How many calories are in a fried tostada shell?

A tostada is a Mexican dish consisting of a fried or baked tortilla topped with refried beans, lettuce, cheese, and other ingredients. The crispy tortilla shell that forms the base of a tostada is called a tostada shell. Tostada shells are most commonly made from corn tortillas that have been fried to give them a crispy, crunchy texture that can support hearty toppings.

One of the main questions people have about tostadas is how many calories are in the fried tortilla shell itself. This is important nutritional information to know if you are trying to track your calorie or fat intake. In this article, we will provide a detailed overview of how many calories are in a standard fried tostada shell, and the factors that influence this calorie count.

Calories in a Fried Tostada Shell

The number of calories in a fried tostada shell can vary depending on the size and thickness of the tortilla used, as well as how it is fried. However, most standard tostada shells contain about 90-120 calories per shell.

Here is a quick overview of the typical calorie content in a fried tostada shell:

– A 6-inch fried corn tortilla contains approximately 90-100 calories.

– A thinner or smaller fried tortilla may have around 70-80 calories.

– Larger fried tortillas around 8-10 inches wide may have 110-120 calories or more per shell.

So for an average-sized fried tortilla of around 6 inches in diameter used for a tostada shell, you can expect the shell alone to contain approximately 100 calories before any toppings are added.

Factors That Influence Calories

There are a few key factors that determine how many calories are in a fried tostada shell:

1. Tortilla size – Larger tortillas mean more surface area that is fried in oil, so more calories. An 8-inch tortilla has about 20-30% more calories than a 6-inch one.

2. Tortilla thickness – Thicker tortillas absorb more oil during frying. Thin tortillas absorb less oil and therefore have fewer calories and less fat.

3. Type of oil used – The type of frying oil impacts calories. Oils like canola, sunflower, or vegetable oil have around 120 calories per tablespoon. More saturated fats like lard, coconut oil, or palm oil contain more calories per tablespoon.

4. Length of frying time – The longer the tortilla fries, the more oil it soaks up and the higher the calorie count. Light frying results in fewer calories absorbed.

5. Additions – Sprinkling on extra salt, seasonings, or toppings before frying adds minimal extra calories. Things like cheese or crema added after frying contribute more calories.

So in summary, larger, thicker tortillas fried longer in more saturated oils will have the highest calorie counts. Smaller, thinner tortillas lightly fried in unsaturated vegetable oils will be at the lower end of the calorie range.

Nutritional Profile of Fried Tostada Shells

In addition to calories, here is a look at the full nutritional breakdown for a typical fried tostada shell:


– Calories: 90-120kcal
– Carbohydrates: 15-18g
– Fiber: 1-2g
– Fat: 4-8g (mostly from frying oil)
– Protein: 2-3g


– Calcium: 50-60mg
– Iron: <1mg - Potassium: 50-90mg - Sodium: 200-300mg (from salt) So most of the calories in a tostada shell come from the carbohydrate in the tortilla and fat absorbed from frying. There are small amounts of protein and fiber. Micronutrient contents are minimal aside from some calcium, potassium, and sodium.

Ways to Make a Lower Calorie Tostada Shell

If you are looking for ways to lighten up your tostada shell, here are some tips:

– Use a thinner tortilla – Switch from thick restaurant-style tortillas to thin ones.

– Fry lightly – Only fry for 30-60 seconds per side instead of several minutes.

– Use healthier oils – Opt for oils like avocado, olive, or canola instead of lard or coconut oil.

– Bake instead of frying – Baking uses little to no oil and results in a crisp shell.

– Go smaller – Switch from 10-inch tortillas down to 7 or 8-inch ones.

– Share a tostada – Split one large tostada instead of eating a whole personal-sized one.

– Load up on veggies – Fill most of the shell with nutrient-rich raw or grilled veggies to dilute the calories.

– Use low-fat beans – Choose reduced-fat refried or black beans.

– Limit high-calorie toppings – Use moderate amounts of cheese, sour cream, guacamole.

With some simple substitutions and preparation tweaks, you can reduce the calories in a tostada shell by 25-50% or more.

Healthier Tostada Ingredients

In addition to looking at the shell, you can build a healthier tostada by focusing on low-calorie fillings and toppings:

Lean Protein Options:

– Shredded chicken breast
– Lean ground turkey or beef
– Beans
– Edamame
– Lentils

Low-Calorie Veggies:

– Lettuce
– Tomatoes
– Onions
– Peppers
– Avocado
– Spinach
– Radishes
– Cucumber
– Carrots
– Cabbage

Lighter Sauces and Cheese:

– Salsa or pico de gallo
– Greek yogurt
– Hot sauce
– Feta or cotija cheese
– Reduced-fat cheddar or jack

Herbs, Spices and Seasonings:

– Cilantro
– Lime juice
– Chili powder
– Cumin
– Oregano
– Garlic
– Onion powder

Choosing more vegetables, herbs, spices, and leaner proteins can allow you to enjoy flavorful tostadas while still watching your calorie intake.

Calories in Other Tostada Components

To get a full picture of the number of calories in a tostada meal, you need to account for all the other typical ingredients beyond just the fried shell. Here is an overview of approximate calories for standard tostada fillings:

– Refried beans, 1/2 cup: 110-150 calories
– Shredded lettuce, 1 cup: 10-15 calories
– Diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup: 15-20 calories
– Shredded cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup: 110-120 calories
– Sour cream, 2 tablespoons: 60 calories
– Guacamole, 2 tablespoons: 50 calories
– Mexican rice, 1/2 cup: 100-120 calories
– Corn, 1/2 cup: 60-70 calories
– Salsa, 1/4 cup: 15-30 calories

So a single tostada with 2-3 components like beans, lettuce, cheese, and salsa would total 300-400 calories. A large platter with a full shell covered in layers of rice, beans, cheese, meats etc. could reach 800-1200 calories for the entire meal.

As you can see, the extra fillings and toppings contribute a significant portion of the calories, so moderating those is important for controlling calories per tostada.

Comparisons With Other Mexican Foods

To provide some context, here is how the calorie count of a fried tostada shell compares to some other common Mexican food items:

Taco shell – 70-80 calories (smaller size)
Chalupa shell – 150-180 calories
Flour tortilla (6-inch) – about 150 calories
Corn tortilla (6-inch) – around 60 calories
Nacho chips (15-20 chips) – 120-150 calories
Chips and salsa – 200-300 calories
Quesadilla (1/2 large) – 300-350 calories

So a fried tostada shell has a calorie count that’s moderately higher than a taco shell or corn tortilla, but less than a chalupa shell or large quesadilla. Following general healthy eating habits like portion control and moderation when eating Mexican food can help keep calories in check.

Tips for Low-Calorie Tostadas

Here are some final tips to enjoy lower calorie tostada options:

– Use a thin 6-inch shell and bake instead of fry
– Fill with lots of lettuce, tomato, onion, peppers
– Choose only 1-2 higher calorie toppings like beans, rice, cheese
– Load up on salsa, pico de gallo, cilantro for flavor
– Opt for fajita chicken or steak instead of fatty meats
– Share an order of tostadas as an appetizer
– Enjoy a salad on the side to increase fiber and nutrients
– Split a large tostada into two or three portions

With some simple substitutions and food prep adjustments, you can keep the calories per tostada in a healthy range while still enjoying all the tasty flavors and textures. Moderating your portions and filling up on low calorie sides and toppings is key to lightening up this traditional Mexican favorite.


In summary, a typical fried tostada shell contains approximately 90-120 calories depending on the size and thickness of the tortilla. Larger tortillas, thicker shells, longer frying times, and more oil-based toppings will increase the calories and fat per tostada. Following healthy cooking methods, using lean and veggie based fillings, and watching your portion sizes can help keep calories under control when enjoying tostadas. Aim for a balance of crunchy shells, flavorful seasonings, and fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients to create satisfying low-calorie tostadas.

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