Torta Ahogada (Mexican Drowned Sandwich)

The Torta Ahogada, known as the “drowned sandwich,” is a delicious Mexican sandwich stuffed with pork carnitas, tangy pickled red onions, and creamy refried beans, all generously doused in a spicy red chile sauce made from tomato sauce and chiles de arbol.

Make sure you grab some napkins because this is one messy pork tortas recipe! The best Mexican sandwiches usually are!

What is a Torta Ahogada

Originating from Guadalajara, Jalisco, the Torta Ahogada distinguishes itself from typical Mexican sandwiches by its use of birotes salados, a unique type of sourdough bread known for its sturdy crust. This choice of bread is ideal for soaking in the spicy sauce without becoming mushy. 

Torta Ahogada is a very popular Mexican cuisine sold at most restaurants and food stalls in the region. It’s typically served with lime wedges and knives and forks to eat. 

Two open faced Torta Ahogada on white plates.


There are a few routes you can take when it comes to Mexican carnitas. You can make them from scratch, using my popular Authentic Carnitas or Instant Pot Carnitas recipe with Carnitas Seasoning, or buy some pre-made from the store. Nothing beats homemade carnitas, but it does extend the cooking time quite a bit.

Authentic Carnitas on a baking sheet with lime wedges.


Here are the main ingredients you need to make this Mexican Pork Tortas recipe. For the full list of ingredients, reference the recipe card below:

  • Bread – The traditional bread is birote salado, but it’s not a common commodity in the United States. Good replacements include bolillo bread, French bread, or French baguette. You’ll need to toast these options to crunch up and firm the bread a bit to avoid getting soggy.
  • Refried Beans – beans are optional. Not all places in Guadalajara use them.
  • Carnitas – You’ll need a pound of shredded pork carnitas, either homemade or store-bought.
  • Red Onion – add pickled red onions or raw sliced red onions to add acidity and balance out the flavors. 
  • Tomatoes – Roma tomatoes are my go-to but any will work.
  • Chile de Arbol Peppers – arbol chiles is where the spice comes from. Go easy if you’re not looking for too much heat.
Labeled photo showing the ingredients needed to make drowned sandwiches.

Step-by-step Instructions

Here are the steps required to make Tortas Ahogada sandwiches, including photos to use as visual guides.

Make the Carnitas – Make a batch of homemade carnitas before starting the rest of the recipe, unless you’re using store-bought.

Hydrate the Dried Peppers – Add the dried chile de arbol peppers to boiling water and let soak for 15-20 minutes.

Dry chili peppers in a silver saucepan with sandwich ingredients.

Roast the Peppers – Broil the tomatoes for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the skin is charred and blistered.

6 roma tomatoes on a baking sheet.

Make the Sauce – Add the roasted tomatoes, softened chiles, and the rest of the sauce ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan with olive oil and simmer over low heat.

Tomatoes, onions, garlic and red chilis in a small blender.

Assemble the Torta Ahogada – Toast the bread then top with refried beans, carnitas, pickled red onions, and cotija cheese. Generously coat the tortas ahogadas with the spicy tomato salsa.

Mexican bread topped with carnitas on a baking sheet.

Serve – Serve on a deep plate or in a shallow bowl with a side of extra hot sauce and a slice of lime to add lime juice.

hand holding red chili sauce over a Mexican sandwich.

Darcey’s Recipe Tips

  • Homemade Carnitas – if making homemade carnitas I highly recommend making them a day in advance or starting early. They take a few hours to cook.
  • Red Sauce – this is another element that can be made in advance. Make it and store it in an airtight container up to 3 days in advance.
  • Heat Level – Use 5 peppers for mild heat or up to 15 peppers for super spicy!
  • Sauce Texture – While the sauce is typically strained, you can skip this step if you like a thicker and chunkier sauce.
Red chili sauce being strained into a large mixing bowl

Drink Pairing Recommendations

As with most Mexican Recipes, all the Mexican classics pair well with a delicious torta ahogada: Michelada, Chelada, Classic Margarita, or an ice-cold cerveza! If you prefer beer grab a light beer, such as a pale Mexican lager, West Coast IPAs, amber ale, or Vienna lager

Torta Ahogada on a white plate.

Torta Ahogada (Drowned Mexican Sandwich)

The Torta Ahogada, known as the “drowned sandwich,” is a delicious Mexican sandwich stuffed with pork carnitas, tangy pickled red onions, and creamy refried beans, all generously doused in a spicy red chile sauce made from tomato sauce and chiles de arbol.

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Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Servings: 4 sandwiches

Calories: 379kcal

Author: Darcey Olson

Cost: $20

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  • 5-15 pieces arbol chiles, seeded (*Note 1)
  • 2 lbs. roma tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup chopped white onions
  • 2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt + more to taste
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


  • 4 crusty bread rolls (*Note 2)
  • 1 lbs. pork carnitas (*Note 3)
  • sliced raw or pickled red onions
  • cotija cheese
  • 1 small lime, cut into wedges



  • Add 2 cups of water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat, add the chile de arbol peppers, cover and soak for 15-20 minutes.

  • Pre-heat the oven to high broil. Place the tomatoes on a large baking sheet and broil for 8-10 minutes, flipping halfway through.

  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chilis to a blender along with the roasted tomatoes, garlic, white onion, vinegar, salt, cumin, coriander and oregano. Puree until smooth.

  • Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the pureed sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

  • OPTIONAL – carefully strain the sauce to remove any chunks. Set aside.


  • Pre-heat the oven to high broil. Cut the rolls in half and place facing up on a large baking sheet. Toast in the oven for 1-2 minutes until brown. Watch carefully so they don’t burn.

  • Set aside the tops of the rolls. Evenly divide the refried beans and carnitas between the bottoms of the toasted rolls. Toast in the oven for 3-4 minutes, until warm throughout. Turn off the oven.

  • Top each roll with pickled red onions and cotija cheese. Plate the top of the bread on top of the sandwich.

  • Transfer each sandwich to a shallow bowl or plate and evenly divide the red sauce over the top.

  • Serve immediately with lime wedges.


Note 1 – Use 5 peppers for mild heat, 8-10 peppers for medium heat, or up to 15 peppers for super spicy!
Note 2 – Any crusty bread will work. Good options: bolillo bread, French bread, or French baguette.
Note 3 – Make carnitas from scratch (Authentic Carnitas or Instant Pot Carnitas), or buy some pre-made from the store. 


Calories: 379kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 929mg | Potassium: 1049mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 2235IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 93mg | Iron: 3mg

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