Tortas Ahogadas (“drowned” sandwiches)

Tortas ahogadas (“drowned” sandwiches)
While there’s no points for guessing these are “drowned” in chile sauce, I should also point out that a torta is more than just a sandwich.

The word ‘torta’ means ‘cake’ in Castilian Spanish, but in Mexico it refers to a ginormous meal which happens to be served between two halves of the traditional Mexican leavened bread called bolillo. These tortas are so popular that Mexican Spanish has to use ‘pastel’ to mean ‘cake’.

Virtually anything can be in a torta, with the only rule seemingly that there has to be lots of it. A torta is truly larger than life!

Most tortas have several fillings: refried beans, pork, pickled onions, guacamole, pickled chiles, pico de gallo, etc, etc. However, there is one famous kind of torta with only one main ingredient: the torta ahogada.

Tortas ahogadas are a speciality of Guadalajara, Jalisco (the state that also gave us tequila, mariachi music, and the Mexican hat dance). It is a sandwich of pulled pork (carnitas), drowned in an exceptionally hot salsa of chiles de árbol (second-hottest chile in Mexico!). It is highly prized as a local hangover cure, and Guadalajara (Mexico’s second-largest city) is peppered with small restaurants which specialize in this torta.

The bolillo rolls that would be used in Mexico are pretty much impossible to get here (unless you bake your own, and I can’t help you there!), but you can substitute any crusty European bread rolls.

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  1. 1 recipe carnitas (included on this site)
  2. Bread rolls (crusty French or Italian bread, ciabattas, etc)
  3. Lots of salsa picante de chiles de árbol (store bought or recipe on this site)
  4. cebollas en escabeche (pickled onions, see notes below)
  5. 25 – 40 g queso fresco
  1. If you’ve just made the carnitas, all you need to do is slice the rolls, fill them with carnitas, drown them in the chile sauce, and sprinkle with pickled onions and crumbled queso fresco.
  2. If you’re using leftover carnitas, re-heat it in a medium oven until it’s hot through. Sprinkle it with water and cover tightly with foil to keep it from drying out. Then proceed as above.
  3. The idea is for the salsa to soak through the bread, so you will need to eat this with a knife and fork.
  4. Salsa de chiles de arbol is very hot, so don’t drown your torta all the way if you think you can’t take it.
  5. I’ve called for Yucatecan pickled onions here, though strictly speaking they would use chopped raw white onion in Jalisco. I’m not a fan of raw white onion, though. You could substitute a “Central Mexican” version of cebollas en escabeche by using white onion instead of red, cider vinegar instead of red wine vinegar, and a fresh green chile like jalapenos or serranos.
  1. Is an Edinburgh-based blogger and his site is a journey in celebration of Mexican food in the UK: home cooking, restaurant reviews and the finest products and ingredients on the market. Find more recipes and news at
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