and make sure you have some damp towels or plastic wrap handy, so you can cover the dough while you’re not working with it. It also helps to keep a small jar of water handy, so you can add a bit here and there as needed. Also, if you live in an area where the humidity gets really high this time of year, that could help too – it certainly did in my case.
After whipping up the dough, you’ll create some nice little rounds and quickly pan-fry them up in oil. The other tricky part comes next. Once the shells are cool enough to handle, you’ll be folding or rolling up the sides to create a lip to hold your fillings in. The time window for this is pretty narrow, because once they get too cool they’ll start to set. One trick I found that worked was placing a drinking glass in the center of my shell and using a spoon to roll up the sides. This allowed me to get started sooner than I would have otherwise, without burning my fingers.
Stuffing and eating are the fun parts (of course). I went with a filling of some smoky pinto beans and avocado salsa, but feel free to go crazy with as many other toppings as you’d like.
For the avocado salsa:
For the smoky pinto beans:
For the shells:
Additional toppings (optional, pick your favorites):
To make the avocado salsa:
To make the smoky pinto beans:
To make the shells:
Make the sopes:
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