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Enchiladas with mole sauce, served with refried beans and Spanish rice
Place of origin Mexico
Main ingredients Tortillas, chili pepper sauce, meat

An enchilada (, Spanish: ) is a corn tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with a chili pepper sauce. Enchiladas can be filled with a variety of ingredients, including meat, cheese, beans, potatoes, vegetables, seafood or combinations.


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
  • Varieties 3
  • Fillings, toppings and garnishes 4
  • Enchilada variations 5
    • Costa Rican enchilada 5.1
    • Honduran enchilada 5.2
    • Nicaraguan enchilada 5.3
    • Guatemalan enchilada 5.4
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8


The Real Academia Española defines the word enchilada, as used in Mexico as a rolled maize tortilla stuffed with meat and covered with a tomato and chili sauce.[1][2] Enchilada is the past participle of Spanish enchilar, "to add chili pepper to", literally to "season (or decorate) with chili."[3]

When used in an idiom, the "whole enchilada" means the whole thing.[4]


Enchiladas originated in Mexico, where the practice of rolling tortillas around other food dates back at least to Maya times.[5] The people living in the lake region of the Valley of Mexico traditionally ate corn tortillas folded or rolled around small fish. Writing at the time of the Spanish conquistadors, Bernal Díaz del Castillo documented a feast enjoyed by Europeans hosted by Hernán Cortés in Coyoacán, which included foods served in corn tortillas. (Note that the native Nahuatl name for the flat corn bread used was tlaxcalli; the Spanish give it the name tortilla.)[6][7][8][9] The Nahuatl word for enchilada is chīllapītzalli which is formed of the Nahuatl word for "chili", chīlli and the Nahuatl word for "flute", tlapītzalli .[10] In the 19th century, as Mexican cuisine was being memorialized, enchiladas were mentioned in the first Mexican cookbook, El cocinero mexicano ("The Mexican Chef"), published in 1831,[5] and in Mariano Galvan Rivera's Diccionario de Cocina, published in 1845.[6][11] An early mention, in English, is a 1914 recipe found in California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook, by Bertha Haffner Ginger.[12]


In their original form as Mexican street food, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings.[13][14] There are now many varieties, which are distinguished primarily by their sauces, fillings and, in one instance, by their form. Various adjectives may be used to describe the recipe content or origin, e.g. enchilada tapatia would be a recipe from Jalisco.[15]

Varieties include:

  • Enchiladas con chile rojo (with red chile) is a traditional red enchilada sauce, composed of dried red chili peppers soaked and ground into a sauce with other seasonings, Chile Colorado sauce adds a tomato base.[16]
  • Enchiladas con mole, instead of chili sauce, are served with mole,[17] and are also known as enmoladas.[18]
  • Enchiladas placera are Michoacán plaza-style, made with vegetables and poultry.[19]
  • Enchiladas poblanas are soft corn tortillas filled with chicken and poblano peppers, topped with oaxaca cheese.[20]
  • Enchiladas potosinas originate from San Luis Potosi, Mexico and are made with cheese-filled, chili-spiced masa.[21]
  • Enchiladas San Miguel are San Miguel de Allende-style enchiladas flavored with guajillo chilies by searing the flavor into the tortillas in a frying pan.[5]
  • Enchiladas suizas (Swiss-style) are topped with a white, milk or cream-based sauce, such as béchamel. This appellation is derived from Swiss immigrants to Mexico who established dairies to produce cream and cheese.[22]
  • Enchiladas verdes (green enchiladas) are made with green enchilada sauce composed of tomatillos and green chilis.
  • Enfrijoladas are topped with refried beans rather than chili sauce; their name come from frijol, meaning "bean".[23][24]
  • Entomatadas are made with tomato sauce instead of chile sauce.[17]
  • Gravy-style enchiladas are the dominant variety found throughout South and Central Texas. These have a gravy-like chili sauce over either cheese-filled or beef-filled corn tortillas, and are topped with a layer of cheese.
  • Enchiladas montadas, stacked enchiladas, are a New Mexico variation in which corn tortillas are fried flat until softened but not tough, then stacked with red or green sauce, chopped onion and shredded cheese between the layers and on top of the stack. Ground beef or chicken can be added to the filling, but meat is not traditional. The stack is often topped (montada) with a fried egg. Shredded lettuce and sliced black olives may be added as a garnish.[25]
  • Enchiladas Duranguenos are made with red chile sauce stuffed with queso cotija and minced onions. Some people use Parmesan cheese instead of queso cotija because it is cheaper.

Fillings, toppings and garnishes

Fillings include meat, such as chicken, beef or pork, seafood, cheese, potatoes, vegetables, and any combination of these. Enchiladas are commonly topped or garnished with cheese, sour cream, lettuce, olives, chopped onions, chili peppers, salsa, or fresh cilantro.

Enchilada variations

Costa Rican enchilada

In Costa Rica, the enchilada is a common, small, spicy pastry made with puff pastry and filled with diced potatoes spiced with a common variation of tabasco sauce or other similar sauces. It is typically eaten in the afternoons in the coffee break, and available in almost every bakery in the country. Other variations include fillings made of spicy chicken or minced meat.

Honduran enchilada

In Honduras, enchiladas look and taste very different from those in Mexico; they are not corn tortillas rolled around a filling, but instead are flat, fried, corn tortillas topped with ground beef, salad toppings (usually consisting of cabbage and tomato slices), a tomato sauce (often ketchup blended with butter and other spices such as cumin), and crumbled or shredded cheese. They look and taste much like what many people call a tostada.

Nicaraguan enchilada

In Nicaragua, enchiladas are different from the other ones in Central America and resemble those in Mexico; they are corn tortillas filled with a mixture of ground beef and rice with chilli, they are then folded and covered in egg batter and deep fried. It is commonly served with a cabbage and tomato salad (either pickled salad or in cream and tomato sauce). The Nicaraguan enchilada resembles the Empanada of other countries.

Guatemalan enchilada

In Guatemala, enchiladas look much like Honduran enchiladas but the recipe is different. Usually starts with a leaf of fresh lettuce, next a layer of picado de carne, which includes a meat (ground beef, shredded chicken, or pork) and diced vegetables (carrot, potato, onion, celery, green bean, peas, red bell pepper, garlic, bay leaf, a you can season with a little salt and black pepper) next is the curtido layer which includes more vegetables (cabbage, beets, onions, and carrots) next is about two or three pieces of sliced hard boiled egg, next layer is thin sliced white onion, next layer is a drizzle of red (not spicy) salsa, next topped with either queso seco or queso fresco and lastly topped with cilantro.

See also


  1. ^ "enchilada".  
  2. ^ Galimberti Jarman, Beatriz; Roy Russell; Carol Styles Carvajal; Jane Horwood (2003). The Oxford Spanish Dictionary: Spanish-English/English-Spanish.  
  3. ^ "enchilar".  
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b c Zeldes, Leah A. (2010-11-10). "Eat this! Enchiladas, Mexican comfort food". Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc. Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  6. ^ a b "Tacos, Enchilidas and Refried Beans: The Invention of Mexican-American Cookery". Oregon State University. Archived from the original on 2007-07-18. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  7. ^ Parker, Margaret (2006-10-12). "History of Mexican Cuisine". Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  8. ^ Conrad, Jim. "A Thumbnail History of Mexican Food". Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  9. ^ Stradley, Linda. "History of Tortillas & Tacos". What's Cooking America. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  10. ^ Karttunen, F. (1983). An analytical dictionary of Nahuatl. University of Texas Press: USA. page 52 ISBN 0-8061-2421-0
  11. ^ Pilcher, Jeffrey (Winter 2008). "Was the Taco Invented in Southern California?".  
  12. ^ Ginger, Bertha Haffner (1914 (2008)). California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook. Bedford, Massachusetts (USA): Applewood Books. pp. 49–50.  
  13. ^ "Enchiladas as Mexican street food". Gourmet Sleuth. 2004. Retrieved 2008-07-31. 
  14. ^ Bayless, Rick (2008). "Mexico one plate at a time: The Whole Enchilada". Retrieved 2008-07-31. 
  15. ^ "Recipe for Enchiladas Tapatias". Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  16. ^ "Chile colorado (recipe)". Anderson Kitchen (blog). 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-28. 
  17. ^ a b Texas Monthly, November 1989, p 68. online copy
  18. ^ Cocina Mexicana Gastronomic glossary (Spanish)
  19. ^ Potters, Cristina. "Enchiladas Placeras". Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  20. ^ Lee, Jackie. "Enchiladas Poblanas". Retrieved 7 April 2012. 
  21. ^ Adriana Rosales. "Enchiladas Potosinas". Retrieved 2010-02-02. 
  22. ^ Higuera McMahan, Jacqueline (2005-03-23). "Fond memories spur a Swiss enchilada quest". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2005-03-26. Retrieved 2013-09-16. 
  23. ^ Nimtz, Sharon. "Twice Bitten: The thin place". Rutland Herald. Retrieved 2008-12-10. 
  24. ^ Kennedy, Diana (2008). The Art of Mexican Cooking. Clarkson Potter.  
  25. ^ DeWitt, Dave. "How to order enchiladas in Santa Fe". Retrieved 2010-08-06.


  • Mariano Galvan Rivera, Diccionario de Cocina o el Nuevo Cocinero Mexicano en Forma Diccionario, Second edition (Mexico: Imprenta de I Cuplido, 1845).
  • El Cocinero Mexicano o coleccion de los mejores recetas para guisar al estilo americano y de las mas selectas segun el metodo de los cocinas Espanola, Italiana, Francesca e Inglesa, 3 vols. (Mexico City: Imprenta de Galvan a cargo de Mariano Arevalo, 1831), 1:78-88.
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