Learn Spanish by Making Mexican Enchiladas (enchiladas mexicanas)

Following an authentic recipe from a culture that speaks the language you are learning is one good way to learn. A good recipe to follow to help you learn Spanish is this one that has been passed around in my family for over 40 years: Mexican enchiladas. Enchiladas are a Mexican dish that go back to Mayan and Aztec times. The name comes from the past participle of the verb enchilar (/enchilaɾ/), meaning “to season with chili.” (This dish is seasoned with chili powder as the name implies.) Enchiladas are so much a part of Mexican culture that a recipe for them was included in the first Mexican cookbook, El cocinero mexicano (The Mexican Cook; Myrick).

This is an authentic recipe that my aunt’s Mexican friend gave her many years ago, which my aunt (mi tía) passed on to my mom. My mother (mi madre) then shared this dish with me, and now I’m sharing it with all of you. To be honest, the original recipe is written completely in English, but I added a few Spanish words here to help with the language-learning process. Also, I added a list of kitchen items that you may want to use while you cook. So, without further ado, here is the recipe. ¡Buen provecho! (Enjoy your meal!)

 

[Above is a picture of enchiladas prepared in the Mexican way. This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY.]


Ingredients:

  • Chili powder (ají en polvo /axi en polbo/)
  • Ground cumin (comino /komino/)
  • Corn tortillas (tortillas de maíz /toɾtiʝas de mais/) *
  • Tomatoes (tomates) canned or fresh, grated
  • Peas (there are many versions of this word in Spanish, but here we’ll use chícharos [/t͡ʃit͡ʃaɾos/] since the word is used in Mexico), garden/can, ground up
  • 1 lb. hamburger meat (carne de hamburguesa /caɾne de ambuɾgesa/)
  • Onion (cebolla /seboʝa/)
  • Salt (sal)
  • Longhorn cheese (queso /keso/ [cheddar is fine]), grated
  • Grated cebolla on top
  • 2 cups water (agua /awa/) to add ají en polvo

 

Needed Kitchen Items:

  • Food processor (un procesador de alimentos /un pɾosesadoɾ de alimentos/)
  • Knife (un cuchillo /un cu[/t͡ʃiʝo/)
  • Frying pan (un sartén)
  • Casserole dish (una cazuela /una caswela/)
  • Toothpicks (palillos /paliʝos/)
  • Spoons (cucharas /cu/t͡ʃ aɾas/)
  • Optional: Can opener (un abrelatas /un abɾelatas/)
  • Optional: Tortilla warmer (un calentador de tortilla /un calentadoɾ de tortiʝa/)


Directions:

  1. Soak tortillas in agua, comino and ají en polvo and fry in 1 Tbsp. oil (aceite) until softened.
  2. Brown carne de hamburguesa and cebolla. Add chícharos, tomates and sal. Heat again.
  3. Place 1 Tbsp. meat in each tortilla. Wrap and secure with palillos. Sprinkle on queso and cebolla. May be heated in oven to melt the queso but it isn’t necessary. Makes 20 enchiladas.


Substitutions/alternatives:
Of course, you can make any modifications that you need. For example:

  • As an alternative to frying them, microwave tortillas (12) in damp towel 2 minutes on high to soften.
  • Another way to fix the tortillas is to stack them rather than roll them. This is more the American way to fix enchiladas than the Mexican way, but if you would rather fix the meal an easier way you can also cook the dish in this manner. (Personally, I stacked the tortillas when I made this recipe.)
  • You can also substitute the meat for something with less fat like chicken (pollo /poʝo/).
  • Meat or cheese substitute (like tofu) may be used if you’re vegan or vegetarian.
  • Also, if you don’t have peas on hand, you can also use pinto beans (frijoles pintos /fɾixoles pintos/) as a substitute.

 It’s completely up to you how you make your enchiladas.


*Fun Fact:
In case you didn’t know, there are at least two kinds of tortillas in the Spanish-speaking world. The first type of tortilla used here is made in Mexico and is a kind of flat bread, made from corn or flour. The second kind is a type of tapa (appetizer) made in Spain and is more like an omelet.

 
This blog was written by Cary Crocker, an English graduate of Missouri Southern State University. There she majored in English with an emphasis in Professional and Technical Writing and minored in Creative Writing and Spanish. Recently, Cary received a TEFL certificate from her alma mater to teach English. Cary's languages are Spanish and French. Find Cary on LinkedIn.

References:

“Amazing History of Enchiladas—The Simple Street Food of Mexico” by Tastessence: https://tastessence.com/history-of-enchiladas

“Enchilada Fun Facts” by Richard Myrick: https://mobile-cuisine.com/did-you-know/enchilada-fun-facts/

“The History of Enchiladas” by Fresh is Best: https://freshisbestonbroadway.ca/the-history-of-enchiladas/

SpanishDict definition of Enchilar: https://www.spanishdict.com/translate/enchilar


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