How to Make a Real-Deal Mexican Pizza at Home, Since Taco Bell’s Is Dead
Chef Cenobio Canalizo of Tiny’s Cantina in Brooklyn serves up a recipe for his take on “tlayuda”
A confusing concoction featuring crisp shells, a three-cheese blend, refried beans, tomatoes, sauce and a seasoned beef “crust,” Taco Bell’s Mexican Pizza was kind of like the unofficial definition of pornography: difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it.
Was because people stopped seeing the “delicious love child of Mexican and Italian cuisine” when Taco Bell pulled the item — which was introduced in 1988 with the tagline “It’s like pizza, but it’s different” — off the menu in the fall of 2020 (though there is a chance it could return thanks to more than 160,000 petitioning fans).
Chef Cenobio Canalizok, who hails from the Mexican state of Puebla and recently opened Tiny’s Cantina in Brooklyn, has never had Taco Bell’s longtime menu item, but he has had a version of pizza that hails from Mexico, specifically in the state of Oaxaca. Tlayuda (sometimes spelled Clayuda) is a handmade “pizza” typically made with a large tortilla filled with refried beans, cheese and meat. Often eaten late at night on the streets of Oaxaca after being cooked over a charcoal grill, tlayuda was crowned the best street food in Latin America in a Netflix poll last summer.
Tlayuda is named for the 12-14 inch corn tortilla that serves as its base, a food Canalizo recalls fondly from childhood trips to Oaxaca with his parents. When he was trying to come up with a version of Mexican pizza for the menu, he decided to go with a traditional tortilla base instead of dough for more authenticity, and then put his own special twist on Tiny’s pie.
“The tlayuda is a big, crunchy tortilla. We do it with spicy chorizo, queso Oaxaca, crema, pickled onions and salsa roja. Instead of using tomato sauce like the Italians do, I use a black bean puree,” Canalizo tells InsideHook. “Instead of pepperoni, I use a mix of different radishes. The dish represents three different Mexican states, not just Oaxaca. The tlayuda and cheese are from there, but the chorizo is originally made in Toluca and the radishes are traditional ingredients in Puebla. Seeing so many different types of pizza here in Italian places, I was wanting to do something similar, but I decided to make it really Mexican by using tlayuda.”
Making Tiny’s tlayuda even more authentic is where Canalizo gets its signature ingredient.
“The tlayuda I use is original. It’s imported from Oaxaca wholesale,” Canalizo says. “There aren’t that many places you can get it. The first week when we opened, everybody started ordering it and I ran out. I called different Mexican groceries around me in Brooklyn and nobody had it. There was only one place in Queens I could find it. It is a pretty rare item.”
A unique dish that Canalizo truly made his own, Tiny’s tlayuda doesn’t taste anything like its Taco Bell-ian counterpart.
“I would describe it as crunchy,” Canalizo says. “When you eat it, it’s fresh with the radish, but at the same time it’s crunchy. The flavor of black beans with the smoked chipotle combine to make it really perfect for an appetizer or to try as an entree. It’s a really refreshing item.”
And we’ve got the recipe …
Chef Canalizo’s Tlayuda, aka Mexican Pizza
Ingredients for the Black Bean Puree
- 1 lb dry black beans
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup white onions
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 tbsp chipotle puree
- 1 tbsp chopped epazote
- 1 qt water
- 2 tomatillos
- 1 dried guajillo chile
- 5 chile de árbol
- 1 plum tomato
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- ¼ cup onions, chopped
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Pepper to taste
- 2-3 sliced radishes
- ½ cup shredded “quesillo” (Oaxacan string cheese)
- 4 ounces raw chorizo
- Mexican crema
- Cooking oil
- Kosher salt
Note: Most supermarkets have the ingredients to make this dish, except for the tortilla, which can be found in Mexican delis or grocers.
- Start the bean topping by soaking the beans for at least four hours, then drain (do not use the soaking water). In a small pot, sauté the onions and garlic until golden brown, then add the chipotle puree, epazote and beans. Season with salt and pepper and add more water if needed. Cook over medium heat until beans are soft, then use a hand mixer to puree.
- Break the chorizo into pieces and sauté for roughly eight minutes, or until cooked through.
- For the salsa roja, boil the tomato and tomatillo in a small pot until soft and reserve the liquid. Sauté oil, garlic and onions until golden brown. Add the chiles and toast for 20 seconds, then remove from heat. Use a blender to puree all ingredients, adding water little by little if needed to create a smooth consistency.
- For the radishes, use a mandolin to thinly slice three types of market radishes or of your choice — such as watermelon, red and black radishes.
- Assemble the toppings on the pizza by spreading an even layer of black bean puree onto the tortilla and top it with salsa, chorizo, shredded quesillo, radishes, pickled onions, microgreens and crema.
- Serve at room temperature — NOT heated. Slice and enjoy!
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