Enchilada vs Taco: Spotting the Delicious Differences

Tex-Mex foodies have long debated the differences between these two dishes: enchilada vs taco. While some appear to have figured out the answer on their own, others are still struggling to tell enchiladas and tacos apart.

Suppose you don’t know how to distinguish between the two savory dishes, no worries. We’re here to dispel some common misconceptions regarding enchiladas vs tacos.

Along with that, our quick guide will walk you through the differences in their origins, ingredients, and other meticulous details to help you perfect your Mexican recipes.


Generally speaking, enchiladas can be considered a type of burrito. They are made up of a maize or flour tortilla that has been filled with ingredients and tightly wrapped. Also, enchiladas include sauce and cheese, which are served with a choice of sides. It’s one of the few Mexican meals that can be eaten with a knife and fork.

Enchiladas are thought to have begun as a street meal and developed through time, with the earliest recorded form being a rolled tortilla coated in chili sauce. The term is made up of two Nahuatl words: “chili” and “flute.”

Enchiladas go well with a simple side of thinly sliced iceberg lettuce drizzled with apple cider vinegar and salt. Iceberg lettuce is crisp and cold, and it’s the perfect texture and flavor to go with enchiladas. You may also top them with sliced avocado or guacamole, sour cream dollops, and freshly chopped cilantro.

Enchiladas are mentioned in the first known Mexican cookbook, El Cocinero Mexicano (“The Mexican Cook”), published in 1831. Fillings in the nineteenth century were a little less complicated than we are accustomed to. For example, they were filled with olives and onions or picadillos (pork with onion). Cheese was occasionally strewn over them.


The hard, yellowish shells we find on grocery shelves are nothing like an actual Mexican taco (pronounced “TAA-koh”). Instead, the original taco is a little maize flat roll with toppings that have been freshly prepared.

Spiced meats, fresh vegetables, beans, pulses, and creamy cheese can all be used to create different flavor combinations. The distinctive shell shape develops as you raise the soft taco on both sides with your fingers, transforming the topping into a large filling.

The hard taco (American or Tex-Mex) is often regarded as the signature taco offered throughout the world. However, plenty of places provide a softer option.

It’s not truly an authentic taco if you use wheat flour instead of corn flour or add iceberg lettuce to your taco. There’s no harm in breaking a few rules, though, thanks to a plethora of delectable variations.

Enchilada vs Taco: 4 Factors to Tell Them Apart

Origins (Are They Mexican?)

The taco’s exact history is shrouded in mystery. One of the more plausible explanations concerns Mexico’s silver mines in the seventeenth century. A taco was originally a paper casing folded around gunpowder to be used as an explosive.

The term taco was not connected with a specific cuisine until the turn of the century, when tacos de minero, sometimes known as “miners’ tacos,” became popular.

Mexican immigrants brought tacos to America at the turn of the twentieth century. Since then, American taste preferences and locally sourced ingredients have boosted the taco’s popularity, with minced meat and iceberg lettuce becoming standard toppings thanks to Americans’ eating habits.

Meanwhile, enchiladas are said to have originated in Mexico, where the technique of wrapping tortillas around other foods dates back to the Aztecs. Corn tortillas folded or rolled around small fish were traditionally eaten by people living in the Valley of Mexico’s lake region.

Besides, enchiladas were mentioned in the first Mexican cookbook, El Cocinero Mexicano (“The Mexican Chef”), published in 1831, and Mariano Galván Rivera’s Diccionario de Cocina, published in 1845, as part of a commemoration of Mexican cuisine.


The secret is in the packaging. A taco is stuffed with meat and veggies before being folded in half to form a crescent shape, whereas an enchilada is loaded with meat and cheese before being wrapped into a cylinder shape.

In addition, tacos are often served in a tiny corn tortilla shell and are considered more of a snack than a full meal in terms of size. On the other hand, enchiladas are typically served as a meal in a giant wheat tortilla.

Meat and Fillings

Building up delicious layers is the key to filling tacos. If you use only simple components with minimal diversity, the dish will be bland and flavorless. However, if you dare to add additional variation to the mix, you’ll be rewarded with a tasty experience.

You’ll need a variety of fillings to produce a great taco. Spicy meats, shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole are all popular alternatives. Here are some real-life examples for you to try: zucchini, corn, feta, parsley, mint, pumpkin, chorizo, spicy chicken, and beans.

If you want modern but traditional Mexican enchiladas, the chef will first make a chili sauce, which will flavor the enchiladas. The sauce is made of many varieties of dried red chili peppers, such as ancho, guajillo, jalapeno, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and sour cream.

Next, corn tortillas are cooked in oil before being dipped in the sauce on both sides. They are then rolled with a filling of your choice, such as chicken, minced meat, or a vegetarian option. Finally, cheese is sometimes put in, but it is usually placed on the top, although cheese is optional. Enchiladas are generally cooked in the oven until they are heated through.

Sauces to Use With Tacos and Enchiladas

Ingredients are one of the primary distinctions between taco and enchilada sauces — more precisely, the spice that gives each sauce its distinct flavor.

Chilies are used to make the enchilada sauce, while cayenne pepper is used to make a great taco sauce. Furthermore, chili powder is usually used in a great enchilada, whereas smoked paprika is used in taco sauce.

Taco sauce comprises tomatoes, onions, and sweet or spicy peppers, much as ordinary salsa. You may also enhance the tanginess by using vinegar or lemon juice. However, unlike salsa, all components of taco sauce must be blended and simmered until a thick, yet smooth texture is achieved.

On the other hand, enchilada sauce does not always contain tomatoes, but it is pureed and heated to a more liquid consistency. People prefer using tomato paste over tomato sauce if adding a tomato flavor. However, in taco sauce, tomato sauce brings all of the flavors together.


Is an enchilada considered a taco?

There is no definitive answer to this question, as it depends on who you ask. However, most people would say that an enchilada is not a taco.

Enchiladas are made with corn tortillas, while tacos are traditionally made with flour tortillas. Enchiladas are also usually topped with a red sauce, while tacos are typically served with a variety of toppings, including salsa, sour cream, and guacamole.

What is the best taco sauce?

Most people would say that the best taco sauce is a mix of salsa and sour cream. This combination provides a tasty and tangy flavor that goes well with most tacos.

Can enchilada sauce be used for tacos?

Yes, enchilada sauce can be used for tacos. However, it is important to note that the flavor of enchilada sauce is different from that of taco sauce. If you are looking for a more traditional taco flavor, then taco sauce may be a better choice.

Are enchilada sauce and salsa the same?

No, enchilada sauce and salsa are not the same. Enchilada sauce is a red sauce typically made with chili peppers, while salsa is a type of condiment made with tomatoes, onions, and chili peppers.

Salsa can be used as a topping for tacos, while enchilada sauce is generally used to top enchiladas.

What is enchilada sauce made of?

Enchilada sauce is made of chili peppers, tomatoes, and onions. It can also include other ingredients, such as garlic, cumin, and oregano. Enchilada sauce is typically made with a variety of chili peppers, which gives it its characteristic red color.

How do you make enchilada sauce less spicy?

If you find that enchilada sauce is too spicy for your taste, there are a few things you can do to reduce the heat.

One option is to add some additional ingredients, such as sugar or honey. You can also try adding more tomatoes or tomatillos, which will help to balance out the spiciness of the chili peppers. Another option is to use a milder variety of chili pepper, such as poblano or ancho peppers.


Perhaps you’ve already figured out your final answer to the age-old question we presented at the beginning of this article. If that’s the case, we’d love to see you make sensible choices when it comes to selecting the proper Tex-Mex cuisine to satisfy your taste buds.

Hopefully, visiting your favorite Tex-Mex eateries down the road will no longer be a stressful experience. You can thank us later by coming back for more valuable tips and articles.

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For transparency, this content was partly developed with AI assistance and carefully curated by an experienced editor to be informative and ensure accuracy.

Tamara Pierce

Tamara Pierce is a food writer at Elapasony, passionate about exploring diverse cuisines and sharing recipes and food experiences. From trendy restaurants to local hotspots, she's always on the lookout for new and exciting flavors.

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