Sopes are a popular traditional Mexican dish that are similar to small, thick corn tortillas topped with different ingredients. Some other Mexican dishes that are comparable to sopes include gorditas, tlacoyos, picaditas, and huaraches.
What are Sopes?
Sopes (pronounced SO-pays) are thick, small corn tortillas that are pinched up around the edges to form a rim. They are fried until crispy, then topped with various ingredients like refried beans, lettuce, cheese, meat, salsa, sour cream, and avocado.
Sopes are indigenous to Mexico and date back to pre-Hispanic times. The name comes from the Nahuatl word “tzopel” which means “round” or “small”. They are a staple street food found all over Mexico.
Traditional sopes are made from masa dough, which is corn dough made from treated corn kernels. The masa is pressed into small circles using a tortilla press or molded by hand. Once fried into little bowls, they are filled with savory toppings.
Sopes are commonly topped with:
- Refried beans
- Shredded lettuce
- Crumbled queso fresco
- Ground meat like chorizo, beef, or chicken
- Sliced radishes
- Sour cream
- Avocado slices
The crisp-fried masa and the combination of fillings makes sopes a popular street food and appetizer in Mexico. They are sold by street vendors, restaurants, and food carts.
Similar Mexican Dishes
There are several Mexican dishes that are very similar to sopes in terms of ingredients, preparation method, and appearance. These include:
Gorditas translate to “little fat ones” in Spanish. They are very similar to sopes but are a bit thicker, taller, and less crispy on the outside. Gorditas are made from masa dough that has been rolled into a ball and then pressed flat. A pocket is cut into the dough and it is stuffed with fillings like shredded chicken, pork carnitas, chili con carne, refried beans, cheese, lettuce, or Mexican rice.
Gorditas are sometimes called “Mexican pita bread”. The outside is soft and pillowy while the inside is filled with savory ingredients. Gorditas are baked on a comal or griddle until they puff up. They can be served open-faced or sliced through the middle. Salsa, crema, and queso fresco are common garnish options.
Tlacoyos are oblong or oval shaped sopes that are usually a bit bigger than traditional small, round sopes. “Tlacoyo” comes from the Nahuatl word “tlacoyohua” which means “to shape masa in an elongated way”.
Just like sopes, tlacoyos are made from masa dough that is pressed into shape by hand, then fried. They have a short, compact shape and are stuffed with beans, cheese, meat, nopales (cactus), or chicharrón (fried pork belly). Common toppings include shredded lettuce, sour cream, queso fresco, salsa, and avocado.
Picaditas (meaning “little snacks” in Spanish) are very similar to sopes but are smaller in size, closer to a silver dollar pancake. Just like sopes, picaditas are made with masa dough, pressed into rounds, and fried into little crispy shells 2-3 inches in diameter.
Picaditas are filled with the same type of ingredients as sopes – refried beans, meat, lettuce, cheese, salsa, sour cream, and sliced radishes. Their small size makes them perfect as an appetizer or snacking food.
Huaraches get their name from their oblong oval shape that resembles the popular Mexican leather sandals (“huaraches” in Spanish). Just like sopes, huaraches are made from masa, pressed into shape, and fried.
But huaraches have an even thicker base that is shaped wider and flatter like an oval. The thick masa base is able to support even more abundant savory toppings like al pastor, carnitas, chorizo, beans, lettuce, onions, cilantro, queso fresco, and salsa.
Key Differences Between Sopes and Similar Dishes
While sopes share many similarities with gorditas, tlacoyos, picaditas, and huaraches, there are some differences that set them apart:
|Key Differences from Sopes
While all these dishes have their differences, they are united by their foundations of masa dough and celebratory mix of delicious, flavorful Mexican ingredients.
Popularity of Sopes and Similar Foods in Mexico
Sopes and similar masa-based antojitos are extremely popular all over Mexico. They are considered casual, everyday food but are also commonly served at festive occasions.
You can find sopes, tlacoyos, picaditas, gorditas, and huaraches at food stands on busy city streets, small family restaurants, local markets, and from roaming street vendors. They are a tasty, convenient, and affordable food enjoyed by many.
In Mexico City, some popular places to try authentic sopes and similar snacks are:
- Mercado de San Juan – a gourmet market with many vendors serving traditional Mexican street food
- Los Cocuyos – a hole-in-the-wall restaurant famous for its tlacoyos
- El Moro – a legendary churreria that serves mini-sized picaditas
- La Tradición – a family-run restaurant dishing out handmade blue corn huaraches
Outside of Mexico City, Oaxaca is another excellent place to sample delicious sopes, gorditas, and tlacoyos made with heirloom corn masa recipes.
Sopes Outside of Mexico
While sopes and similar snacks originated in Mexico, their popularity has now spread to many regions outside of Mexico as well.
In areas with large Mexican immigrant populations like California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, you can find restaurants and food trucks serving up traditional sopes, gorditas, and huaraches.
As Mexican cuisine gains more global appreciation, sopes are also popping up on the menus of modern Mexican restaurants and taquerias in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, London, and Paris.
Chefs are also putting creative twists on classic sopes with nouveau ingredients like pulled pork, duck, and vegan fillings.
How to Make Sopes at Home
Want to try making tasty sopes at home? Here is a simple recipe to make classic sopes:
- 2 cups masa harina
- 1 1⁄4 cups warm water
- 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
- Oil for frying
- Optional fillings: refried beans, shredded lettuce, salsa, queso fresco, avocado, Mexican crema
- In a medium bowl, mix together the masa harina, warm water, and salt until it forms a soft, slightly sticky dough. Knead for 2-3 minutes.
- Pinch off golf ball sized pieces of dough and roll into balls. Press each ball into an oval shape, about 1⁄4 inch thick.
- Using your fingers, pinch up and crimp the sides of each oval to form a 1⁄2 inch raised edge all around.
- In a skillet over medium heat, heat 1⁄4 inch of oil. Carefully add the sopes and fry for 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and crispy.
- Remove sopes from oil and drain on a paper towel lined plate.
- Fill the crispy sopes with your desired toppings like refried beans, shredded lettuce, salsa, cheese, and a dollop of crema.
- Serve warm and enjoy!
Sopes are a beloved traditional Mexican street food. Their thick masa base and savory toppings resemble other popular snacks like gorditas, tlacoyos, picaditas, and huaraches.
While each dish has its differences in terms of size, shape, and cooking method, they all share the same foundation of fried masa dough and similar fillings. Sopes and these comparable foods are all tasty examples of authentic Mexican antojitos.
From Mexico City street stalls to Los Angeles taco trucks, sopes are becoming more and more popular worldwide. The next time you see sopes on a menu, be sure to give these little masa cakes a try!