Get ready to sink your teeth into these crispy and delicious picaditas. Sweet, tender corn cakes are topped with green or red salsa, fresh onion, and creamy vegan queso.
Mexican street food doesn't get much better than this.
Table of Contents
This Mexican street food makes the perfect breakfast, snack for a party, or easy mid-week lunch. Not only are picaditas easy to make, but you can customize them in so many different ways!
What are picaditas?
Depending on the area of Mexico you're in, you may hear these tasty treats go by picadas, panuchos, sopes, pellizcadas, etc.
They are all quite similar — thick corn tortillas with a pinched rim that forms the base for various kinds of toppings.
The biggest difference between sopes and picaditas is that sopes are typically shallow-fried before filling, whereas picaditas are usually finished off on a comal with a touch of lard.
To us, picaditas are super quick and easy to make (even more so than sopes), so they're great for breakfast with toppings like salsa (green or red), crumbled cheese, onion, and crema.
Because there are so many different variations of this dish in terms of shapes, sizes, and toppings, it's challenging to pinpoint the original version of picaditas Mexicanas (or other similar antojitos).
But, what we do know is that a form of this antojito originated somewhere in central Mexico and eventually spread all across the country — even into the United States.
Although there are many versions nowadays, this way of serving picaditas (with salsa, onions, and queso) is popular in the state of Veracruz.
Are picaditas vegan?
Picaditas Mexicanas are generally topped with queso (and sometimes crema), which unfortunately means they're not vegan friendly. Also, a lot of the time they're cooked in pork lard (doubly not vegan).
In this picaditas recipe, we swap in refined coconut oil to emulate the saturated fat found in lard and vegan queso fresco to replace the typical fresh cheese garnish used in picaditas.
Although the name of this Mexican street food may change when you use other ingredients, here are some ideas to mix things up:
No matter what you choose, this recipe is 100% vegan and gluten-free and can easily be made oil-free too.
Do you have a particular way to enjoy your picaditas? Let us know in the comments!
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
What it is: masa harina is a special type of corn flour used in a large majority of Mexican recipes. This type of flour is made from corn that's been soaked in an alkaline solution, cooked, rinsed, and ground to make foods like tortillas, sopes, picaditas, and empanadas.
Taste: when masa is cooked (especially on a comal), it delivers a slightly sweet and smoky flavor, and it crisps up perfectly in this picaditas recipe. It's a flavor experience that is quintessential to Mexican cuisine.
Health: when compared to wheat, corn has several benefits like being naturally gluten-free and containing fewer calories, but more vitamins and minerals like calcium, zinc, and vitamin B.
Where to buy: you'll find masa harina in the Mexican or Latin aisles of larger grocery stores. If you live near a Mexican market, they'll definitely have it. If you still can't find any, it's also really easy to buy masa harina online.
For more information, check out our detailed guide on masa harina.
Taste: Veracruz-style picaditas are often served with both red and green salsas that give each corn cake its own unique flavor profile of zest, smoke, and acidity. With so many salsas to choose from, we kept it simple with our salsa roja and salsa verde.
Health: salsas are full of fresh and healthy ingredients like onions, garlic, tomatoes, and chiles. Something these veggies all have in common is being packed with antioxidants to help rid our bodies of toxic free radicals.
Taste: whatever you do, don't skip the cheese! It's a delicious way to garnish picaditas. Our favorite choices are vegan queso fresco or queso cotija to add a fresh, salty, and creamy flavor to every bite.
Health: because our cheeses are made from nuts, they're full of heart-healthy fats (not cholesterol). Thanks to the almonds, these dairy-free cheeses also include considerable doses of protein and fiber.
Taste: the sharp, pungent bite from fresh white onions gives picaditas (and many Mexican antojitos) a signature flavor. They also add a crispy and fresh element to this snack.
Health: onions are one of those foods that are low in calories but packed with nutrients, making them a perfect garnish. They are especially high in vitamin C, which helps our immune system fend off colds and flus.
If you have questions about this picaditas recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: combine the masa harina and salt together, then pour in warm water and knead the mixture into a dough that's sticky enough to stay together, but not coming off on your hands.
Step 2: form small balls of dough (about 55 grams each), and roll each one between your palms until smooth. Cover the dough with a tea towel or plastic wrap while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
Step 3: prepare your salsa verde and salsa roja, or just one kind. Get the other garnishes you'll be using ready as well. Tip: prepare all toppings beforehand to save time (especially the vegan queso as it needs time to set).
Step 4: if you have a tortilla press, place a ball of dough in the center on a piece of plastic. Place another plastic piece on top and press down to form slightly thicker tortillas. If you don't own a press, use your hands or the bottom of a flat dish.
Step 5: cook each tortilla on a cast-iron skillet over medium for about 60 seconds on the first side, or until brown spots are forming and the edges are curling up.
Step 6: flip and press down on the tortilla lightly until it starts to puff up, about 80-90 seconds. Remove from heat and keep warm while you continue cooking the other tortillas.
Step 7: after about 30 seconds, pull a little dough from the inner portion of the cooked tortilla to form a small ridge around the outside. Pinch around the middle portion as well to form little holes (similar to an English muffin).
Step 8: brush the bottom of your skillet with oil, then add the tortillas back in. Drizzle each one with a little refined coconut oil or other vegetable oil and cook for another few minutes until crispy.
Picaditas Mexicanas are quick, easy, and fun to make. Just make sure to follow these steps for proper storage.
Store your picaditas without toppings in the fridge for up to 2-3 days. We recommend freezing what you don't eat.
Store the formed picadita bases in a freezer-safe bag for up to 8 months. When you're ready to serve more, thaw them overnight in the fridge and they'll be ready to crisp up in the morning.
Reheat your picaditas on a pre-heated cast-iron skillet with a small amount of oil (or on a dry skillet). You can add a little oil into the middle of the picaditas as per the recipe instructions.
💭 Pro tips
Time to share our tips and tricks we learned while creating this picaditas recipe for you:
- Adjust the oil. If you want an oil-free picaditas recipe, omit it altogether.
- Switch up the sauce. Add mole poblano, Mexican crema, or refried beans to this recipe to mix things up.
- Use cast-iron. If you have a cast-iron skillet or comal, definitely use it to create a more complex overall taste.
- Add the salsa while it's on the pan. To warm your salsa, add it to the picaditas towards the end of cooking.
- Make the picaditas ahead of time. If you're making a big batch for a family dinner or meal-prepping, make the salsas and corn bases ahead of time.
🍴 Tasting notes
Picaditas Mexicanas are one of our absolute favorite foods to eat for a savoury breakfast or snack. They're:
- Easy to make
If you try this picaditas recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
- Cast-iron skillet
- Tortilla press
- Mixing bowl
- 2 cups masa harina ($0.25)
- ½ teaspoon salt ($0.01)
- 1 ½ cups warm water ($0.01)
- 2-3 tablespoons refined coconut oil or vegetable oil ($0.42)
- Add the masa harina and salt to a mixing bowl and combine. Then, pour in 1 ½ cups of warm water to start and mix together using your hands.
- Knead the dough to form a ball that's sticky enough to stay together, but not coming off on your hands. Add more flour or water to achieve a texture similar to play-dough. Keep the dough covered with a tea towel.
- Break off pieces of masa to form small balls (about 55 g each, or the size of a golf ball). Roll each piece of dough between your palms until smooth.
- Prepare salsa verde and salsa roja, or just one kind. Prep the other garnishes as well. Tip: prepare all toppings beforehand to save time.
- If you have a tortilla press, cut a zip lock bag into 2 pieces that will fit into the press. Open the press and place a ball of dough in the center on a piece of plastic. Place the other plastic piece on top and close the press down to form tortillas slightly thicker than normal (about ⅛-inch thick).
- If you don't have a tortilla press, place your ball of dough between the same 2 pieces of plastic on your counter. Press the dough down with the bottom of a baking dish or flat plate.
- Preheat a cast-iron skillet or comal up to medium. Cook each tortilla for about 60 seconds on the first side, or until brown spots are forming and the edges are curling up.
- Flip and press down on the tortilla lightly until it starts to puff up, about 80-90 seconds. Remove from heat and keep warm while you continue cooking the other tortillas.
- After ~30 seconds, pull a little dough from the inner portion of the cooked tortilla to form a small ridge around the outside. Pinch around the middle portion as well to form little craters (similar to an English muffin).
- Lightly brush the bottom of your skillet with oil, then add the pinched tortillas back in. Drizzle each one with a little refined coconut oil or other vegetable oil. Continue cooking for another 2-4 minutes until crispy.
- Calories are for 1 picadita cooked in ~½ teaspoon coconut oil.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more tasty recipe ideas, check out our:
- Sopes for a similarly crispy corn cake topped with your favorite Mexican toppings like refried beans, pico de gallo, and vegan queso fresco.
- Enchiladas potosinas for chile-infused masa stuffed with cheese and salsa that is crisped to perfection and topped with fresh garnishes.
- Sweet potato quesadillas for a cheap, easy, and extremely healthy weekday meal that's great for leftovers.
- Pambazos for a spicy chile-dipped Mexican sandwich filled with vegan chorizo and crispy potatoes.
- Vegan empanadas for crispy Mexican empanadas made with corn dough.
This picaditas recipe can easily be made oil-free by using a dry skillet and not adding any coconut oil during the cooking process.
Yes, this picaditas recipe is gluten-free. In theory, all picaditas recipes should be gluten-free because masa is used and not wheat.