Pollo enquesado is a traditional Mexican dish made by dipping chicken pieces in egg batter and then frying them until golden brown and crispy. It’s a delicious and popular preparation that is found all across Mexico. The name “enquesado” comes from the Spanish verb “enquesar” which means to coat or batter.
What are the origins of pollo enquesado?
Pollo enquesado has its roots in Spanish culinary traditions. Coating meat and fish in egg batter before frying is a technique known as “rebozar” in Spanish. When this method made its way to Mexico during the colonial era, it was applied to chicken and the dish became known as pollo enquesado. The use of egg batter results in a tender and juicy interior with a crispy exterior after frying. This combination of textures is what makes pollo enquesado such an appealing dish.
How is pollo enquesado prepared?
Making authentic pollo enquesado involves just a few simple steps:
- Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper.
- Make the egg batter by whisking eggs with milk or water until smooth and uniform.
- Dip seasoned chicken pieces into batter to coat completely.
- Fry coated chicken in hot oil until golden brown and cooked through.
The key is to get an even coating of batter on the chicken. Frying at the right temperature ensures the coating gets crispy while the interior remains moist and tender. The result is hot, juicy and wonderfully crunchy chicken pieces.
What types of chicken work best?
Pollo enquesado can be made with either bone-in chicken pieces or boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs. Bone-in chicken tends to have more flavor and stays juicier when fried. Popular bone-in options include drumsticks, thighs, wings or a mix of chicken parts. Boneless chicken is easier to eat and cooks more quickly but can dry out if overfried. No matter what cut you use, look for good quality fresh chicken.
What seasonings go well with pollo enquesado?
Part of pollo enquesado’s appeal is how versatile it is for seasoning. Some popular flavorings used in the basic batter include:
- Minced garlic – adds aromatic flavor
- Dried oregano – brings an earthy touch
- Smoked paprika – lends mild smokiness
- Ground cumin – warm, nutty flavor
- Chili powder – a little heat
The crisp coating also provides the perfect canvas for sprinkling or drizzling sauces and spices over the top after frying. A squeeze of fresh lime is a must. Other options include:
- Valentina or other hot sauce
- Crumbled cotija cheese
- Mexican crema
Let your taste preferences guide you in seasoning these crispy chicken pieces.
What are some serving suggestions for pollo enquesado?
One of the best qualities of pollo enquesado is that it goes well with so many sides, toppings and sauces. Here are some tasty serving ideas:
- Serve over a bed of Mexican rice or beans
- Add slices of avocado or pico de gallo on top
- Mix in a salad with greens, corn and queso fresco
- Stuff into warm corn tortillas for tacos or tortas
- Top with tangy coleslaw for a delicious contrast
- Pair with sliced onions, radishes and lime wedges
- Dip pieces in salsa verde or mole sauce
- Scatter over nachos for appetizers or snacks
With so many options, it’s easy to get creative with how you serve up this Mexican favorite!
What are some variations on traditional pollo enquesado?
While the basic preparation is hard to improve upon, there are some tasty twists on pollo enquesado to try:
- Adobo Chicken: Marinate chicken in a blend of adobo seasoning before battering and frying.
- Beer Batter: Add a splash of beer to the egg batter for extra crispness.
- Chipotle Chicken: Use smoked chipotle chile powder in the batter and top with a chipotle crema sauce.
- Mole Chicken: Smother fried chicken in rich, sauce made with chili peppers, chocolate, spices and nuts.
- Tequila Chicken: Deglaze the pan with tequila after frying chicken and reduce to a glaze.
Feel free to get creative with global flavors too! Coat chicken in Indian spices, Japanese panko breadcrumbs or Cajun seasoning for exciting fusion versions. The possibilities are endless.
Why is pollo enquesado a popular Mexican dish?
There are several reasons why crispy fried pollo enquesado has become so beloved in Mexican cuisine:
- Flavor: The combination of juicy chicken encased in a thin, crunchy and aggressively seasoned coating is simply delicious!
- Texture: The crispy exterior contrasts beautifully with the soft and tender chicken interior.
- Versatility: It can be served on its own, in tacos, over salads, with dipping sauces – the options are limitless.
- Satisfying: The hearty fried chicken is deeply satisfying and comforting to enjoy.
- Easy: With just a few ingredients and simple preparation, pollo enquesado comes together quickly.
- Tradition: The dish has roots deep in Mexico’s culinary heritage and culture.
When you combine fabulous taste with versatility and ease of cooking, it’s easy to see why pollo enquesado is found on menus and family dinner tables across Mexico!
What are good side dishes and drinks to pair with pollo enquesado?
To make a complete and delicious meal, pollo enquesado pairs wonderfully with these side dishes and beverages:
- Mexican rice – The touch of tomato flavor enhances the chicken.
- Refried or black beans – Their mild flavor balances the spicy crisp coating.
- Fresh tortillas – Warm corn or flour tortillas for making tacos.
- Shredded lettuce – Cool, crisp lettuce complements the crunch.
- Pico de gallo – Fresh tomato salsa adds a tasty contrast.
- Street corn – Grilled corn on the cob with creamy sauce.
- Sauteed peppers & onions – Quick sauteed veggie mix.
- Tomato & avocado salad – Bright flavors and colors.
- Mexican beer or michelada – Light, refreshing lager-style beers.
- Jamaica (hibiscus tea) – Sweet-tart chilled agua fresca.
- Horchata – Creamy, cinnamon-spiced rice milk drink.
- Margarita – Tart lime and tequila cocktail.
- Tamarind water – Cool, tangy tamarind juice.
With so many options, it’s easy to put together a fantastic pollo enquesado feast!
Where can you find the best pollo enquesado in Mexico?
While tasty pollo enquesado can be found all over Mexico, here are some top spots known for serving up excellent versions of this classic dish:
- Los Tacos de Canasta at Mercado de Maravillas – Juicy chicken tacos in warm tortilla baskets.
- Azul Historico – Elegant restaurant in a historic building with upscale takes on traditional cuisine.
- Parián Market – Dozens of food stalls offering pollo enquesado tacos and tostadas.
- La Terraza at Hotel Casablanca – Charming rooftop restaurant with views of colonial buildings.
- Fonda La Mexicana – Family-owned spot serving homemade sauces and moles.
- Mercado 5 de Mayo – Experience quick but delicious street food versions.
- Itanoni – Creative upscale eatery with modern takes on Oaxacan cuisine.
- Mercado 20 de Noviembre – Lively local market with plenty of pollo enquesado vendors.
- Los Danzantes – Sophisticated restaurant in a converted mansion.
Sampling pollo enquesado from street vendors and local restaurants is a delicious way to experience Mexico’s incredible culinary diversity!
How to make authentic pollo enquesado at home?
To make restaurant-quality pollo enquesado at home, follow these simple steps for incredible results every time:
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Corn tortillas, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, lime wedges for serving
- Cut chicken thighs into 1-inch strips and place in a bowl. Season with salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon each of the cumin, oregano and chili powder. Toss to coat evenly and let marinate 15 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until blended. Place flour in third bowl. Dip chicken pieces in flour to lightly coat then dip in egg mixture allowing any excess to drip off.
- In a large skillet or pan, heat 1/2 inch of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Test oil temperature by adding a small piece of chicken. It should sizzle gently. Fry chicken in batches 3-4 minutes until golden brown and cooked through, turning occasionally.
- Drain fried chicken on a paper towel-lined plate. Season immediately with remaining 1/2 teaspoon of spices.
- Serve pollo enquesado hot withdesired accompaniments like warm tortillas, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo and lime wedges.
Making pollo enquesado at home lets you control the quality of ingredients and add your own unique twist. Serve this Mexican favorite for a delicious meal any night of the week!
What are some key takeaways about pollo enquesado?
Here are the key points to remember about pollo enquesado:
- It consists of chicken pieces dipped in egg batter and fried until crispy.
- The dish has roots in Spanish culinary traditions brought to Mexico.
- Ideal for using either bone-in chicken pieces or boneless thighs/breasts.
- Gets flavor from seasonings like garlic, oregano and chili powder.
- Serves as a taco filling, over rice and beans, or on its own.
- Variations can include marinades, sauce coatings or global seasonings.
- A popular dish thanks to its delicious flavor, texture and versatility.
- Found everywhere from street food stalls to upscale Mexican restaurants.
- Easy to make at home with just chicken, flour, eggs and oil.
With its crispy fried coating and juicy chicken, pollo enquesado is a cherished staple of Mexican cuisine that can be readily enjoyed either in Mexico or made fresh at home.