- Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day (that’s in September).
- Cinco de Mayo is the day that marks the Mexican army's victory over France at the Battle of Puebla.
- Since the Battle of Puebla, no country in the Americas has been invaded by any other European military, and it’s believed that this victory also helped the Union army beat the Confederacy in the American Civil War.
- Cinco de Mayo is not widely celebrated all over Mexico, but is celebrated in the state of Puebla.
- Mexico is a really big country, with tons of regional variations in culture and cuisine. Mexico is not just sombreros, ponchos, chips, and salsa.
This year for Cinco de Mayo, I’m trying to move beyond the thoughtless “cinco de drinko” celebrations I’ve had in the past. How do we navigate celebrating and appreciating a culture that isn't ours, while trying not to appropriate it? I think a good place to start is to learn a fact or two about the actual day. And also to avoid dressing up like racial caricatures. And, if we celebrate with food and drinks, which we tend to do in the US, to branch out and see what else Mexico has to offer, beyond guacamole and margaritas (both of which, are also delicious).
That’s what I’m doing…with Gorditas! You might be thinking “you said to branch out and now you’re eating at Taco Bell…the most Americanized “Mexican” fast food place ever.” Here’s the thing: these aren't your run-of-the-mill Taco Bell gorditas... and also, there is a time and place for Taco Bell. I don’t really eat fast food anymore, and haven’t had Taco Bell in years and years. But…one time in high school, we needed a quick lunch when a bunch of family was in town… and we spent around $100 in the Taco Bell drive-thru. That is a LOT of tacos. And freshman year in college, after a couple months of dorm food, my sister drove my roomie and me to the nearest Taco Bell, far from campus, and seriously, it was so comforting and familiar… it felt like a home cooked meal. In my early twenties, I had many post-drinking, late-night, fourth-meal chalupa supremes. So yes, while I don’t eat it these days, I admit, there is a time and a place for Taco Bell.
However, gorditas happen to be a real thing beyond the walls of Taco Bell, and, according to my research, are actually nothing like the thick, puffy, fast-food flat-bread-like taco shell you may be familiar with. They are, in fact, little round, fried masa-cakes, that are incredibly easy to make, and can be topped or filled with anything your heart desires, from soft fresh cheese, to ground beef, to chicken tingas. They also taste really good fresh and warm, with a drizzle of honey!
After going back and forth between a few cookbooks, I ended up basing my masa-cake recipe off the one in Mexico: The Cookbook, which is beautiful behemoth of a cookbook (according to a lot of reviews, it’s actually really poorly edited and fairly inaccurate, but as a seasoned home cook, I think it has enough to get me started and provide a ton of inspiration… buy at your own risk, I guess). Rather than a traditional filling, I went with my weeknight standby: a store bought rotisserie chicken, shredded and tossed in warmed enchilada sauce.
Gorditas with Shredded Chicken
Adapted from Mexico, the Cookbook
2 cups + 3 tablespoons masa
½ cup AP flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1.5 cup + 2 tablespoons water
Oil with a high smoke point (like vegetable oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed) or ghee
Whisk together the masa, flour, and salt. Add water a tablespoon at a time, until dough is moist, soft, and pliable (but not wet). Roll into 15 balls, and flatten each ball to about ¼- ½ inch thick disk.
Heat a couple tablespoons (enough to fully coat the bottom) oil or ghee (I used a mix of both) in a heavy bottomed skillet, over medium heat. Cook a couple of gorditas at a time, a minute or two on each side, until golden and crisp. Drain on a paper towel. Once cool enough to handle, slide open to fill.
Filling & Topping
½ rotisserie chicken
1 cup green enchilada sauce, warmed
Refried beans, heated
Cotija cheese, crumbled
Shred chicken and toss with warmed sauce. Fill each gordita with a dollop of beans and a spoonful of chicken. Top with cheese, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and avo, as desired.
Wait, there's more!
Check out a bunch of fun Cinco de Mayo inspired recipes! Everything from cocktails and snacks to desserts and dinner ideas!
Margarita Granita by Feast + West
Cinco de Mayo Party Inspiration and Recipes by A Joyfully Mad Kitchen
Poblano & Mushroom Tosadas by The Mexitalian
Roasted Strawberry Rhubarb Agua Fresca by Will Frolic for Food
Street Corn-style Roasted Potatoes by A Little Gathering
Pork & Black Bean Stew by think fruitful
Tequila Lime Tart by Love & Flour
Crispy Fish Tacos with Cajun Mayo by Winstead Wandering
Strawberry Watermelon Agua Fresca by A Savory Feast
Carne Asada Fries by Tornadough Alli
Mexican Carrot Dogs with Chunky Salsa Verde by Strength and Sunshine
Raspberry Lime Rickey Margaritas by Feed Me Phoebe
Slow Cooked Carnitas Style Chicken by Simple and Savory
Chicken Fajita Sandwich by Brunch-n-Bites
Cantaloupe Mint Margaritas by The Speckled Palate
Brussel Sprout, Wild Mushroom, Avocado and Feta Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa by Arthur Street Kitchen
Spiced Chocolate Ice Cream with Roasted Pepitas by Bethany Grow
Roasted Veggie Salsa by Living Well Kitchen
Seared Scallop Tacos with Spring Mango Salsa and Avocado Cream by Domesticate ME!
Blackberry mint agua fresca by the Grant life
Nightshade Free Southwest Salad by I Say Nomato
Southwestern orzo salad by Family Food on the Table
Watermelon Mint Margarita by Gold & Bloom
Mix-Your-Own Guac Bar by Hey There Sunshine
Blood Orange Margaritas by Glisten and Grace
Veggie Stuffed Chiles Rellenos with Avocado Cream by Hello Little Home
Traditional Homemade Flour Tortillas by Sustaining the Powers
Slow Cooker Red Chicken Enchiladas by Sustaining the Powers
Sizzling Texas Fajitas by Sustaining the Powers
Margarita Poke Cake by Pink Cake Plate
Cheesy Southwest Egg Rolls by Pink Cake Plate
Mojito Cupcakes by The Rustic Willow
Margarita Shrimp Tacos by Macheesmo
Pineapple Cilantro Salsa by Feast + West
One Pot Taco Soup by A Joyfully Mad Kitchen
Tequila Lime Cupcakes with Margarita Buttercream by Sugar Dish Me
Slow Cooker Chipotle Turkey Tacos by Two Places at Once
Margarita Bar by Mixplorology