Shrimp Tostadas with Avocado Crema

Grilled Shrimp Tostadas with Avocado Crema and Pickled Onions is one of our favorite summertime dishes.  It blends a lot of elements that we absolutely love – the sweet and creamy richness of the avocado crema, the luxurious mouthfeel and deep flavor of the shrimp, the crunch of the tostada, and the tangy hit of vinegar from the pickled onions.

We usually marinate the shrimp and make the pickled onions the night before, so we can just toss the shrimp on the grill, blend up the crema, and assemble the tostadas for an easy weeknight meal. 

The avocado crema has a smooth, beautiful texture that is the perfect vehicle for the bold-flavored shrimp.  The chilis in this dish are relatively low in terms of heat and intensity – this isn’t a “hot” dish.  


Shrimp Tostadas

  • 1 lb large or jumbo shrimp – peeled & deveined
  • 3-4 dried Pasilla chilis
  • 3-4 dried guajillo Chilis
  • 1 clove unpeeled garlic
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt/pepper to taste

Avocado Crema

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (from ½ lime)
  • 1 Tbsp honey (more if you like a sweeter crema)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • ½ tsp salt

Pickled Onions

  • ¾ cup white vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp Sugar
  • Pinch of salt ( I use Kosher)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1 large red onion, slice into thinly sliced ring

For serving

  • Store-bought tostadas
  • 1 can refried beans, warmed
  • Lime slices, for serving


Pickled Onions

  1. In a small non-reactive saucepan add vinegar, sugar, salt, bay leaf, and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Add onion slices and lower the heat and simmer gently for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. When cool, transfer onions and the liquid into a tightly sealed container.  These can be stored in the fridge for a month.

Avocado Crema

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend.  If its too thin, add a little more water. Adjust seasoning. Refrigerate.  


  1. Seed and stem the dried chilis – split them open and pull out the seeds and stems.
  2. Toast the chilies and garlic in a dry pan.  Toss in a pan over medium head and cook for a minute or so until they become fragrant. Remove from heat, peel garlic and set aside.
  3. Place the chilies in a bowl and cover with very hot water. Soak for 10 minutes. You may need to put another plate or bowl on top of the chilies to keep them submerged.
  4. Place chilies, garlic, chili powders, cumin, salt, pepper and about ½ cup of the cooled soaking liquid in a blender. Blend until smooth.  Taste for seasoning.
  5. Put in a bowl and add the shrimp. Marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to overnight.
  6. Prepare your grill for high heat.
  7. Skewer the shrimp, leaving a healthy amount of the marinade on them.
  8. Grill the shrimp over high heat until just done – about 2 minutes a side.  Alternatively, you can broil the shrimp.
  9. Place warm refried beans on a tostada.  Top with avocado crema, grilled shrimp, and finally pickled onions.
  10. Garnish with cilantro if desired, serve with lime slices.


  • You can buy chilis in the Mexican section of any grocery store.  They store fairly well in a cool, dry pantry, but they eventually go bad and need to be replaced.  A fresh dried chili should be somewhat soft and pliable. If your chilis are hard and brittle, you know they have gone bad.  We recommend using Guajillos and Pasillas because they are very easy to find, but you can replace these with other types of chilis – but keep in mind, some are very hot.
  • Don’t skip the step of toasting the chilis – it adds great flavor to the final product.
  • Make sure you allow the chilis and soaking liquid to cool before you blend or your blender lid might pop off and create a mess.
  • Don’t make the crema too far in advance – like anything else that contains avocado, it can oxidize and turn an unpleasant color.  The lime juice should keep it fresh for at least an hour or so.
  • We like to serve this dish with grilled corn on the cob seasoned lightly with chili powder.

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