I love an easy, fresh, fun, real food meal.
Pinto bean tostadas are simple, delicious, comforting, and oh-so-very flexible, depending on what you have in your kitchen, what foods you love, and how far you’ve gone into your real food journey.
It’s my very favorite kind of meal.
Real Food Bean Tostadas
Tostadas are very easy to make with real food, and they are very flexible if you have food allergies or sensitivities.
Keep in mind that I’m just sharing my take on this delicious dish. Tostadas aren’t part of my culinary heritage, so I won’t make any claims about authenticity. I just love them, and they are so easy to make with real food.
Typically, a tostada involves a few key elements:
Usually, this is a fried corn tortilla. You can buy tostada shells already fried and crispy (like a big, round, tortilla chip) or you can fry your own at home. Frying your own helps you decide what oil you use to make the tostadas. I like avocado oil.
If you don’t want to fry them, you can bake them in the oven on a cookie sheet and either brush them with oil so you still get that brown, crispy edge, or leave them plain.
Some people substitute flour tortillas instead. Use small ones – about the size you need for fajitas. Any bigger, and they just fold into a taco when you try to eat them. You can fry or bake the flour tortillas as well.
Use refried beans – black beans or pinto beans. You want to be able to spread it onto the tostada.
Ground beef is one of my favorites here, seasoned well and cooked perfectly. You can use other leftover meat as well. However, if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly and plant-based tostada (like I’ll show you today), skip this ingredient.
This is where you really get to play with what you love and what you have available to you.
Traditional toppings include lettuce, onion, tomatoes, salsa, crema, and queso fresco.
You can use spicy or mild salsa, add avocados and cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, jalapenos, or whatever you like. I’ll show you what I like and what I typically have in my kitchen.
Healthy Bean Tostadas Recipe
Most of the ingredients for pinto bean tostadas are fresh and simple. Where I live, I can easily buy everything in the store and then just combine them at dinner time.
But if you love real food, you have food allergies, or you’re on a tight budget, here are a few things you can do to make them a little healthier and a little more budget-friendly at the same time.
If you have a gluten allergy, corn is the way to go here. And if you want to control what kind of oil the tostadas were fried in, you’ll definitely want to do it yourself. I prefer using avocado oil or palm shortening.
Katie has several homemade tortilla recipes!
- Try her kid-tested, whole grain, gluten-free tortilla recipe here.
- Try her whole wheat tortillas here.
If you’re trying to buy organic grass-fed beef, ground chuck is one of the cheapest cuts you’ll find. It works great in this recipe. Personally, I like to make a meatless tostada to keep this meal budget-friendly.
If you do use beef, skip the taco seasoning packets (which are usually full of added ingredients to prevent caking, etc.) and just use the salt and spices that you already have in the cupboard!
Personally, I make large batches of ground beef ahead of time and season it like this so it’s delicious and extremely versatile for other dishes.
Again, you can buy most of the toppings and simply chop and use them. Read the ingredients to make sure you’re getting clean versions. They’re pretty easy to find, depending on where you live.
However, here are some DIY tostada toppings if you want to make them yourself:
In Kids Cook Real Food, my kids learned from Katie that if possible, you should always try to shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheese is full of anti-caking ingredients (even some containing gluten, so be careful if you have allergies or sensitivities).
But more importantly, freshly shredded cheese is so much more delicious! We buy big blocks of cheese to save a little money, and we got this box grater, so it’s easy for everyone – including the kids! – to grate and slice their own cheese. The kids actually love this job because they get to eat cheese while they’re grating. Win.
Meal Planning Resources
Here are the meal planning services (in no particular order) that I endorse for you to pick based on you and your family’s needs!
Cooksmarts (great community of people to learn from)
Real Plans (organizer to add your OWN recipes and replicate plans)
PrepDish (prep ahead, easy meals all week)
Try out their freebies (some even have tree trials) to see what fits your personality and preferences!
Recipe with Pinto Beans That Kids Can Make
Because this recipe is so simple, it’s an easy meal for kids to make. Simply lay out the ingredients, heat a few things, and let everyone build their own tostada.
Pinto beans are one of the least expensive beans where I live, so we eat these more than any others. Tostadas are such a simple, delicious meal once you have all the main elements.
You can DIY it as much as you like (see above), or buy most elements from the store because it’s pretty easy to find clean versions.Print
This is a delicious, budget-friendly, real food dinner. Perfect summer!
- Avocado oil for frying
- 6 corn tortillas
- 1 c. refried beans
- 3 c. romaine lettuce, shredded
- 1 c. tomato, diced
- 1/2 red onion, sliced thin
- 1/4 c. lemon juice (optional)
- 2 c. shredded mozzarella or crumbled queso fresco
- 1 c. sour cream, Mexican crema, or creme fraiche
- 1 c. salsa
- Any other toppings of your choice: fresh cilantro, jalapenos, hot sauce, green onions, etc.
- To fry the tortillas: Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet over medium heat. Place a paper towel on a large baking sheet and put it next to the stove. When it’s hot, place 1-2 tortillas in the oil (depending on the size of your skillet; you don’t want the tortillas touching). Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the edges just barely start to turn golden, then use a pair of tongs to carefully flip them over. Cook another 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. Remove tortillas to the paper towel-cover baking sheet. Repeat until all tortillas are fried.
- To bake the tortillas: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the tortillas on the baking sheet and brush both sides of each tortilla with oil. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then use tongs to flip the tortillas and bake for another 4-5 minutes, until they are golden brown.
- Optional step: Macerate the onions. Place the red onion slices in a small bowl and cover them with lemon juice. Let them sit while you fry the tortillas and assemble the rest of the ingredients. This step helps cut some of the bite of the onion while increasing its flavor.
- Meanwhile, heat the beans on the stovetop and set out the rest of the ingredients. When the tortillas are done, let them cool slightly, then assemble the tostadas.
- To assemble a tostada, spread a thin layer of refried beans over the top of the fried tortilla. Then sprinkle toppings on as desired: lettuce, tomato, onion, crema, cheese, etc. Tostadas are supposed to be messy! It’s part of the experience, so just pile it as high as you like and enjoy.
- Serving Size: 1 tostada
- Calories: 227
- Sugar: 3g
- Sodium: 479g
- Fat: 11g
- Saturated Fat: 6g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 25g
- Fiber: 5g
- Protein: 9g
- Cholesterol: 25mg
Keywords: summer dinner, frugal dinner, budget-friendly
Tostadas are a perfect meal to make in the summertime because it doesn’t heat up your house, the ingredients are fresh and light, and who doesn’t love all these flavors combined?
What are your favorite budget-friendly summer dinners?Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.