A gordita is a popular Mexican street food made from masa (cornmeal dough) that is stuffed with a savory filling and then griddled or baked. Gordita frita is a variation on the traditional gordita where the stuffed masa dough is deep fried instead of baked or griddled. Both are delicious, but they have some key differences in terms of ingredients, cooking method, texture, taste, and appearance.
Defining Gordita and Gordita Frita
The word “gordita” means “little fat one” in Spanish, referring to the pillowy, chubby appearance of this food. A traditional gordita consists of a thick disk of masa dough that is split open and stuffed with a savory filling like shredded chicken, cheese, beans, or chicharron (fried pork belly). The stuffed gordita is then cooked on a griddle or comal until the exterior is lightly browned and the interior is cooked through. Gorditas are meant to be picked up and eaten out of hand.
Gordita frita also starts with the masa dough and stuffing, but instead of being griddled, the stuffed gordita is deep fried in oil until crispy and golden on the outside. This gives gordita frita a distinct crunchy exterior that contrasts nicely with the soft, pillowy interior. Gordita frita may also sometimes be referred to as gordita de harina to differentiate it from the traditional cornmeal version.
Mas Dough Differences
While both gordita and gordita frita start with a basic masa dough, the type of masa used in each one differs slightly:
Gordita dough – Traditionally made from nixtamalized corn masa. This dough has a unique corn flavor and soft, almost cake-like texture when cooked. Masa for gorditas needs to be pliable enough to shape and stuff.
Gordita frita dough – Typically made from a combination of corn masa and wheat flour. This gives the dough more structure and allows it to crisp up nicely when fried. The wheat flour adds a lighter texture and mildly sweet flavor that complements the corn.
So while both use masa, gordita frita dough contains extra ingredients that make it better suited to frying. The basic masa used for gorditas would likely fall apart if fried.
Cooking Method Differences
The primary difference between gordita and gordita frita lies in the cooking method:
Gordita cooking: Gorditas are griddled on a comal or skillet, or sometimes baked in an oven. This allows the exterior to become lightly browned while the interior cooks through. Griddling gives gorditas a firmer, drier texture overall.
Gordita frita cooking: Gordita frita are deep fried at high heat, completely submerging the stuffed dough in hot oil. This enables the exterior to become crispy and golden, taking on the texture of fried bread. The interior remains soft like the traditional version.
So while gordita relies on dry heat, gordita frita uses hot oil to achieve a crispy exterior.
The cooking methods impact the final texture of each dish:
Gordita texture: Since it is griddled, a gordita takes on a firmer, almost biscuit-like texture on the outside. The interior is soft and spongy, similar to fresh baked bread. Overall, gorditas tend to be denser and chewier than the fried version.
Gordita frita texture: Frying makes gordita frita lighter and crisper than the traditional version. The exterior is crunchy and flaky, with an almost fried pie crust-type texture. The interior remains pillowy and soft like gordita. The contrast of crisp exterior and tender interior is the hallmark of gordita frita.
So gordita leans dense and chewy, while gordita frita is crisp and flaky when fried.
Beyond texture, the cooking methods also impact the flavor of each dish:
Gordita taste: Gorditas take on some lightly toasted, nutty corn flavors from being cooked on the griddle. Overall the taste is still predominantly that of the masa and the filling ingredients. The corn masa flavor remains at the forefront.
Gordita frita taste: Frying adds some subtle fried bread flavors to gordita frita, giving it a slightly sweet, yeasty quality that highlights the wheat flour in the dough. The crisp exterior also provides great contrast to the rich fillings. Any filling juices or fat also soak into the fried exterior adding even more flavor.
So while gordita focuses on the corn and filling flavors, frying adds subtle sweetness and richness to gordita frita.
You can distinguish gordita and gordita frita at a glance based on how they look:
Gordita appearance: Gorditas have a distinct thick, round disk shape from being pressed and griddled. The sides are smooth and the exterior takes on a speckled golden-brown patina from cooking. They look like small roasted corn cakes.
Gordita frita appearance: Gordita frita puff up when fried, taking on an irregular spherical shape almost like a balloon. The exterior is crispy and lacey with a vivid golden color. The contrast of golden crunchy exterior and soft white interior is visually striking.
So gordita has a flat, rounded look while gordita frita is puffy and irregular from frying.
Both gordita and gordita frita can be stuffed with a variety of fillings, though certain ones work better in the fried version:
Common gordita fillings: Shredded chicken, shredded or crumbled beef, cheese, beans, peppers and onions, mushrooms, cactus, chorizo sausage
Common gordita frita fillings: Same as gordita, but the crispy exterior holds up especially well to rich/messy fillings like juicy meats, cheese, beans, creamy potato, or chicharron
The fillings bring great flavor, but the cooking method will determine how well they are contained and highlighted. Heartier fillings shine when fried.
Gordita and gordita frita also differ in how they are commonly served:
Gordita serving style: Gorditas are usually served room temperature as street food or snacks. Their dense, drier texture makes them easy to eat out of hand. They are commonly served plain or just with salsa on the side.
Gordita frita serving style: Gordita frita is usually served fresh and hot immediately after frying. The crispy exterior stays crispy when hot. It is often served plated as a sit-down meal with sides and toppings like lettuce, cheese, crema. Salsa is ubiquitous.
So gordita is casual street food, while gordita frita works well as a plated meal. The crispy frita texture benefits from being served hot and fresh.
While both can be indulgent treats, gordita frita does end up slightly higher in fat and calories due to the frying method:
Gordita nutrition: A plain gordita made with corn masa is around 170 calories. When stuffed with lean fillings like chicken and veggies, it remains a fairly healthy choice. Gorditas provide energy from complex corn carbohydrates and can be high in fiber.
Gordita frita nutrition: Because it is fried, a plain gordita frita without fillings comes in around 270 calories. Loaded with cheese, meat and sour cream, counts can go even higher. The crispy fried exterior adds more fat and cholesterol too. Still, eaten in moderation, it can be part of a balanced diet.
So gordita frita has a higher calorie count, but isn’t extremely unhealthy in reasonable portions. Pick healthy fillings to lighten it up.
Both gordita and gordita frita have cultural importance in Mexican cuisine:
Gordita cultural significance: Gorditas have been a staple street food of central Mexico dating back centuries. Made from ubiquitous corn masa, they represent the ingenuity of creating hearty portable snacks from simple accessible ingredients.
Gordita frita cultural significance: Gordita frita originated in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico. It remains a regional specialty that has gained wider popularity. The crunchy fried version exemplifies the creativity of taking a traditional food like gordita and transforming it into something new.
So while gordita is the traditional and authentic masa preparation, gordita frita shows innovation by adapting it to a fried form. Both demonstrate the diversity of Mexican food culture.
Regionally within Mexico, gorditas and gordita fritas are more common in different areas:
Where gorditas are popular: Gorditas are widely available from street vendors throughout central Mexico, especially in the states of Puebla, Guanajuato, Michoacán, Mexico City and the surrounding regions. This is the heartland of corn masa-based antojitos.
Where gordita fritas are popular: Gordita frita is believed to have originated in the city of Pachuca in the state of Hidalgo. It remains a specialty of Hidalgo, but has spread to become popular street food in neighboring regions like Mexico City.
While fried snacks are ubiquitous everywhere, gordita frita is a specialty of central Mexico, unlike the widespread availability of gordita.
When sold by street vendors, gordita frita does come at a slightly higher price point than traditional gordita:
Gordita cost: A basic gordita with filling typically costs around 25-35 Mexican pesos from a street stall, which is less than $2 USD. They are very budget friendly street food.
Gordita frita cost: Gorditas fritas may cost 40-60+ Mexican pesos from food stands, or around $2-3 USD. The extra prep and oil for frying adds cost compared to gorditas.
Vendors need to charge more in order to cover the expenses of deep frying. But both remain very affordable Mexican street eats.
Making Gorditas vs. Gorditas Fritas
At home, frying does make gordita frita slightly more involved to prepare compared to baking gorditas:
Making gorditas: Gorditas come together quickly. The masa dough can be shaped and stuffed, then simply griddled or baked until cooked through. Requires minimal oil or butter for cooking. Easy to make in bulk.
Making gordita fritas: Requires heating several inches of oil in a pot for frying, which takes more time, prep, and cleanup. The fried dough also needs to be drained after cooking. Frying should be done in batches, so not as easy to make large quantities.
Gorditas are simpler to throw together, while gordita fritas involve some extra steps. But both can be satisfying homemade snacks or meals.
Finding Gorditas vs. Gorditas Fritas
When seeking out either dish, knowing where to look can help you locate the best versions:
Finding gorditas: Gorditas are ubiquitous street food in central Mexico, sold at puestos de antojitos and market stalls. In Mexican restaurants, check for gorditas on the antojitos/botanas section of the menu. Gorditas may also appear in New Mexican and Southwest US cuisine.
Finding gordita fritas: Gordita fritas may be sold by some street vendors in Mexico City, Puebla, and Hidalgo. Otherwise, look in restaurants specializing in Hidalgo/Poblano regional food. It is not as universally available outside central Mexico.
So while gorditas are easy to find across central Mexico, seeking out gordita fritas may require researching vendors that sell specialties of Hidalgo state. But admirers of Mexican cuisine agree both are worth hunting down!
Gordita vs. Gordita Frita: Side by Side Comparison
|Gordita de maíz
|Gordita de harina
|Main Dough Ingredients
|Corn masa + wheat flour
|Griddled or baked
|Dense and chewy
|Crisp exterior, soft interior
|Corn masa with savory filling
|Fried bread flavors added
|Flat rounded disk
|Irregular puffy shape
|Shredded meats, veggies, cheese, beans
|Juicy/messy meats, chicharron
|How It’s Served
|Room temp, street food
|Hot and fresh, plated meal
|Originates in Hidalgo
|Difficulty to Make
|Intermediate frying skill
While gordita and gordita frita share the same basic masa dough and stuffing origins, frying transforms the snack into something crispy and unique. Gordita relies on the corn masa flavor, while gordita frita infuses the dough with delicious fried flavors. Both make hearty, comforting street food and snacks. Gorditas are widely available across Mexico, but gordita frita is worth seeking out as a special regional fried treat. Whichever version you try, remember to enjoy it with hot salsa and a cold Mexican drink like a michelada!