This trio of Guatemalan tostadas—red salsa, guacamole and black bean—are one of her favorite family recipes for three reasons, says homecook Adriana Trevi. Uno: they are so easy to make. Dos: they’re a festive crowd-pleaser. And tres: they’re traditional and the perfect warmup to an authentic Guatemalan feast. That makes them one of the top snacks in her native Guatemala, says Adriana. Where she grew up in the southern Guatemalan city of Amatitlán, people pick up a couple from a street cart or make a quick batch to serve family and guests while you’re in the kitchen getting the rest of the meal ready.
“We don’t use the word appetizer, but tostadas are considered an appetizer in Guatemala. It’s what you eat when you’re waiting for the tamales,” says Adriana, who comes from a family of six brothers and sisters—all great cooks. The seis siblings now live in Illinois, and when they get together for tamales and ponche every Christmas holiday—usually at the house of their oldest sister Marleny ”Leny” González, a tremenda cocinera—tostadas are on the menu.
”Tostadas are perfect for those days, because everyone gets up and makes their own with whatever toppings and garnishes they like best, while we wait for the big meal,” Adriana says. “I love tostadas.”
When she makes them, Adriana puts out a tray of each kind and invites family and friends to serve themselves. Pro tip: Tostadas are delicious to serve with ceviche, she adds. Try it!
The garnishes are muy importante no matter what kind of tostada you make. ”The secret to a good Guatemalan tostada is to top it with your onion, your parsley and your cheese,” says Adriana. ”If you don’t have onion, parsley and cheese, you do not have a tostada.”
Specifically, this means red onion sliced in super-thin rounds, minced fresh parsley, and shredded Guatemalan queso seco—if you can find it, says Adriana. She never can in the U.S., so Mexican queso fresco is the next closest thing, she says. “But queso seco has a delicious aroma and taste that are different. If you can find it, use it. That makes these tostadas really Guatemalan.”
The tomato salsa base is súper simple, says Adriana. You boil tomatoes, onion and a tiny bit of jalapeño, then pulse them in a blender. All three tostadas get a spoonful of this red sauce, she says.
Another insider tip to make these tostadas the traditional Guatemalan way: Don’t skimp on the toppings. “You have to pile on the queso, the parsley and the red salsa,” says Adriana. It won’t look neat and pretty—and that is OK. ”This is poor food for hungry people. This is not an Instagram-y dish. This is not avocado toast!”
“The more rustic and simple these look, the better. For us, we think it will taste better and more authentic.”
For more Guatemalan dishes, check out her sister Leny’s family-famous recipes, including one of their country’s most popular bizcochos, the traditional Guatemalan borracho cake, as well as Guatemalan fruit ponche (often served with rum at their house)—both of which Leny is famous for making every December.
Also be sure to check out the family-famous recipe for Luis Yanes’ Guatemalan pork tamales, one of Familia Kitchen’s most popular recipes—ever.