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Oct 18, 2005 06:54 PM

disintegrating enchiladas

  • t

I'm making chicken enchiladas tonight and would like to know how to keep my corn tortillas from disintegrating into a mushy mess.

I let each tortilla fry a moment in a little hot oil before adding in my chicken, cheese and sauce. By the time they're filled, I notice the tortillas are already practically falling apart. And after they've baked in the oven 15-20 min, the tortillas have lost all form and are practically cornmeal mush. What am I doing wrong? Maybe flour tortillas work better?

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  1. My only thought is the tortilla itself. Do you always use the same brand? I've never had this happen. Flour tortillas would just be wrong for this, IMO.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Liz K

      I agree with Liz K...you would only want corn tortillas for enchiladas...PERIOD. I'm also suspicious of your brand of tortillas.

      1. re: Val

        wWll if it is made with a flour tortilla it is not an enchilada period. But the poster said her tortilla turned in to cornmeal mush. So i don't think she is using those flour things. Yo meit is not even a tortilla if made with flour.

        1. re: Candy

          Actually, there are enchiladas made with flour tortillas. In general, don't speak generally about Mexican food, as there are so many regionalisms.

          I have to agree with the other posters that it sounds like it needs a few moments longer in the oil. I think I usually have mine in for a little less than 30 seconds in a medium hot frying pan, flipping once or twice. Personally, I dip mine in the sauce first (as my grandmother did, so I figure that's legit) and then the quick oiling serves to soften the tortilla as well as cook the sauce into the tortilla a bit.

          1. re: joypirate

            If you will look at my first response, I suggested that she is not frying the tortillas long enough. I don't know where you are from, but I am originally from Douglas, AZ. right on the Mexican and New Mexican borders and grew up with enchiladas etc. as comfort food. No enchilada was made with a flour tortilla. I think they might do that in some parts of Texas though. A Chimi or Burro will be made with flour things but not an enchilada or taco

            1. re: Candy

              Oh no, I was agreeing with you on the point regarding more time in oil.

              As for enchiladas with flour tortillas, see link below and scroll down article, that recipe (at least for the enchiladas, not the sauce) is very similar to how my Mexican grandmother used to make them (without the olives).

              Link: http://www.vvdailypress.com/food/toda...

              1. re: Candy

                That's why Taco Bell invented the "Enchirito." An enchilada in a flour tortilla.

      2. You need to fry them a little longer, they need to be a bit leathery, still able to roll and certainly not crisp but just a quick dip in oil is not sufficient.

        12 Replies
        1. re: Candy

          That's what I'd try first, new brand of tortillas if that doesn't solve it. I'm also curious about the sauce...how are you making it?

          1. re: nja

            I did see Candy's tip before I made them and thought that must be it because I have been afraid to leave the tortillas in the oil too long and make them greasy. And maybe it's the oil that "seals" out the water in the sauce. So I instructed my husband (who was assembling them) to make sure the tortillas were fried a while. I still don't think he did them long enough--maybe 30 seconds on each side, but the enchiladas did hold together better this time. They still were a bit mushy at the center of the dish, but firmer out at the edges. I like to still be able to bite the corn tortilla. I think the sauce also tends to soak into them and make them fall apart and so yes, baking them too long would probably contribute to the saturation effect--ours were in a 350 degree oven about 15 min so next time I'll try the broiler method.

            I rarely make them, but tonight we had leftover Costco chicken and we decided it was a good excuse to get rid of that old can of La Palma enchilada sauce. So this wasn't intended as any gourmet effort here but was mainly hoping the tortillas wouldn't disintegrate again. I have no idea if it's the brand, but they came in your normal bagged-stack of 50 or so (and yes they were corn) like you see in any supermarket, nothing weird or whole-wheat or anything like that.

            Some have mentioned also dipping their tortillas in sauce after frying, which I think I tried once and I remember the tongs tore them up a bit and I had a hot slippery mess on my hands. My husband thought microwaving them a few seconds should be all that was needed to make them pliable enough to fill. So I'd still love to find out what method keeps those tortillas fairly intact. Maybe Cooks Illustrated will do some research on this.....;-)

            1. re: tarabell

              Some of the problem might be caused by the sauce. My grandmother-in-law, the best Mexican cook I know, is willing to use a number of shortcuts (e.g., jarred mole), but she refuses to ever use canned enchilada sauce. I can't be sure, but the sauce might be a problem. In fact, I had an experience recently that supports that theory. Left over from another meal, I had about a cup of blended and reconstituted dried chiles, to which I added salt and spice. But I didn't have time to add all that to a roux like I usually do for enchilada sauce. The finished enchiladas were a lot mushier than usual. In fact they kind of disintegrated.

              Anyway, I do also recommend dipping the fried tortillas in sauce. It takes a bit of practice to minimize tearing but it's worth it. I usually set up a little system on the stove where I take one tortilla out of the oil, drop it onto a paper towel, throw another tortilla in the oil, blot the first tortilla (which has now cooled a bit) with the paper towel, dip it in sauce, then fill and roll. Dipping in sauce *before* frying make for great enchiladas, especially if you're making the street vendor style (folded up with maybe a touch of cheese) rather than the stuffed, rolled, and baked style. But it makes a hell of a mess to fry the tortillas with sauce on them. That stuff splatters everywhere.

              1. re: nja

                I use the Las Palmas canned enchilada sauce for a couple of my enchilada recipes and don't have this problem of the tortillas falling apart. maybe there is too much moisture in the filling itself? I make a very dry filling, and I fry the tortillas about 10 seconds (I don't flip, only push them down so both sides get dunked), and I also dip the fried tortillas in sauce before filling and rolling.

              2. re: tarabell

                Microwaving doesn't really work. I read online somewhere that if you sprinkle a little water on them and microwave them it sort of steams them into pliability. I tried it once when I was making flautas and they were slightly more pliable than when non-fried/non-dipped but not really pliable enough to hold them together.

                1. re: joypirate

                  I've been microwaving mine for years. Double paper towels on the plate, 4 tortillas spread out as much as possible, another layer of paper towels and 4 more tortillas, heat for 1 - 1.5 minutes, dip in canned sauce, add filling, roll and place on baking sheet. When they're all rolled I top with a layer of cheese and heat in the oven till the cheese melts. Works fine for me.

                  I used to soften them in oil first but find the MW method much easier and cleaner. I've never had the problem of them disintegrating but they do crack if not softened enough.

                  1. re: Rae

                    I also don't fry them (I just warm them over steam for seconds, we don't microwave,) and have never had them turn mushy or fall apart. It sounds like too much moisture to me.

                    1. re: Rae

                      I just put a stack of them wrapped in paper towels in the microwave and they've always worked fine. Once in a whiel I'll get a crack or something, but then I'd just use another one.

                  2. re: tarabell

                    I'm with Tarabell. I'm cooking Diane Kennedy tomatillo sauce enchiladas. Frying them for 30 seconds until almost too stiff. Filling them with chicken, then covering them with tomatillo sauce, then some cheese, then letting them heat for 10 minutes, covered, as directed. And they come out mushy. How do you make corn enchiladas that are firm like in any good tex-mex restaurant?

                    1. re: tarabell

                      I suspect your oil might be too cool, as well. Hotter oil (not smoking, though) means less oil absorption. Cooking something in oil below 325 degrees or so is asking for oily, soggy stuff.

                      1. re: tarabell

                        Tarabell (six years after your post) regarding Cook's Illustrated tortilla treatment for enchiladas, Cook's Illustrated spread the tortiallas on a baking sheet, sprayed them on both sides with cooking spray, and baked them in a 300* F oven for 4 minutes. Then they filled the toritllas with a chicken filling that included sauce. The filled tortillas are rolled and placed in a baking dish. Sauce is put on top of the echiladas and then baked. Note that Cook's Illustrated did not fry the toritillas in oil nor did they dip the tortillas in sauce. See the recipe at the following link for more info:


                        1. re: Norm Man

                          Just wanted to add that, since making this CI recipe a year or two ago, this is now the method I always use for prepping my tortillas. It works great.

                  3. Well, I make Enchiladas the old skool Mexican way, which is just to fry until just bendy (So it has a crisp edge to it) and coat in sauce and serve right away.

                    If I can't serve them right away, I place them in a baking dish and place them in a WARM oven, just to keep them warm, NOT to finish baking...

                    I also suggest you might try another brand of tortilla.

                    The truth is, Enchiladas are best served fresh or at most a few hours after being made. If I have leftover Enchiladas, even if they never ENTERED the oven (I Just rolled and packed them away for lunch the next day) they always end up falling apart because of the sauce...


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Dommy!

                      I'm with you on fresh enchiladas. I assemble the meat/cheese filling with (quickly dipped in oil) tortillas, holding them in a pan in a low, warm oven, but sauce them on the plate right before serving.

                    2. they do not have to be cooked, just softened enough to roll. Dip in hot oil for a second, or place on a warm griddle and cover with a towel for 30 seconds or put in a covered dish in the nuke for 15 seconds.

                      do not add sauce, just what adheres to the main ingredients. If you want to add sauce add it on top.

                      they do not have to be baked, everything is already cooked, just broil to melt the cheese

                      1. Hmmm. I've always dipped them in simmering stock for about 10 seconds. I've never used oil to fry them first.