Lakeside Guide to Lake Chapala, Ajijic, Mexico

Tortas and Lonches

At a Glance

Mexican sandwiches filled with meat, cheese or any number of other fillings.

More Info

Sandwiches are so ubiquitous that they’re found in restaurants all over the world. Thailand has the bánh mì. Spain has its bocadillos. And Philly, the cheesesteak.

It should come as no surprise, then, that Mexico has its own national sandwich, called the torta.

A lonche with pierna (pork leg).

A lonche with pierna (pork leg). A lonche is another word that’s sometimes used for some types of sandwiches. Served at Fonda los Jarritos.

Cubanas, pambazos, tortas ahogadas, even tortas de chilaquiles (a recent-ish craze that started in Mexico City). These are a few of the types of tortas which have evolved over the years.

What is the difference between a torta and a lonche?

Tortas can also be called lonches, but this depends on what part of Mexico you’re in and some other things, like what kind of bread is being used. Even then, the line can be a bit blurry.

One of the main differences, in this part of Mexico, is what goes inside: lonches usually are no more than meat, bread and (if you like) cheese, while tortas can have lettuce, tomato, onion, jalapeños or other garnishes.

Around Lake Chapala, a torta is usually made with a roundish soft white bread that looks almost like a roll. And a lonche normally uses a hard birote salado, which is a French bread that was introduced by France during the Second French Intervention in Mexico. (France occupied parts of Mexico from 1861-1867 and installed Emperor Maximilian in Mexico City as the puppet monarch of its Second French Empire.)

LEARN MORE: About common types of Mexican food found at Lake Chapala by reading our food guide.

Tortas Ahoagadas Aquí Es

A torta ahogada from Tortas Ahogadas Aquí Es. Tortas ahogadas are pork sandwiches in a French roll which are smothered in a tomato-based salsa. They’re a specialty of Guadalajara and surrounding areas.

Of the culinary legacy that France left behind as a result of its six-year stint trying to be the next conquistadores of Mexico, the birote salado has got to be the most delicious. (France is also partially responsible for Mexicos many, many pan dulces, so it’s hard to choose.) This type of French bread has a crunchy crust and a soft, dense interior.

WATCH: This video about the history of the birote and how it’s made.

After slicing the birote lengthwise, the chef often removes a chunk of its chewy interior from the center of both pieces. This way there’s more room inside to cram delicious stuff inside.

And that’s good because there’s a lot of stuff that can go between these two slices of bread. This includes some of the same fillings that go on tacoschorizobistec (chopped beef), adobada, and milanesa (breaded and fried chicken or beef). Jamón (ham) is a common one that’s found around lunchtime at your neighborhood little store.

Torta de camarón (sandwich with breaded shrimp drowned in a mild red sauce).

A torta de camarón (sandwich with breaded shrimp smothered in a mild red sauce) served at Mariño’s.

Today it’s possible to find tortas which use other common Mexican foods as the main ingredient, such as the tortope (a torta stuffed with a sope) or a guajolota (a torta stuffed with a tamal). As with many Mexican foods, these tortas are regional specialties or fads that can spread from one late-night food stand to another in certain areas or cities (Mexico city being a common one).

From there, they sometimes gain traction in other regions of the country. And with social media, anyone anywhere who has Facebook can keep tabs on the latest food trends.

A lonche de panela served at Lonchería Mary. Panela is a soft, mild Mexican cheese.

A lonche de panela served at Lonchería Mary. Panela is a soft, mild Mexican cheese.

LEARN MORE: About common types of Mexican food found at Lake Chapala by reading our food guide.

Last updated September 21, 2019

Dane Strom

Dane Strom The Lakeside Guide

I moved to Ajijic in 2010 when I decided to quit my job of seven years as an editorial assistant at The Denver Post in Colorado. I'm the photographer, web designer, programmer, marketer, writer... the everything behind this website, The Lakeside Guide. All of the businesses on this website appear here for free at no cost to them. If you find this site useful, please consider giving a small donation to become a site patron. Learn more about The Lakeside Guide or check out my other website about photography of Mexico.

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Ismael's Molcajete

Ismael’s Molcajete

Ismael Sánchez displays his well-worn molcajete in the kitchen of his Ajijic home.

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