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.

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What are chilaquiles?

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

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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.

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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

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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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