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Shrimp Memelas with Salsa, Refried Beans and Guacamole

Shrimp Memelas with Salsa, Refried Beans and Guacamole
Shrimp Memelas with Salsa, Refried Beans and GuacamoleNathan Congleton / TODAY

Chef notes

The memela is a kind of oval shaped tortilla topped with beans, a protein and salsa. They are originally from the central areas of Mexico like Puebla and Veracruz.

A perfect lunch for me is having one of these memelas with a cold coconut drink and my feet in the sand.

Technique tip: When grinding in a molcajete, it's easier to start with the garlic and chile with salt in order to grind them well and have an even flavor in the salsa.

Swap option: You can use regular corn tortillas to make this recipe.

Special equipment: Tortilla press and a molcajete or a large mortar and pestle


Memelas (tortillas)
  • 1 cup corn flour
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 roma tomatoes
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
Refried beans
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, drained
  • 2 cups beans broth (reserved from the black bean cans)
  • 16 medium-large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 limes, juiced and zested
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 pinch coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 5 minutes
Pickled red onion
  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
Vegetable slaw
  • Radish, sliced
  • Jicama, peeled and thinly sliced into strips
  • Pineapple, diced
  • Cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Pickled onions (recipe above)
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1/2 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 Serrano chiles, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 3 ounces lime juice
  • 8 ripe Hass avocados, peeled and pitted


For the tortillas:

Mix all the ingredients and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Make 4 balls with the mixture and press them with a tortilla press until flat.

Cook the tortillas in a comal (or sauté pan) for 5 seconds, turn it and let it cook for about 30 seconds, then flip it again to get it to puff up (it will deflate as it cools).

For the salsa:

Place the tomatoes, chile, onion and garlic in an ungreased hot comal or sauté pan and cool turning frequently until softened and charred. Remove the items to a plate to cool slightly. Chop the onion into small pieces.

First grind the garlic in a molcajete (or mortar) with a pinch of salt. Add the chile and keep grinding until the mixture becomes a rough paste.

Add the tomatoes and the chopped onion and crush them until you get the texture of a chunky salsa. Add the cilantro and season with salt to taste.

For the refried beans:

In a skillet, heat the oil and fry the onion, let it char slightly and then add the beans and 1 cup of the bean broth. Mash them well and add the rest of the liquid, little by little, until you get the consistency of a light purée.

For the shrimp:

In a medium bowl combine the shrimp, lime zest and juice, salt, coriander, cilantro and olive oil. Let marinate for 2 hours or overnight. Thread the shrimp onto the kebabs.

For the pickled red onion:

In a small bowl, mix all ingredients and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

For the vegetable mix:

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients together and set aside.

For the guacamole:

In a bowl mix the onion, chile, cilantro and salt. Let sit for about 1 minute to let the all the flavors combine. Add the lime juice and mix until the salt dissolves.

Add the avocados scooping them out from their skin. Chop and stir them into the onion and chile mixture into a nice thick puree. Season with additional salt to taste.

To assemble:

Grill the shrimp skewers over medium-high heat until cooked through, flipping once. Heat the tortillas over in a skillet. Spread some of the beans onto each. Place four pieces of shrimp onto each memela. Add a bit of salsa over the shrimp and top them with the pickled vegetables and a spoonful of guacamole.