Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
May 11, 2007 11:52 AM

Chilaquiles & migas: define

[The Chowhound Team split this "what is" discussion from its original location on the San Francisco board. To see where to find great chilaquiles in the Bay Area, please join this conversation:


As I know chilaquiles, they're strips of stale tortillas, pan-fried to order, served with red or green sauce.

Many of the dishes described here sound more like some variation on nachos.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I don't think they sound like nachos -- nachos are chips with stuff on top of them. Chilaquiles are as you described, but there are variants where eggs are scrambled with the tortillas while they're cooking, and other variants where the chilaquiles have something else on top or mixed in. But they're still tortilla strips fried and sauced, not chips with stuff on top.

    I love chilaquiles, but I've never had good nachos -- the ones made with real cheese, the cheese never has the right consistency -- the cheese hardens and clumps all the chips together and/or doesn't adhere to the chips -- and the ones made with bright orange cheese sauce have the right consistency, but it's, well, bright orange cheese sauce.

    1. Not the best source for information but I looked up chilaquiles and migas on wikipedia.

      Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of fried or dried tortilla chips, bathed in green or red salsa or mole, and broiled or grilled with a cheese topping. Sometimes chicken strips are mixed into the sauce, or the dish can be served with a fried egg on top or a strip of meat alongside.

      They are most commonly eaten at breakfast time, served alongside with fried or scrambled eggs or a Mexican style grilled beef. Moreover, chilaquiles are often lauded as a cure for la cruda--the common hangover.

      Unlike nachos, which are served as a crispy snack, chilaquiles are a main dish and are not served until the tortilla chips are thoroughly soaked and softened by the salsa. This makes them a popular recipe for stale chips, or those with a bad taste, as the other flavors mask that of the chips'.

      In Texas, migas (also known as migajas) is a traditional breakfast dish in Tex-Mex cuisine. Originally eaten during Lent, this meatless dish consists of egg scrambled and sauteed together in butter or oil with torn strips of corn tortillas, diced onions, sliced chile peppers, diced fresh tomatoes, and cheese, plus various spices and condiments (e.g. salsa, pico de gallo). Migas are typically served with refried beans, and corn or flour tortillas are used to enfold all of the ingredients into delicious migas tacos. The traditional Mexican main-course dish chilaquiles is similar to migas in some respects.

      A friend brought a dish that she called chilaquiles to a Potluck brunch - it consisted of scrambled egs with onion, tomato, peppers, cheese & crispy tortilla strips. This dish sounds more like migas.

      That's why I love this board so much! Hounds are so passionate about their chow! Thanks all!

      26 Replies
      1. re: sabrinasmom

        The best chilaquiles are not cooked stovetop but in an oven after the tortillas are fried. I prefer mine with green salsa and chicken and a little cream, but haven't found them that way in the Bay Area, only in Mexico City.

        Pastores has the best chilaquiles I've tried in San Francisco. I get them with carne asada but without eggs and with the green salsa on the side.

        1. re: Windy

          Someone told me she had the baked version at a staff meal at the CIA in St. Helena . . . best she'd ever had.

          1. re: Windy

            Yes - I have had it prepared that way as well - it was lika a frittata

            1. re: Windy

              That's exactly how I like my chilaquiles too Windy but it's hard to get them here in the states. I always had them that way in Mexico City and even had some of the best at a restaurant in the DF airport, go figure. I don't ever get ones exactly like in the U.S. but I keep trying.

            2. re: sabrinasmom

              That Wikipedia article is wrong about chilequiles being made with tortilla chips.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                No, it is not wrong. Chilaquiles are often made with torilla chips--it is a similar effect to using stale tortillas which are then fried in oil before adding your sauce (and eggs, if that is how you like them). Of course, they have to be the thick, traditional style chips, and it is really a shortcut that you are more likely to see someone using at home rather than in a restaurant.

                1. re: Leadbelly

                  Yes, but only because Mexican restaurants have stale tortillas lying around. I make mine the same way, but it does seem silly, like buying fresh baguettes and then toasting them to make bread pudding.

                  1. re: Windy

                    Chilaquiles is one of many traditional recipes that evolved to make stale tortillas tastier. It's not particularly associated with restaurants.

                    You could of course substitute tortilla chips for the traditional strips of stale tortillas, but the Wikipedia article discusses only the modern substitution, not the original version.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Completely agree with Robert... use of Tortilla Chips is a short used north of the border, and completely affects the end result. The best analogy is Chips are to Overcooked Pasta as Pan Fried Stale Tortillas are to Pasta Al Dente.

                      To be clear... good Chilaquiles have a similar texture to good Pasta... with the added bonus of a very nutty taste in some spots that comes from the uneven pan frying (as opposed to deep frying which results in a more uniform goldenish color & flavor)

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Well, they need to be real chips, not Doritos or Fritos. Some chips are literally fried, stale tortillas and I've made great chilaquiles with them.
                  But I agree with Robert about not wanting nachos. The corn and the chile sauce should be the main attraction.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Maybe it's a matter of sematics. What do we (or the wiki author) mean by 'tortilla chips'? Are they exclusively ones that were fried at a factory, and bought by the bag full, or can the term also cover tortillas that have been cut up and fried at the restaurant or home? For chilequiles, do the tortillas have to be fried immediately before use in the dish, or could be they be left overs from some earlier preparation?

                    I have a partial bag of stale unsalted chips in the pantry. Can use them to make a chilequiles type of dish? Am I justified in calling it by that name? Or should I just toss them out, so as to preserve the sanctity of the recipe?


                    1. re: paulj

                      Traditional chilaquiles are plain, stale tortillas, torn or cut into strips, pan-fried, and served with sauce (and, optionally, other things).

                      You can make an inferior version using tortilla chips but the flavor and texture will be different. It's similar to making tamales out of masa harina rather than fresh masa.

                      If the chips are stale enough that the oil has gone rancid, it'll be a very inferior version.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Kennedy quotes the Diccionario de Aztequisimos as:
                        'chilaquil: broken-up old sombrero'
                        'There are as many recipes for them as there are cooks who find themselves with supper to provide out of old tortillas, leftover sauces, and meats.' [p 89]

                        Maybe they save the better old sombreros for when they are making supper for special guests, and use the inferior one when they are too hungover to care. :-)


                        1. re: paulj

                          The poor people who invented chilaquiles to use up stale tortillas wouldn't generally have totopos (tortilla chips) on hand.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Curiously, the spanish version of Wiki actually does talk of using totopos.

                            'A diferencia de las enchiladas, los chilaquiles se elaboran con totopos, es decir, fragmentos de tortilla (usualmente de forma triangular) fritos hasta obtener una textura crujiente'

                            i.e. chilaquiles are different from enchiladas in that the tortillas are fried till they are crisp. There is a link to 'totopos', which traces them back to pre-Spanish days (toasted, not fried).


                            1. re: paulj

                              "Unlike enchiladas ..." is a bizarre way to lead off a definition of chilaquiles. It's not like they're similar in most other ways.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                If you've had flat, stacked type of enchiladas, you might see more similarities.

                                1. re: Melanie Wong

                                  Never seen them. Where do they make those?

                                  es.wikipedia describes enchiladas as rolled like tacos or folded in half, so I don't think stacked is what the authors had in mind.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    under Antojitos
                                    specifies totopos (crisp fried) for chilaquiles, where as for enchiladas the tortillas are 'softened' in oil and dipped in sauce. This seems to be the preferred sequence when rolling them around a filling. However there is another style, where they dipped in the sauce, then fried, and finally folded (no filling) and served.

                                    I've also seen recipes for dipping and stacking the tortillas with filling and baking. But the names seem to be more variables. Kennedy's Tortilla book as a chapter on these casseroles.

                                    A web search on 'stacked enchiladas' turns up mostly New Mexico recipes, with some allusion to it also being an Sonora style. Some places also call these enchiladas chatas.

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Yes, I love those little fillingless enchiladas (or enmoladas, enfrijoladas, entomatadas) where it is all about the tortillas and sauce and nothing else. I have never seen them in the US except at home.

                                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I've had them in Juarez (and El Paso, TX ) - I've been told that they're a Sonoran specialty.


                            2. re: Robert Lauriston

                              La Super Rica has a version with freshly deep-fried strips of tortilla that didn't taste inferior at all. It was La Super Yum.

                              I have had chilaquiles in restaurants where it was made with their house chips, which are usually pretty fresh, and they were good.

                              At home, I use old corn tortillas, (though flour has stood in when desperation set in), fry them with a modest amount of oil, then start tossing in my usual kitchen sink of ingredients. Eggs, Sliced peppers, onions, green onions, olives on occasion because I am crazy that way, and whatever sauce I have on hand. Red or green. Doesn't matter to me. And a little cheese. Not too much.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Chailquilaes is slang for an old broken up sombrero so the tortillas can be just about any shape at all.

                            1. re: Candy

                              Theoretically, though in Mexico I've always seen strips.

                              But shape doesn't really matter. The key thing is to use plain, stale tortillas. You won't get the right texture if you start with already-fried chips..

                          3. re: sabrinasmom

                            In Spain migas are made with bread crumbs. In fact 'migas' means crumbs.

                            It seems that in part, the difference between chilaquiles and migas is in regional choice of names. But also, chilquiles are more likely to be moistened with stock or salsa, with the eggs served on top or along side, while with migas, the strips may actually be softened with the eggs as they are scrambled.

                            A few weeks ago, there were several threads about matzo-brie, which sounds a lot like migas made with matzo.

                            Diana Kennedy, The Tortilla Book, has one chapter for baked tortilla Casseroles, and another for stove top chilaquiles. Alternative names for the baked version are budines (puddings), sopas secas (dry soups), taquitos al horno, and chilaquiles. If the tortillas are cut into strips, these baked versions overlap with stacked versions of enchiladas.


                          4. I think the concept is to use up whatever is leftover, along with old tortillas.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Earl Grey

                              Yes, they're not hard to make either, although like lasagna, better suited to a crowd at a family dinner than easily served in a single restaurant portion. Hence the fry pan approach.

                              Like bread pudding they should be both soggy and crispy.

                            2. Here's another debate on migas

                              It starts with a recipe for the Texas style eggs-and-tortillas. Then someone claims that this is totally wrong, that migas is a bread soup. Others point out that there is a northern style, and a rather different version around Mexico DF, one that is more like a Spanish gaspacho (the version with bread, not the cold vegitable puree version).

                              Most Texas migas recipes use soft tortillas - either soaked in the eggs or lightly fried. This is in contrast to most chilaquiles recipes that start with crisp fried tortillas. Some migas recipes use chips, but they are added toward the end so they retain most of their crispness.

                              Even with chilaquiles there are different tastes when it comes to the texture of the tortillas. For some the ideal is a careful balance between softness and crispness. But I've also read of versions where the tortillas cook down to a polenta consistency (Guadalajara style:



                              4 Replies
                              1. re: paulj

                                I've spent a lot of time in Guadalajara, and never seen that. Chilaquiles are always fried to order.

                                There is an American dish called chilaquile casserole.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  The Guadalajara cazuelas may be street food, in the spirit of the San Antonio chili queens and Oaxaca moles.

                                  1. re: paulj

                                    On the street in GDL I've always seen them made to order.

                                    I checked with a friend there, he says that at home, for a crowd, people will make a big batch in a cazuela. If guests are late or the cook gets distracted they might sit around on the stove or in the oven long enough to get mushy and polenta-like, but that's not intentional. You might find that same sort of bad chilaquiles at a hotel steam-table breakfast buffet.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Diana Kennedy has several chilaquile recipes. I use her 1978 book, The Tortilla Book where she has 5 different chilaquile recipes from all over Mexico. She says "The much-respected Diccirnario de Aztequisimos gives a complicated derivation from Nahuatal words and finishes up with chilaquil: broken up old sombrero. As complicated and delightful as the name sounds, it is simply a way of using up old tortillas. There are as many recipes as there are cooks who find themselves with stale tortillas and leftover sauces and meats"

                                    She suggests that the stale tortillas be stacked and cut into 6 wedges before frying. Then cooked a short time in a chili sauce. Often lavishly garnished and sometimes one wonders whether the garnish is more important than the chilaquiles them selves.

                                2. I have migas whenever I visit my godmother in Corpus Christi, Texas. There it's basically scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese and chopped green chiles, with freshly fried broken tortilla chips mixed in just before serving. DELICIOUS!