Enchilada vs Empanada: Do You Know The Differences?

Although enchiladas and empanadas sound pretty similar, these two specialties are as different as chalk and cheese. But do you know all the differences between them?

If the answer is no, today’s post is for you. We’ve come up with a complete enchilada vs empanada guide to clear up all your questions. Scroll down for a detailed comparison of these two tasty dishes.

Related: Most Popular Mexican Foods

So, What Are They?


Originally, Mexicans invented enchiladas to deal with their leftover food. Unlike the modern take, the earliest recipe reported was just a tortilla roll paired with chili sauce. Yet, enchiladas have evolved into a renowned snack with tons of new adaptations over the years.


Empanadas take after the Spanish verb empanar, which means to coat or wrap in bread. Thus, an empanada is a fried or baked turnover in the shape of a crescent. Throughout the years, this pastry has become so popular that it appears in nearly all cultures worldwide.

The Key Differences


Enchiladas started in Mexico, where the locals wrapped different ingredients into tortillas to use up leftover food. The history of this delicious dish dates as far back as the Mayan period. It was a custom in the region for ages and is popular even now.

Corn tortillas with fish filling were the first enchiladas witnessed by explorers in the region. When the Spanish conquerors arrived in Mexico, they scrupulously documented all food eaten by the locals, notably the enchiladas. Indeed, it even got featured in one of the classic Mexican recipe books published in the 1800s.

On the other hand, empanadas are from Galicia (Spain) and Portugal. During the Moorish conquests, they emerged in medieval Iberia.

Empanadas stuffed with seafood are listed in Catalan, Italian, French, and Arabian cuisine in a textbook released in Catalan in 1520. Moreover, many people believe that empanadas are adaptations of samosas, which are Asian meat-filled pastries.

An empanada is a convenient and nutritious lunch for working people in Galicia and Portugal, comparable to a big pie that gets sliced into pieces.

Also, the empanada gallega has become famous in Latin America due to the significant number of Galician immigrants. Spanish immigrants brought this delicacy to Latin America and the Philippines, where it is still well-loved today.

The outer wraps

The most apparent difference between these 2 dishes is the wraps. Tortilla is a Spanish word meaning “small cake.” After enchiladas were introduced to Europe from Central America, the Spanish began to call wraps “tortillas.”

Enchiladas use corn tortillas as their wraps. These wraps are delicate, corn flatbreads that are used across Mexico and represent the world’s most famous ethnic bread in restaurants, taco stalls, and grocery stores.

Meanwhile, empanadas utilize pastry doughs (pâte brisée). These essential wraps are generally made of wheat, fats, water, sugar, eggs, cream cheese, or milk, which explains why they’re versatile for both sweet and salty dishes.

It seems that the most significant function of pastries in the past was to wrap meats in baked foods to preserve the fillings’ juices, steam the ingredients, and protect the stuffings.

In medieval Europe, locals practiced this pastry method in the north, where substantial fats had the benefit over oils, allowing for larger pastries.


The fillings are also what make enchiladas and empanadas different.

Enchilada stuffings are totally up to the diners. They can be freshly prepared meats or leftovers. You can even skip the proteins and add black beans or veggies to your enchilada if you’re a vegetarian.

The two most preferred enchilada protein stuffings are chicken and beef. Even though theoretically, you can include any protein choice in your enchilada, most restuarants only offer savory options, not sweet ones.

Different from enchiladas, empanadas’ fillings are way more adjustable. In addition, they are served with both savory and sweet options.

The Galicians and Portuguese usually serve empanadas with tuna, sardines, or chorizo. However, the fillings can also be codfish or pork. These days, each area has its own take on it.

For instance, salty empanadas with chicken, mushrooms, hazelnut meat, raisins, cheese, or ham are famous in Argentina. Meanwhile, Mexicans prefer the popular fruit or fruit jam fillings to make sweet empanadas. However, you can still go for a savory meat empanada, if you like.

Seasoned potatoes, apples, strawberries, and quince (green, tart, apple-like fruit), for instance, are pretty renowned choices, too. Others may contain cave milk or another sweet milk. Moreover, guava is a standard pick in Cuba as they are super-flavorful with a tasty protein like minced beef.


Moreover, these 2 delicacies also pair with different sauces.

In enchiladas, Mexicans tend to go for 2 special dressings: rojo (a red chili sauce) and verde (a green chili sauce). Their recipes are super straightforward, with only a few essential ingredients like dried red or green chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onion, and sour cream.

As the signature ingredient is chili, enchiladas are usually spicy.

See how to make rojo and verde sauces here:

On the other hand, empanadas also have their signature sauce. Most of the time, a meat or fish empanada will come with tomato, garlic, and onion dressing.

See how to make empanada sauce here:

Cooking technique

Another big difference between enchiladas and empanadas is how they are made.

If you want authentic Mexican enchiladas, the chefs will first prepare a chili sauce, which they will then use to give the enchiladas their distinctive taste.

The cooks will then stuff the corn tortillas with the ingredients before coating the roll in the distinctive chili sauce. Although several current versions call for adding cheese to the filling, most people prefer to serve it as a garnish.

After that, they’ll put the enchiladas in the oven to cook until everything is ready. Then, they may sprinkle grated cheese over the enchiladas for a melted cheese coating during the last few moments.

The various areas of Mexico use different approaches to the empanada-making procedure. While Salta locals bake empanadas, Tucuman inhabitants fry them.

But whether you decide to fry or bake them, the first stages remain the same. You’ll need to start by making your stuffing and the dough, then putting them all together, and lastly, baking or frying them.

Enchilada, Empanadas: Which Suits You Better?

Now, if you’ve scrolled through everything but still don’t know which one to try, consider a few things here:


  • When you prefer stuffing to outer wrapping.
  • Quick to prepare — one enchilada only takes 5 minutes to prepare.
  • You choose to add ingredients on the go, such as additional pico, beans, or cheese.
  • You may eat them with sauces or melted cheese, which is excellent if you want a light snack.


  • When you prefer a better combination of crust and stuffing.
  • If you choose pastries over tortilla wraps.
  • Empanadas can be both sweet or savory.
  • When you have lots of time for food preparation.


Are chicken and cheese popular types of fillings for these dishes?

Yes, most certainly.

Are these two more popular than burritos?

In my opinion, they’re all popular dishes that you can find in the United States and Mexico.


That’s our complete enchilada vs empanada guide. We know choosing between these two delicacies is challenging as they are both delicious! But we hope our detailed rundown has lent you a hand.

So head to your kitchen or one of your favorite Mexican restaurants to try one of these out. Enjoy your meal!

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The post Enchilada vs Empanada: Do You Know The Differences? first appeared on Mama Say What?!

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