Migas and chilaquiles are both popular Tex-Mex breakfast dishes made from tortilla chips or strips. While they share some similarities, there are some key differences between the two dishes:
Migas originated in Spain and was later brought over and adapted in Mexico and the American Southwest. The dish was a way to use up leftover bread or tortillas by frying it in oil or lard and adding eggs. The name “migas” means “crumbs” in Spanish.
Chilaquiles emerged later in central Mexico. The name comes from the Nahuatl word “chīlāquīlli” meaning “herbs and greens.” Unlike migas, chilaquiles was not initially a dish using leftover tortillas, but rather a purposeful meal made by lightly frying tortilla wedges and simmering them in a flavorful salsa.
The base of both migas and chilaquiles is tortilla chips or shredded tortilla strips. However, migas uses stale tortilla chips or hardened tortillas that are torn into pieces. Chilaquiles starts with fresh tortilla wedges or triangles that are lightly fried.
For migas, the tortilla chips are fried with bacon or sausage, onions, and sometimes beans. Eggs are then scrambled into the mixture. Chilaquiles simmers the tortilla chips in a tomatillo or red chili salsa before adding crema, cheese, onions, and optionally eggs or meat.
So migas relies on the starchiness of the stale tortilla chips softening in the eggs, while chilaquiles uses a flavorful salsa as the main sauce.
|Stale tortilla chips or pieces||Fresh lightly fried tortilla wedges|
|Eggs, bacon/sausage, onions||Tomatillo or chili salsa, crema, cheese, onions|
The cooking methods for migas and chilaquiles are very different. Migas is made by frying the tortilla pieces and other ingredients together into an almost scramble-like dish. The eggs bind everything together.
With chilaquiles, the tortilla chips are fried separately until lightly crisp. They are then simmered in the salsa for several minutes to soften and absorb flavor. The crema, cheese, and other toppings are added right before serving.
So migas cooks everything together while chilaquiles relies on layering flavors by braising the tortilla chips in salsa.
Due to the different cooking techniques, migas and chilaquiles have very different textures. Migas has a scrambled egg-like texture with a mix of soft and crunchy pieces from the tortilla chips.
Chilaquiles is saucy, but the tortilla chips soften only slightly after absorbing the salsa. The texture comes from the interplay of the tender tortilla wedges, creamy salsa, and fresh cheese and onion toppings.
In terms of flavor, migas is dominated by the egg, meat, and onion components. The tortilla chips take on a mild, cornbready taste. Migas can be spiced up with salsa or hot sauce, but the flavors are generally hearty yet mellow.
With chilaquiles, the salsa is the star. Depending on whether you use a tangy green tomatillo salsa or rich red chili salsa, the flavor profile completely changes. The chips soak up the flavors of the salsa and provide a starchy base for the toppings.
Types of Salsa
There are two main types of salsa used for chilaquiles:
Green Tomatillo Salsa
A tomatillo salsa made with tomatillos, onions, garlic, jalapeños, cilantro, and lime juice. Tomatillos have a tart, fruity taste that balances the spiciness of the jalapeños. This salsa is bright green in color.
Red Chili Salsa
A salsa made from dried chilies like guajillo, ancho, and pasilla. Onions, garlic, and tomatoes add sweetness. This salsa has a deep red hue and can range from mildly spicy to very hot.
The type of salsa used can completely change the flavor profile of chilaquiles. Many recipes call for using both salsas together!
Migas and chilaquiles also differ in how they are plated and served:
- Often served piled high on a plate or in a bowl
- Can be topped with more tortilla chips, salsa, avocado, etc.
- Served with refried beans and breakfast sides
- Chips are nestled into a bowl or casserole dish and smothered with salsa
- Toppings like crema, cheese, onion, cilantro are artfully arranged on top
- Served with fried eggs, meat, beans, rice, etc. on the side
Migas has a more casual, jumbled presentation while chilaquiles is plated in organized layers.
In terms of taste, migas has a hearty, comforting flavor from the eggs, meat, tortilla chips, and onion. It can range from mild to spicy depending on added salsa. The dominant tastes are the egg and meat flavors.
Chilaquiles is all about the interplay between the tart and spicy salsa and the fried tortilla chips. The chips soak up the complex flavors of the salsa. The toppings add creaminess, saltiness, and freshness to balance the richness of the salsa.
Use of Leftovers
As mentioned earlier, migas originated as a dish using leftover tortillas and stale chips. So it’s very common to see migas made with random leftover tortilla chips or bread pieces from the pantry.
Chilaquiles relies on fresh tortilla chips or wedges, so day-old tortillas wouldn’t provide the right texture. While you wouldn’t make chilaquiles expressly to use up leftovers, leftover tortillas can be cut into wedges and used if needed.
Both migas and chilaquiles have regional variations throughout Mexico and the American Southwest. Some differences include:
- Northern Mexico: canned peppers, leaner meats like chicken
- Texas: thick-cut bacon or sausage, serrano peppers
- New Mexico: green chilies, potatoes, thicker tortilla pieces
- Central Mexico: red or green salsa, pulled chicken
- Northern Mexico: meatless, chips mixed into eggs
- New Mexico: green chile salsa, fried egg on top
So migas recipes can vary greatly by region, while chilaquiles tends to stick closer to the classic simmered-in-salsa technique.
Common side pairings for migas and chilaquiles include:
|Refried beans||Refried or black beans|
|Breakfast potatoes||Mexican rice|
Both dishes are often eaten with sides of beans, salsa, avocado, and tortillas for wrapping. Chilaquiles pairs well with rice and fried eggs, while migas goes great with breakfast potatoes.
Time of Day
Migas is considered a breakfast or brunch dish. The egg and meat ingredients make it most appropriate for the morning meal.
While also commonly served for breakfast, chilaquiles can work well for lunch or dinner too. The salsa and toppings make it satisfying but lighter than migas.
Both migas and chilaquiles are beloved Tex-Mex dishes, but chilaquiles is more widely known and served outside of Texas and the Southwest. As Mexican cuisine has proliferated across the U.S., chilaquiles can now be found on menus nationwide. Migas remains most popular regionally in Texas.
The nutrition profile differs between the two dishes:
- High in protein from the eggs and meat
- Relatively high in fat due to large amounts of oil/lard for frying
- Lower in fiber, vitamins, and minerals
- Higher in sodium from salt, cheese, meats
- Higher in fiber from corn tortillas and salsa vegetables
- More vitamins/minerals from fresh ingredients like onion, cilantro
- Lower in protein than migas versions with meat and eggs
- Can be high in fat if made with a lot of oil, cheese, and cream
So migas provides more protein while chilaquiles offers more micronutrients. But both dishes can range widely in nutrition content based on specific ingredients used.
At restaurants, chilaquiles is generally more expensive than migas. Typical prices are:
- Migas: $5 – $12 per plate
- Chilaquiles: $8 – $15 per plate
The fresh ingredients and elaborate plating involved with chilaquiles make it cost a little more. Migas uses basic pantry ingredients keeping it on the cheaper end for restaurants.
Ease of Preparation
For home cooks, migas is generally easier and faster to prepare than chilaquiles. The steps include:
- Fry meat and vegetables
- Scramble in eggs
- Add tortilla chips
- Season with salt, pepper, etc.
- Make fresh salsa from scratch
- Lightly fry tortilla chips
- Simmer chips in salsa
- Add toppings like crema, onion, cilantro
Migas comes together in one pan quickly, while chilaquiles requires more components like homemade salsa. However, shortcuts like store-bought salsa simplify the process.
Both migas and chilaquiles can be customized with different add-ins. Options include:
- Jalapeños, green chilies, salsa
- Onion, bell pepper, tomato
- Ham, chorizo, bacon
- Cheddar, Monterey Jack, cotija cheese
- Cilantro, parsley, scallion
- Potato, squash, zucchini
- Pulled chicken, steak, carnitas
- Fried egg, soft-scrambled egg
- Queso fresco, feta, cotija cheese
- Cream, Greek yogurt, sour cream
- Lime juice, lime zest
- Cabbage, radish, avocado
There are endless ways to put your own spin on migas and chilaquiles using whatever ingredients you have on hand!
While migas and chilaquiles both start with tortilla chips, they result in very different Tex-Mex breakfast dishes. Migas is a homey, hearty scramble of eggs, meat and crispy tortilla chips. Chilaquiles showcases complex salsa flavors layered over fried tortilla wedges and finished with creamy, fresh toppings. Both make delicious, comforting morning meals!
Migas is simpler to make, while chilaquiles requires more components and technique. But chilaquiles delivers brighter, fresher flavors thanks to its blend of contrasting textures and use of fresh ingredients. For adventurous home cooks and foodies, chilaquiles is worth the extra effort required.
The next time you’re craving some warm, flavorful comfort food for breakfast or brunch, consider making a batch of migas or chilaquiles! Both will provide a mouthwatering way to start your day.