Recipe: Southwestern spices deliver bold flavors in vegetarian tostadas

Lynda Balslev | TasteFood

Fall is squash season, so let these hardy vegetables be the star of the show. Squashes come in myriad varieties and can be generally divided between summer, fall or winter varieties. Fall and winter squash have hard skins that give way to colorful, vitamin- and antioxidant-rich flesh. Depending on the type of squash, the skin may or may not need to be peeled. Kabocha (or Japanese) squash is one variety that can be eaten unpeeled. It has sweet orange flesh and a dark green, speckled edible shell, which provides extra nutrients and a satisfying firmness that is ideal for these tostadas.

A tostada resembles a taco. The difference is that a tostada is prepared with a crispy corn tortilla, which serves as its base, instead of a soft corn or wheat tortilla. The tortilla can be either fried or oven-baked until crisp, which provides a nice textural contrast to a soft taco.

These vegetarian tostadas replace a traditional protein, such as fish or chicken, with kabocha squash and pile on the usual fixings, including smashed black beans, a bright slaw and lime crema. Each component is well seasoned with a smattering of southwest spices to ensure layers of flavor in every bite. The components can be prepared in advance and the beans lightly reheated before assembling.

Kabocha Squash Tostadas

Active time: 30 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

Yield: Makes 4 to 6


1/2 small head red cabbage, shredded

1 medium carrot, coarsely grated

1 small garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


2/3 cup whole milk yogurt or sour cream

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Pinch of kosher salt

4 to 6 corn tortillas

Olive oil

Kosher salt


1 kabocha squash

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained

1 large jalapeno, seeded, finely diced, divided

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

1. Combine the slaw ingredients in a bowl and stir to blend. Refrigerate until use, stirring occasionally.

2. Whisk the crema ingredients in a small bowl. Refrigerate until use.

3. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush the tortillas with oil and lightly sprinkle with salt. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in the oven until light golden and crisp, about 12 minutes, flipping once.

4. Prepare the squash: Halve the squash, cut off the stem and scoop out the seeds. Cut the squash into 1/2-inch-thick half-moons. Place the squash in a bowl with the oil and toss to coat. Add the spices and toss to coat. Spread the squash on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake in the oven until charred and tender, about 25 minutes, flipping once.

5. While the squash is roasting, prepare the beans. Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the beans and about 2/3 of the jalapenos, the lime juice, cumin and salt. Cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes, to meld the flavors. If the beans are too thick, add 1 to 2 tablespoons warm water to the pan. Slightly mash the beans with the back of a spoon. Stir in the cilantro and remove from the heat.

6. To assemble the tacos, spread a layer of beans on a tortilla. Top with a few kabocha wedges and some of the slaw. Drizzle with crema and garnish with additional cilantro and the remaining jalapenos.

Lynda Balslev is an award-winning writer, cookbook author, and recipe developer based in northern California. Visit TasteFood at


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