Enchilada is a Mexican delicacy known for its delightful flavors.
An authentic Mexican enchilada is very easy to make: Roll the tortilla around a filling, place some cheeses atop, bake, and accompany it with a flavor-enhancing sauce.
However, what makes this dish ubiquitous lies in how customizable it is. There are numerous types of tortillas (corn, wheat, flour) and fillings (veggies, chicken, lamb, pork, or seafood) for you to choose and combine.
So how about cheese?
What kind of cheese goes in enchiladas?
If that’s what you’ve been wondering, then this article is for you!
What Kind Of Cheese Goes In Enchiladas?
The beauty of chicken enchiladas is that you can modify the recipe with your favorite sauce, toppings, or fillings, and cheese is no exception. Give every type of cheese a try to see which ones go well with other ingredients.
Due to its soft texture, Monterey Jack is known for its amazing melting properties. Monterey Jack has a mild, nutty flavor with a slightly sweet taste, but its flavor is still mellow enough to not get in the way of other ingredients. For this reason, it pairs exceptionally well with cheeses with a sharper taste.
Monterey Jack is also universally loved for its incredible versatility with various cooking applications. It can be crumbled over soups, vegetable tarts, or stuffed into baked goods such as biscuits, bread, and souffle. Alternatively, it can be sliced and served as part of other savory dishes, including tacos, toasted sandwiches, and pasta dishes.
Originating from southern Italy, mozzarella often accompanies Italian delicacies such as pizza and pasta. As these quintessential dishes spread all over the world, so does mozzarella.
This type of cheese varies significantly in shelf life and color. The less moisture mozzarella contains, the longer it takes before mozzarella decays. As a result, this Italian cheese can be white or pale yellow, depending on the milk it is made from. Traditionally, mozzarella is derived from buffalo’s milk, but more recent variations using cow’s, goat’s, or sheep’s milk have emerged.
Queso Blanco is an umbrella term as opposed to a particular type of cheese. It refers to all-white cheeses that are a hybrid of mozzarella and cottage cheese. Made from skim cow’s milk, Queso Blanco imparts a light flavor to your dish with a trace of saltiness.
In addition, Queso Blanco’s unique texture sets it apart from other cheeses: While Queso Blanco does soften beautifully when exposed to high temperatures, it does not melt completely. Instead, Queso Blanco still manages to hold its shape, making it an ideal topping or filling for various dishes, including enchiladas, chicken breasts, grain salads, peppers, or casserole.
Derived from a blend of cow’s and goat’s milk, Queso Fresco boasts a distinctive flavor profile: mild, buttery, salty with a touch of acidity. Its subtly sour aftertaste makes queso fresco a perfect, refreshing companion with rich, heavy main courses.
If you want your dishes to have a melty finish, then Queso Oaxaca might be your all-time favorite. With a soft and creamy texture, this mild cheese is noted for its unparalleled melt-ability, which enhances the mouthfeel of other ingredients.
Its flavor and consistency closely resemble fresh mozzarella. What’s more, due to its ability to absorb and enrich the taste of other ingredients, Queso Panela appears in a vast array of dishes. It is either sprinkled into appetizers such as salads or burritos or added as a must-have ingredient in entrees, including omelets, sandwiches, or enchiladas.
Made from cow’s or goat’s milk, this aged cheese is widely known for its dry and crumbly texture. Though cotija is hardly used as a critical component in main dishes, it is still a lovely embellishment to pasta, salads, tacos, or grilled corn.
What’s The Most Popular Cheese Choice For Chicken Enchiladas?
Authentic Mexican enchiladas call for cheeses made from cow’s milk, whereas those derived from goat’s or sheep’s milk are barely used. Queso Blanco, Queso Fresco, Queso Panela, and Cotija are the most common types, thanks to their light and tantalizing flavors.
Can You Use Other Cheese Substitutes For Making This Dish?
Absolutely. If you are not into using a single type of cheese, why not create your one-of-a-kind cheese blend? Here’s how you can do it to spice up your recipe:
- Use a food processor to pull 4 blocks of cheese apart into thin strings.
- Toss your shredded cheeses into a bowl, and mix them gently.
- Store your mixture in airtight containers or freezer bags and keep it in a cool place to prevent premature spoilage.
In case you don’t know which varieties you should opt for, here’s a clue: Seasoned cooks often choose 2 types of cheese with a robust taste and then balance it out using 2 mild-flavored pieces of cheese. Most chefs also like cheeses with a firm or semi-firm texture instead of those which melt completely when heated.
But again, there is no hard-and-fast rule for cooking in general, and enchiladas in particular. What you choose comes down to personal preference, so make use of your boundless creativity to play around with recipes and create your signature dishes.
Here’s a video explaining about Mexican cheese blend:
Bear in mind that pre-packaged cheese blends in supermarkets may not give you the best bang for your buck. Such store-bought mixtures are often composed of low-cost, low-quality cheeses instead of premium ones that complement each other.
Even worse, the vast majority of them are loaded with additives and preservatives, all of which can have a negative impact on your health in the long run.
What Would Happen If You Add Too Much Cheese To Chicken Enchiladas?
Excess cheese can make your chicken enchiladas too greasy, resulting in a bloated feeling after just a few mouthfuls. To remedy this situation, add any vegetables you have at your disposal, be it broccoli, cauliflower, or bell pepper, to neutralize the richness and increase the fiber content of your dish.
Additionally, it would be best to opt for certified organic, grass-fed cheeses because they contain a higher level of healthy fat than cheeses made from cows living in cramped, restricted settings. What’s more, most foodies agree that organic cheese is out of this world.
If such a type of cheese is nowhere to be found in your local area, then look for brands labeled “reduced-fat” or “part-skim,” which means they contain merely 2% milk fat. We, however, do not suggest you buy fat-free varieties as they often let fussy eaters down with their bland flavor profiles.
How Many Calories Is Chicken Enchilada?
It depends. Ready-made chicken enchiladas have a bad rap for how calorie-dense and fattening they are. Jam-packed with meat and heavily topped with refried beans, enchiladas at fast food outlets are high in sodium, saturated fat but low in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
Each serving also contains up to 323 calories. If consumed regularly, commercially available enchiladas can heighten your risk of suffering from obesity and heart diseases.
That being said, this problem can be solved by making enchiladas at home and tailoring the recipe to your own nutritional needs. For example, you can use meat, sour cream, or cheese in moderation, as well as swap fried beans with boiled veggies. By doing this, you can halve the number of calories and lower your daily intake of fat to a minimum.
Cheese is an indispensable component in chicken enchiladas thanks to its delicate taste, buttery texture, and ability to bring out other ingredients’ divine flavors.
With an extensive range of cheese varieties available, there are surely some options that can suit your taste preference. So, find out your go-to types and take your enchiladas to new heights of flavor!
Mariana Rouco is the editor-in-chief of Elpasony.com. She loves traveling and writing about foods and cooking in general. She has a degree from the New England Culinary Institute and enjoys Mexican, Italian, and Chinese cuisines the most.