Mexican Panuchos - Bean-Filled Tortilla Antojitos From the Yucatan
Panuchos are an essential street food and antojito hailing from the Yucatan Peninsula, a part of Mexico known for its outstanding local gastronomy. You can think of Panuchos like mini tostadas, but stuffed with black beans before being fried until golden and crunchy. This heavenly base is then topped with lettuce, shredded meat (often turkey), tomato, avocado and cebolla morada. Perfecting the tortilla-stuffing technique takes a bit of practice, but figuring it out is deliciously rewarding.
- 1 lb of prepared masa harina dough for corn tortillas (available at Latin supermarkets) OR 2 cups finely ground masa harina - also called harina de maíz (corn flour), 1¼ cup of water and ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ of a white onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 cups frijoles de la olla made with black beans, lightly pureed
- Vegatable oil, corn oil or pork lard for frying
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 lb of cooked Mexican-style shredded chicken or cochinita pibil
- Romain, Iceberg or similar lettuce of your choosing - finely chopped or whole according to your preference
- 1 avocado, thinly sliced or mashed with the back of a fork
- 3 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
- Pickled red onions
- Your favorite salsa or hot sauce
- If you are making your masa harina dough from scratch, pour the water into a large mixing bowl and stir in the salt until dissolved.
- Add in the masa harina and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth.
- The dough should be a little sticky, but not wet. Test the consistency by rolling some dough into a ball about the size of a golf ball and flatten it between your hands. If the edges crack, the dough is too dry, add water a tablespoon at a time until you reach the proper consistency.
- Form the dough into a log and divide it into 12 equal pieces.
- Roll each of the pieces into a ball and cover with plastic wrap, set aside.
- Heat a couple tablespoons of oil over medium in a frying pan and cook the onion until transparent.
- Once the onions are ready, add the garlic and cook until golden brown.
- Make frijoles colados by adding your pureed frijoles de la olla to the onions and garlic, stir well and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes until they are the consistency of a smooth, spreadable paste.
- Check for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste and set aside, covered.
- Preheat a dry comal, non-stick pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high.
- Using a tortilla press or the smooth bottom of a heavy pot, flatten the masa balls between two layers of plastic wrap into tortillas of about 4 inches in diameter.
- As the tortilla disks are prepared, place them one or two at a time in the pan to cook for 30 seconds - 1 minute on each side. The exterior of the tortilla should slightly brown as it cooks. When you flip each tortilla, it should puff up in the center. If it doesn't puff after the first flip, flip it one additional time. You can help the tortilla to puff up by pressing lightly around the edges with the tip of your index finger.
- As they are done, remove the tortillas to a plate and let them cool to the touch.
- Once the tortillas are just cool enough to handle, use a sharp, thin, serrated knife to split a hole along one edge of each tortilla to form a pocket. The hole should be just large enough to fit a spoon into and fill the tortilla with beans. If necessary, use your fingers to help open the pocket.
- Once you have split all of the tortillas, fill them with a thin, even layer of the frijoles colados (about 2 teaspoons per tortilla) and press the top down, using your fingers, to make sure the beans are well spread.
- Reseal the hole you made by pressing the tortilla together along the opened edge. Set aside, covered with a slightly damp cloth.
- If you have not prepared your meat in advance, prepare it now. If you don't have a recipe of your own, use ours.
- If you have pre-prepared your meat, reheat it in a pan over low.
- Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over high heat.
- Working with 2 or 3 at a time, fry the paunchos (bean-stuffed tortillas) in the oil for 2-3 minutes on each side until they are lightly golden and the edges are crisp.
- When done, remove the batches of panuchos to a plate lined with paper towels.
- Once all of the paunches have been fried, top each one with the lettuce, chicken, avocado, tomato and pickled onion.
- Serve hot with salsa or hot sauce on the side.
If you are making masa harina dough for the first time and aren't sure what type of corn flour to use, Maseca is the brand that is most common, but we've used PAN with equal success. This recipe is traditionally topped with Mexican seasoned shredded chicken or turkey, but if you are vegetarian or vegan, panuchos are still great without the meat. For the carnivores, although not traditional, sometimes we like to top panuchos with tinga de pollo to mix things up a bit. This is also a great recipe to jazz up some leftover chicken breasts; for a shortcut, just shred, mix with some salsa (to taste) and enough water to keep it from drying out, and heat up on the stovetop over low. Panuchos are best served hot, just after frying. If you aren't quite ready to serve them just after frying, you can keep them warm on a baking sheet in the oven at 200F and remove when ready to serve.