Sunday, January 1, 2012

Enchiladas in Brazil

That's right! If you're here in Brazil and you miss Mexican food, then this recipe is for you. (The definition of "missing Mexican food" can also be "finding fault in the bland and insultingly overpriced slop that is a sorry excuse for Mexican cuisine".)  This recipe is cheap if you decide not to splurge on the quiejo reino (the closest thing you'll get to cheddar), but I think the cheese is worth the price for this recipe!

This recipe is also totally doable in the US, especially if you want some nice, homemade food with little to no processed ingredients (it can be a completely unprocessed meal if you make Tiffany's recipe for homemade tortillas). I'm going to teach this recipe with store-bought tortillas. I tried Tiffany's recipe and failed miserably because I didn't do the math right when I tried to convert ounces to grams.

The ground beef can be replaced with boiled/shredded chicken, or, for a vegetarian option, ground soy or just cheese.

This recipe makes 10 enchiladas.


The basics:
About 350g of ground beef
A few cloves of fresh, chopped up garlic to fry with the meat (optional)
1 pack of Rapi-10 tortillas (you can buy them in the bread section of most Brazilian supermarkets):
About 150g of mozzarella cheese
About 200g of quiejo reino
About the queijo reino: I've been told that it's OK to eat the red waxy cover part; I've also been told to avoid it. So I usually avoid it because it doesn't melt well, but I don't panic if a little bit gets into the cheese.

For the pico de gallo, you'll need:
1 big tomato
1 big onion
A handful of cilantro (aka coriander aka coentro)

You can put this pico de gallo salsa directly into the enchilada, like I did, or you can leave it on the outside as a side dish, which is more traditional.

For a mild enchilada sauce, you'll need:
A 350-g can of tomato paste (extrato de tomate)
2 or 3 tablespoons of cornstarch (amido de milho)
1/2 of a chicken bullion cube
The following spices, mixed together:
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon spicy paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (this is hard to find in Brazil, so if you don't have it, you can use tempero baiano or even pimenta calabresa)
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons of the ever-popular Brazilian powdered garlic, onion and parsley mix (this can also be replaced with 1 teaspoon of onion powder and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder)

If you want it to be spicier, increase the spicy paprika and the cayenne pepper. But be careful-- it's easy to make this too spicy too fast. If you're especially sensitive to heat, just skip the paprika and cayenne entirely, and add them in to the sauce pinch by pinch while it's cooking.


1. Chop up your pico de gallo ingredients and mix them together.

2. If you're cooking the beef with garlic, chop it up now.

3. Fry the ground beef with the garlic and some salt and pepper. It's nothing special at this point: just a pan of cooked ground beef.

4. Start making your sauce. First, mix all the dry spices together separately.

5. Boil about 1 cup of water. The idea to making the sauce is to slowly keep adding water and tomato paste until you're satisfied with the texture and the level of spicy-ness. So start with the cup of water, then add in the spices, about 1/2 of the can of tomato paste, and 1/2 of a chicken bullion cube. Then add 1 teaspoon of cornstarch. Mix, taste, and then add paste, water, and cornstarch until you're happy. The sauce needs to be on the watery side, not too thick. It should be a little thinner than pizza sauce.

6. Now that everything's ready to build the enchiladas, set up your assembly line:
(does anyone have any better ideas on how I can organize my spices?)

7. As you can see in the picture above, you need to spread some of the enchilada sauce around the bottom of the pan that you're going to bake the enchiladas in. This will keep the tortillas from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

8. To build your enchiladas, dip one tortilla halfway into the enchilada sauce. Then set it into the baking pan and fill the sauced-up half with the ground beef, cheese, and, if you want, pico de gallo.
Your hands will get messy! Ideally you'll have help, so one person can get their hands dirty with the sauce and the rolling while the other scoops the filling in.

9. Now comes the hard part: you have to roll the enchiladas without ripping the tortillas. They'll easily rip if you've put too much filling, and sometimes, even if you haven't. I still haven't found a way to prevent this. I've tried heating up the tortillas first, but it didn't solve the problem. But if you don't drop the tortillas in the sauce first, then I think the enchiladas are too dry. Sigh. I just roll very, very carefully.

At some point in the rolling process, your sauce might start to run low, in which case you can always add in a little more water and tomato paste.

10. After rolling up all the enchiladas, cover them with the remaining sauce and cheese.

Don't mind the broken little runt one in the front.

11. Bake them in the oven at 220C/430F for about 15 minutes -- just long enough to heat the tortillas and melt the cheese.

Ta-Da!!! Delicious enchiladas! If you wrap them really well, individually, in plastic and foil, they actually freeze and reheat pretty decently.

If you're feeling extra ambitious and want to make a complete Mexican meal with beans, hot salsa, guacamole, and sour cream, click on the "Mexican" label below for more recipes from Jim and Corinne.



  1. Hello,
    I am enjoying reading your blog. We just relocated to Valinhos, SP. with my husband's company one week ago. We are from Nashville, TN. Navigating the grocery store has been quite a challenge for me. I was more than a little nervous when I wasn't able to find fresh milk at first.
    I haven't been able to find blocks of cheddar, baking soda, or vanilla extract to name just a few.
    When you do find American brands they are very different. Sprite, for instance here tastes much different than in the states.
    I guess it's something you become accustomed to after living here awhile.
    I definitely want to make that lasagna you posted and the enchiladas. Really missing food from home right now. :)

  2. HI Danielle,
    Thanks for this recipe...made it and loved it! We have been 2 1/2 years in Porto Alegre and have missed some of these flavors. Karen

  3. To keep the tortillas from ripping, fry them in a bit of vegetable oil first. Also, I dunno about where y'all are, but here in Paraiba "Diet Wraps" ARE flour tortillas and cost about 5R at the time of this writing vs. 25R for the imported "Mexican" tortillas 2 aisles over.