top enchilada


[en-chuh-lah-duh, -lad-uh]
Not to be confused with Enceladus.

An enchilada 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, potatoes, vegetables, seafood or combinations.


The Real Academia Española defines the word enchilada, as used in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua, as a rolled maize tortilla stuffed with meat and covered with a tomato and chile sauce. Enchilada is the past participle of Spanish "enchilar", "to add chili pepper to".


Enchiladas originated in Mexico. Anthropological evidence suggests that the indigenous 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. The feast included foods served in corn tortillas. (Note, however, that the native Nahuatl name for the flat corn bread used was tlaxcalli. The Spanish give it the name tortilla.) 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, and in Mariano Galvan Rivera's Diccionario de Cocina, published in 1845.


Varieties of enchiladas are distinguished primarily by their sauces, fillings and, in one instance, by their form.

  • Original Mexican street food: in their beginnings as a Mexican street food, enchiladas were simply corn tortillas dipped in chili sauce and eaten without fillings.
  • Enchiladas con chili colorado: with traditional red enchilada sauce composed of dried red chili peppers soaked and ground into a sauce with other seasonings. However, red enchilada sauce may also be tomato-based with red chilis added.
  • Enchiladas verdes: green enchiladas made with green enchilada sauce composed of tomatillos and green chilis.
  • Enchiladas suizas: suiza, meaning Swiss, is an adjective that indicates the dish is 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.
  • Enchiladas con mole: with Mole sauce
  • Stacked enchiladas, also called Enchiladas montadas: a New Mexico variation in which the enchiladas are served stacked, with the filling between flat tortillas, and often topped with a fried egg. Both red and green sauces are used.

Fillings, toppings and garnishes

  • Fillings include meat, such as chicken, beef or pork, seafood, cheese, potatoes, vegetables, and any combination of these.
  • Commonly added toppings and garnishes include cheese, sour cream, lettuce, olives, chopped onions, chili peppers, and fresh cilantro.
  • An enchilada topped with fried eggs may be called enchilada montada (the eggs are mounted, montada, on top). Other adjectives may be used to describe the recipe origin, eg: enchilada tapatia would be a recipe from Jalisco.
  • An enchilada made with refried beans rather than chili sauce is called an enfrijolada (from frijol, "bean".)
  • An enchilada made with mole instead of chile sauce is called an "enmolada".
  • An enchilada made with tomato sauce instead of chile is called an "entomatada".



  • 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.

See also

Mexican cuisine

New Mexican cuisine

Tex-Mex cuisine

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