Layered Tortillas with Beef and Chili

Layered Tortillas with Beef and Chili

Layers of tortillas with a mixture of peppers, tomato sauce, ground beef, and grated cheese, baked in the oven.

«Pastel de pobre» or «Torta Azteca» is the name of this tasty Mexican specialty, which is often a creative way to use up whatever is left in the refrigerator. As with many of my Mexican recipes, I owe this one to a fellow student with me while at École Polytechnique, Maria del Pilar.

4 servings
Preparation 20 min
Cooking 40 min

510 calories per serving 


2 onions, finely chopped   400 g
4 cloves garlic, minced    
1 yellow or red sweet peppers, cut into bite-size pieces   200 g
2 tbsp butter, unsalted   28 g
2 tbsp canola oil   30 mL
3/4 cup canned tomatoes (diced)   190 g
460 g ground beef, extra-lean, or lean    
1/4 cup cream cheese   35 g
1/2 cup beef broth   125 mL
2 tsp tomato paste   10 mL
1 tsp ground cumin   3 g
1 tsp cayenne pepper   3 g
1 tsp dried oregano   1 g
1 pinch salt [optional]   0.1 g
  ground pepper to taste    
5 corn tortillas, about 21 cm diameter   220 g
1/2 cup Cheddar cheese, grated   40 g
  aluminum foil, to cover the dish    


Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F.

Cook the filling

  1. Peppers and meat are cooked separately then blended into one filling before assembling the «torta».
  2. Prepare the vegetables: finely chop the onion and mince the garlic; cut the peppers into bite-size pieces.
  3. Heat half of the butter and oil in a pan over medium heat. Add half of the onion and garlic then sauté 4-5 min until lightly coloured and soft, paying attention not to let them burn. Add the peppers and sauté 4-5 min, then add the diced tomatoes.
  4. Cook over low heat, covered, about 15 min until the peppers are soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the remaining butter and oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining onion and garlic then sauté 4-5 min, with stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add the meat and sear about 4-5 min until it looses its red colour, then break it up with a fork. In order to brown the meat, it is important not to stir it at the beginning, otherwise it will loose its juices and will «boil» rather than brown.
  6. When the meat is golden-coloured, add the cream cheese, broth, tomato paste, spices and oregano. Cover and cook over medium-low heat about 5-7 min, until the flavours are blended. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine the beef mixture with the peppers.

Assemble and cook the «torta»

  1. Place a first tortilla in a buttered ovenproof dish. Put some filling on top, sprinkle with some grated Cheddar, then cover with a second tortilla. Continue this layering sequence according to the number of tortillas in the ingredient list, until the filling is completely incorporated. Press down lightly on the top tortilla at each new layer. Finish with additional grated Cheddar on top of the last tortilla.
  2. Cover with a lid or greased aluminum foil (so that it does not stick to the top) then bake 20 min in the middle of the oven. Uncover and cook an additional 20-25 min. For a nice crust, turn on the top broiler for the last 2 minutes.
  3. Take the dish out of the oven and let it rest 5 min before cutting up the «torta» into pie-shaped slices. Serve.


The filling can be prepared in advance. The «torta» can then be assembled and baked just before serving.

Nutrition Facts Table

Nutrition Facts

per 1 serving (360g)


% DV*

* DV = Daily Value




25 g

38 %

Saturated 10 g
+ Trans 0.5 g

54 %


90 mg


280 mg

12 %


42 g

14 %


6 g

22 %


7 g


31 g

Vitamin A

45 %

Vitamin C

150 %


20 %


30 %

More info

Servings of Canada's Food Guide

1 serving of this recipe is equivalent to:

Vegetables and Fruit: 2 servings
Grain Products: servings
Milk and Alternatives: ¼ serving
Meat and Alternatives: 1 serving

More info


Free :
Added Sugar
Low :
Source of :
Copper, Pantothenic Acid, Selenium, Vitamin D
Good source of :
Calcium, Fibre, Vitamin B1, Vitamin E, Vitamin K
Excellent source of :
Folacin, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Zinc

More info

This recipe is in the following categories: Beef | Cheese | Main courses/Entrées | Diabetes-friendly | Halal | High Calcium | High Fibre | High Iron | Low Sodium | Mexican

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