The Whole Enchilada: A Delicious Deep Dive On This Iconic Mexican Dish
Whether you’re a seasoned enchilada pro or a curious newbie, join me for a delicious deep dive into the wonderful world of enchiladas. We’ll explore the rich history, discuss many different varieties and ingredients, and share expert tips for making perfect enchiladas. So, get ready to dig in and discover The Whole Enchilada!
What Are Enchiladas?
I’m thrilled to share my passion for one of my all-time favorite dishes: enchiladas! Now, if you’ve never had them before, let me give you the lowdown. Enchiladas are a traditional Mexican dish made with tortillas that are lightly fried, filled, rolled up or stacked, and finally covered in a flavorful sauce.
The filling can be anything from meats like chicken or beef, vegetarian options like beans or cheese, or even seafood like shrimp. The sauce can also vary widely depending on the region and personal taste. You can have a red sauce made with dried chile peppers, a green sauce made with tomatillos and cilantro, or even a mole sauce made with a combination of chiles, spices, and chocolate. The possibilities are endless!
Once the tortillas are filled and covered in sauce, they’re sometimes baked in the oven with some cheese on top until they’re hot and bubbly. Then, they’re served with some garnishes like cilantro, avocado, or crema. Mmm, my mouth is watering just thinking about this classic Mexican comfort food!
The History Of Enchiladas
Alright, now let’s talk about the history of enchiladas. These delicious little wraps have been around for centuries and have a really interesting background. It all started with the indigenous people of Mexico who used tortillas as a staple food. They would fill the tortillas with different ingredients and add chile peppers for both delicious flavor and medicinal properties.
As time went on, enchiladas became more and more popular throughout Mexico. Each region started to put its own spin on them. The northern regions tend to use red sauce and meat fillings, while the southern regions prefer green sauce and more vegetarian/bean-centric fillings.
When the Spanish arrived in Mexico, they brought new ingredients like beef and cheese which were quickly incorporated into traditional dishes like enchiladas. This led to new variations of the dish with even more flavors and combinations.
Today, enchiladas are a beloved dish enjoyed all over the world. It’s amazing to think about the long history and cultural influences that have gone into making this dish what it is today!
Expert Tips & Tricks For The BEST Homemade Enchiladas
While I’d consider most enchilada recipes to be easy enough for even beginner cooks, these are some tips I’ve learned from my decades of experience making them:
- Corn tortillas, ALL. THE. WAY. When it comes to making enchiladas, using corn tortillas is far and away my favorite option. Store bought, will work just fine! Flour tortillas tend to get gummy and soggy when they’re coated in sauce, which is not what we’re going for.
- Start with fresh, high-quality ingredients. This goes for everything from your tortillas (my homemade ones are so easy!) to your fillings and sauces. The better your ingredients, the better your enchiladas will turn out.
- Fry your tortillas before filling them. This makes them more pliable and less likely to tear when you roll them up. Frying them also helps to “seal” the tortillas so they don’t get soggy. Don’t worry, the whole process takes just a few minutes and is totally worth it.
- Use a flavorful filling/topping. This is a no-brainer. Whether you’re using meat or veggies, beans or cheese, make sure your filling is well-seasoned. Make sure to taste before you stuff!
- Everything is better with cheese! Sprinkle some shredded, melty cheese on top of your enchiladas before baking them for a delicious, gooey finish. Or, use a generous dusting of crumbly cheese like queso fresco or cotija for a garnish!
- Patience is a virtue. Let your enchiladas rest for about 10 minutes before serving. Think of them as the Mexican version of lasagna — letting the casserole cool after coming out of the oven lets the contents settle and firm up slightly, which makes serving SO MUCH EASIER.
- Go for garnishing gold. Whether it’s cilantro, avocado, or crema, adding fresh garnishes on top of your enchiladas gives them a burst of flavor and a beautiful presentation.
Serving Suggestions & Pairings
There are so many delicious ways to serve enchiladas! One classic pairing is rice and beans, which create a perfect protein when served together. Try my Cilantro Lime Rice or Mexican Rice (Arroz Mexicano) and some Slow Cooker Borracho Beans for some serious Mexican-restaurant vibes.
If you’re looking for something a little lighter and less carby, try serving your enchiladas with a fresh side salad dressed in a zesty red wine vinaigrette.
Since no fiesta is complete without some delicious bebidas, consider whipping up your favorite margarita or non-alcoholic aguas frescas (perhaps spiked with a little something-something for the adults?).
If you’re in the mood for some snacking, whip up a batch of homemade guacamole and serve it with some crispy tortilla chips on the side. Mexican street corn, also known as elote, is another favorite. Who can resist grilled corn on the cob slathered in a delicious mixture of mayo, lime juice, chili powder, and cotija cheese? If corn on the cob is too messy, you can also try my Elote en Vaso (a.k.a. Esquites).
At the end of the day, there’s really no wrong answer for the question “What should I serve with enchiladas.” It’s YOUR meal, so make what you like!
What’s your favorite pairing for enchiladas? Let me know in the comments below!
Frequently Asked Questions
Great question! The answer really depends on the type of enchilada and the region where it originates. I’ve seen everything from vegan enchiladas to seriously meaty enchiladas, seafood enchiladas to cheese enchiladas.
Since we live in a day and age where access to global ingredients is easier than ever before, the emergence of delectable fusion enchiladas has also become popular. At the end of the day, there are hundreds (if not thousands or more!) of possible stuffings that can go into enchiladas, so I suggest experimenting with whatever floats your boat!
While taste is subjective and some folks might disagree with me, I firmly believe the ONLY option for making enchiladas is corn tortillas. While I love flour tortillas for other applications like burritos, tacos or baked chips, they tend to absorb the liquid from the enchilada sauce which results in a gummy, soggy mess.
As an added bonus, corn tortillas are gluten-free, so you can make your enchiladas safe for more people to enjoy!
Ah, the million-dollar question! In my opinion, the secret to good enchiladas is all about the sauce.
Aside from that, don’t forget to quickly fry the tortillas before rolling or stacking them! This makes them softer, more pliable, and less likely to get soggy. Finally, keep an eye on them as they bake. If they’re browning too quickly in the oven, tent them with foil.
That all depends on the vibe you’re going for. I love Oaxaca, asadero, muenster, or pepper jack for a white cheese, and longhorn, Colby, or cheddar yellow cheese for a Tex-Mex vibe. If you’re topping your enchiladas, feel free to use either melty cheeses, or swap in crumbly ones like queso fresco or cotija.
Ultimately, the best cheese for enchiladas is the one (or many) that you love the most! So, don’t be afraid to experiment with different cheeses and combinations to find your perfect match.
Most of the recipes below are baked uncovered. That said, keep some foil on hand to tent the casserole dish if your enchiladas are browning too quickly. The trick is to not trap all the moisture inside and end up with soggy tortillas, so if you DO use a cover, make sure there is plenty of space for the steam to vent.
Vegetarian Enchiladas Recipes
Stacked Red Enchiladas (Enchiladas Rojas)
Vegetarian Rice & Black Bean Enchiladas
Pork & Beef Enchilada Recipes
Pulled Pork Enchiladas in Salsa Verde
Carne Asada Enchiladas Suizas
Seafood Enchiladas Recipes
Shrimp Enchiladas with Salsa Verde
Poultry & Chicken Enchiladas Recipes
Enchiladas Divorciadas de Camarón (Divorced Shrimp Enchiladas)
Easy Chicken Enchiladas
Chicken Mole Enchiladas
Enchilada Casserole (Pastel Azteca)
Enchiladas Verdes con Pavo (Green Chile Turkey Enchiladas)
Enchiladas Verdes (Green Enchiladas)
Enchilada Filling Ideas
Easy Poached Shredded Chicken
Easy Coca-Cola Braised Carnitas
Slow Cooker Pork Tinga
Slow Cooker Beef Brisket
Instant Pot Black Beans
Creamy Zucchini, Corn, and Poblano Rajas
The Best Homemade Enchilada Sauces
Homemade Red Chile Sauce (Chile Colorado)
Salsa Verde Mexicana
Tools & Equipment
When it comes to making enchiladas there are a handful of tools I can’t live without. Here are some of my favorites:
That’s all for now, amigos! I hope this deep dive into the wonderful world of enchiladas has left you feeling inspired to whip up a batch of your own. So go forth, gather your ingredients, and get ready to create a fiesta in your kitchen. And if you have any enchilada tips or tricks of your own, be sure to share them in the comments below. Hasta luego!