16 Best Additions To Upgrade Enchiladas

Enchiladas are a household favorite for many. You can make them with a range of proteins like chicken, turkey, beef, or pork. You could create a vegetarian or vegan version with various vegetables. My mother-in-law makes incredible potato and carrot enchiladas that are packed with flavor. 

In U.S. culture, we're used to the word "salsa" meaning something with chopped tomatoes to dip chips in, but salsa in Spanish simply means sauce. We'll refer to sauces as salsas in this article. The translation for "salsa de mole" is mole sauce, while "salsa verde" quite literally means green sauce, and you can use either of them to switch up the taste and color of your enchiladas. 

Give your enchiladas a creamy kick by mixing sour cream, cream cheese, or yogurt into your salsa. Try something different by using turkey or canned chicken as your protein of choice. Get your veg on with pickled vegetables, grilled vegetables, or spinach. Whether you fry your corn tortillas or use a smidge of broth, there are plenty of simple additions out there to upgrade your enchiladas.

1. Turkey

While turkey might not be the most popular choice of protein to add to enchiladas, this is a great addition if you want poultry other than chicken. It's also a leaner protein source than beef or pork. Turkey has high protein and low fat, and contains vitamins and minerals such as iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and zinc. It can switch up the flavor of your enchiladas and act as a great starting point to impart distinct tastes, since it's almost like a blank canvas. 

You can add spices, salsas, fresh herbs, and other ingredients, and turkey will soak it all in. Ground turkey will also provide a different texture than shredded chicken would. However, if you love shredded chicken enchiladas, use cooked turkey and then shred it yourself for a similar effect. 

When using ground turkey, you'll want to cook or brown it ahead of time to eliminate extra moisture — otherwise, your enchiladas might get too soggy and fall apart. Follow your favorite chicken enchilada recipe and substitute it with turkey, or try a turkey enchilada skillet recipe.

2. Cream cheese, sour cream, or yogurt

Sour cream is often added on top of enchiladas as a garnish, but you can also give your enchilada salsa a creamy kick with it, as well as other dairy-based products like cream cheese or yogurt. Depending on which product you use, it can provide additional creaminess or tanginess. 

Sour cream or Greek yogurt both lean toward the more tangy side, whereas cream cheese gives it richness. Combine sour cream and salsa for creamier enchiladas. This scrumptious combination complements the flavor of the enchilada sauce while balancing out the heat from the chilies. 

Adding sour cream, cream cheese, or yogurt can make any sauce more decadent, or thicken it up. You can also pick between full-, low-, or non-fat options, depending on your dietary needs or the flavor you want your enchiladas to have. A higher-fat version will be thicker and richer if you want to thicken up a runny sauce. Give this creamy addition a shot next time you make chicken or beef enchiladas.

3. Toasted spices

Give dishes new life and change their flavor profiles by toasting your spices. This simple step can provide a change in taste, aroma, and color while giving foods more depth. Toast spices such as peppercorns, cloves, cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper, all of which can enhance enchiladas with delicious intensity. 

To toast your spices, gather them on a warm pan and move them around in a single layer so they cook a little bit. Keep your eye on them and stir constantly, because you don't want them to burn. You'll want to take extra caution for smaller spices like cloves, because they tend to toast easily. If you're toasting multiple spices, keep similar-sized ones together. 

The level of toasting is up to you as well. Toast spices for longer if you prefer things more well done and want a deeper flavor, or keep the toasting time short if you want spices to have less of a char taste. Transfer the spices to a different vessel immediately after heating, so they don't continue toasting even after you turn off the stove. 

4. Crispy corn tortillas

Fried corn tortillas are a game-changer for enchiladas. Corn tortillas are the best type of tortilla to use for enchiladas because they hold together better than flour tortillas. However, when you fry them, your corn tortilla can hold its form even more. Since they're crispy once fried, they're less likely to get soggy and break apart during the rolling and cooking process, and better able to soak up the moisture of the sauce, meat, veggies, and liquid within your enchiladas. 

Uncooked corn tortillas might still be delicate or prone to tearing, so lightly frying them provides more durability to last during the cooking process. Unless you're making them yourself and can customize the size, corn tortillas also tend to be smaller than flour tortillas. Since they're smaller, you don't want to overstuff them or break them. The frying process allows them to hold their shape long enough for bites of enchilada to make it into your mouth in one piece.

5. Marinated meat

Marinated meat gives any dish more flavor and taste. Seasoning your meat is one thing, but marinating it enhances its flavor and can also help tenderize the meat. Soda works well as a meat marinade thanks to the phosphoric acid in it, which not only provides a tang but can also break down the proteins and connective tissue to help it be tender. 

Give your marinade a flavor boost by using ingredients like soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, tomato juice, cola, miso, bourbon, maple syrup, honey, balsamic vinegar, lemon, cayenne, or olive oil. Marinades made with these flavorings are easy enough to create with products you have in the pantry and fridge. The only thing you need to account for is time, since you have to factor that in to allow meat to marinade. From chicken to steak, no matter what meat you end up using for your enchiladas, it's crucial to season marinades to elevate the taste and tenderize the meat.

6. Pickled vegetables

Pickled vegetables may not be for everyone, but they offer tanginess and crunch to your enchiladas. You could use anything from pickled red onions to pickled peppers to chilies in vinegar. If you want to keep the crunchiness, add them towards the end of cooking or as a topping. This will lessen the cooking time of the pickled vegetables, so they'll remain firm and have a notable crunch. 

If you're seeking the sourness of pickled veggies, simply add them as an ingredient as you're crafting your enchiladas. Looking for ideas on which pickled vegetables you should have in your fridge? Try garlic, red onion, radish, corn, jalapeños, roasted red pepper, purple cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, or mushrooms, all of which would be delightful in or on top of enchiladas. 

Chicken enchiladas with pickled red onion, garlic, and jalapeños would be scrumptious. Make vegetable enchiladas with a mixture of regular mushrooms, potatoes, pickled corn, and pickled carrots. It all depends on your taste, preferences, and what you want to add.

7. Salsa verde

Salsa verde offers dimension to your enchiladas thanks to ingredients like tomatillos, cilantro, poblano peppers, jalapeños, garlic, and onions. Make cheesy salsa verde chicken enchiladas with rotisserie chicken, or swap the chicken for your meat of choice. 

Salsa verde is not only beautiful with its bright green color, but it's also fragrant and delicious. Its broiled vegetables heighten the color and taste, as you'll notice the little black charred flecks throughout your salsa. The selling point of this recipe is that you could add more of the ingredients that you like. Can't get enough garlic? Add a couple more cloves into the mix before blending. Not a huge fan of cilantro? Omit it or include just a small amount. Don't like seeds, chunks, and bits and bobs in your food? Strain your salsa in a fine mesh strainer for a smooth, seedless salsa. You can have fun customizing this salsa by adding pepitas, epazote, serrano peppers, or whatever you see fit.

8. Grilled or roasted vegetables

Let's start out by clarifying that you can absolutely make incredible enchiladas with vegetables that aren't grilled. My mother-in-law's enchiladas with potatoes and carrots are out of this world; the veggies in them are not grilled or roasted, but they have a lot of flavor. However, grilling or roasting your vegetables gives them an extra level of taste and char. 

When roasting different vegetables together, remember to chop them into uniform sizes to ensure that they cook at a similar rate. Otherwise, you might be left with undercooked carrots and mushy bell peppers. Keep in mind that harder vegetables take more time to cook, so you can factor that in by chopping them smaller than the softer veggies. Roasted potatoes and sweet potatoes are delicious in enchiladas. Grilled bell peppers would be delightful. Grilled mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, or cauliflower would be delicious in vegetarian enchiladas, but also pair perfectly with chicken or beef.

9. Mole sauce

Mole is an all-star salsa made with an array of ingredients — notably including chocolate — that can mix up the taste of your enchiladas in the best way. Mexico's region of Oaxaca features a rainbow of moles available. Any search for a mole sauce recipe will provide different ways to make it. 

In mole, you might find sesame seeds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, and almonds, along with herbs and spices such as coriander, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, thyme, marjoram, coriander, and allspice. Oh, also tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, garlic, chilies, plantains, and, of course, chocolate — the list goes on. Recipes can vary and be deeply personal based on family traditions, location, or available ingredients. Opt for making mole to mix things up rather than using a standard red or green enchilada sauce. Of course, if you're in a pinch, you can use ready-made mole or add a few ingredients to beef it up.

10. Meat or vegetable broth

Add your choice of broth next time you make enchilada sauce. Whether you choose chicken, beef, or vegetable, broth is a flavor-packed liquid that'll enhance just about any recipe. You don't have to use a lot of broth, just enough to give your salsa some fluidity. It's a tasty replacement for an enchilada recipe that calls for water. 

If you want to up the protein content, you could swap regular broth for pork bone broth. Bone broth has around 10 grams of protein per serving, whereas standard chicken broth can have less than a gram; as always, this can vary based on the brand and portion size. Use ready-made broth or prepare homemade chicken stock with leftover meat and bones. Keep in mind that broth has a solid amount of sodium, so you don't have to use as much salt in your enchiladas. That said, when using a low-sodium broth, make sure to season your enchiladas accordingly.

11. Spinach

While there are plenty of enchilada styles to make, spinach enchiladas are a popular choice among vegetarians and vegans. Spinach can absorb a lot of flavor, so they'll be delicious no matter if you use salsa verde or salsa roja. Cook the spinach in broth for extra flavor and nutrients. 

Spinach is nutrient-dense with plentiful protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K, as well as other vitamins and minerals. The great thing about spinach is that you can use a lot of it, but it seems like a little, so you're getting more nutrients than you may realize. Pair spinach with cheese or beans for a more filling enchilada. If you're not a plant-based eater, try it with shredded chicken or beef. Or keep it simple with just spinach, and then serve your enchiladas with refried beans, rice, or a soul-warming caldo de res. When serving the spinach enchiladas, top with cilantro and additional chopped spinach.

12. Garnishes

You spent a decent amount of time carefully crafting your magnificent enchiladas, and now you're trying to figure out how to give them a mini upgrade with little effort. It's all about garnishes. The best thing about a garnish is the fact that they require no additional labor. You can simply add them at the end to the top of your enchiladas, or just add them to each plate once served. 

Try sliced radish, avocado, guacamole, cilantro, lettuce, onion, tomatoes, chopped jalapeños, sour cream, crema Mexicana, or cotija cheese. Underestimating garnishes is one of the top mistakes you're making with enchiladas. They can enhance the flavor and give enchiladas extra texture, like the crunch of a peppery radish. You could keep your garnishes in small bowls and encourage guests to top their enchiladas as they like. While you might be inclined to immediately dig into your enchiladas, give garnishes a go to give them more color, flavor, and texture. 

13. Canned chicken

Chicken is a canned meat you should consider stocking in your pantry. It's affordable and diverse in all the ways you can use it. It's a blank canvas, since it comes unflavored and you can find canned-chicken variations like chunk, shredded, and even low sodium. You should always have at least a couple of cans in your cabinet for emergencies or when you're too hungry to make something from scratch. 

It's particularly great if the idea of cooking raw chicken makes you nervous. Canned chicken is cooked and ready for you to devour. Plus, it can be a go-to for simpler enchiladas. Chicken enchiladas are understandably popular — they're scrumptious, approachable, and can made in myriad ways. There might be some times in life when you're seeking convenience but still want to eat homemade enchiladas. Never fear, canned chicken is here. Save time from cooking and shredding chicken by using a can of it instead. Season it to your liking then add it to your enchiladas as usual.

14. Lots of chilies

Chilies are a huge part of what transforms an average enchilada into a superior one. Whether you choose chile de árbol, guajillo, ancho, poblano, jalapeño, serrano, or another variety, different types of chilies provide varying flavors. They also come in a range of colors, spice levels, shapes, and sizes, allowing you to customize enchiladas in countless ways. 

When it comes to making delicious enchilada sauce, you'll want to use assorted chilies to create a robust flavor. The salsa covers your enchiladas and envelops them with flavor, so you'll want it to taste amazing. No matter which types you end up picking for your dish, you can use fresh or dried chilies. Dried ones require rehydration, so keep that in mind when considering prep and cooking time. You'll also want to factor in the size of the chilies. For smaller chilies such as chile de árbol, you'll need more quantity to craft your salsa, as opposed to larger ones like poblano. Mix and match your chilies for a unique flavor. 

15. Smoked paprika

Smoked paprika might not be the first spice that you'd think to use in enchiladas, but it can provide a flavor upgrade. Smoked paprika is sometimes used in taco seasoning, so you can extend the flavor into your enchiladas along with garlic, onion, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, red chili flakes, and dried oregano. 

However, don't confuse smoked paprika for regular paprika. Regular paprika has an almost neutral taste, whereas smoked paprika imparts a smoky flavor. It can also provide a red hue to bolster the color of your salsa, particularly if you're making a salsa roja. This smoky spice makes vegetable dishes pop, so feel free to use a liberal amount in veggie enchiladas. You don't have to solely use it in your enchilada salsa — you can sprinkle it onto your meat to season it or marinate it. Smoked paprika is especially helpful to provide a grilled flavor to your food if you don't have a grill to fire up at home. 

16. Tofu

Tofu is a cube of magic. Its shape can be transformed to your needs. It can soak up just about any flavor, and acts as a perfect neutral vehicle for your meal. Tofu contains protein for anyone seeking alternatives to beef or chicken. So, if you pick extra firm or super firm tofu, you can use it as the filling for your enchiladas instead of meat, since it can hold its shape. 

Cube tofu for uniformity, or shred it for an uneven texture. Season or marinate tofu like you would any meat for your enchiladas. Silken tofu or soft tofu can be used to create sauces, so consider the firmness of your tofu for what you'd like to use it for. It's possible to make vegan enchilada casserole with chorizo tofu crumbles by using extra firm tofu, dried oregano, garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. 

Not only is tofu wonderfully versatile, but it's affordable too. You can buy a pack of tofu for a couple of dollars, or save even more money by purchasing it in bulk. Give tofu a chance in your enchiladas.