Monday, January 10, 2011

Recipe: Enchiladas Potosinas

The word enchilada in Spanish literally means "infused with chili peppers".[1] So unlike their American or Tex-Mex counterparts, which just have a sauce on top, enchiladas in México are either made by soaking the tortillas in a chili sauce or by including the chili peppers in the tortilla dough.[2] Enchiladas Potosinas are a regional variety of enchilada made in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí, which includes Matehuala, a city I served in during my mission.[3] Ironically, the only time I ever had enchiladas Potosinas was in the city of Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo León. With a little help from this blog, I've recreated the recipe.

  • 2 bags of dried cascabel peppers [4]
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • enough tortilla dough to make 12 tortillas [5]
  • vegetable oil for frying 
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 5–6 oz. of Manchego cheese, Queso Añejo, or Queso Fresco [6]
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • vegetable oil for sautéing
  • limes
  • 1 avocado (for guacamole)
  • crema (Mexican table cream) or sour cream
  • lettuce, shredded
  • 1 Roma tomato, chopped
  • crumbled cheese [7]
  • salsa verde [8]


Cut or snap the stems off the dried chilies and soften them by boiling in water for 15 minutes.[9]

Allow the peppers to cool and then put them in a blender with the garlic and the salt. Add a little of the water that they were boiled in. Purée until smooth.

Add the pepper purée to the tortilla dough and knead it in.[10]

Roll the dough into 1½ to 2 inch balls. With the added volume of the purée, this should yield ~18 tortillas.

Roll out the balls into 6 to 8 inch tortillas. Cook the tortillas on a pan or griddle at medium heat. Turn occasionally until they start to turn brown.

To make the filling, sauté the onions in a little vegetable oil until they start to turn transparent. Add the tomatoes and sauté for another 1–2 minutes.

Grate or crumble the cheese and add it to the pan. Stir continuously until the cheese has melted.[11] Remove from heat.

Fill each tortilla with a spoonful of the filling and fold in half.

Heat the cooking oil at medium low heat for 10 minutes. Add the enchiladas and fry them for 3–4 minutes,  turning them halfway through. Then remove and drain. They should remain soft.

Serve topped with sour cream or crema, gaucamole, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and crumbled cheese.[12]


[1] It is derived from the Spanish prefix en- "in", the Nahuatl (Atec) word chīlli "chili pepper", and the Spanish suffix -ado which indicates the past participle (e.g. "-ated" in English). The word is also used to indicate someone who has eaten chili peppers until the pain overwhelms them. For naïve pepper eaters, this is usually after the first pepper.

[2]  The first time I tried making this recipe, I dipped pre-made corn tortillas in the chili purée and then fried them. It was a disaster. The chili purée immediately came off the tortillas in the hot oil bath, instead of crisping up the tortillas stayed soggy, and the purée gave off a most unpleasant smell as it fried.

[3] For those who are unsure why Latter-day Saints (Mormons) go on missions, I recommend you visit here and here, where you can learn more about LDS beliefs concerning sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have more questions, ask and maybe I'll do a full post on the topic.

[4] The Spanish word cascabel is most often used to indicate a "rattlesnake" (it also means "jingle bells" and the grass Briza maxima). This particular variety of chili pepper is so named because the pepper pods rattle when they're dried. I've only ever seen them in Mexican stores, so you can substitute with 1 bag of dried guajillo peppers, dried pasilla peppers, or dried puya peppers (they're all bigger than cascabel peppers, so you'll only need one bag). I've seen all of these in most grocery stores, in the Latin foods section. If any of the peppers have an ugly gray color, they're probably moldy and shouldn't be used.

Cascabel chiliesGuajillo chiliesPuya chilies

[5] I just bought a bag of pre-mixed tortilla dough (masa de harina). All I had to do was add water and knead it.

[6] A review of the flavors of these cheeses can be read here (scroll down). The Manchego melts the best, but I've only ever seen it at WalMart. The Queso Añejo and the Queso Fresco don't melt as well (see note #11 below) but you can usually find one or the other at any grocery store.

[7] The crumbled cheese can be Queso Cotija, Queso Fresco, or Queso Añejo.

[8] Some people add the salsa verde to the filling rather than using it as a topping.

[9] Don't worry about removing the seeds. Most of them will come out during the boiling and will be left behind in the water when you purée the peppers.

[10] This made the dough sticky, again, so I had to add more dry tortilla dough mix.

[11] If you use the Manchego cheese (shown above), it will melt nicely. If you use the Queso Añejo or the Queso Fresco (shown here), they will separate and remain stringy or clumpy. This is nothing to worry about; the flavor will still be intact.

[12] Some people top these only with chopped onion and cilantro.

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