The history of how chilaquiles became an iconic Mexican breakfast food

March 30, 2018

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Chilaquiles may be ubiquitous now, as they pop up on brunch menus across the country, but this iconic Mexican hangover food has humble beginnings.


What are chilaquiles?

A Mexican dish with a base of cut up fried tortillas covered in sauce, cheese, meat, eggs, vegetables or other toppings.


The word “chilaquiles” comes from the Nahuatl language, originally spoken by the people that came to be known as the Aztecs.

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That etymology speaks to just how long the dish has been around in Mexico.


According to Mexican cookbook author and culinary expert Lesley Téllez, chilaquiles have utilitarian beginnings.

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The dish started out as a way to reuse leftover tortillas the next morning, in the days before refrigeration.

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You fry them and douse them in salsa and everybody forgets they were this stale, hard thing just hours before.

— Lesley Téllez


Like pasta in Italy, chilaquiles started in Mexico as a filling peasant food and evolved. Now you can find chilaquiles at high-end restaurants.

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But chilaquiles are still considered a classic hangover cure and are often served at the very end of an all-night party.

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