Tucson’s Famous Topopo Salad

I’ve heard different stories explaining why Tucson’s most iconic salad is made to look like a volcano. One origin theory is that Tucson is surrounded by mountains. The most recognizable, Sentinel Peak, also known as “A” Mountain, is often mistaken for a small volcano. It’s not, but it was formed out of the lava from a volcano that erupted near there 25 million years ago and hardened into black rock. In fact, the name Tucson translates into “at the foot of the black mountain.”

In this visually stunning salad, finely chopped lettuce and mixed vegetables are piled high on top of a bean tostada and surrounded with your choice of protein, Tajin dipped vegetables and shredded cheese “lava”. The monument is crowned with a slice of tomato and a green olive.This recipe calls for shrimp but carne seca or strips of grilled chicken also work well.

Topopo Salad with Shrimp
Servings: 1


  • 1 funnel A 4-inch-diameter funnel with at least a 2-cup capacity
  • 1 large serving plate At least 8 inches in diameter.
Tucson's famous topopo salad is a visually stunning volcano of finely chopped lettuce and mixed vegetables, piled high on top of a bean tostada and surrounded with your choice of protein.
You will need a 4-inch-diameter funnel with at least a 2-cup capacity and a large serving plate at least 8 inches in diameter.


  • 2 cups Iceberg and/or romaine lettuce finely chopped
  • ½ cup frozen mixed vegetables corn, carrots, green beans, peas, thawed in a colander under warm running water
  • 1- 2 tablespoons prepared vinaigrette salad dressing
  • 1 corn tostada shell
  • ¼ cup refried beans warmed
  • 4 jicama strips thin, cut into 2- to 3-inch-long strips
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon pico de gallo or other chile-citrus seasoning
  • 4 small carrots or carrot sticks
  • 6 large cooked shrimp
  • ¼ cup yellow cheddar cheese finely shredded
  • 1 tomato slice
  • 1 pimiento-stuffed green olive halved horizontally
  • Red or green salsa for serving


  • Combine lettuce, mixed vegetables and salad dressing in a large mixing bowl. The lettuce should be well-coated but not dripping.
  • Spread the inside of the tostada shell with the warm beans. Set aside, within reach.
  • Holding the funnel in your nondominant hand so that the wide end is facing up, fill the funnel with the lettuce mixture and press it down firmly with a spatula. Cover the hole end of the funnel while filling, then take your finger off the hole and let any extra dressing drain out into the sink.
  • Flip the tostada shell over onto the funnel so that the refried beans are touching the lettuce. Flip the serving plate over and place it centered on top of the tostada in the funnel. Then, flip the whole thing over and gently place it on the countertop. Carefully remove the funnel to reveal the volcano-shaped molded salad.
  • Dip one end of the jicama sticks in lemon or lime juice and then dip them into the pico de gallo seasoning. Lean the jicama sticks, vertically at even intervals, around the
  • perimeter of the salad (chile side up), followed by the carrots and shrimp. Sprinkle the top of the salad with cheddar cheese to resemble lava. Crown your topopo with a slice of tomato and half of the pimiento-stuffed olive. While eating, once you topple your topopo, mix in some salsa for an extra kick.
  • Serves 1 as a meal or can be split for 2 as a side dish.


The shrimp topopo salad recipe is an excerpt from the Taste of Tucson Cookbook by Jackie Alpers. 
Course Main Course, Salad
Cuisine Sonoran Style Mexican, Taste of Tucson: Sonoran Style Recipes, Tucson Sonoran Style Mexican
Keyword how to make a topopo salad, topopo salad, what is a topopo salad

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