Kid-friendly Mexican Enchilada Cups Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Mexican Enchilada Cups

Recipe: Mexican Enchilada Cups

Mexican Enchilada Cups

by Erin Fletter
Photo by Nataliya Arzamasova/
prep time
10 minutes
cook time
15 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Mexican Enchilada Cups

My family and I love Mexican food. Enchiladas (EN-chee-LAH-duhs) are definitely one of our top ten favorites, and you can make super healthy Mexican food with very little effort! At Sticky Fingers Cooking this week, we will be making enchilada cups packed with vegetables, refried black beans, guacamole with peas, and melon agua fresca. Pick up any health magazine, and I can promise you there is an article touting the benefits of black beans, peas, and spinach. Then there is avocado, a super food for our super kids! Plus, with the corn tortillas, all your gluten-free friends can enjoy it, too! As all busy parents know, we can throw almost anything into a tortilla, and dinner is done. 

These enchilada cups are finger food, and children love to eat with their hands. They are a crowd-pleaser! I have found that they are the perfect entrée to serve to kids and are equally terrific to bring to a potluck party. I usually make a double or triple batch and freeze the rest. I wish I had made more myself this week because my family polished them off between dinner and lunch the next day. The idea of adding peas to guacamole (sadly, it was not my idea) is a revelation! It is so ingenious, practical, healthy, and fun! "Espero que te guste" or "I hope you like it" in Spanish!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • bake :

    to cook food with dry heat, as in an oven.

  • chiffonade :

    to cut leafy herbs or vegetables, like basil or spinach, into tiny ribbons by stacking a few leaves, then rolling them into a tube shape and slicing them across the tube; also, the name of this type of cut.

  • grate :

    to reduce food, like a carrot, to very small shreds or pieces of the same size by rubbing it on a tool with an outside surface that has holes with cutting edges (a grater).

  • knife skills :

    Bear Claw (growl), Pinch, Plank, and Bridge (look out for trolls)

  • tear :

    to pull or rip apart a food, like basil leaves, into pieces instead of cutting with a knife; cutting breaks cell walls more, so herbs can discolor faster.

Equipment Checklist

  • Oven
  • Muffin pan
  • Cutting board
  • Kid-safe knife
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Can opener
  • Grater
  • Wooden spoon
  • Round cookie cutter, clean jar lid, kid-safe knife, or clean kid-safe scissors


Mexican Enchilada Cups

  • 1 C frozen, thawed corn
  • 2 T black beans, from 15-oz can used for refried beans **(for LEGUME ALLERGY sub diced avocado)**
  • 1 C fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp mild chili powder **(for NIGHTSHADE ALLERGY sub ground cumin)**
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, drained **(for NIGHTSHADE ALLERGY sub 1 15-oz can beets, drained and diced)**
  • 1 small handful (about 3 T) fresh cilantro leaves
  • 12 small flour or corn tortillas **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY use corn tortillas)**
  • 6 to 10 oz cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese **(Omit for DAIRY ALLERGY or sub dairy-free/nut-free cheese, like Daiya brand)**
  • vegetable oil to grease pan

Food Allergen Substitutions

Mexican Enchilada Cups

  • Legume: Substitute diced avocado for black beans.
  • Nightshade: Substitute ground cumin for mild chili powder. For 1 15-oz can of drained diced tomatoes, substitute 1 15-oz can drained beets, diced.
  • Gluten/Wheat: Sub corn tortillas for flour tortillas.
  • Dairy: Substitute dairy-free/nut-free cheese, like Daiya brand.


Mexican Enchilada Cups

preheat + chiffonade + tear

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Have your kids stack 1 cup fresh spinach leaves and roll them into a tube shape, then slice across them to make tiny ribbons or a "chiffonade" cut. Add them to a large mixing bowl. Next, tear up 1 small handful of cilantro leaves (about 3 tablespoons) and add them to the bowl.

drain + add

Open and drain 1 can of diced tomatoes and add them to the spinach bowl.

slice + measure

Have your kids slice 2 green onions into small pieces and add them to the spinach bowl. Then, measure and 1 cup thawed frozen corn, 2 tablespoons black beans, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon mild chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

grate + mix

Grate 6 to 10 ounces of cheese and add to the bowl. Mix all of the ingredients in the bowl together until well combined.

grease + cut + fill

Grease the wells of a muffin pan with vegetable oil. Using a round cookie cutter, clean jar lid, kid-safe knife, or clean kid-safe scissors, cut 12 small flour or corn tortillas into circles that fit into the wells of the muffin pan, leaving enough room for the tortilla circles to fill the sides of the wells (making little cups!). After placing the tortillas in the wells, fill with the black bean and veggie mixture. Sprinkle a little extra grated cheese on top, if you like!

bake + enjoy

Bake your enchilada cups in your preheated oven for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melted. Remove, cool slightly and enjoy them warm with Kid-made Refried Beans, Sweet Garden Pea Guacamole, and Melon Agua Fresca! "Buen Provecho!" ("Enjoy" or "Bon appetit" in Spanish.)

Surprise Ingredient: Black Beans!

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Photo by Ildi Papp/

Hi! I’m Black Bean!

"My full name is "black turtle bean" because of my hard outer shell, but you can just call me "black bean." I'm a variety of common bean, although I'm anything but common! I bring a distinctive shiny look, sweet taste, and meaty texture to Latin American, South Asian, Cajun, and Creole cuisines."


  • Globally, there are 13,000 known varieties of beans. They include the white bean, like the Italian Cannelini, Great Northern, and Navy Bean; the black turtle bean (usually shortened to black bean); and the pinto bean. What kind of beans are you using today?
  • Beans were one of the first foods gathered, according to archaeologists. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors used beans as food tens of thousands of years ago. They were grown around 7,000 years ago in the Middle East. 
  • In ancient Greece, public officials were elected if they picked the single white bean from a bunch of black beans. 
  • In the 15th century, Spanish explorers brought beans to Europe when they returned from voyages to the New World. Then, Spanish and Portuguese traders took them to Africa and Asia to sell. 
  • Beans are now prevalent worldwide, primarily due to their use as an inexpensive, plant-based protein.
  • Today, the largest commercial producers of common dried beans are India, China, Indonesia, Brazil, and the United States. 
  • North Dakota grows forty percent of the beans in the US, more than any other state!
  • Brazil grows the most beans in the world. 
  • In Nicaragua, newlyweds are given a bowl of beans for good luck.

Anatomy & Etymology

  • Did you know: Beans are technically a fruit! 
  • Beans are legumes, so they have seeds that dry in the seed pod. Other legumes include lentils, peas, peanuts, and soybeans.
  • Beans plants leave the soil better and healthier than before they were planted. Most plants deplete the soil, but not beans. This is because they have nodules on their roots that add nitrogen, which the soil needs. 
  • The world's tallest bean plant was over 45 feet tall! That's the equivalent of three average-sized giraffes stacked on top of one another. The plant was grown in the USA in 2003.
  • The word "bean" was first used before the 12th century. It comes from the Old English "bēan," from the Proto-Germanic "bauno," and is related to the Dutch "boon" and German "Bohne."

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • Beans are harvested at full maturity when their pod reaches about six inches long, and the leaves turn brown and fall off about 75 days after the beans are planted.
  • When harvested, the shells are broken open, and the beans are collected as long as they are dry. If they're not thoroughly dried, they can be hung up to finish drying before they're popped from their shells. 
  • We can't eat raw, uncooked beans. Why? Because beans have something called lectins that are poisonous, and the only way to remove most of these lectins is to cook the beans.
  • If you're using dried beans, soak them before cooking to remove "antinutrients," compounds that block the absorption of nutrients. 
  • Dried beans are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins; both canned and dried beans are available throughout the year. 
  • Canned beans can stay fresh for years! 
  • Combine the creamy texture of beans with a whole grain such as brown rice, and you have a virtually fat-free high-quality protein meal. 
  • Beans are made into burgers, dips, brownies, cakes, dips, fudge, muffins, pies, and drinks (coffee and cocoa beans). They can also be used in jewelry, toys, and musical instruments. "Bean bag chairs" are made with polystyrene "beans," but the small bean bags for play are sometimes made with real dried beans. 


  • Beans are complex carbohydrates and high in fiber, which keeps our digestion strong and smooth and our tummies happy. 
  • Beans are excellent sources of iron, magnesium, and potassium. The body needs these minerals to grow, develop, and stay healthy.
  • Beans supply several B vitamins to our diet, especially folate (B-9). These vitamins contribute to healthy brain function, formation of red blood cells, increased energy, and decreased cancer and cardiovascular disease risk.  
  • The fiber and protein in beans are good for stabilizing blood sugar. They are popular with vegans and vegetarians because they replace some of the nutrients found in meat.

Beany Expressions:

  • Bean counter = an accountant
  • Bean feast = a party with food and drink
  • Bean pole = describing someone tall and thin
  • Cool beans = when something is cool
  • It doesn't amount to a hill of beans = when something doesn't add up to much
  • Full of beans = full of energy, enthusiasm
  • ​Hasn't got a bean = doesn't have any money
  • Has-been = once was something, maybe famous or rich, and now those days are gone
  • Not worth a bean = not worth anything
  • ​Spill the beans = dish the dirt, tell the truth

History of Enchiladas!

Photo by Manuel Vazquez Lopez/
  • What we know as an enchilada (EN-chee-LAH-duh) was first crafted by the Aztecs in Mexico sometime between 1300 and 1521 CE. Previously, the Maya people in Mesoamerica are thought to have used corn tortillas in a similar way.
  • An enchilada typically consists of a corn tortilla wrapped around cooked shredded or ground meat, then covered with a chili-based sauce that sometimes includes tomato, tomatillo, or chocolate (mole sauce). Other possible fillings include beans, cheese, chili peppers, potatoes, tofu, or vegetables. Garnishes can be avocado, cheese, cilantro, lettuce, salsa, or sour cream.
  • Besides the individual rolled version, there are alternative ways of making and serving enchiladas. These include enchilada cups and stacked enchilada pies. However you eat them, enchiladas are a Mexican food favorite!

Let's Learn About Mexico!

Photo by Alena Darmel
  • Officially, Mexico's name is "The United Mexican States." It is one of several countries and territories in North America, including Canada and the United States of America.
  • Spanish is Mexico's national language, and Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Mexican people didn't always speak Spanish, though. For thousands of years, Native Americans lived there and built great cities. The people had advanced language, education, and calendar systems, and they had very clever ways of raising food. Mexico is also the country with the largest number of native American speakers in North America. 
  • The capital of Mexico is Mexico City. Mexican legend says that Aztec leaders were told to build their great city of Tenochtitlan at the site where they saw an eagle sitting on a nopal cactus with a snake in its beak. That image is in the center of Mexico's flag. The Aztecs built their city on an island in the middle of a lake. The ruins of Tenochtitlan are at the center of Mexico City and still sit on top of a lake! As water is pumped out to serve the needs of the city's growing population, the city has been sinking at a rate of 6 to 8 inches per year.  
  • Indigenous Mexican people included the Aztecs in the central interior of the country, the Mayans of the Yucatan peninsula, and the Zapotec of the south. Spanish explorers landed in Mexico in the early 1500s, and they ruled Mexico for over 300 years. During this time of colonization, Mexico's Mesoamerican civilizations mixed with European culture.
  • Before the arrival of Spaniards, native Mexican food primarily consisted of corn, beans, peppers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and herbs. Indigenous people occasionally hunted and added wild turkey, rabbit, deer, and quail to their largely vegetarian diets. Native royalty sipped chocolate drinks. Europeans introduced cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens, sugarcane, and wheat to Mexico upon their arrival. 
  • Mexican cuisine uses chili peppers to give it its distinct flavor. Jalapeños, poblanos, and serrano peppers are commonly used in Mexican dishes. Dishes that include mole, a sauce made of dark chocolate, chili peppers, cinnamon, and other spices, may be served on special occasions, such as Día de los Muertos. 

What is it like to be a kid in Mexico?

  • Mexican children may live near the ocean or the gulf, in the desert, or in the mountains. 
  • Kids often live with extended family, including grandparents. Their full names include their father's and their mother's.
  • Most kids speak Spanish, but Mexico also recognizes 68 native languages. 
  • They attend school from September through June. Large schools have two shifts—one group in the morning and one in the afternoon. Students are usually required to wear uniforms. 
  • They may play soccer, baseball, and other sports. Jumping rope and other outdoor games are very popular. They might play a game similar to bingo called Lotería. It is played with picture cards and songs. 
  • Corn tortillas are a staple for kids, along with beans and rice. Dishes that include mole, a sauce often made of dark chocolate, chili peppers, cinnamon, and other spices, may be served on special occasions. 
  • A popular family holiday is Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a celebration to remember and honor a family's ancestors. Family members decorate the graves of their relatives who have passed on. Typical foods served for this holiday include empanadas, tamales, pan de muertos (a sweet bread in which a ring with a tiny plastic skeleton is hidden), and calaveras de azucar (sugar candy skulls). 

THYME for a Laugh

Where do beans go on holiday? 

The Carib-bean!

Lettuce Joke Around

Have you heard the joke about the tortilla? 

It was corny.

THYME for a Laugh

What did the taco say to the burrito?

I love you a whole enchi-lot-a!

Lettuce Joke Around

What bean is the most intelligent? 

The Human Bean!

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