How to make the best enchiladas

How to make the best enchiladas

Mexican food isn’t only about tacos and nachos – enchiladas deserve as much love. To help you make the best-ever version at home, we’ve turned to the brains behind much-loved El Burro in Cape Town to explain how they make their enchiladas. By Jess Spiro

What are enchiladas?

For the uninitiated, an enchilada is made by wrapping a tortilla around a filling, topping it with a savoury sauce, often cheese, and grilling it. The tortilla is usually a corn variety, but flour works well, too. The filling can be anything from chilli con carne, refried beans or even simply grilled chicken or veg. We chatted to Nic Haarhoff, owner of Cape Town’s El Burro, to learn how to make the best enchilada.

Let’s start with the basics. What are the classic components of an enchilada? How do you make yours at El Burro?

The very first part is learning the basics of the tortilla and its role in various dishes. The most popular would the taco, quesadilla and the enchilada. Place a filling on top of the tortilla and fold up two sides, you get a taco. Pop cheese on, a filling, fold in half, grill it on a hot, flat pan, you get a delicious melty quesadilla. Pop a filling on, roll it up, pop it in an ovenproof dish, smother it in a delicious salsa, throw some cheese on top, bake it, and you’ve got yourself an enchilada!

Traditionally, corn tortillas are used in Mexico. Through years of doing this, we have realised that when you bake corn tortillas in a sauce, it tends to heighten the flavour of the corn – something we’ve learnt that South Africans tend to shy away from. All of our tacos and quesadillas use corn tortillas, which we hand-make daily. However, for the enchiladas, we use a flour tortilla, wrapped around a roast chicken, butter bean and sweet potato filling. We top that with a roast tomato salsa and mozzarella, before baking. We serve ours with pickled pink onions and sour cream. We also serve a spiced pork version, and of course a spicy vegan bean enchilada with a spinach-based sauce and vegan cheese.


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Let’s talk about the sauce. What is a simple enchilada sauce made from? What are some of your tips for making a good sauce at home?

Salsa is life in Mexico. Everybody has their favourite taco stand that makes, according to them, “the BEST salsa”. For us, freshness is everything. We only use fresh ingredients to make our salsas. If you know how to make a Napoletana sauce, then you’re good to go. Just add some chilli!  My top tip is to roast fresh tomatoes until they’re soft and have blackened a little on the skins. You can use canned tomatoes, but it’s never the same. Add them to softened onions and garlic. Add some chiptoles or smoked jalapeños from El Burro Mercado for smokiness and simmer away. After cooking down and adjusting the seasoning, blend using a stick blender. This makes for a good nacho dipping salsa, as well as an enchilada salsa.

What do you think makes a good enchilada?

I think the filling and the salsa are the most important, the flavours have to work together otherwise you end up with a strange dish. Trust me, we’ve tried for 12-plus years!  I also think moisture is very important. There is nothing worse than a dry filling with too little salsa on top. Make sure your filling is moist and delicious. I cringe when I see  “super-quick and easy enchilada” videos on Instagram, and their filling is overcooked, with zero flavour shredded chicken breasts as a filling, and a little salsa on top. That must be like eating sand. Add veg into your mix, use lots of flavours, keep it super-moist,  then ladle over loads and loads of salsa to cover all the tortilla, top with lots of cheese, then bake. Then you have a moist, flavourful meal.

Any other tips you’d like to include?

I think an enchilada is a wonderful vehicle for just about any protein. You can do shredded roast chicken, chilli con carne, roast veg, soya mince chilli, all sorts. Just have fun!

Ready to make your own enchiladas? Here’s our step-by-step.


  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Halve 800 g tomatoes and place in a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and roast until softened and slightly charred in places.

    Step 1

  2. Meanwhile, drizzle a little olive into a small pan and add 1 finely chopped onion and 3 cloves garlic. Season and cook slowly until softened.

    Step 2

  3. When the tomatoes are nicely roasted, add them to the softened onions and garlic. Add some chiptoles or smoked jalapeños and leave to simmer for a little while.

    Step 3

  4. After the sauce has cooked down, check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Blend to make a smooth sauce using a stick blender.

    Step 4

  5. Fill 4 flour tortillas with a filling of your choice. Wrap up firmly and place in an ovenproof baking dish. Top with the salsa and about 200 g cheese (it can be a mix of mozzarella, Cheddar, etc.) and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and melty. Serve with pickled onions, coriander and sour cream.

    Step 5

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