Vegan tostadas are so easy to make in the air fryer, oven, or pan fried.
Homemade tostada shells come together quickly using corn tortillas. Finish with toppings like refried beans, avocado, and salsa.
This vegan and gluten-free lunch or dinner is ready in about 20 minutes!
There’s not much better than the satisfying crunch of a refried bean tostada.
You get all of your favorite toppings like avocado and salsa riding on a crispy corn tortilla shell.
It’s wonderfully messy indulgence.
If you’ve never had a tostada before, think of it as a flat crunchy taco or a single oversized nacho chip.
Translated from Spanish, tostada means “toasted.”
Tostadas in restaurants are usually fried.
But at home, I prefer to cook them in the air fryer or oven. They get wonderfully crispy without being oily.
(Feeling decadent? I give directions on how to fry in oil in the recipe card as well.)
As far as toppings, the possibilities are endless.
These mouthwatering tostadas are vegan and gluten free.
And you can make as many or few as you’d like.
Tostadas are a terrific weeknight meal, because they are so quick and easy to prepare.
Plus, everyone can assemble their tostada to their exact preferences.
Here are the ingredients you will need this delicious refried bean tostada recipe.
Corn tortillas: You’ll want small, 6-inch 100% corn tortillas.
If you’re using larger tortillas, plan on cooking them longer until crispy.
Oil (optional): For better browning, add a light layer of oil to the tortillas before baking or air frying. (I usually skip the oil.)
If you’re pan frying, I recommend a high heat oil like organic canola oil or avocado oil.
Refried beans: You can use either refried pinto beans or refried black beans.
I prefer to use homemade. But canned vegetarian refried beans work as a timesaver.
Shredded cabbage mix: You can obviously shred cabbage by hand. But it’s even easier to grab a bag of shredded cabbage mix.
Shredded cabbage mix is one of my favorite vegan Trader Joe’s products. It includes both purple & green cabbage plus carrots.
Salsa or pico de gallo: Use homemade or store-bought salsa. Fresh salsa is especially nice here.
If necessary, use a slotted spoon when topping, so that the tostada doesn’t get waterlogged.
Avocado: Buttery avocado adds creaminess and fat.
If you prefer, you can replace it with guacamole.
Pickled red onions: Homemade pickled red onions add a briny crunch. I always keep a batch on hand in the refrigerator.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to make them from scratch, replace with finely diced yellow onion.
Pickled jalapeños: Homemade quick pickled jalapeños are my favorite because of their heat, crunch, and color.
But jarred jalapeños also do nicely here.
Cilantro: Fresh cilantro is a tasty and colorful garnish.
Step by step instructions
Here’s how to make the recipe at a glance. For complete ingredient amounts & instructions, keep scrolling to the recipe card below.
First, choose how you’d like to cook the tostada shells.
- If you’re making one or two, the air fryer is super convenient.
- If you’re cooking for a crowd, I recommend baking, so that you’re not making one tostada shell at a time.
- And if you want to go all in on decadence, fry them!
To air fry tostada shells: Put a soft corn tortilla in the air fryer. (If you like, you can lightly oil it first. But I usually don’t.)
Top the corn tortilla with something oven-safe to hold it down. (Otherwise, it will blow Into the fan.) I like to use a metal taco holder as a weight.
Air fry at 390 degrees for 5 minutes. Stop once halfway through to flip. (I recommend using toast tongs for easiest flipping.)
Remove & continue with remaining tortillas until all of them are toasted.
To bake tostada shells: Put corn tortillas onto a baking sheet. Lightly oil them if you like.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 18 minutes. Stop once halfway through to flip.
To pan fry tostada shells: Fill a non-stick skillet with a quarter inch of high-heat oil (like canola or avocado oil). Bring to a medium high heat.
Fry each tortilla one at a time. (You’ll know the oil is ready if bubbles immediately form around the tortilla.)
Fry for about 30 seconds on each side until golden brown.
If the tortilla is rising to the top of the oil, press it down with tongs or a spatula.
Once brown, move each tortilla to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
Once all of the tortillas are toasted and crunchy, it’s time to add the toppings.
Slather with refried beans. They are the “glue” that holds the remaining toppings onto the crispy tortilla.
Then add any or all of the following:
- Shredded cabbage mix
- Salsa or pico de gallo
- Pickled red onions
- Pickled jalapeños
To eat, simply pick up your tostada and take a bite. Keep a fork handy to reapply any toppings that fall off.
Make it your own
You can easily make this lunch or dinner your own by varying the ingredients.
Use store-bought tostadas
Instead of making tostadas from scratch, you can buy pre-fried tostada shells. Follow the instructions on the bag for reheating directions.
Vary the refried beans
- Instead of refried pinto beans, use refried black beans.
- Instead of homemade refried beans, warm a can of vegetarian refried beans.
Add more protein options
Instead of or in addition to refried beans, add one of these vegan protein options:
Vary the salsa
Tomato salsa or pico de gallo are classics.
But feel free to vary the flavors with a fruity salsa:
Add a finishing sauce
Finish the vegan tostadas with a flavorful finishing sauce or vegan cheese.
- Cashew queso
- Vegan sriracha mayo
- Vegan feta cheese
- Cilantro chimichurri sauce
- Vegan sour cream
- Vegan cheddar cheese
- Hot sauce
- A squeeze of lime juice
What to serve with tostadas
With a corn tortilla, refried beans, and toppings aplenty, a tostada can be a full meal on its own.
Or you can round it out with any of these dishes:
Store all of the toppings separately from the corn tortillas. Otherwise, the tortillas will become soggy.
Homemade refried beans will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.
Or store refried beans in the freezer for up to 6 months. Then thaw when ready to use.
If the refried beans have dried out in the refrigerator, add a splash of water and stir. Then microwave to reheat.
Vegan refried bean tostadas (air fryer, baked, or fried)
- 4 soft corn tortillas
- Spritz of oil spray (optional) Or more if frying
- ½ cup refried beans
- ½ cup shredded cabbage
- ½ cup salsa or pico de gallo
- ¼ cup pickled red onions
- ¼ cup pickled jalapenos
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- 1 or 2 avocados sliced & removed from peel
- TO BAKE TOSTADA SHELLS: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put corn tortillas onto a baking sheet. If you like, lightly spritz or brush oil on both sides of the tortillas. Bake for five minutes on one side. Flip the tortillas and continue baking for another 5 to 8 minutes, until crisp.
- TO AIR FRY TOSTADA SHELLS: Put one corn tortilla into the air fryer basket. If you like, lightly spritz or brush oil on both sides of the tortilla.Top the tortilla with something small & oven-safe to hold it down, so that it doesn't blow into the air fryer fan. (I like to use a metal taco holder.)Air fry at 390 degrees for 5 minutes, stopping once halfway through to flip. (Be careful. The air fryer will be hot. I recommend using toast tongs to flip.)Remove crisp tortilla from air fryer basket. Then repeat with the remaining tortillas until all of them are crunchy.
- TO PAN FRY TOSTADA SHELLS: Fill a non-stick skillet with a quarter inch of high-heat oil (like canola or avocado oil). Bring to a medium high heat.Fry each tortilla one at a time for about 30 seconds on each side until golden brown. (You’ll know the oil is ready if bubbles immediately form around the tortilla.)If the tortilla is rising to the top of the oil, press it down with tongs or a spatula.Once brown, move each tortilla to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.
- Once all of the tortillas are toasted and crunchy, it’s time to add the toppings.Top each crispy tostada shell with a slathering of refried beans, a sprinkling of a shredded cabbage, a spoonful of salsa, a few slices of avocado, a pinch of pickled red onions, and pickled jalapenos. Finish with a garnish of cilantro.Serve right away.
Content, photos, and recipe updated September 14, 2022. Originally posted October 11, 2012.
This is a great option for a quick and easy weekday dinner. My family loves customizing their tostada so it is just how they like it.
Excellent! That’s so nice to hear.
This tostada looks amazing! I just recently, in the last couple years, got into tostadas.
I love the look of that tostada, yum!
That tostada looks amazing!
I am really enjoying the tostada. Thanks!
That tostada looks delish and I absolutely love this post – so cute!
Thanks so much, Ashley!
This meal looks perfect to me!