These fried puffed corn tortillas are topped with shredded chicken and an easy cabbage slaw! A popular street food in Belize, salbutes make for a great on-the-go snack, a quick and delicious lunch or even an impressive appetizer!
Whenever we make Belizean stew chicken, we know exactly what’s for lunch the next day: salbutes! The puffed corn tortillas are a staple in Belize and the perfect way to give our delicious leftover chicken new life. In addition to shredded chicken, we like to enjoy our salbutes with red cabbage, radishes and jalapenos. But these little tortillas are incredibly versatile — feel free to get creative and serve them with your favorite toppings!
how to make salbutes
You need just five ingredients for salbutes: masa harina, achiote paste, water, baking powder and salt. Masa harina is the dried and powdered form of maize dough (masa) and can be found at most large grocery stores. Achiote paste, called red recado in Belize, can sometimes be a bit tougher to find depending on where you live. The paste is made of ground annatto seeds and other spices and is what gives the salbutes their characteristic reddish tint so you definitely don’t want to skip it! We’ve always been able to find both masa harina and achiote paste at our local Mexican grocer, but they’re also available online (although it’s generally much cheaper to buy in-store).
Once you’ve got your ingredients lined up, making the salbutes is relatively easy. First, dilute the red recado in ¼ cup (50 ml) of water and stir until smooth. Then mix your dry ingredients (masa harina, salt and baking powder) and add your achiote water along with an additional 1 ¼ cup (300 ml) of water. Knead the dough for about two minutes or until the dough is soft and fully combined. If the dough is crumbly, you can add water one tablespoon at a time, but it’s important that the dough doesn’t get sticky!
forming and frying salbutes
To form your salbutes, start by dividing the dough into balls. I like to make smaller salbutes using about 1-2 tablespoons (20 grams) of dough for each, but you could make them up to twice as large if you’d like. To flatten them you can use a tortilla press or, if you’re like us and don’t have one, just place each ball between two sheets of parchment paper and use something to press it down. A cast iron skillet or even a plate will do just fine — they don’t need to be paper thin!
And to begin frying, heat about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. The baking powder causes the salbutes to puff up a bit so if you decide to make larger salbutes you may need more oil so they don’t touch the bottom of the pan. Cook each salbute for approximately 40-60 seconds on each side. You don’t want them to get too crispy, as they’ll end up being quite tough. Remove them from the oil as soon as they’re nice and golden. They’ll crisp up a bit more as they sit.
what to serve with salbutes
We like to serve our salbutes with shredded stew chicken and an easy red cabbage slaw. The rest of the toppings usually depend on what we have in our fridge. Radishes, avocado, jalapenos, pickled onions, tomatoes — they’re all great additions!
If you’d like to make these salbutes without the stew chicken, a rotisserie chicken would be a quick and easy option. And of course, these little treats also make a great vegetarian option when loaded with fresh veggies.
And if you’d like to add some Mexican-style toppings to your salbutes, give these a try!
- masa harina 2 c (240 g)
- achiote paste 1 tbsp (15 g)
- (also called red recado)
- water 1.5 c (350 ml)
- baking powder 1 tsp
- salt ½ tsp
- vegetable oil for frying
red cabbage slaw
- shredded red cabbage ½ head
- lime juice 1 lime
- chopped cilantro ¼ bunch
- salt to taste
- - shredded chicken (we use leftover stew chicken)
- - sliced radishes
- - sliced jalapenos
- In a large bowl, combine the masa harina, salt and baking powder.
- Dissolve the achiote paste in ¼ cup (50 ml) of water. Add the achiote mixture and the additional 1 ¼ c water (300 ml) to the masa harina.
- Knead the dough for about two minutes. If it appears too crumbly, add water one tablespoon at a time.
- Divide the dough into balls using approximately 1-2 tablespoons (20 g) of dough for each. Flatten using a tortilla press. If you don't have a tortilla press, you can place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and either roll out with a rolling pin or press down with something heavy (like a cast iron skillet).
- Heat approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) of vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, cook each salbute for approximately 40-60 seconds on each side or until golden. Make sure not to let them get too crispy or they'll be quite tough! Remove to a paper towel lined plate to absorb any excess oil.
- Top with shredded chicken, cabbage slaw and your favorite ingredients.
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