Sopes are one of my all-time favorite Mexican dishes. Made from cornmeal or masa harina, they’re pan-fried (or sometimes baked) thick corn cakes that have a great chewy bite and an unmistakably corny sweetness, and are topped with various beans, vegetables, or meats—typically refried beans, shredded meat, and slaw or salsa. Here, my Mexican sopes recipe is totally vegan and made from scratch.
Traditional sopes are made from masa harina, which you can find at virtually any grocery store, but I happened to just have regular cornmeal in my cupboard on cooking day, so that’s what I used! The results were a more textured corn cake than if I had used masa harina, but not a crumb less delicious. I encourage you to use either that you have on hand at home.
Going on top of the corn cake is a dollop of chipotle-infused refried beans, which have just a bit of smoky spunk to them, as well as a wonderfully crisp and lively cabbage slaw. Finish off with sliced avocados, lime juice, and a pinch of sea salt for a wickedly refreshing summer appetizer or main course.
Mexican Sopes Recipe with Refried Black Beans and Spicy Cabbage Slaw [Vegan]
Makes about 4 servings
Refried black beans:
1 15-ounces cooked black beans
½ medium red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon chipotle powder, optional
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon sea salt
Water, as needed
1 lime, juiced, optional
Spicy cabbage slaw:
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 cup grated carrots
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, juiced
1 jalapeno, seeded, finely chopped
Sea salt, to taste
2 cups cornmeal or masa harina
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 to 1 ½ cups water, as needed
Olive oil, as needed, for frying (about ¼ cup)
Avocado, lime juice, and sea salt, for serving
Prepare the refried black beans: Combine all ingredients except water and lime juice in a small stockpot; stir to mix. Add about ¼ cup water, just enough to coat the bottom of the stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook until beans are very soft, mashing occasionally with a fork or potato masher, and adding splashes of water as needed to prevent burning, about 20 to 30 minutes total, depending on how smooth/mashed you want the beans to become. For a slightly tangy finish, stir in the juice of one lime. Keep covered until ready to use.
Prepare the spicy cabbage slaw: Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; toss well to mix. Season to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the sopes: Place cornmeal or masa harina and salt in a medium bowl; add 1 cup water and stir until mixture stocks and makes a dough-like consistency. If very dry still, add up to ½ cup more water until dough-like consistency is reached. Using water-dampened hands, form mixture into a ball. Cover and set aside 15 minutes. Pour enough oil into a heavy skillet to coat the bottom of the pan (about ¼ cup). Warm over medium heat. While warming, use water-dampened hands to form sopes batter into small round balls—you should get about 8 or 9 in total. Flatten each ball into a flat round about ½-inch thick. Working in batches, gently place rounds in hot oil; gently fry until just they are browned and hold together (like a thick pancake), a few minutes per side. Remove sopes to a paper towel-lined paper plate.
To serve, arrange sopes on plates. Top with refried black beans and spicy cabbage slaw. Repeat for layered sopes. Top with sliced avocado, if desired, along with extra lime juice and a sprinkle of sea salt.
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Images by Kimberley Stakal