Gadzooks' "Anatomy of an Enchilada" mural. | courtesy of Amanda Ventura

Whole 'Lada Love: Best Enchiladas in the Valley

The official definition of Enchilada, according to The Real Academia Española, is a rolled maize (corn) tortilla stuffed with meat and covered with a tomato and chili sauce. These qualifications are pretty restrictive to most contemporary gourmands who experiment with recipes and flavor combinations that veer too far from the traditional definition.

However, at least in America, people’s idea of what is and what isn’t an enchilada is much closer to the Merriam-Webster’s broader definition. Webster defines it as a corn tortilla rolled around a savory mixture, covered with chili sauce and usually baked. Scottsdale Living has rounded up some of the best enchiladas in the Valley. Even though they don’t all fit The Real Academia Española definition, they are all really good.

The Quick Fix: Costa Vida, 1324 S. Rural Rd., Tempe

If some one is looking for a cheap and quick ‘lada Costa Vida offers a sweet take on this classic Mexican dish. For one Raspberry Chipotle Chicken Enchilada you will have to pay $5.99, and to get an additional one it’ll cost you 2 more dollars. The flavors of this enchilada are unique and delicious, one might be surprised that it cost them so little! At Costa Vida the Raspberry Enchilada starts with a home made tortilla that is filled with cheese or meat based on your preferences. Next it is covered in one of three sauces — red enchilada, roasted green chile or tomatilla cilantro. The final customization offered is choosing if one wants to pair black or pinto beans with the cilantro lime rice that every one receives. If people wanna keep the cost of their meal low, Costa Vida’s Raspberry Chipotle Chicken Enchilada would be the best option in the category of cheap Mexican food. But like most things in life, a spending little more money will improve the quality of whatever you are buying.

The Custom Design: Gadzooks: 3313 N. 7th St., Phoenix

Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soups takes the customization of one’s dish quite a bit farther than Costa Vida. Cost Vida allows their customers a chance to alter different parts of a dish, but Gadzooks offers people a chance to pick every aspect of their ‘lada, allowing people to enjoy their perfect idea of this dish. The process of creating the dream enchilada is broken up into 8 steps, choosing it, filling it, covering, adding to is, salsa-ing it, topping it, dressing it and combining. After the customer has decided what combination of meat, sauce, cheese, etc they want they are ready to enjoy their customized concoction. The prices start at $6.50 and go up to $6.90 depending on what meat is chosen. Add-ons like an additional enchilada, $2 more dollars, and chips and salsa will increase your bill.

The Wallet & Gut Buster: Bandera: 3821 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale

If your wallet can handle it, Bandera’s Butternut and White Cheddar Enchilada with Green Rice and Cucumber Salad, incorporates delicious fall flavors. It branches out from the typical enchilada filling and gives the diner a chance to enjoy flavors that one wouldn’t expect. The dish is still topped with a spicy red sauce so it is still clear that this is in fact an enchilada. Bandera’s take on this classic Mexican dish will cost you $17 dollars, but the quality of the food is worth the increase in price.

The Homebody: DIY Enchiladas

You don’t have to leave your house to enjoy a delicious enchilada, here is a recipe you can make in your own kitchen. This recipe for White Chicken Enchiladas comes from JoyfulMommasKitchen.com. Baking at home will save you money and time. These ‘ladas will only take 22 minutes to bake, for some less than the time it takes to drive to a restaurant. When the wait at the restaurant is also added to the time it takes to drive there, cooking at home is definitely a time saver. This recipe is simple enough that even inexperienced chefs will be able to master it.

Ingredients

10 soft taco shells

  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

  • 3 Tbsp. butter

  • 3 Tbsp. flour

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 (4 oz) can diced green chilies

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan

  2. Mix chicken and 1 cup cheese. Roll up in tortillas and place in pan.

  3. In a sauce pan, melt butter, stir in flour and cook 1 minute. Add broth and whisk until smooth. Heat over medium heat until thick and bubbly.

  4. Stir in sour cream and chilies. Do not bring to boil, you don’t want curdled sour cream.

  5. Pour over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.

  6. Bake 22 min and then under high broil for 3 min to brown the cheese.