These vegetarian tostadas are a breeze to make, with flavorful crispy smashed fried chickpeas standing in for taco meat. Easily made vegan by swapping or omitting the cheese.

This crispy smashed chickpea taco meat is a game changer

I know I’ve already shared what I consider the best ever vegan taco meat, but these smashed chickpeas are giving me pause here. They are a fair bit quicker and easier to make and are super flavorful with an amazing texture. I am going to declare them the most perfect vegetarian tostada topping.

What makes this work so well? Smashing up the chickpeas! Just take a potato masher and give them a few punches. Some of them end up in pieces, some of them stay whole, some of the skins come off… when we go to fry them they have such a diverse texture and a lot of surface area for crisping up. The end result is a lot more flavorful and a lot less dry than a pan of roasted whole chickpeas might have been.

I cook these crispy chickpeas in my own homemade taco seasoning which includes all the usual suspects but also fennel seeds, because quite honestly almost every spice mix I can think of is improved by fennel seeds (if you agree with me, please consult my love letter to fennel seeds for more inspo).

You can use these chickpeas as a taco filler if you’d prefer, but I found them to be an especially great fit for tostadas. We pile them up over the guacamole (which gives them something to stick to) instead of piling sauces on top – this helps them stay crispy.

Ingredient Notes

  • Corn tortillas are definitely ideal here, but if you need to use flour, feel free. They may crisp up a little quicker so keep a close eye on the oven!
  • Cheese is melted onto the tortillas – to keep these tostadas vegan you could use a vegan cheese (there are some decent dairy free smoked cheeses which would work well) or just leave it off.
  • Canned chickpeas or 1.5 cups of freshly cooked chickpeas.
  • Guacamole or smashed avocado : Fairly essential here, it is spread over the tortillas as the bottom layer to give the chickpeas something to stick to.
  • Spice mix: You can swap in your own favorite taco seasoning if you wish, and I do often recommend that when cooking with things like beans and lentils to make sure there’s enough salt and flavor. But this time around I concocted a homemade blend that really worked for me so I am giving you that recipe today. It includes chili powder and smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, oregano and fennel seeds. We also use a half teaspoon of table salt, and that seems to do the job.
  • Chopped onion and cilantro (fresh coriander) for some zingy toppings. Cherry tomatoes, pickled onions instead of fresh or pico de gallo are all good alternatives.
  • Sour cream or crema can be nice spooned over the top, though I don’t consider them essential.

Other toppings that could work well: black olives, slaw or shredded lettuce, sliced chilis, lime wedges for squeezing.

Some other ideas for the smashed chickpeas

If, like me, you come away from this tostada recipe with the strong impression that this chickpea taco meat should be a big part of your meal rotation forevermore, I have some thoughts:

  • Absolutely feel free to them it in tacos and burritos. Baked tacos would work especially well.
  • Taco style lettuce wraps would work well for a lighter option.
  • Add them to a taco salad (add over the top, don’t mix through with the dressing, to preserve the crispiness).
  • Use it to top nachos – again I will suggest adding them last so they stick to the guac and sour cream rather than end up smothered by them and soggy.
  • Baked potato topping (slot it into my Vegetarian Taco Baked Potato instead of the lentils) or sweet potato topping.

Now let’s see how many of these ideas end up as recipes on this blog over the next year shall we 🤔?

Vegetarian Tostadas with Crispy Smashed Chickpeas

These vegetarian tostadas are a breeze to make, with flavorful crispy smashed fried chickpeas standing in for taco meat. Easily made vegan by swapping or omitting the cheese.
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Ingredients

  • 14 oz can of chickpeas, drained and patted dry
  • olive oil, for cooking
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • ½ cup guacamole
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 tbsp sour cream or crema
  • 1 handful cilantro (fresh coriander)
  • 2 tbsp red onion, finely diced

Seasoning Mix

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika, or more chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp salt

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 180C / 360F.
  • Make the seasoning mix. Add the fennel seeds to a pestle and mortar and lightly crush them. Add the remaining spices and salt, then set aside.
    1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • Lay the tortillas out across a couple of large baking sheets and brush or spray with oil on both sides. Place in the oven for 4 minutes until they are starting to crisp up.
    10 corn tortillas
  • Remove from the oven and flip each tortilla over. Add a handful of cheese to the top of each tortilla and then place back in the oven for another 4 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
    1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • Meanwhile, add the chickpeas to a large bowl and use a potato masher to lightly smash them. You want some to be left whole while others are in smaller pieces – this creates the most interesting texture.
    14 oz can of chickpeas
  • When the tortillas are done, remove from the oven and let them sit until the chickpeas are ready – as long as they stay on the baking tray, they will stay warm enough.
  • Heat a large saute or frying pan with a shallow layer of oil over a low/medium heat. Add the chickpeas and let them sit for 2 minutes in the pan, then mix them up, let them sit a little longer, and repeat the process until the chickpeas are just starting to turn a more golden color and the smaller pieces are getting crisp. This generally takes around 5 minutes for me, but different pans and heat levels may be faster or slower.
  • Add the seasoning mix to the pan with another glug of oil and cook for another couple of minutes until there are really defined crispy bits and the spices are well toasted. Make sure the heat is on the lower end for this – we don't want to burn the spices.
  • Assemble your tostadas. Spread a little guacamole over the cheesy tortilla, then spoon over the chickpeas. Add onion, cilantro and sour cream to taste and dive in !
    1/2 cup guacamole, 4 tbsp sour cream or crema, 1 handful cilantro (fresh coriander), 2 tbsp red onion
Calories: 239kcal, Carbohydrates: 25g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Cholesterol: 14mg, Sodium: 211mg, Potassium: 263mg, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 314IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 137mg, Iron: 2mg