Enchiladas suizas (Swiss enchiladas)… a creamy tomatillo-based sauce, smother chicken-filled tortillas, topped with shredded cheese broiled to bubbly perfection! These are sure to become one of your new favorite ways to eat enchiladas!
What are enchiladas suizas?
You may be more familiar with enchiladas verdes (green enchiladas), the less decadent cousin for enchiladas suizas (say it like: in-chee-LA-dahs sue-EE-sas). You make both of these dishes with a tomatillo-based sauce and fill the tortillas with chicken. So what is the difference between these two dishes? The difference is the cream added to the salsa verde in the suizas version.
In central Mexico, these are served for breakfast, lunch, or as part of the afternoon comida, or meal. Of course, you can eat these anytime the craving strikes!
Why are these called enchilada suizas?
I have often wondered how these enchiladas got their name. Are they topped with Swiss cheese? Did a Swiss immigrant create and popularize this version of enchiladas in Mexico? Or did an enterprising Mexican immigrant to Switzerland create these as a tribute to their motherland and their new home? I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact origin, but the versions that I have found generally match the two that I share below.
The encyclopedia version
According to the Larousse Diccionario Enciclopédico de la Gastronomía Mexicana (author Ricardo Muñoz Zurita), these enchiladas were invented early in the 20th century in the famous Mexican restaurant chain, Sanborns. The Swiss adjective was added because of the cream and cheese used in this dish, Switzerland being famous for its dairy products.
The Mexican Restaurant Association version
Another version by the Asociación Mexicana de Restaurantes attributes the recipe to a butler who worked in Maximillian I’s household (the only emperor to ever rule Mexico). At the fall of the empire, the butler fled with his family, taking with him the recipes prepared in the emperor’s household. The family ended up in Mexico City and opened a restaurant called Cafe Imperial.
The story goes that the restaurant menu used modified versions of the recipes taken from the emperor’s household, meshing traditional European ingredients and techniques with Mexican flavors. It is unclear whether the wife of the butler, who was in charge of naming the menu items, first added the Swiss adjective to this dish to make it sound more chic and European. Or if the butler added the Swiss adjective because the green sauce and the white cheese reminded him of the Swiss Alps. Eventually, the cafe closed but the restaurants that occupied the same space continued making this dish until the Sanborn brothers took over the location and popularized the dish.
Both versions end with the enchiladas being popularized by the famous Sanborn chain and their founders. And whatever version you believe, these enchiladas are definitely Mexican in origin, not Swiss.
How to make enchiladas suizas
These enchiladas are so easy to make, that I am sure they will become one of your favorite Mexican dishes!
Make the salsa
First, start by boiling the ingredients for the salsa. Add the tomatillos, onions, garlic, peppers, and epazote to a pot filled with water and boil until the tomatillos and chiles change color. The tomatillos and peppers will start out as a bright, vibrant green color and will soften and turn to a more dull green as they are cooked (see below photos). The quantities shown in the photos below are not correct for this recipe. So, please follow the quantities listed in the recipe and not the quantities shown in the photos! If you like your salsa spicier, increase the number of peppers to your liking!
Once the ingredients for the sauce are finished cooking, remove them from the cooking water and place in a blender. Allow them to cool a bit before adding the cream and blending until smooth.
Fill the tortillas
Next, you will need to lightly fry your corn tortillas to make them soft and pliable for filling. They only need a few seconds in the hot oil on each side. You want the tortilla to be pliable, not crispy. Allow the tortillas to drain on a paper towel-lined plate to remove excess oil.
Once the tortillas are cool enough to handle, evenly divide the shredded chicken between the tortillas. I love to make this recipe with leftover rotisserie chicken, but any cooked and shredded chicken will work! Place your filled tortillas into a glass baking dish.
Put it all together
Use the leftover oil in the frying pan to gently fry the sauce. Then, smother your filled tortillas with the sauce, cover with cheese, and place under a preheated broiler. In my oven on high broil, I notice the cheese starts to bubble and brown between 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on these as each oven is a bit different.
Once these are out of the oven, divide the enchiladas evenly between 4 plates. In Mexico, the serving size is generally 3 enchiladas, but I have scaled this recipe down to 2 enchiladas per person. This lets me enjoy the enchiladas with Authentic Mexican Red Rice without feeling too full!
I hope that this recipe becomes your new favorite way to eat enchiladas!
- 5 medium-large tomatillos (about 1 pound or 450g)
- 1/2 medium white onion, quartered
- 1-2 serrano peppers (or more if desired)
- 1 clove garlic
- 5-7 large epazote leaves
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup Mexican cream (substitute sour cream, if Mexican is unavailable)
- 8 white corn tortillas (about 6 inches in diameter)
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use safflower)
- 1 cup shredded manchego or gouda cheese (or 3 large slices)
- In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, place tomatillos, onion, garlic, pepper and epazote. Cover with water. Simmer covered until tomatillos and peppers soften and change to a dull green color, about 15-20 minutes
- Remove ingredients from pot, place in a blender, add chicken broth, salt to taste and allow to cool slightly. Add sour cream and blend until smooth.
- In a large non-stick skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat, 2-3 minutes, until shimmering.
- Gently fry each tortilla for about 5-7 seconds per side, or until soft and pliable. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and repeat the process for the remaining tortillas.
- Evenly divide chicken between tortillas and gently roll into logs or fold over into tacos. Place the tortillas in a 9 x 13 inch glass baking dish.
- Using the remaining oil in the skillet, heat to medium and gently fry the tomatillo sauce, about 5 minutes
- Preheat oven to a high broil
- Cover tortillas with sauce and sprinkle shredded cheese over top
- Once oven is pre-heated, broil enchiladas for 5-7 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and starting to turn golden
- Divide enchiladas evenly between serving dishes, top with additional toppings and serve immediately