10 Healthy Alternatives to Enchiladas

Discover healthy alternatives to enchiladas like our Zesty Zucchini Boat Enchiladas recipe and other low-carb and sweet options we’ve curated.

In this article
enchiladas food swaps

Why People Crave Enchiladas

The craving for enchiladas can be attributed to a complex interplay between their rich sensory attributes and our biological responses. Enchiladas are typically laden with fats and proteins from cheese and meat, which trigger a satisfying mouthfeel and release dopamine in the brain, reinforcing the desire for these flavors. The combination of spices and herbs in enchiladas stimulates our olfactory senses, enhancing the overall eating experience.

The presence of carbohydrates in the tortilla and sugars in the sauces can cause a quick spike in blood sugar levels, providing an immediate energy boost and pleasure sensation. This response is hardwired into our brain chemistry to reward calorie-dense food consumption, a throwback to when food was scarce.

For many, the sweet aspect of enchiladas, often resulting from the tomato-based sauce, is particularly appealing. Sweetness is one of the first pleasurable tastes we experience, and it can be comforting and evoke positive emotions. This is why finding healthy alternatives to enchiladas that still satisfy the sweet craving can be beneficial.

It’s important to acknowledge the challenge in resisting these cravings due to the psychological and physiological responses they invoke. While enchiladas substitutes may offer a healthier nutritional profile, the familiarity and reward associated with the original dish can be hard to replicate. Identifying enchiladas replacements that maintain the balance of savory and sweet can be key to a successful transition to healthier eating habits.

10 Healthy Alternatives to Enchiladas

Zucchini Boat Enchiladas
Scoop out the center of zucchini halves and fill them with your favorite enchilada fillings. This swap reduces carbs and calories while increasing your vegetable intake and maintaining the savory flavors you love.

Lettuce Wrap Enchiladas
Use large lettuce leaves as a wrap instead of tortillas. The lettuce adds a fresh crunch and significantly cuts down on calories, allowing for a satisfying meal that’s lighter and packed with fiber.

Quinoa Enchilada Bake
Replace some of the meat with cooked quinoa in your enchilada bake. Quinoa is high in protein and fiber, making it a nutritious substitute that still provides a hearty texture and absorbs the enchilada flavors well.

Greek Yogurt Chicken Enchiladas
Swap out sour cream and use plain Greek yogurt mixed with enchilada sauce. This boosts protein content and reduces unhealthy fats, while still offering a creamy, tangy taste that complements the spicy enchilada flavors.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas
Incorporate mashed sweet potatoes and black beans into your filling. Sweet potatoes add a natural sweetness and are high in fiber and nutrients, while black beans increase the protein content.

Cauliflower Rice Enchilada Bowl
Replace regular rice with cauliflower rice as the base of your enchilada bowl. It’s lower in calories and carbs, yet it’s filling and can be seasoned to mimic the flavors of traditional enchilada dishes.

Eggplant Slices as Tortilla
Thinly sliced and baked eggplant can serve as a low-carb, nutrient-dense substitute for tortillas. They provide a similar texture and soak up the enchilada sauce, making for a delicious and healthier alternative.

Whole Wheat Tortillas
Opt for whole wheat tortillas instead of white flour ones. They offer more fiber and nutrients, which can help with feeling full longer and provide a steadier energy release.

Turkey and Vegetable Enchiladas
Use lean ground turkey and bulk up your enchiladas with finely chopped vegetables. This increases the protein and fiber content while reducing the fat compared to traditional beef or pork fillings.

Nutritional Yeast Topping
Sprinkle nutritional yeast instead of cheese on top of your enchiladas. It provides a cheesy flavor with less fat and calories, plus it’s a source of protein and B-vitamins.

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Are Enchiladas Unhealthy?

The healthiness of enchiladas is often questioned, with many assuming that all enchiladas are inherently bad for you. However, the truth is more nuanced. Traditional enchiladas can be high in calories, fats, and sodium, especially when loaded with cheese and served with rich sauces. Yet, they can also be a source of protein and fiber, depending on the fillings and preparation methods.

The key is balance and portion control. For those seeking a healthier alternative to enchiladas, options abound, such as using lean meats, low-fat cheese, and whole-grain tortillas. It’s a dish that can be easily modified to fit a healthier lifestyle without sacrificing flavor.

Can Enchiladas Be Made Without Cheese?

Cheese is often considered a staple ingredient in enchiladas, leading to the misconception that it cannot be omitted. However, enchiladas can be just as delicious without cheese, appealing to those who are lactose intolerant or following a vegan diet. There are numerous enchiladas substitutes for cheese, including nutritional yeast, vegan cheese alternatives, or simply increasing the amount of flavorful vegetables and beans.

Removing cheese can also transform enchiladas into a lighter, healthier alternative for enchiladas, without losing the essence of the dish.

Is There a Low-Carb Enchiladas Alternative?

Low-carb diets have surged in popularity, but many people mistakenly believe that this means giving up dishes like enchiladas. The truth is, there are several enchiladas alternatives that cater to a low-carb lifestyle. Swapping out traditional corn or flour tortillas for lettuce wraps, thinly sliced vegetables, or low-carb tortillas can make a significant difference.

These substitutions not only reduce the carb content but also add a fresh twist to the classic dish, making it a healthy alternative to enchiladas without compromising on taste.

Why Do Enchiladas Taste Sweet?

The unexpected sweetness in enchiladas often leads to confusion. This sweetness typically comes from the tomato-based sauce, which contains natural sugars. Additionally, some recipes may include sweet spices like cinnamon or chocolate, which are traditional in certain regional variations of the sauce.

The sweetness balances the heat from the chilies and adds depth to the overall flavor profile. Understanding the source of this sweetness can help those looking for a healthy alternative for enchiladas to make informed choices about the ingredients they use.

Are All Enchiladas Spicy?

A common misconception is that enchiladas are always spicy, deterring those with milder palates from trying them. In reality, the spice level of enchiladas is highly customizable. The type and amount of chili used in the sauce can be adjusted to suit individual taste preferences.

For those sensitive to spice but still craving the dish, seeking an enchiladas replacement sauce that is milder, yet flavorful, is an excellent solution. This ensures that enchiladas can be a versatile meal enjoyed by everyone, regardless of their spice tolerance.

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Healthy Recipe for Enchiladas

Zesty Zucchini Boat Enchiladas: A Healthy Twist

This healthy recipe for enchiladas swaps traditional tortillas for zucchini boats, creating a low-carb, nutrient-dense meal. The zucchini provides a fresh, crisp base, while the filling is packed with lean protein and fiber. The enchilada sauce adds a tangy, spicy kick, making this dish a flavorful, satisfying, and healthy alternative to traditional enchiladas.

Prep Time

20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes


  • Oven
  • Baking dish
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Spoon
  • Skillet
  • Mixing bowl


  • 4 medium zucchinis
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup enchilada sauce, low sodium
  • 1 cup shredded cheese, reduced-fat
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh cilantro for garnish


  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C) and lightly grease a baking dish.
  2. Cut the zucchinis in half lengthwise and scoop out the centers with a spoon, leaving a shell about 1/4 inch thick.
  3. Place the zucchini halves in the baking dish and set aside.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add the ground turkey and cook until browned. Drain any excess fat.
  5. Add the onions and garlic to the skillet and cook until the onions are translucent.
  6. Stir in the black beans, corn, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. Spoon the turkey and vegetable mixture into the zucchini boats, filling them evenly.
  8. Pour the enchilada sauce over the filled zucchini boats.
  9. Sprinkle the shredded cheese on top of each zucchini boat.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the zucchinis are tender and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
  11. Garnish with fresh cilantro before serving. Enjoy your healthy and delicious Zesty Zucchini Boat Enchiladas!

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