Difference Wiki

Enchilada vs. Tamale: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 6, 2024
An enchilada is a tortilla rolled around a filling and covered with sauce, while a tamale is a masa dough filled with meats or other ingredients, wrapped in corn husks and steamed.

Key Differences

Enchiladas are made by rolling tortillas around a filling, which can include meats, cheese, beans, or vegetables, and then covered with chili sauce. Tamales are made from masa (corn dough) mixed with lard and filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, or vegetables, then wrapped in corn husks and steamed.
The origin of enchiladas is traced back to Mexico, where they are a popular traditional dish. Tamales, also of Mexican origin, have been a significant part of Mesoamerican cuisine for thousands of years.
Enchiladas are often served hot with various toppings such as cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. Tamales, on the other hand, are typically eaten without additional toppings, as the flavor is enclosed within the corn husk.
Preparation of enchiladas is relatively simple and quick, making them a convenient meal. Tamales require more time and effort to prepare, often involving family or community for assembly.
Enchiladas offer a variety in terms of sauces and fillings, adaptable to different tastes. Tamales, while also diverse in fillings, maintain a consistent corn-based masa exterior.

Comparison Chart

Base Ingredient

Masa dough


Rolled with fillings, baked
Filled, wrapped in corn husks, steamed



Typical Serving

With toppings like cheese, sour cream
Eaten as is, without toppings

Preparation Time

Relatively quick
Time-consuming, often a communal activity

Enchilada and Tamale Definitions


Usually topped with chili sauce and cheese.
The beef enchiladas were smothered in a rich, spicy sauce.


Can include various fillings like meats or vegetables.
She made tamales filled with seasoned beef and roasted peppers.


Served with toppings like sour cream or guacamole.
He garnished the enchiladas with sour cream and fresh cilantro.


Eaten by unwrapping the corn husk exterior.
They unwrapped the steaming tamales and enjoyed the savory aroma.


A Mexican dish of a tortilla rolled around a filling.
For dinner, we had chicken enchiladas covered in green sauce.


Steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf.
The chicken tamales were steamed in corn husks for several hours.


Can be filled with a variety of ingredients.
She prepared vegetarian enchiladas with beans and cheese.


Often a communal cooking activity.
Making tamales has been a family tradition for generations.


Often baked in an oven.
The enchiladas were baked until the cheese was perfectly melted.


A traditional Mesoamerican dish made from masa dough.
We enjoyed homemade pork tamales for the holiday feast.


A tortilla rolled and stuffed usually with a mixture containing meat or cheese and served with a sauce spiced with chili.


A Mexican dish made of chopped meat and crushed peppers, highly seasoned, wrapped in cornhusks spread with masa, and steamed.


A Mexican dish made by wrapping a filling in a tortilla, then baking in a sauce.


Mexican dish of cornmeal dough shell filled with various ingredients (e.g. chopped beef, pork, sweet filling) then steamed in corn husks.


Tortilla with meat filling baked in chili-seasoned tomato sauce


A Mexican dish made of crushed corn (cornmeal) mixed with minced meat, seasoned with red pepper, dipped in oil, and steamed.


Corn and cornmeal dough stuffed with a meat mixture then wrapped in corn husks and steamed


What is the main ingredient in an enchilada?

Tortillas are the main ingredient in enchiladas.

Are tamales typically eaten with any sauce?

Tamales are usually enjoyed as is, without extra sauce.

How are enchiladas cooked?

Enchiladas are typically baked in an oven.

Are enchiladas spicy?

Enchiladas can be spicy depending on the sauce used.

Do enchiladas originate from Mexico?

Yes, enchiladas have Mexican origins.

Are tamales considered a festive dish?

Yes, tamales are often associated with celebrations and holidays.

Can enchiladas be vegetarian?

Yes, enchiladas can be filled with vegetarian ingredients.

What distinguishes a tamale?

Tamales are distinguished by their masa dough and corn husk wrapping.

What makes tamale preparation unique?

Tamale preparation is often a communal activity and involves steaming.

Is cheese a common ingredient in enchiladas?

Yes, cheese is commonly used in enchiladas.

Can tamales be frozen for later consumption?

Yes, tamales can be frozen and reheated.

What fillings are common in tamales?

Common fillings include meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables.

Can enchiladas be made with flour tortillas?

Traditionally, corn tortillas are used, but some variations use flour tortillas.

Is there a difference in enchilada sauces?

Yes, there are various types of enchilada sauces, ranging in flavors and spiciness.

Is making tamales labor-intensive?

Yes, making tamales is time-consuming and labor-intensive.

How long have tamales been part of cuisine?

Tamales have been part of Mesoamerican cuisine for thousands of years.

What toppings are served with enchiladas?

Common toppings include sour cream, cheese, and guacamole.

What is the texture of a tamale?

Tamales have a soft, moist texture from the steamed masa.

Are enchiladas served hot or cold?

Enchiladas are typically served hot.

Is it common to have leftover tamale masa?

Leftover masa can occur and is often used to make additional tamales or other dishes.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

Trending Comparisons

Popular Comparisons

New Comparisons