Most of the time, Mexican delicacies are tricky to distinguish, especially those dishes of enchiladas and chimichangas. Because these 2 delicacies look so much alike, they leave many people clueless about their differences.
If you’re one of those who cannot tell these 2 famous wraps apart, today’s detailed enchilada vs. chimichanga rundown will lend you a hand. Stay tuned for our detailed comparison.
Related: Most popular Mexican foods
Chimichanga vs Enchilada: What Exactly Are They?
Initially, enchiladas are an incredibly delicious method Mexicans use to utilize the leftovers. The first documented type of dish was, most likely, just a tortilla wrap with chili dressing. However, throughout centuries, they have become popular street food.
On the other hand, chimichangas are a famous delicacy, prepared by adding meat, beans, cheese, and extra ingredients to the tortilla, then wrapped and fried.
Enchilada Vs Chimichanga: The Difference
Origins (are they Mexican?)
Enchiladas originally came from Mexico, as most would expect. Way back in the Mayan era, people rolled various ingredients into tortillas. It has become a habit for millennia in the region, and the tradition goes on till today.
The initial enchiladas were corn tortillas with fish filling. When the Spanish colonists landed, they meticulously recorded everything the Iocals ate.
They mentioned enchiladas a lot, and how people made them was pretty much all over the place. In the 18th century, these even got presented in one of the earliest Mexican cookbooks.
Chimichanga, on the other hand, is not a traditional Mexican dish. Instead, it is part of the Tex-Mex cuisine, which usually involves adapted Mexican dishes found on the Northern Mexican border.
Chimichangas are highly famous in Tucson, Arizona, the dish’s birthplace. According to folklore, Monica Flin of the El Charro Cafe inadvertently slipped a tortilla into a sizzling oil pan in the early 1950s. Because there were kids around, she avoided swearing by saying, “chimichanga.”
Towards regular eaters, the wraps of these two dishes might look the same. However, these dishes use 2 different kinds of tortillas. While enchiladas usually utilize corn tortillas, people typically use wheat tortillas to make chimichangas.
This difference comes from their distinct origins and the ingredient adaptations in those areas.
Indeed, the reason why corn tortillas are the go-to ingredient in almost every Mexican wrap and why wheat tortillas are so famous in Tex-Mex cuisine is simple.
Geologically, you can find corn everywhere. As they have existed for decades as a vital agricultural product in Mexican culture, it’s no strange that this ingredient significantly impacts the area’s cuisine.
On the other hand, wheat was only available when the Spaniards came to America, bringing the seeds from Europe. In other words, wheat tortillas back then were exclusively in Northern Mexico and the United States, where they have become popularized in Tex-Mex culture.
The sizes of the tortillas also differ from one another. While enchiladas are usually in 6-to-8-inch flour tortillas, ready-made corn tortillas are approximately 10 inches. Restaurant-made ones, however, typically extend from 13 to 16 inches.
Based on the tortilla sizes, the final dishes also have different servings. Typically, more than 3 servings of enchilada equal one serving of chimichanga.
The fillings of enchilada aren’t demanding at all. They could either be freshly prepared meat or even leftovers. You may even skip the meat and fill the tortilla with black beans and vegetables if you’re a vegan.
However, regarding the meat option, the 2 most popular enchilada meat fillings are chicken and beef. Yet, nowadays, you can technically add anything into your enchilada.
On the other hand, a chimichanga’s primary ingredient is meat. There are many chimichanga’s meat options to choose from: you could select anything from dried meat to seasoned pork and finely diced or shredded chicken. However, people would usually go for a beef chimichanga.
The reason is simple: As stated above, a chimichanga is a Tex-Mex dish, and the area technically is all about the beef. As a result, it plays a prominent role in Tex-Mex cuisine, notably in chimichangas.
Besides the meat, you can pair your chimichangas with a few other ingredients. For example, cheese, rice, and beans can be great additions to your chimichanga alongside the meat.
People usually serve enchiladas with 2 famous sauces: the red chili dressing called Rojo and the green chili dressing called Verde. These sauces typically include dried red or green chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and sour cream. As a result, the dish tends to be pretty spicy.
On the other hand, people usually pair chimichangas with various dressing options, including melted cheese (must-have in most cases), enchilada, guacamole, salsa, carne asada, and sour cream.
Another big difference between these two dishes is the spice factor.
As cumin is the star ingredient in Tex-Mex culture, it usually appears in dishes like chimichangas. However, in its homeland, people seldom use this ingredient. Instead, they prefer chili peppers and cilantro.
When comparing the tastes of these ingredients, traditional Mexican food like enchilada tends to be way spicier than Tex-Mex ones. However, putting enchiladas and chimichanga on the same table shows that the latter is a considerably milder dish.
The cooking techniques of these two dishes are also different.
If you want to have traditional Mexican enchiladas, the cooks will initially make a chili dressing which they utilize to create the signature flavor afterward.
Then, the chefs will insert the fillings in the corn tortillas before dipping the wrap in the signature chili dressing. According to some modern recipes, you can also add cheese into the stuffing, but people will use it as a topping in most cases.
Then, they will place the enchiladas in the oven and bake them until everything is hot. They can also put the shredded cheese on top of the enchiladas to have a melted cheese topping in the last few minutes.
See how to make Enchilada here:
On the other hand, to make a chimichanga, you must prepare a traditional burrito. As stated above, the fillings are up to your preferences, but often, they include meat, veggies, spices, cheese, and tomato.
The chefs will roll all ingredients in a wheat tortilla and use a stick or a wooden skewer to prevent any components from falling out and causing a mess.
Then, they will fry this (deep frying is advisable) in a hot pan at about 200°C until the outside becomes golden and crunchy. Usually, it takes about 3 minutes.
Alternatively, you could also brush it with oil and use your oven for baking it. However, people still prefer the first technique.
See how to make Chimichanga here:
How to eat
As mentioned above, an enchilada piece is about 6 to 8 inches, which perfectly fits a mouth bite. Therefore, you don’t have to use a knife at all. Yet, most of the time, the dish comes with a dressing on top, so you cannot eat it with your hands. The best choice here, however, is using a fork.
On the other hand, enjoying chimichangas requires using both a knife and a fork. As each fried burrito is pretty large (up to 13+ inches), it’s advisable to cut it into smaller pieces.
The chimichanga also comes with lots of toppings like melted cheese or dressings. Thus, using a fork will minimize the chances of having a messy meal.
Should I call it a fried burrito?
You should call it by its official name, which is chimichanga.
Now you know the 7 significant differences between enchilada and chimichanga – no more walking in a Mexican restaurant and feeling confused when looking at the menu!