Enchiladas Guatemaltecas Recipe

Enchiladas. Not quite what you are thinking, actually not even close. Unless you know exactly what I’m talking about and now I feel like a fool.

Anyways- when I think of birthdays, mothers day, Christmas, the day your little sister turns 2 and Spanish adults find it ok to go on a drinking binge, I think of Enchiladas. It gained its popularity for being street food, (or as street food as ‘la comadre’ selling them in front of her house), however, more and more often I see it featured as main courses for dinners around my family.

To keep it simple, the traditional enchilada is made up of several different layers, kind of like a burger, except crunchier and with no top bun. Here’s the composition from bottom to top: tostada, lettuce leaf, curtido, picado, salsa, queso seco, hard boiled eggs, onions and garnish with parsley.

Enchilladas (Prep time 40min, Cooking time 1hr, assembly 4 min) –You might want to budget at least a straight 2 hours for this, nonetheless.

Note: this part is separated into three major steps of cooking: curtido, sauce, and picado.

IMPORTANT: you can make the curtido and let it sit overnight to pickle, it is best the next day!

1. Curtido:

2 beets
½ cabbage head
2 carrots
1 onion
1/2 pound string beans
2/3 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
Salt to taste

2. Sauce:

3 tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 dry bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon
Freshly cracked pepper to taste

3. Picado (meat)

2 teaspoons Olive oil
1 lbs ground beef
½ teaspoon of beef bouillon
2 carrots
1 Medium red onion
2 celery stalks
1 red bell peppers
1 chayote (Note: use potato to substitute)
2 bay leaves (dried)
4 sprigs of thyme

4. Garnish

6 Green Lettuce Leafs
6 tostadas
3 hard boiled eggs, sliced
¼ cup dried Guatemalan Cheese (queso seco, or parmesan to substitute)
½ cup packed minced parsley

So, after you spent a short while searching for these ingredients above, its time to begin the process.


I suggest making the curtido the day prior so that it can pickle.  Start by cutting the beets in half in order to reduce cooking time. Boil beets until tender, usually 45min-1hr. While these are ready, you can start preparing the cabbage.

Set about 4 cups of water to boil. Ensure that the cabbage is sliced into long strips (The longer, the easier they will be to serve!) about 3 inches is good (that’s what she said, on opposite day).

Place in boiling water for about 8 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water to shock (this will maintain the crunchy texture of the cabbage). Set to the side.

Dice 2 carrots, 1 onion, string beans (cut into fourths and remove stems). Place vegetables in pan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Sauté for 5 min, then place on low flame and top with a lid to steam for 10min.

Once the vegetables are cooked through and the cabbage is cooled off, you can work on the beets.  Peel beets with your hand (squeeze them and the skin will come right off). Once cleaned, cut into small 1inch strips (so that they look something like a short version of a fry).

Now for the final step, mix all ingredients of the curtido together. Mix the beets, cabbage, and sautéed vegetables together. Mix in the vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper. Refrigerate overnight.


Take tomatoes and garlic and place in saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and when tomatoes start to peel easily (use your fork to test, or your tongue, whichever can withstand the heat (that’s a joke, don’t sue me when you end up with a burned tongue)), they should be done.

Run through food processor and liquefy to make sauce. Place back into saucepan, add one bay leaf, and place on low heat for 20 min to allow it to thicken. Season to taste.

Picado (meat)

Get your non stick pan ready, add 2 teaspoons of oil and brown the meat. Once it is cooked through (drain any extra liquid) set to the side. After peeling or cleaning, dice the carrots, onion, celery, and bell pepper into small cubes.

Peel the chayotes and remove its core, so that it cannot cause you any more harm/emotional trauma. Now, after you have wiped your tears, dice chayote into small cubes. 

Note on the chayotes (Guisquil is what I have always known it as) they will make your hands feel slippery and really strange with the sap they excrete, so careful when handling and cutting!

Add 2 teaspoons of olive oil to non-stick pan (medium high heat) and add diced carrots, onion, celery, bell pepper and cook for 5 min. Add chayotes, Thyme, dried bay leaf and sauté for 5 more min, then re-add meat. Continue to mix gently for 5 minutes. Set heat to low and let cook for 10 minutes until vegetables are tender.

OPTIONAL: You can add a teaspoon of beef bouillon, I find that although it may be an ingredient not many people use, it definitely shows how a little bit can go a long way (and it’s the way that my mom has been making it since the days she swept the dirt floors of her house in Monjas, Jalapa).


Hard-boil the eggs and once they are finished, de-shell them and cut into ¼ inch disks. Finely dice the parsley. As for the queso seco- just make sure you are in possession of it when assembly comes your way. Wash lettuce leafs and ensure that they are dry. Cut onion into rings and soak if needed to reduce harshness.


This is the assembly coming your way, so you better had gone and picked up some Guatemalan cheese- or substitute with parmesan cheese, I’m not the cheese police.

Next, grab the tostada and place piece of lettuce on it.

Add the curtido, usually a generous 2/3rds of a cup, then add picado (small 1/4th cup), then add a generous 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce. Sprinkle some of the queso seco on top. Place a slice or two of the hard boiled eggs on top, and 2 rings of onions. Finish with sprinkle of parsley, and you’ve made your very first Guatemalan Enchilada!

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