The cuisine from Mexico is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. It takes the amazing ingredients found in its home country and blends them with aromatic spices to create a flavor and texture explosion.
Even the origins and history of Mexican food are fascinating as it goes all the way back to the ancient Mayans and Aztecs. UNESCO agrees too.
They consider Mexico’s traditional dishes Intangible Cultural Heritage (1).
Today you can find Mexican food around almost every street corner in the country, and the variations are mind-blowing. Two crowd favorites are Chimichangas and Enchiladas.
If you don’t know what these are, then keep reading. Here is all the information you need to learn what these are, the difference between them, and making your own at home.
What is a Chimichanga?
A Chimichanga is a deep-fried burrito and is actually a Tex-Mex specialty.
Tex-Mex is the name given to the fusion cuisine created by the Mexican immigrants who settled in Texas, known as the Tejanos. The food here relies heavily on shredded cheese and flour-based tortillas, two things that are not that common in traditional Mexican cuisine.
The story goes that in 1922, the owner of a Mexican food restaurant in Arizona, Monica Flin, dropped a burrito into a deep-fat fryer by accident. She was about to swear, getting as far as chi… but quickly switched gears when she saw how well it fried.
She allegedly exclaimed chimichanga, the Spanish word for thingamajig. From here, its popularity grew and spread around Arizona and then throughout the Southwest.
While this is a popular story, another version suggests that chimichangas were invented in 1946 by the owner of Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen.
It is said that he put a burrito in a deep fryer on purpose because he was experimenting with creating something new. His creation was the number one selling item on his menu when his restaurant changed its name to Macayo’s in 1952.
There are no official records, so there is no way to know which one of these stories is true. Still, the one certain thing is chimichangas were invented in Arizona before their popularity spread across the Southwest and then the rest of the country.
A traditional Chimichanga is made by filling a flour tortilla with cooked meat, cheese, beans, and rice. Of course, this is all customizable, and you can use any combination of fillings you want. You can even create a vegetarian variation by excluding the meat and using tofu.
There are four main steps for preparing a chimichanga. First, the meat is cooked and shredded. Second, the flour tortilla is filled and then rolled up. Finally, it is deep fried.
These steps are detailed below:
- Meat such as beef or chicken is cooked with various seasonings like salt, cumin, garlic powder, black pepper powder, and cayenne pepper powder.
- A flour tortilla is filled with the meat, shredded cheese (usually a mix of Monterey Jack and Cheddar), cooked rice, refried beans, and jalapeno peppers. If the tortilla feels too rigid, then before filling it up, warm it slightly on a hot fry pan to make it a little more flexible.
- This filling is tightly wrapped in the flour tortilla, with the ends tucked under, then secured with a toothpick. It is important there aren’t any gaps; otherwise, the filling will leak out into the oil. In its un-fried form, you basically have a burrito.
- Finally, this burrito is deep fried in neutral oil and heated to about 380˚F for roughly 1 – 2 minutes or until the outside is golden and crispy.
Chimichangas can be eaten straight out of the fryer as they are or served with a generous serving of chili sauce and cheese on top, along with other sides like sour cream, salsa, guacamole, or pico de gallo.
The best part about chimichangas is that you can take your favorite burrito recipe and just deep-fried it. In a matter of seconds, your burrito is now a chimichanga.
What is an Enchilada?
An Enchilada is made from a corn tortilla that is filled, rolled, and then covered in a savory spice sauce. In this form, it is generally eaten with a knife and fork. On the other hand, the street food version consists of unfilled rolled corn tortillas that are dipped in a chili sauce and eaten by hand. The word enchilada comes from enchilar, a Spanish word that means to add chili pepper to.
Enchilada is exceptionally versatile. They can be filled with all kinds of fillings, from meats to vegetables, and topped with a number of sauces and moles. Each region of Mexico has its own version of the enchilada, each one as flavorful as the next.
These traditional Mexican dishes date back to the time of the Aztecs when corn tortillas were rolled around small fish. Spanish explorers like Bernal Diaz Del Castilo even wrote about eating such foods during his time in the army of Hernan Cortes, the Spanish conqueror who brought down the Aztec Empire in 1519.
The variety of enchilada that most people are familiar with nowadays is the Enchilada Rojas. It is made in four steps: Preparing the sauce, preparing the meat, frying the tortilla, and finally assembling it together.
- The sauce starts with a base made of roasted peppers, such as guajillo and ancho peppers, which are blended with garlic cloves, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- The meat is traditionally prepared by boiling it with various spices such as salt, cumin, black pepper, and chili powder.
- Both sides of the corn tortilla are dipped in the enchilada sauce and lightly frying it.
- This tortilla is then filled with shredded chicken and rolled tightly together with the ends open.
Enchiladas are usually lined in a dish, and more sauce can be added on top. Some variations also sprinkle cheese on top and melt it under a broiler. Other toppings include sour cream, chopped vegetables, beans, red rice, salsa, and moles.
Other enchilada recipes include a classic beef and this one with a sour cream sauce.
Chimichanga vs. Enchilada
Although chimichangas and enchiladas share many of the same ingredients, spices, and sides, like salsa, guacamole, and sour cream, the main difference is how they are assembled and served.
The differences between these two dishes are listed below.
- Enchiladas are traditional Mexican food, while chimichangas are part of Tex-Mex cuisine.
- Enchiladas date back to the time of the Aztecs, while chimichangas are more modern creations of the 20th
- Chimichangas are made from flour tortillas, while enchiladas are made from corn ones.
- Chimichangas are stuffed with more filling, while enchiladas have less.
- Chimichangas are rolled with their ends tucked in, while enchiladas have the ends open.
- Chimichangas are deep fried, while enchiladas are usually baked or broiled.
- The corn tortillas in Enchiladas are dipped in sauce and pan-fried before rolling, but the flour tortillas for Chimichanga are not.
- Chimichangas are crispy on the outside, unlike enchiladas which have a softer texture.
Despite having separate origins and histories, Chimichangas and enchiladas use similar seasonings, sauces, and sides. They are versatile and you can prepare them in all kinds of different ways.
The main difference between them is that chimichangas are deep-fried burritos while enchiladas are rolled corn tortillas with a filling and a sauce on top.
How many calories are in a chimichanga?
A beef, bean, and cheese chimichanga made with a tomato-based sauce comes in at around 650 calories for a serving size of 608 g.
What is a traditional chimichanga?
A traditional chimichanga is a burrito filled with beef, cheese, rice, and beans that have been deep-fried. It is not served with any topping or sauce drizzled on top. This is eaten by hand and dipped into a sauce.
How to fold a chimichanga?
A chimichanga is folded just like a burrito. First, the filling is spread in a line in the middle. Then the sides of the flour tortilla are folded up over the middle. Finally, the bottom edge is rolled up to meet the top making sure there are no gaps around the side.
Are chimichangas Mexican food?
Chimichangas are not part of traditional Mexican cuisine. They are actually a Tex-Mex dish created by Tejano (people of Mexican descent in the US). Tex-Mex food uses many of the same spices and sauces as traditional Mexican cooking, which is why they seem so similar.
How to pronounce enchilada?
Enchilada is pronounced en – CHAH – laa – dah.
What is a traditional enchilada?
A traditional enchilada is filled with some kind of meat such as beef, pork, chicken, or seafood. It also has some combination of vegetables like chopped onions, lettuce, and olives, as well as beans, rice, and cheese.
Are enchiladas gluten-free?
If the enchiladas are prepared with corn tortillas, then yes, they are gluten-free.
Can you make enchiladas with flour tortillas?
Even though enchiladas are traditionally made with corn tortillas, they can also be made with a flour tortilla.