In many of my family gatherings, empanadas and enchiladas have been the stars of the show. Although they share some similarities, these two Mexican delicacies are not that easy to mix up. Still, besides their appearance, some differences may not be as obvious, and your preferences may depend on those exactly.
So, to help you decide which one you prefer, I will describe their key differences in preparation, flavor, appearance, and serving method in the following text. Let’s get started!
Differences Between Empanada and Enchilada
The most obvious difference is that you need to make the dough for the empanada, but that is in no way the only one. I enjoy both of them, yet some of my family members prefer one over the other because of their specialties:
An empanada is a bread stuffed with vegetables, meat, or both. Depending on your preferences, filling ingredients may vary, but the dough is what makes or breaks an empanada. So, to prepare a perfect dough, you will need flour, butter, ice water, baking powder, egg, and salt.
To ensure the success of the dough, use chilled butter. In my experience, melted butter is hard to handle and usually makes a tough crust, which ruined a couple of my empanada evenings before I started learning from my mistakes. So, mix in the flour, salt, baking soda, and butter until they start looking like wet sand, whisk an egg with a small amount of cold water, add it to the dry ingredients, and start mixing while adding water a little bit at a time.
Once all the ingredients are mixed, you can start kneading the dough to make it softer and help all of the ingredients bind together. Let it sit for an hour, then divide it into little balls, roll them out to about half centimeters thin, add filling, close the dough with your fingers or fork, and start frying.
On the other hand, the base for an enchilada is the tortilla. Although you can make it from scratch, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re at least a semi-professional. It does taste better, yet it takes more time and effort compared to getting a package of tortillas in a grocery shop.
However, if you do choose to make tortillas at home, you will need butter or lard, flour, cold water, baking powder, and salt. You can either use regular flour or corn flour — there is no difference in processing, but it might be in taste.
The process is pretty much the same as with empanada dough: mix dry ingredients, add wet ones, whisk all together while adding water, knead the dough, and let it sit for 10 minutes. After that, divide it into small pieces, roll out those pieces into circular shapes, and fry tortillas for about a half minute on both sides.
Before stuffing, you should reheat them in a skillet just enough to make them elastic. Once that process is over, dip tortillas in a sauce, add stuffing, fold in a baking pan, and let it bake at 400 °F for 10 to 15 minutes.
Stuffing and Sauces: Sweet and Savory Empanadas and Enchiladas
Stuffing for enchiladas and empanadas may include all sorts of vegetables, beef, and chicken meat. However, the most common empanada stuffing is ground beef and hard-boiled egg filling, while enchilada filling usually contains chicken meat.
I also love making them into desserts, and sweet empanadas and enchiladas are a well-known delicacy at my family parties.
Compared to this, empanadas may seem a pretty simple dish. But take into account the potential this pastry has when it comes to dipping and combining with sauces. I always serve empanadas with at least two sauces — hot chili sauce and guacamole. Recently, I started experimenting with black beans, jalapenos, and even green tomatoes while preparing the dips, and the results were delicious!
Enchiladas usually come soaked in sauce and covered with melted cheese. You do the soaking before stuffing and baking, and you can use either red chili or green jalapeno sauce. But don’t be afraid to experiment.
Taste & Textural Differences
If your empanadas are crunchy on the outside and savory on the inside, you have done them right. Since they are a Mexican dish, they should be at least a bit spicy, but the general flavor depends pretty much on your preferences.
Enchiladas, on the other hand, should be a combination of soft, creamy, and savory. If you feel like they need a crunch, you can always make them with veggies and serve a deep-fried chicken on a side, or you can simply garnish it with fresh iceberg salad, radishes, or paprika. They can be pretty spicy, especially if you soak them in a red sauce.
I really enjoy preparing those, also known as enchiladas rojas, because the sauce contains three types of chili peppers. Each of the peppers gives the sauce a specific note — smoky, spicy, and sweet — and you can taste them with every delicious bite.
Appearance & Serving Methods: Simple Empanadas and Lux Enchiladas
Unlike empanadas, which have a simple pastry appearance and need only sauce on the side, enchiladas let you explore your garnishing abilities.
One option is to serve them on a plate in pairs, covered with sauce, with some salad, guacamole, or fresh avocado sliced and sprinkled with salt and lemon juice on a side. The other is to garnish them on a salad with sauce on the side. Whichever you choose, you have an abundance of ingredients at your disposal.
Which Is Better, Empanadas or Enchiladas?
My cousin appreciates empanada for its dipping quality, which makes it, as he says, “an elegant meal.” My father prefers soft and spicy enchiladas, which are, according to him, a “heavenly meal.” My friend finds enchiladas need more crunch, while empanadas could have more creamy filling… So, I advise you to try both and decide for yourself.
If you ask me, there is no winner here. Both empanadas and enchiladas are feel-good meals that should find a way to your dining table. And they’re so delicious when done right!
Which of these do you prefer, enchiladas or empanadas? I would love to hear about your preferences in the comments below!