Gretchen’s table: Spicy shrimp tostadas

Spicy chili shrimp tostadas require no cooking on a hot summer day. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Spicy chili shrimp tostadas require no cooking on a hot summer day. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

Here’s the thing about 110-year-old houses. They ooze charm and character, but they also can be a royal pain in the neck.

I say this on my fifth day without hot water or gas … during a heat wave in which I can barely walk from my car to my front door without breaking into a major sweat.


My local gas company discovered a gas leak outside the house last weekend and, because of all the regulations, it’s taking forever to get the line repaired. So along with learning to enjoy cold showers, I’ve had to adjust how I usually cook.

Even without my gas stovetop/oven working, I still had options when it came to dinner. I could fire up the grill, pull out the Instant Pot or reheat my takeout leftovers in the microwave. One night, a sympathetic neighbor took pity and dropped off Thai food.

Today, craving something both quick and crunchy as I patiently wait for the plumber, I decided to cheer myself up with one of my favorite no-cook Mexican dishes, tostadas. They’re built on corn tortillas that have been baked or fried until crispy — either homemade or commercially made and bagged — and then topped with things like refried beans, cheese and a favorite protein.

The recipe is adapted from my well-thumbed copy of “Enchiladas: Aztec to Tex-Mex” by Cappy Lawton and Chris Waters Dunn. It features cooked shrimp tossed in a slightly spicy chili sauce made with ancho chilies and chipotle in adobo on top of crisp tostadas loaded with chopped fresh veggies. Orange juice and sugar tame the heat of the chipotles with just the right amount of tang and sweetness.

I used cooked grocery store shrimp, but grilled shrimp would be even better, if you don’t mind cooking out. Roasting the chilies over a flame before blending them into the sauce will also upgrade the dish. Additionally, you can (and should) warm the tostada shells in a 350-degree oven for 4-5 minutes before using.

You can find premade, bagged tostada shells at most larger grocery stores near the taco shells and in any Mexican grocery.

To make homemade tostadas: Lightly spray both sides of 8 corn tortillas with cooking spray; place them in a single layer on a baking sheet; lightly season with salt; and bake for 10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until they are crispy like a chip.

Spicy Shrimp Tostadas

PG tested

For the sauce

5 ancho chiles, cleaned, de-stemmed and de-seeded

2-3 chipotles in adobo

Zest of 1 orange

Juice 1/2 orange

3/4 cup rice wine vinegar

1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 medium white onion, peeled and diced small

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Kosher salt to taste

1 pound medium cooked and peeled shrimp

For assembly

8 tostada shells

Romaine or butter lettuce leaves, chopped

1/2 cup diced cucumber

1/4 cup diced white onion

8 cherry tomatoes, quartered, for garnish

Crumbled queso fresco and/or Cotija cheese, for garnish

Fresh cilantro leaves

Prepare sauce. Wipe chilies with a damp paper towel to remove dust, then use a knife or scissors to cut a slit down the side to remove the seeds, veins and stem.

Soak roasted chilies in a bowl of hot water until soft, about 15 minutes. Drain, then place in blender with chipotles, orange zest and juice and vinegar, and pulse until the chilies and zest are finely minced. Add ginger, oregano, allspice, onion and sugar.

With blender running, slowly add vegetable oil until emulsified. Add salt to taste, then set aside while you prepare shrimp. You may also want to add more orange juice, sugar or vinegar to taste.

Cut shrimp into bite-sized pieces, place in a large bowl and toss with desired amount of prepared sauce. (I added about 1/3 cup; add more if you like it saucy. You will have more than you need.)

Warm tostadas in a 350-degree oven for 4-5 minutes, then place on individual serving plates, 1 per serving.

Top tostadas with chopped lettuce, cucumber and onion. Add sauced shrimp and then garnish with cherry tomato quarters, crumbled cheese and cilantro leaves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email