Enchilada Rice Beans.jpg
Enchiladas with mole, served with refried beans and Spanish rice
Place of originMexico
Main ingredientsTortillas, chili pepper sauce, meat

An enchilada (/ˌɛnɪˈlɑːdə/, Spanish: [entʃiˈlaða]) is a Mexican dish consisting of a corn tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with a savory sauce. Enchiladas can be filled with various ingredients, including meats, cheese, beans, potatoes, vegetables, or combinations. Enchilada sauces include chili-based sauces, such as salsa roja, various moles, tomatillo-based sauces, such as salsa verde, or cheese-based sauces, such as chile con queso.


The Royal Spanish Academy 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]


Enchiladas originated in Mexico, where the practice of rolling tortillas around other food dates back at least to Aztec times.[4] 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 gave it the name tortilla.)[5][6][7][8] The Nahuatl word for enchilada is chīllapītzalli [t͡ʃiːlːapiːˈt͡salːi], which is formed of the Nahuatl word for "chili", chīlli [ˈt͡ʃiːlːi] and the Nahuatl word for "flute", tlapītzalli [t͡ɬapiːˈt͡salːi].[9] 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,[4] and in Mariano Galvan Rivera's Diccionario de Cocina, published in 1845.[5][10]

Mexican cooking authority Diana Kennedy cites an early reference from an American traveler from 1883 who remarked, "Enchiladas, a greasy tortilla sandwich containing chiles and a number of other uninviting looking compounds and other nasty messes, are sold everywhere, filling the air with a pungent, nauseous smell." Kennedy goes on to heartily disagree with that characterization, likely brought on by culture shock.[11] Another early English-language mention is found in the California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook (1914) 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 with red and green sauces
Enchiladas with red and green sauces

Fillings, toppings and garnishes

Fillings include meat (e.g. beef, poultry, pork, seafood) or cheese, potatoes, vegetables, beans, tofu, and any combination thereof. Enchiladas are commonly topped or garnished with cheese, sour cream, lettuce, olives, chopped onions, chili peppers, sliced avocado, and salsa, or fresh cilantro.

Regional variations

Costa Rica

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. Other variations include fillings made of spicy chicken or minced meat.[28]

Three enchiladas from Cartago, Costa Rica
Three enchiladas from Cartago, Costa Rica


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.[29]

Homestyle Honduran enchiladas
Homestyle Honduran enchiladas


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.[30]


In Guatemala, enchiladas look much like Honduran enchiladas but the recipe is different. This version most commonly begins with a leaf of fresh lettuce, then a layer of 'picado de carne,' which includes meat (generally ground beef, shredded chicken, or pork) and diced vegetables (carrot, potato, onion, celery, green bean, peas, red bell pepper, garlic, bay leaf, seasoned with salt and black pepper). The next layer in the recipe is the 'curtido' layer which includes more vegetables (cabbage, beets, onions, and carrots). After this is two or three pieces of sliced hard boiled egg, then thin sliced white onion, and finally a drizzle of mild red salsa. The dish is topped with either queso seco or queso fresco and garnished with cilantro.[31]


The idiomatic American English phrase "the whole enchilada" means "the whole thing".[32]

See also


  1. ^ "enchilada". Diccionario de la Lengua Española, Vigésima segunda edición (in Spanish). Real Academia Española. 2003. ISBN 84-670-0317-0. Retrieved 25 July 2008.
  2. ^ Styles Carvajal, Carol; Horwood, Jane & Rollin, Nicholas (2004). Concise Oxford Spanish Dictionary: Spanish-English/English-Spanish. Oxford University Press. p. 253. ISBN 9780198609773. enchilada.
  3. ^ "enchilar". Diccionario de la Lengua Española, Vigésima segunda edición (in Spanish). Real Academia Española. 2015. ISBN 978-84-670-0317-8. Retrieved 9 September 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Zeldes, Leah A. (10 November 2010). "Eat this! Enchiladas, Mexican comfort food". Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc. Archived from the original on 9 April 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Tacos, Enchilidas and Refried Beans: The Invention of Mexican-American Cookery". Mexican References Food And Culture. Oregon State University. Archived from the original on 18 July 2007. Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  6. ^ Parker, Margaret (12 October 2006). "History of Mexican Cuisine". Inner City Conservative Journal. Archived from the original on 17 October 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2008.
  7. ^ Conrad, Jim. "A Thumbnail History of Mexican Food". Mercados: Traditional Mexican Markets (blog). Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 9 July 2008.
  8. ^ Stradley, Linda. "History of Tortillas & Tacos". What's Cooking America (blog). Retrieved 14 July 2008.
  9. ^ Karttunen, F. (1983). An analytical dictionary of Nahuatl. University of Texas Press. p. 52. ISBN 0-8061-2421-0.
  10. ^ Pilcher, Jeffrey (Winter 2008). "Was the Taco Invented in Southern California?". Gastronomica. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. 8 (1): 26–38. doi:10.1525/gfc.2008.8.1.26.
  11. ^ Kennedy, Diana (2000). The Essential Cuisines of Mexico. Clarkson Potter. p. 54. ISBN 0-609-60355-8.
  12. ^ Ginger, Bertha Haffner (1914). California Mexican-Spanish Cookbook. Bedford, Massachusetts (USA): Applewood Books. pp. 49–50. ISBN 978-1-4290-1256-0. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  13. ^ Bowman, Barbara (2004). "Enchiladas as Mexican street food". Gourmet Sleuth (blog). Archived from the original on 4 December 2008. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  14. ^ Bayless, Rick (2008). "Mexico one plate at a time: The Whole Enchilada". Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  15. ^ "Recipe for Enchiladas Tapatias". MexicanRecipes.me. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  16. ^ Anderson, Don & Anderson, Janet (19 September 2007). "Chile colorado (recipe)". Anderson Kitchen (blog). Retrieved 28 July 2008.
  17. ^ a b "Small, new, or offbeat places to try". Texas Monthly. November 1989. p. 68.
  18. ^ "Glosario Gastronómico". Cocina Mexicana (in Spanish).
  19. ^ Potters, Cristina (26 July 2008). "Enchiladas Placeras". Mexico Cooks (blog). Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  20. ^ Lee, Jackie (19 September 2011). "Enchiladas Poblanas". I am a feeder (blog). Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  21. ^ Rosales, Adriana. "Enchiladas Potosinas". Rollybrook.com (blog). Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  22. ^ Higuera McMahan, Jacqueline (23 March 2005). "Fond memories spur a Swiss enchilada quest". The San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 26 March 2005. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  23. ^ Nimtz, Sharon (4 November 2008). "Twice Bitten: The thin place". Rutland Herald. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 10 December 2008.
  24. ^ Kennedy, Diana (2008). The Art of Mexican Cooking. Clarkson Potter. ISBN 978-0-307-38325-9.
  25. ^ DeWitt, Dave (2010). "How to order enchiladas in Santa Fe". Fiery Foods (blog). Sunbelt Shows, Inc. Archived from the original on 24 November 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  26. ^ "Enchiladas Verdes (Green Enchiladas)". Skinnytaste. 10 January 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  27. ^ "Enjococadas ⋆ Larousse Cocina".
  28. ^ "Enchilada: Another Costa Rican Paradise". Qué Rica Vida. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  29. ^ "Honduran Enchiladas". Qué Rica Vida. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  30. ^ "Receta de la Enchilada Nicaragüense". recetasdenicaragua.com (in Spanish). Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  31. ^ "Receta para hacer Enchiladas guatemaltecas". guatemala.com (in Spanish). 17 November 2016. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  32. ^ "whole enchilada - Idioms by The Free Dictionary". thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 17 April 2015.