Gorditas-which translates to "little fatties"-are one of the most popular street foods all around Mexico. Essentially, they are thick tortillas toasted on a comal and sliced lengthwise, creating a pocket that's stuffed with some filling like meat, eggs, beans, or vegetables. They pack so much flavor in just a few bites. In Tepatepec, Hidalgo, there is even an annual gordita festival-I've wanted to go for years!
Learning how to make gorditas is easy, especially if you've made tortillas before. The masa used for gorditas-sometimes called gordas if they're especially large-is just like the one for tortillas, but if you add some lard or another animal fat, you'll add extra flavor and the outer crust will be a bit crispier. The magic of a gordita is the crisp exterior and soft interior. As you shape the gorditas, it's a good idea to keep a small bowl of water nearby to moisten your hands if the dough starts to get sticky.
It's best to eat homemade gorditas right away to preserve their crunch, but you can definitely make them ahead of time and reheat on a comal or griddle, or cover in foil and keep them warm in a toaster oven.
For the most part, gorditas are masa-based and mainly savory, though you can also find some made from wheat flour and a few sweet varieties.
There's a lot of regional variation too. In the center and south of Mexico, for example, many gorditas are not filled with meat-instead, the masa itself is studded with lard or chunks of crispy chicharron. In the state of Michoacán, the filling is put in when the masa is still raw instead of after the gordita is finished cooking. In Morelos, you can find triangular gorditas called itacates with mostly vegetarian fillings like huitlacoche (a black fungus that grows on corn), zucchini blossom, and requesón, a fresh cheese similar to ricotta.
Here are a few more varieties to try:
Gorditas de chicharron: These are filled with chicharron prensado, which is a delicious nugget made from crunchy pork skin and/or carnitas that is pressed to extract some juices. The pork is mixed right into the masa, rather than as a filling.
Gorditas martajadas: These are one of my absolute favorites. You can find them in the state of Querétaro and some central areas of Mexico as well. A red chile paste is prepared and mixed in with the masa right before cooking the gorditas, which adds extra layers of spice and depth.
Gorditas dulces: These are sweet gorditas, also called gorditas de azúcar. These are also made with masa for the most part and cooked on the griddle or comal, but they tend to be a bit thicker and don't have fillings. You can also find some sweet gorditas made with fresh corn mixed in and fresh cheese like requesón or queso fresco. Nowadays you can even see them topped with jam, Nutella, condensed milk, or sugar, but traditionally they are enjoyed as is. One of my favorite sweet ones is a fried version made with piloncillo-an unrefined sugar with a slight molasses flavor-often prepared with fresh cheese mixed in with the dough. If you want to learn how to make gorditas the sweet way, start with my recipe below.
Gorditas de nata: Probably the most popular sweet ones, made primarily in the center of Mexico. The masa is mixed with nata, which is the skin that forms on a pot of raw milk when you boil it. You can find them sold in bags at many markets, stores, bodegas, and street stalls; they don't have to be warm to be delicious.
Gorditas laguneras: These are made with a wheat flour dough instead of the most traditional corn masa. You can find these gorditas or variations of them in the north of Mexico where they eat more flour tortillas than corn ones.
Bocoles: These are prepared in the Huasteca region of Mexico, which stretches across the states of Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas, Veracruz. The masa is prepared with lard or shortening and the cooked gorditas are filled with meat or egg and topped with a fresh cheese and salsa. These are also filled with fish or seafood in the state of Veracruz. In general they're slightly smaller than other gorditas.
Condoches: These can be sweet or savory. In Zacatecas, for example, the masa itself is often blended with butter, garlic, and ancho chile, and others are made with a strained yogurt called jocoque. Unlike most gorditas, these are traditionally baked in a wood-fired oven. The savory kinds are filled with things like roasted poblano chiles and beans, aged cheese, or chorizo, and sweet ones are filled with ingredients like shredded coconut and raisins. The masa itself is sometimes mixed with ground Mexican cinnamon.