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Sopes with Smoky Pinto Beans and Avocado Salsa

Sopes with Smoky Pinto Beans and Avocado Salsa

Sopes with Smoky Pinto Beans and Avocado Salsa

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?

Sopes with Smoky Pinto Beans and Avocado Salsa

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.

Sopes with Smoky Pinto Beans and Avocado Salsa

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.

Sopes with Smoky Pinto Beans and Avocado Salsa

Sopes with Smoky Pinto Beans and Avocado Salsa

These Mexican-inspired sopes are made with crispy pan-fried corn shells stuffed with smoky pinto beans and avocado salsa.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 6 servings


For the avocado salsa:

  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 cup diced tomato about 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the smoky pinto beans:

  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 to 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or granulated sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the shells:

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup masa harina
  • 2-3 tablespoons canola or another high smoke-point oil

Additional toppings (optional, pick your favorites):

  • Hot sauce
  • Sour cream or cashew cream
  • Shredded cheese or vegan shredded cheese
  • Jalapeño slices
  • Chopped scallions
  • Fresh cilantro


To make the avocado salsa:

  • Stir all the ingredients together in a small bowl.

To make the smoky pinto beans:

  • Coat the bottom of a medium skillet or saucepan with oil and place it over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until it's soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until it's fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the beans, 3/4 cup water, vinegar, cumin, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the beans become soft and just begin to fall apart, 10 to 15 minutes, adding more water if needed during cooking. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.

To make the shells:

  • While the beans simmer, preheat oven to 200°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Line a plate with few paper towels.
  • Pour the water into a medium mixing bowl, then stir in the salt. Slowly stir in the masa harina, adding about 1/4 cup at a time. Once the masa harina has all been added, knead the dough a few times with your hands. The dough should be soft and elastic. If it seems dry or cracks during kneading, add a bit more water. If it feels sticky, add a bit more masa harina.
  • Divide the dough into six balls. Place them on a work surface and cover them with a damp towel or plastic wrap.
  • Coat the bottom of a large skillet with about a tablespoon of oil and place it over medium-high heat. Uncover one of your dough balls and flatten into a four-inch circle. You can use just your hands for this, or press it down with a large flat object, like a cutting board. Repeat for one or two more of your dough balls, depending on how many will fit into the skillet without overcrowding.
  • Place the dough circles into the skillet and fry for about 1 minute on each side, until lightly browned and beginning to crisp. Remove the shells from the skillet and transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate. Cool for a few minutes, and once they're cool enough to handle, gently pinch or roll the outer edges upward to create a lip. Transfer the shells to the parchment-lined baking sheet and place in the oven while you make the rest of the shells.
  • Repeat until all of the dough is used, adding oil to the skillet between batches as needed.

Make the sopes:

  • Stuff the shells with smoky pinto beans. Top with the avocado salsa and your toppings of choice. Serve hot.
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  • Reply
    July 21, 2016 at 4:51 pm

    I used to love Sopes before I went Vegan. It’s nice to see a Vegan version that I can make myself. I am definitely making these this weekend! Thanks for posting!

    • Reply
      July 21, 2016 at 8:03 pm

      Awesome! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

  • Reply
    July 22, 2016 at 8:56 am

    I know it goes against ‘the crispy,’ but is it possible to bake the shells? Do to health reasons oil and frying are out #sadpanda

    • Reply
      July 24, 2016 at 11:30 am

      I can’t say for sure without having tried myself, but I could see an oven-baked version working. I’d suggest using parchment paper, sticking with a moderate temperature (350° to 375° range), and just checking them frequently until they start to brown. I’d love to hear how it works out if you give it a try. 🙂

  • Reply
    Betsey Riedl
    July 26, 2016 at 11:33 am

    Do you think sopes can be baked? I’m really trying to cut out fried foods.

    • Reply
      Betsey Riedl
      July 26, 2016 at 11:34 am

      sorry – I just saw the comment above mine. Never mind! Thanks for the delicious looking recipe, though.

      • Reply
        July 28, 2016 at 9:35 pm

        No worries. Thanks Betsey! 🙂

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