What Does Chilaquiles Mean To Mexican People?

Last Updated on October 20, 2021 by

Being such a whimsical word, what does chilaquiles mean?

Chilaquiles are one of the absolute favorite dishes of Mexicans. And. ironically, one of the most off-putting for foreigners who come to visit.

While they may tend to look pretty straightforward, there are many varieties that reflect the multi-culturalism that Mexico is so famed for. In different restaurants, you’ll find them fried or roasted, watery or drier, with egg or meat.

It is one of those foods that’s just so versatile that it often inspires quite a bit of culinary creativity in the person who prepares it. This way, a real sense of taste plays itself out. chilaquiles are also perfect both for a family breakfast or for a hangover. Although they are so common in Mexican´s everyday life, we rarely wonder about its origin, or what its name means. 

Chilaquiles History

According to Ángel María Garibay (1892-1967), a priest who became interested in Nahuatl, the word chilaquil comes from the Nahuatl voice chīlaquīlli. Chilaquilli in turn is composed of the words chīlī “chile”, and aquīlli “[something] put in ». As for something that was submerged in chile, we don’t know if the chilaquiles had any primary form during pre-Hispanic times. However, it is clear that corn and chili were protagonists in the cuisine of that time.

If this is the case, it is important to clarify that cheese, onion, and cream should have been introduced later. These products arrived together with the Spaniards. One of the first records of chili sauce is that made by Fray Alonso de Molina in 1571, who came to New Spain during his childhood, learned Nahuatl, and served as an evangelizer and interpreter under Hernán Cortés.

Other sources trace the origin of chilaquiles to a cookbook called The Spanish Cook that Encarnacion Pinedo brought to the Americas in 1898.

 what are chilaquiles

Chilaquiles Definition

So, what are chilaquiles? They are corn tortillas that have been cut, fried, and cooked to be submerged in sauce. Many people like to cut the tortillas in triangles which are then fried. The sauce is prepared separately.

The sauce can vary according to the spicy taste and desired color of each one. You can use fresh or dried chilies and use tomatillo or tomato as a base.

You can make chilaquiles verdes, green chilaquiles if you prepare a sauce with green small tomatoes or tomatillos, jalapeños, cilantro, and onions. On the other hand, chilaquiles rojos, red chilaquiles, are made with red tomatoes, garlic, onion, jalapeños, and chicken broth.

Once the sauce is fully cooked, the tortillas are submerged in the sauce. Before serving them, you can add onion, shredded cheese, and cream on top.

These are simple quesadillas. People add chicken of beefsteak to the sauce. Both meats need to be shredded so that they get totally immersed in. the sauce.

Hence, the rest of the ingredients added in its presentation depends on the imagination of whoever is cooking them, finding in each one, an even greater diversity of flavors and textures.

 chilaquiles definition

Different Ways To Enjoy Chilaquiles 

It is common for many people in Mexico to think of chilaquiles as being a breakfast meal, particularly when you add in a sunny side-up egg. In the morning, you can also enjoy chilaquiles with scrambled eggs and frijoles, brown beans. However, chilaquiles can also be a dish for any time. When accompanied with a cut of meat or breaded or shredded chicken, it may be served at any day.

On the other hand, chilaquiles provides carbohydrates, proteins, fiber, vitamins, and most importantly, the flavor and spiciness of the chili. Of course, it is said that everyone has their own style when preparing them, which results in a wide range of options, from toast the tortillas in the oven to avoid passing through fats and contribute to a healthy diet. Even more, some prefer them classic browns when fried in oil or butter.

Tips And Tricks To Make Chilaquiles

What makes this such a powerhouse of meal is that its foundation of fried tortilla turns into a party that sets up the flavor of whatever it is that you add on top. 

The sauce is what really makes this an absolute treat, both in terms of texture and flavor. There are many people who prefer a creamier sauce, especially when they add the delicious vegetable Epazote. 

If you are a vegetarian and would like to add a twist to the simple chilaquiles, you can add vegetables. We recommend vegetables such as zucchini, peas, carrots. You need to cut them in small pieces so that they can blend with the sauce.

Read more about Have You Ever Wondered: What Is Tamarindo Drink?


Chilaquiles are widely considered throughout Mexico to be one of the ultimate comfort foods, and not just because it is soft and cushiony in texture. It has so much flavor and almost feels like a dessert when you’re eating it. This is why tons of people love to put quite a lot of cheese atop it.

One of the beauties of chilaquiles is that you can prepare a whole bowl with them and keep them in the fridge. The best is to store them for no more than two days. If you keep them any longer, the tortilla will get too soapy and the chilaquiles will lose their consistency and characteristic flavor. Even though it is best to warm them up, especially if you are adding a fried egg on top, you can enjoy them cold.

Some people love chilaquiles tortas, sandwiches of chilaquiles. Yes, it might sound like taking a lot of carbohydrates at the same time. This might make the favor redundant, but it does not. You can add extra chicken or beef to lessen the carbohydrate intake.

All in all, chilaquiles are quite a versatile dish that easily accommodates to various uses and times, and occasions.

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