Enchiladas refer to a tortilla-based food of Mexican origin which now has numerous varieties in other countries. Enchilada filling is no different from other tortilla-based dishes. It is a combination of meat, cheese, beans, potatoes, vegetables, onions, cilantro, etc. The enchilada sauce has a lot of different varieties. Some use chili-based sauces while others use cheese-based sauces, like the chile con queso.
Enchilada is the past participle of the Spanish word enchilar, which means “to add chili pepper to” or “to season or decorate with chili.”
- Mexico published its first cookbook in 1831 and among the foods mentioned there was the enchilada.
- Enchilada refers to “a rolled maize tortilla stuffed with meat and covered with a tomato and chili sauce.” That is what enchilada means in Mexico, according to The Real Academia Española.
- Some of the common North American phrases involve the enchilada – when they say “the whole enchilada”, they mean everything of something specific; when they say “the big enchilada”, they are referring to someone important or someone of the highest status, like a boss or superior.
- With the sauce and served on a plate, it is hard to imagine the enchilada as street food, but it originally was.
- We know enchiladas are stuffed with meat and vegetables and other ingredients, but this was not always the case. The earliest enchiladas are plain corn tortillas people dip in chili sauce, eaten without fillings.
Enchiladas Buying Guide
Without question, the first and most important thing to remember when buying enchiladas is to buy them from an authentic restaurant with a long history of making enchiladas. But realistically, not everyone who wants to enjoy an enchilada has the means to travel to Mexico or visit a popular, authentic enchilada restaurant, so any restaurant will do as long as the restaurant is serving good food, clean, and has good reviews.
The second important matter to consider when buying enchilada is the presence of numerous varieties and versions. This is important because you might end up eating at a restaurant with its own specific version that might not match your expectations about how an enchilada should look like and how it should taste.
Varieties can be distinguished based on the sauce, the preparation, or how it is cooked, the fillings inside the enchilada, and in some cases, the final form of the enchilada.
- Enchiladas con chile rojo (with red chili) – This is the traditional preparation of the enchilada – red enchilada sauce, meat, and dried red chili peppers.
- Enchiladas con mole – Also known as enmoladas, this enchilada uses mole and not chili sauce. A mole is a traditional Mexican sauce.
- Enchiladas placera – This is the Michoacán version of the enchilada. Fillings are typically vegetables and poultry. Michoacán is one of the 32 states which comprise the Federal Entities of Mexico.
- Enchiladas poblanas – What makes an Enchiladas poblanas is the fillings inside the tortilla, which should be chicken and poblano peppers. This is commonly topped with Oaxaca cheese.
- Enchiladas potosinas – This version from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, is filled with cheese while the masa is chili-flavored.
- Enchiladas San Miguel – This San Miguel de Allende-style enchilada is unique because the tortillas are infused with guajillo chilies done by searing the flavor into the tortillas in a frying pan.
- Enchiladas suizas – Also known as Swiss-style enchilada, Swiss immigrants who settled in Mexico and established dairy farms that produced milk and cheese incorporated it into the enchilada. As a result: an enchilada with a cream-based or milk-based white sauce for topping.
- Enfrijoladas – This is enchilada with bean toppings. Frijol means bean.
- Entomatadas – This enchilada is made with tomato sauce instead of the traditional chili sauce.
- Enchiladas montadas – They call it stacked enchiladas because corn tortillas are stacked on top of the other, with fillings and sauce in between. At the top of the stack is a fried egg with shredded lettuce and sliced black olives as a garnish. This variety originated in New Mexico.
- Enchiladas verdes – The sauce of this enchilada is salsa verde, with white corn tortillas topped with queso fresco. The filling is usually made of poached chicken breasts.
- Enjococadas – The ingredients for this particular variety of enchilada include baked corn tortillas, jocoque, queso panela, and chile poblano.
Other countries have their own version of the enchilada. In Costa Rica, an enchilada comes in the form of small, spicy puff pastry. It has potato fillings although other versions include pork or chicken meat. In Honduras, the enchilada consists of a flat fried corn tortilla topped with ground beef, tomato slices, tomato sauce, cheese, and vegetables like cabbage (with cumin for flavor), very similar to the dish called tostada. In Nicaragua, the cooking of enchilada involves filling a corn tortilla with a mixture of ground beef, rice, and chili, folding it, covering it in egg batter, and deep-frying it. They serve this with cabbage and tomato salad. Perhaps the most complex is the Guatemalan enchilada which requires layer after layer of different ingredients – a leaf of fresh lettuce, a layer of meat (ground beef, shredded chicken, or pork), diced vegetables (carrot, potato, onion, celery, green bean, peas, red bell pepper), followed by another layer of vegetables (cabbage, beets, onions, and carrots, slices of hard-boiled egg, white onion, red salsa, queso seco or queso fresco, and finally, cilantro.
Enchiladas Production & Farming in Texas
Enchiladas are very popular in Texas. Production of enchiladas is year-round since the ingredients used in making enchilada is available in Texas all year. In terms of production, enchiladas are typically produced in restaurants cooking Mexican cuisine, or in Mexican-inspired fast-food chains. Food trucks that sell Mexican dishes also contribute to the production of Mexican food like the enchilada. Small, local businesses are also growing and a common niche here is food, which includes Mexican cooking and cuisine. Lastly, there is the processed food industry which makes ready-made, ready-to-eat corn and flour tortillas and enchilada sauce sold in cans or packs. All of these contribute to the production of enchiladas in Texas and the US daily.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals:
It is highly unlikely that your food has additives or preservatives if you are eating freshly-made enchilada in a restaurant that uses freshly-made (not store-bought) sauce and tortilla. The risk of additives and preservatives comes from buying and eating store-bought tortillas and enchilada sauce.
Store-bought tortillas that you will use in making enchiladas at home contain chemicals necessary to make the product appealing and to improve shelf-life, among others.
- Flour additives – riboflavin, niacin, biotin, folic acid iron. These enrich the flour to make it nutritious.
- Oxidants – benzoyl peroxide (bleaching agent) and azodicarbonamide ADA (maturing agent). In many countries, the use of potassium bromate as an oxidant has been banned. The US FDA hasn’t issued any restrictions regarding this matter.
- To enhance gluten formation, strength, and stability, chlorine ascorbic acid lipoxygenase is added, while sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3) is used as chemical leavening.
- Leavening acids commonly used in a tortilla are the following: sodium aluminum sulfate (SAS), sodium aluminum phosphate (SALP), sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP), monocalcium phosphate (MCP), and calcium acid pyrophosphate.
- Store-bought tortillas also use preservatives during production, including anti-mold agents (calcium propionate, sodium propionate, and potassium sorbate), sorbic acid, sodium benzoate, and methyl/propyl parabens.
- Emulsifiers used in tortilla production include sodium and calcium stearoyl lactylate (SSL) and (CSL), ethoxylated mono and diglycerides (EMG), polysorbates (PS), succinylated monoglycerides (SMG), and diacetyl tartaric acid ester of monoglycerides (DATEM).
- Tortilla production also includes the use of gums (hydrocolloids) and fibers as dough conditioners, like guar gum, carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC) gum, xanthan gum, carrageenan, and sodium alginate.
Canned enchilada sauce may contain any or all of the following preservatives and additives:
- Monosodium Glutamate – Often referred to as MSG, this flavor enhancer is commonly added to canned and processed food.
- Calcium Hydroxide – This is used in many applications including food preparation where it has been identified as E number E526.
- Fumaric Acid – Fumaric acid is an organic compound with a fruit-like taste used as a food additive. Its E number is E297.
- Modified Corn Starch – A “modified” corn starch refers to corn starch that was subjected to change or alteration to be more suitable for what the food processing needs.
- Citric Acid – Citric acid is used widely as an acidifier, as a flavoring and a chelating agent.
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein – Also called HVP, this additive is used to imitate the taste of bouillon (broth).
- Autolyzed Yeast Extract – Autolyzed yeast extract contains free glutamic acid or monosodium glutamate and is used as a less expensive substitute for MSG.
Packaging of the enchilada depends on where it is bought. For restaurants with take-out or delivery options, expect the enchilada in a take out food box. If you are buying from a food truck or food stand, the enchilada is served on a food container made of cardboard, styrofoam, or plastic. As for enchilada sauces, these usually come in a can or packet.
Whether or not you will use an eating utensil depends on the type of enchilada you are having. Typically, enchiladas are swimming in generous amounts of sauce that it is impossible to eat with bare hands without making a mess, so a knife and fork are required. But if you are having a Cartago, Costa Rica-style enchiladas (which look more like an empanada than an enchilada) or Honduran homestyle enchiladas (which looks like a tostada), eating with bare hands would do.
Because of its nutritious and very filling ingredients, an enchilada is a great food to have for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
It is important to refrigerate leftover enchiladas so that you can eat them after putting them in a microwave or oven. Just make sure it is in a container that you can close and seal completely. In the refrigerator, it will keep for two days. If you keep it in the freezer, it can last for up to three months, just make sure the enchiladas are placed in a freezer-safe container.
Make your own enchilada
Enchiladas are great for potlucks, small get-togethers, dinner with family and close friends. Prep time and cooking is 2 hours and 30 minutes. The ingredients are easy to find in groceries and supermarkets. Some ingredients can be replaced with a substitute and that is one thing that is great about this dish: it gives you the opportunity to explore your own personal version of this dish, based on how you want it to look and appear. Before making enchiladas, just make sure that the people eating it do not have any concerns or issues with the ingredients like beef, cheese, and chilis.
This recipe yields 4 to 6 enchiladas.
- 1¼ pound of boneless chuck steaks
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin powder
- 2 teaspoons coriander ground
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 onions (finely chopped)
- 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- ½ cup of water
- 4 ounces mozzarella cheese
- 4 ounces Colby Jack cheese
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- ¼ cup pickled jalapeños, chopped
- 12 6-inch corn tortillas
- Step 1. Combine garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, sugar, and salt.
- Step 2. In a pan or Dutch oven, heat oil and cook the meat for approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with salt to taste. Remove from the pan or Dutch oven once cooked.
- Step 3. Sauté onions for five minutes. Add the garlic mixture and stir for one minute and then add the tomato sauce and water. Bring to boil.
- Step 4. Put the meat back on the pan or Dutch oven. Cover, reduce the heat to low and let simmer until the meat is tender.
- Step 5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Step 6. Shred the meat and mix it with the cheeses, cilantro, and jalapeños.
- Step 7. Microwave the tortillas. Follow the directions indicated in the packaging.
- Step 8. Pour ¾ cup of the sauce into a 9×13-inch baking dish. Spread evenly.
- Step 9. Put beef mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll it and place it in the baking dish seam-side down.
- Step 10. Pour the remaining sauce evenly over the enchiladas.
- Step 11. Sprinkle cheese on to. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
- Step 12. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the cheese browns slightly.