I am SO excited to share this recipe with you all! This is hands down my favorite Mexican dish of all time. The Torta Ahogada is a salsa drowned sandwich that originated in the Mexican city of Guadalajara, where my family is from.
Tortas Ahogadas are Mexican sandwiches that are different from other tortas because they require the use of birotes salados instead of the classic bolillo. Birotes are a very unique kind of sourdough loaf that has a super crunchy & hard crust, which makes it perfect for “drowning” in salsa so they don’t get soggy as easily.
The sandwich is traditionally stuffed with carnitas (Mexican slow cooked pork), refried beans, and pickled red onions. I have already posted recipes for all of these for your convenience.
Carnitas- you can make this days ahead of time if you use my recipe here. They can be frozen for later use and taste exactly the same when reheated.
Frijoles refritos- aka refried beans. My dad told me that some places in Guadalajara don’t add beans, but it’s really just a matter of preference. My husband and I enjoy refried beans and I think it is necessary to make a truly authentic and delicious torta ahogada. These can also be made ahead of time and refried before use.
Pickled red onions- with all the salty & savory flavors going on, you’re really going to want some acidity to brighten up and complete the dish. My recipe for pickled red onions are also slightly sweet, so I highly recommend adding them to balance out everything nicely.
Tomato salsa– tortas ahogadas traditionally uses two salsas. The main one is a simple tomato salsa that is mild and simply seasoned. This is the salsa we will be using to “drown” the torta.
Spicy salsa- the second salsa is a spicy one made with chile de arbol. It is VERY spicy! Some people don’t even add it to their torta ahogada if they can’t handle spicy food. But me- I LOVE spicy foods and so does my husband. I usually just combine the tomato salsa with this one to save time and dishes, but for the sake of keeping it authentic, I am showing you how to make them separately.
Birote Salado- the trickiest part about this recipe is making the birote salado, let alone being able to find one that is made properly. It is very hard to find, so I went on a mission to learn how to make it myself. It was NOT easy and I have to insert a disclaimer- NO birote salado is authentic unless it comes from the state of Jalisco, Mexico. The water, elevation, and stone ovens that the bakeries use just cannot be duplicated anywhere else. But you can get close! Note: if you can’t find birote salado and don’t want to make it, you can use a French baguette or any crunchy sourdough bread instead.
More on Birote Salado
My father is a true connoisseur when it comes to authentic birotes salados. I’ve been hearing him complain about how difficult it is to find the good stuff in the US my whole life…so he told me, “If you post a recipe, you’d better do it right!”
I researched and recipe tested for weeks until I was able to get a decent batch of birotes. I am no baker, so this task was extremely difficult for me. I made a lot of mistakes but I also learned a lot from them.
Truly authentic birotes salados are made with sourdough, completely by hand! Many of the bakeries in Jalisco have been using the same sourdough starter for more than 30 years. That is another reason why it just won’t taste the same if replicated at home. Every bakery’s recipe is different, but most sourdoughs are woken up with AP flour, beer, eggs, salt, lime juice, and sometimes sugar. This is what gives birotes that unique, sour taste. The crust is incredibly crunchy while the inside is soft & fluffy.
I will be posting two different recipes for birotes- an easy version and the hard (authentic) one. I am currently still working on developing a recipe for the hard version, but I was able to find an easy version on Esconacento’s Youtube channel.
For the sandwich
- 4 birotes salados or crusty bread like a French baguette
- 1 lb carnitas recipe
- 1 cup refried beans recipe
- pickled red onions recipe
- lime wedges
For the tomato salsa
- 5 roma tomatoes
- 1/4 small onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 black peppercorns
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- 3/4 tsp Mexican oregano
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp tomato bouillon
- 1/4 cup water from boiling
- 1/2 cup chicken stock add more if needed
- 1 tbsp oil for frying
For the spicy salsa
- 20 dried chile de arbol stemmed and 1/2 deseeded
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/8 small onion
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 1/2 cup chile water
- salt to taste
- Make my carnitas recipe here, or use store bought. You can make this a few days ahead of time if you want.
- Make my refried beans recipe here, or use store bought. You can also make this ahead of time.
- Make my pickled red onions recipe here. Make this at least 3 hours ahead of time.
- Optional: make your own birote! I am working on an authentic birote salado recipe and will update this recipe when it is done. In the mean time, if you're up for making an easier version, I recommend trying Esconacento's recipe here.
- Make the tomato salsa: Boil the tomatoes, garlic, onion, bay leaf, and black peppercorns until the tomatoes have softened (about 15 min).
- Blend all the boiled ingredients along with Mexican oregano, cumin, tomato bouillon, and 1/4 cup of the boiled water to loosen the sauce. Strain through a sieve. You can use the remaining chunks to make another salsa if you want, don't waste!
- Add about 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the strained tomato sauce. You may add more if your tomato sauce is too thick.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and cook the tomato salsa for a few minutes then set aside.
- Make the spicy salsa: remove the stems and deseed about half of the chiles. If you don't wan't it too spicy, remove all the seeds.
- Boil the chiles, garlic clove, and onion until softened (about 15 min)
- Blend all of boiled ingredients well with 1 tsp vinegar and 1/2 cup of the chile water. Add more if needed. Salt to taste.
- Strain through a sieve. You can also keep the remaining chunks to make a different salsa.
- Lightly toast your birote or baguette cut it in half to open but not all the way through. Spread a thin layer of refried beans on the bottom.
- Stuff the birote with carnitas, then pour over the tomato salsa. I usually do it this way but my husband prefers to have the salsa in a bowl to dip the torta.
- Spoon over desired amount of spicy salsa.
- Top with pickled red onions and some lime wedges. Serve immediately and enjoy!