Quesadilla vs Enchilada: What’s the Difference?

Written By Acacia Crossley


When someone suggests having Mexican food for dinner, there are plenty of classic dishes you could choose from. But there are a handful of Mexican dishes that have boomed in popularity outside of Mexico itself, for example, quesadillas and enchiladas

But how do these two Mexican staples differ? Or are they just the same thing with a different name?

Just a bite from a quesadilla or enchilada will show that the dish’s most significant difference comes down to its filling. A quesadilla only needs to be made with a cheese filling, while enchilada fillings use a whole array of ingredients. 

What is a Quesadilla?

Sometimes called the Mexican cheese toastie, the quesadilla is one of Mexico’s simplest dishes.

You only need two ingredients to make a delicious quesadilla: some tortillas and some cheese. Traditionally masa tortillas are used with Chihuahua or queso menonita cheese, but you can use whatever you have to hand. 

Cheesy Quesadilla 1

The term quesadilla literally translates to “little cheese thing” in English, which perfectly sums up the quesadilla.

On a basic level, a quesadilla is made by covering a tortilla in a generous layer of cheese, folding the tortilla in half to create a sandwich and then grilling the tortilla to melt the cheese. A cheese, crispy, warm sandwich – what isn’t to love? 

Of course, you do not have to stick with cheese in your quesadilla. You can use any filling you want, from sweetcorn to ground beef, just so long as there is plenty of cheese to tie everything together. 

What Should You Serve with a Quesadilla?

You can enjoy a quesadilla by itself as a snack, but you will find that dipping salsa or a salad will help add some refreshing lightness to your plate. 

What is an Enchilada?

Several dishes in Mexican cuisine can act as the ultimate comfort food, but none more deserving than the enchilada.

Essentially, an enchilada is a meaty, cheese-stuffed tortilla baked and topped with heaps of enough melty cheese to keep your stomach happy for hours to come. Of course, you must remember that savoury enchilada sauce. 

Mexican Enchilada

There are no limits on what you can fill your enchilada with, so long as it is full to the brim and wonderfully delicious.

Typically, enchiladas are filled with some meat, cheese, beans (such as black beans) and veggies. Likewise, you can use any cheese you like to fill and top off the enchiladas. 

Enchilada sauce is a bit more specific and requires a more rigid set of ingredients.

There are a variety of enchilada sauces you could use for the dish, from a red chilli-based sauce to a cheese-based sauce. When most people talk about enchilada sauce, they mean the red earthy sauce made with a tomato base and plenty of spices. 

What Tortilla Should Be Used to Make Enchiladas?

Authentic enchiladas are made using corn tortillas as they are sturdier and less likely to break as they soak up the sauce. But you can use any tortillas you have. 

Similarities Between Quesadillas and Enchiladas

Quesadillas and enchiladas have more similarities than you would first think: 

  • Cheese And More Cheese! – Though the cheese of an enchilada is paired with plenty of other ingredients, there is enough cheese to go around between the filling and extra cheese loaded on top of the enchiladas themselves. As for a quesadilla, typically, cheese is the star ingredient. So, the more, the better. 
  • Limitless Fillings – Like most Mexican dishes, enchiladas and quesadillas have their traditional fillings, but really, you can be as creative as you want with the fillings. Add some onions or fried chicken. Mix it up with more than one type of cheese, or get creative with the seasonings you use. 
  • Mexican Classics – Both quesadillas and enchiladas are fundamentally Mexican dishes embedded into Mexican cuisine. They have become trendy outside of Mexico with countless variations, but they are still Mexican dishes. 

Differences Between Quesadillas and Enchiladas

Regardless of their similarities, enchiladas and quesadillas do have some key differences: 

  • Traditional Tortillas – A quesadilla tortilla only needs to serve one purpose – getting perfectly crispy when the quesadilla is grilled. That is why masa tortillas are more commonly associated with quesadillas. Enchiladas need a tougher tortilla that isn’t going to break once it starts soaking up with enchilada sauce, which is why corn tortillas are used. 
  • Complexity Of Filling – There is no competition when it comes to deciding which dish has the more complex filling. For starters, an enchilada has more than one ingredient in its typical filling, while a quesadilla only needs cheese to work well. 
  • Sauce Or No Sauce – One of the main components of enchiladas is the sauce which acts as a kind of bath for the wrapped tortillas when they bake. This sauce is full of flavour and typically very spicy. Quesadillas do not require a sauce of any kind, not even salsa. However, they are often served with some kind of dipping sauce. 
  • Level Of Flavour – Because of the use of sauce and far more ingredients, enchiladas are arguably more tasteful than quesadillas or, at the very least, have a more complex flavour. Quesadillas are a simple dish with the bulk of the flavour coming from the cheese filling. 
  • Serving Intentions – Quesadillas can be bulked out to become more filling but there is only so much that a quesadilla will do for your hunger if you only have a handful of cheese to hand. Enchiladas are intended to be a bulky and filling family meal, often served at dinner parties or family gatherings. 

Quesadillas vs Enchiladas: Which Wins?

If you had to pick just one, which would you vote for? Does quesadilla win or would you prefer to eat enchiladas?

Do You Prefer Quesadillas or Enchiladas?

Quesadillas and Enchiladas FAQs

Do you still have questions about how quesadillas and enchiladas differ? Then have a look at these FAQs:

Do Quesadillas Have to Contain Cheese?

They certainly do! Their name literally contains the word cheese. It is an essential part of any quesadilla and it is what helps stick the folder tortilla together.


Where we obtain our information and verify the facts in this article:

Simply Recipes

The origins of the quesadilla and how a traditional one is made.

Old El Paso

What an enchilada is and how to make one.

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