Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Liz Barrett Foster
March 5, 2023

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Say the words “Mexican pizza” and it might conjure up thoughts of a late-night fast-food snack. Say “tlayuda” (pronounced CLA-You-Da), however, and those in the know understand that they’re in for an authentic Oaxacan experience.

Tlayudas are created by taking an extra-large, grilled corn tortilla and topping it with refried beans, Oaxacan string cheese, meat, tomatoes, lettuce and avocado, then heating it through on a pan that’s generously prepped with fat (traditionally lard). The ultimate street food in Oaxaca, Mexico, it has begun to catch fire on American menus—beyond the Oaxacan eateries here in the U.S. that have helped pull it into focus. Eaten open-faced or folded, anything goes with the toppings. Much like other flatbreads from around the world, a tlayuda can be consumed as a snack, shareable or an entire meal.

Rick Bayless, chef, author and TV personality with multiple Mexican concepts under his longstanding Chicago-based Frontera Restaurants, has been singing the praises of the tlayuda for years, acknowledging the fact that it’s been difficult to replicate the jumbo grilled tortillas of Oaxaca in the past. At Bayless’ street-food-style eatery Xoco in Chicago, the tortillas for tlayuda are imported directly from Oaxaca. Diners enjoy a rotating array of tlayuda specials, featuring seasonal toppings ranging from octopus to roasted beets to Mexican sausage.

Pop culture is helping fuel interest in the tlayuda, thanks in part to shows like the Netflix series “Street Food: Latin America.” In a promotional campaign for the show that asked users to vote for the best Latin American street food, tlayuda received a swell of support on social media platforms, generating interest and propelling the dish into the spotlight. With growing interest, tortilla suppliers are providing restaurants and consumers around the country with the authentic Oaxacan tortillas they’re searching out to create this trending dish.


Photo Credit: El Carnicero

El Carnicero runs a rotating roster of tlayuda options, taking creative license and demonstrating its versatility. This Shrimp Tlayuda features al pastor-style shrimp, black bean frijoles, baked queso fresco, mango-habanero mojo, limón-dressed arugula and hibiscus flower-pickled onions—all on a crispy cauliflower crust.

Take a look at these creative takes on this craveable menu item, with restaurant brands translating the tlayuda to fit their operations while staying true to its Oaxacan roots:

  • At El Mercado Modern Cuisine in Santa Ana, Calif., the tlayuda is served as an entrée and topped with Oaxaca cheese, black bean spread, pea purée, tomato and cream. Chorizo or steak are optional.
  • The lunch menu at Houston’s Caracol Mexican Coastal Kitchen, a restaurant serving regional Mexican seafood, features Tlayuda de Carne a Las Brasas, a large tortilla stuffed with chargrilled beef, queso Oaxaca, yellow Oaxacan chile pasilla, ancho sauce and arroz blanco.
  • The brunch tlayuda at the casual modern El Carnicero in Lakewood, Ohio, features refried pinto beans, pork belly, Brussels sprouts and Mexican Coke syrup. The tylayuda specials include a summertime version with a baked cauliflower crust, queso blanco, poblano crema, charred corn, zucchini, squash, crispy onions, citrus vinaigrette and arugula. And a more recent special offered a gluten-free cauliflower crust, jalapeño-cilantro chimichurri steak, queso blanco, roasted poblano, hibiscus flower-pickled shallots and citrus vinaigrette-dressed arugula.

About The Author

Liz Barrett Foster

Liz Barrett Foster is a corporate content writer, editor and B2B trade writer focused on food, restaurants and marketing. [email protected]