Hibiscus enchiladas

March 29, 2023  •  Category: , ,

Ramadan Mubarak!

I have just returned from two weeks in Mexico, where I divided my time between Mexico city and Mazatlán in the state of Sinaloa. I wanted to take a cooking class in both places; so I joined a WhatsApp foodies group in CDMX (Mexico City) to try and ask around for a recommendation. Luckily, Chef Paulina Lara responded, sent me menus  and we settled on a date for a private class in her kitchen in Mexico City.

The title on her menu Hibiscus Enchiladas intrigued me. I had only used hibiscus (karkadeh in Arabic) to make iced or hot tea or agua fresca, the Mexican ice cold drink, sometimes adding a cinnamon stick to the flowers while boiling them.

In Mexico, hibiscus is called jamaica or flor de jamaica (pronounced ha-ma-ee-ka), and every restaurant or café sells it as a cold drink or agua fresca sweetened with sugar. This is also a popular drink in Egypt where people drink it cold especially during Ramadan.

The hibiscus is produced in Mexico, but also in Soudan and other countries in Africa and imported into Mexico for the local consumption. In fact, I had seen tubs of hibiscus leaves of various sizes and color at the giant mercado de la Merced in Mexico city, with a label showing its country of origin.   I had also read a recipe for hibiscus enchilada in a cookbook on Mexico City cuisine but never ventured to test it in my kitchen. Years prior, while living in Beirut, I had bought whole candied hibiscus leaves  imported from Thailand and they tasted delicious like a gummy candy with a bit of tang.

The method is super simple: the hibiscus flowers are boiled briefly in plenty of water, drained, (the hibiscus-flavored broth can be recycled as a tea with some sweetener later). They are then stir-fried with some previously fried onion and garlic combo, seasoned and used as a filling to some fresh tortillas, just as you would prepare any enchiladas. Once filled, the enchiladas are smothered in enchilada sauce ( made with guajillo chilies, tomatoes, onion and garlic). And as usual, the enchiladas are then garnished with a drizzle of Mexican crema and some grated Panela cheese (see Note on substitute).

Hibiscus enchiladas

Joumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern March 29, 2023 Mexican fusion, Main Dish, Vegan, vegetarian, tortilla, mexican, enchiladas, hibiscus, chilies,

4-6 servings

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes


1 cup Hibiscus flowers, dried

1/2 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped or mashed with salt

8 corn tortillas, fresh

Mexican cream or crema (as needed)

Panela cheese or Mexican queso fresco or feta cheese, grated or crumbled

oil, as needed

Enchilada sauce:

4 guajillo chilies, deveined and seeded

4 Roma tomatoes

1/2 onion, peeled

2 cloves garlic, peeled

oil, to fry the sauce



  1. Start with the enchilada sauce, as it takes longer and can be prepared ahead. Place the guajillo chilies in a saucepan and add a few cups of water to cover by about 5 cms or a couple inches. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer a few minutes. Let the chilies soak in the hot water for about 30 minutes, or until fully softened.
  2. Place the tomatoes, onion and garlic cloves in a skillet over medium heat and let them char on all sides. Once charred, transfer them to a blender, add the chilies and some chili water (can substitute clear chicken broth), some salt, ground black pepper, and purée the mixture several seconds until evenly puréed. Taste the sauce to adjust seasoning and set aside.
  3. Make the hibiscus filling: Rinse the hibiscus under running tap water (placing it in a sieve), to get rid of dust or any debris if needed. Transfer hibiscus into a saucepan, add water to cover (about 3 cups)and bring to a simmer. Leave the hibiscus over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the flowers are tender.
  4. Meanwhile, stir-fry the onion in a skillet until translucent (cover it to speed-up the process); add the garlic paste or mince, and stir-fry a few seconds, then add the drained hibiscus. Reserve the hibiscus broth for tea or agua fresca. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and a touch of sugar if needed (or piloncillo or brown sugar or a bit of honey or syrup).
  5. Pour 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil into a skillet and warm it over medium heat. Quickly dip the tortillas, one at a time, on both sides, to warm them up and tenderize them. As soon as the tortilla is coated with oil, place it in the serving plate and cover it with a generous quantity of the hibiscus mixture. Roll it up and set all the tortillas side by side.
  6. Cover the tortillas with a blanket of sauce (warmed-up briefly), top with a swirl of crema and a sprinkle of dry cheese (Panela or queso fresco or feta). Serve immediately.


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9 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Doc says:

    Thanks for the short lesson on hibiscus! Every week I pass by bins of what I assumed were dried purple hibiscus blossoms. Are they really leaves? I will definitely have to give them a trial in the kitchen.

    • Joumana Accad says:

      @Doc they are not leaves, they are flowers. Yes, please do! I am fascinated by them and love love drinking the hibiscus tea almost daily! Now I need to investigate the different ones based on their country of origin.

  2. marlene says:

    Hi joumana !
    How interesting ! I’m not familiar with hibiscus , nor with mexican cuisine for that matter . I think I had hibiscus granola years ago but I wasn’t impressed. anyway
    It’s maamoul season again and I am making some with walnuts. I was wondering , do I have to use yeast in the dough? I was planning to make the dough tomorrow but forgot to buy yeast and will not be going back to the grocery store in the next few days .
    What do you think?

    • Joumana says:

      Hello Marlene,

      No need for yeast! My grandmother, Téta Nabiha, did not use any yeast, and her maamoul were tender and crumbly and delicious! She used just the two types of semolina (ferkha and smeed), and of course samneh (ghee) or melted butter, and also rose and orange blossom water.
      I have several recipes on this blog, and I tried several ones, including the one that has yeast, and I dont see that yeast is needed at all. Let me know if you need some links to recipes.

      • marlene says:

        oh thank you !! I didn’t want to ruin the dough for something as *stupid* as yeast …
        I’d love to !
        In the recipe I checked they use 1 kilo of semolina (a mix of fine and coarse semolina) with 500g of butter .
        Does it sound good to you ? Is this the right ratio?

        • JOUMANA says:

          Yes, the ratio is good. You can let the dough rest several days too, the semolina will be easier to handle as it will absorb more.

  3. perla says:

    hi Joumana ! hope you\’re well !
    I came here to find a maamoul recipe , you never disappoint. I was wondering though , I don\’t have any ملقط around to make those beautiful designs ( I have a traditional mold but I don\’t want to use it , I don\’t like the design that much)
    Do you have any suggestion what to use instead? I am willing to spend hours making them just to get those beautiful shapes !!
    Happy easter !

  4. H. J. Mussa says:

    I had hibiscus Tacos in Phoenix, and they were to die for. I have become a big convert to hibiscus tea.

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