Enchiladas are every kind of delicious: saucy, sometimes spicy and filled with cheese, chicken, vegetables and other satisfying ingredients. It’s not hard to find a tasty enchilada from a street food truck or a restaurant, but precious few of those versions are healthy, nor are they gluten-free or vegetarian. But a handful of companies have stepped in to make frozen enchiladas just about everyone can enjoy.
Alternative enchiladas, it turns out, rule the freezer case at most supermarkets. The most popular are filled with chicken or a melange of rice, corn and beans. Several include a handful of other healthy grains as well.
No matter what it’s filled with, a good supermarket enchilada is stuffed with tasty ingredients and bathed in a flavorful sauce, whether it be red, white or green. Sadly, “good supermarket enchilada” is a rare occurrence. More often, those colorful boxes are filled with bad enchiladas that are slimy, chintzy, bland or just plain peculiar.
To pinpoint the best, our taste-off panel tried a range of enchiladas from the deli and freezer case, including several low-fat, gluten-free and vegetarian options. Here are the details on the best — and the disastrously inedible.
Fresh diced peppers and hefty chunks of chicken result in an extra fresh, homemade-style enchilada. A 12-ounce serving has 360 calories, 7 g fat, 420 mg sodium, 18 g protein. $3.99 on sale at Safeway. (4 stars)
AMY’S SPINACH AND CHEESE ENCHILADA VERDE
This hearty, untraditional enchilada is packed with lots of spinach and cheese, and topped with a bright, slightly spicy sauce. It’s vegetarian and gluten-free. A 10-ounce serving has 400 calories, 13 g fat, 780 mg sodium, 17 g protein. $4.69 at Whole Foods. (4 stars)
SAFFRON ROAD ENCHILADAS AL CHIPOTLE
If you love chipotle chiles, you’ll love these enchiladas. They have a spicy kick that’s underscored by charred corn, plenty of cheese, black beans and rice. Also good, if a bit too mild in flavor, are the Chicken Enchiladas Poblano. These are vegetarian and gluten-free. A 10-ounce serving has 430 calories, 20 g fat, 510 mg sodium, 15 g protein. $4.99 at Whole Foods. (4 stars)
TRADER JOE’S MEXICAN BLACK BEAN & CORN ENCHILADA
Kudos to Trader Joe’s for a bold, cumin-chile flavored sauce that drenches this pair of small, but tasty vegetarian enchiladas. Serve these with something to sop up the sauce, and top it with extra cheese for a tasty meal. A 9.5-ounce serving has 320 calories, 14 g fat, 600 mg sodium, 8 g protein. $2.29. (3 ½ stars)
AMY’S CHEESE ENCHILADA
Simple and traditional flavors make these a fine pick for purists. The tortillas are a bit thick, but the mild red sauce keeps them from being too dry, and they are both vegetarian and gluten-free. A 9-ounce serving has 580 calories, 28 g fat, 880 mg sodium, 18 g protein. $4.49 at Sprouts. (3 stars)
KASHI SPICY BLACK BEAN ENCHILADA
Despite the impressive array of grains and other ingredients in this enchilada, the result is disappointingly bland. A 9-ounce serving has 260 calories, 7 g fat, 600 mg sodium, 8 g protein. $4.50 at Safeway. (2 ½ stars)
OPEN NATURE CHICKEN CHILE VERDE ENCHILADA
These enchiladas lack color, but the cilantro and roasted chiles add heat and freshness. Beware, however, of the gloppy, murky-flavored Chile Cheese Enchilada. An 8.5-ounce serving has 310 calories, 8 g fat, 680 mg sodium, 14 g protein. $3.34 at Safeway. (2 ½ stars)
CEDAR LANE QUINOA AND VEGETABLE ENCHILADAS WITH POBLANO CREMA SAUCE
The spicy poblano sauce is the best part of this pleasant but otherwise ho-hum bite. Far less pleasing is the Three Layer Enchilada Pie, which is doused with undeveloped, tomato-forward sauce. Vegetarian and gluten-free. A 9-ounce serving has 340 calories, 15 g fat, 800 mg sodium, 12 g protein. $4.99 at Whole Foods. (2 ½ stars)
SPROUTS ROASTED VEGETABLE ENCHILADAS WITH POBLANO CREAM SAUCE
This pick from the deli area of Sprouts Market contains four floury and flavorless enchiladas. The sauce is creamy and decadent, but the small bits of roasted veggies are bland. An 8-ounce serving has 315 calories, 15 g fat, 705 mg sodium, 12 g protein. $7.99 for 16 ounces. (1 ½ stars)
SAFEWAY DELI GREEN CHICKEN ENCHILADA
Big shreds of chicken fill these large, corn tortilla-wrapped enchiladas from the deli section, but the tortilla is soggy and the chicken has an off-putting sweet note. A 6.5-ounce serving has 320 calories, 16 g fat, 710 mg sodium, 20 g protein. $6.99. (1 ½ stars)
LEAN CUISINE SPICY BEEF AND BLACK BEAN
This gluten-free option has lots of tender beef tucked inside the tortillas and a chunky, salsalike sauce that adds texture, but the sweet finish is off-putting. A 9.5-ounce serving has 300 calories, 6 g fat, 680 mg sodium, 11 g protein. $3.50 at Safeway. (1 ½ stars)
SAFEWAY SELECT CHICKEN ENCHILADAS
Flabby tortillas, canned chicken flavor and underwhelming sauce make this one of the worst picks. The Triple Cheese is slightly better. A 9-ounce serving has 310 calories, 11 g fat, 800 mg sodium, 16 g protein. $2.34 at Safeway. (½ a star)
WEIGHTWATCHERS SMART ONES CHICKEN ENCHILADAS SUIZA
Those with an active imagination can test their talents with this one. It’s a nearly empty tortilla rolled up on top of nacho cheese-rice. A 9-ounce serving has 290 calories, 6 g fat, 780 mg sodium, 12 g protein. $2 on sale at FoodMaxx. (No stars)
EATING RIGHT CHICKEN ENCHILADA
In a word: yuck. This mushy blob tastes like bad baby food. A 9-ounce serving has 290 calories, 7 g fat, 720 mg sodium, 15 g protein. $2 on sale at Safeway. (Negative 1 star for even pretending to be edible)
Reviews are based on product samples purchased by this newspaper or provided by manufacturers. Contact Jolene Thym at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more Taste-off columns at www.mercurynews.com/taste-off.