Still in search of Estrada’s

Macaroni and Cheese

Mexican Macaroni and Cheese

Each year around this time I complete an on-line search for Estrada’s Spanish Kitchen recipes … Always hopeful but never successful. For forty years our family frequented this restaurant on Christmas Eve. With the passing of three members of our immediate family we held ourselves together and continued this tradition until the restaurant closed in our city, Visalia … the original location of the restaurant which later became a small chain. It was, is, a significant part of our lives.

This year I sorta hit the jackpot. Chowhound Chow message board had multiple entries about this restaurant and the secret recipes. I quickly zeroed in on the Macaroni and Cheese, one of my favorites. The recipe is simple. I had been advised by an Estrada’s family member most of their recipes are surprising simple. There was that Velveeta Cheese! Yikes! Well, it kinda makes sense. Velveeta and Estrada’s made their debut about the same time. And who knew … Velveeta is one of those secret ingredients chefs use for the meltability but maybe like to keep quiet.

About the recipe here, this is very good and oh so easy but sorry for Estrada’s fans … It isn’t even close to the Estrada’s Macaroni and Cheese I remember. But it does provide a starting point. How does this one miss the mark? Not as sweet, sauce is orange not red, spices are too prominent (not a bad thing but not Estrada’s), the right size of bucatini is hard to come by, and well, just maybe Velveeta wasn’t used.

If I was to do this again, and I will, I’d use their authentic enchilada sauce. I have what is supposed to be the Daly City Estrada’s, the last of the chain, recipe. Yet, I am not truly convinced the sauce used for their macaroni and cheese is a modification of enchilada sauce.


Serves 4 Adults
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

One pound bucatini pasta (#15 De Cecco’s was used but needs to be twice this diameter size) The first picture in this post shows a Mexican made pasta closer to the diameter used by Estrada’s, however, the length needs to be similar to spaghetti. The second picture shows the #15 bucatini, right length wrong diameter.

15-16 Ounce can Las Palmas mild Enchilada Sauce
4-6 Ounces Velveeta-cut in chunks
4 Ounce jar of sliced mushrooms-drained
1 Cup grated extra sharp or sharp cheddar cheese

Cook the pasta per directions. This recipe requires the pasta to be cooked beyond al dente for a softer and larger (swelling of the pasta) result.

Heat the enchilada sauce and add the Velveeta to melt. Stir in the mushrooms.

Butter an oven save dish, two 8 or 9 inch square or round, or an oblong or individual dishes. Place the drained pasta into the dish and slowly pour the sauce over all. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake in the oven until heated through,  about 15-20 minutes if sauce was still warm when poured over pasta.

Mexican Macaroni and Cheese


Mexican Macaroni and Cheese


  1. Posted December 30, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    After seeing this post, macaroni and cheese is ALL I am craving. This is so cheesy and delicious!

    • Posted December 30, 2014 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      Thank you! There is something about a Mac N Cheese that has us craving it.

  2. Payal
    Posted December 30, 2014 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    My husband and I are were JUST talking about this very restaurant that his family used to visit for years (also a Christmas Eve tradition for them). He remembers the tostada compuesta and this macaroni well. I came across your recipe on foodgawker. Thanks for posting!

    • Posted December 31, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      What a coincidence! My brother and I feel we have the tostada compuesta pretty close to Estrada’s … And look to be posting it not too far in the future. As for the macaroni … back to the drawing board for this one. Not close. My brother and I have many fond memories of this restaurant. We especially loved the Main Street location. And coincidentally Santa always knew about our Christmas Eve. He never failed to visit our home while we were there. Thank you for your visit and comment.

      • sally
        Posted December 21, 2015 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

        I was born and raised in Tulare. Estrada’s was a holiday institution for our family, one we passed down to my now grown children. Every year at Christmas, like you, we all long for a tostada compuesta and spanish mac n cheese! We try each year to make our own. With the help of a local restaurants’ beans with chorizo I think we are very close to a great tostada, but alas! We have tried every suggestion we’ve seen on the internet for the mac and cheese and nothing has come close! We are hoping for a Xmas miracle!!! Someone please break the code!

  3. Sage
    Posted May 25, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Hello, I grew up in Estrada’s. Literally, My grandparents were Ralph and Elizabeth Dillard. My grandpa Ralph was the son of Cruz Estrada. My grandparents lived upstairs from the restaurant. I can tell you 100% that there was no velveeta in the sauce. My grandpa would roll over in his grave if he read this!. The red sauce was more like a sweeter spaghetti sauce and not enchilada sauce. They were separate sauces. The closest sauce actually is regular ragu store bought sauce with added sliced canned mushrooms. We only used mild cheddar cheese on top. The cheese was very finely shredded. The macaroni was always boiled then buttered and chilled before baking, then the red sauce on top, then cheese. it wasn’t actually very complicated at all. But lard was used as a base for every sauce including the macaroni sauce. I can get my mom to make the sauces (she worked there twenty plus years) once and awhile. Anyways good luck. I really miss my grandma and poppo.

    • Posted May 25, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      Hi Sage,

      Your comments have me excited because now I have another starting point. No, this recipe is not the Estrada’s macaroni sauce. During my search on-line for something Estrada’s I came across this recipe. It was worth a try. Unfortunately, it was not to be. It was fun trying and this recipe is tasty. So, can you tell me where the noodles were purchased. The pasta used here is smaller in diameter and I’ve tried on-line searches without success. I am acquainted with a few of the Estrada’s family. And I do remember family living on the second floor of the Estrada’s on Main Street. Susie to be exact. Also, I have a distant family? member who is married to Ken’s daughter. No one is sharing. Thank you for stopping by and love the comments.

      • Nancy
        Posted December 27, 2016 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        I don’t remember it tasting like enchilada sauce at all. And it didn’t have mushrooms or I wouldn’t have eaten it! And no velveta. Definitely cheddar. The macaroni was hollow.

        • Posted December 28, 2016 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

          Hi Nancy,

          Try a search on my website for Estrada’s Style Macaroni that more closely tastes and resembles the original. Yes, the original had canned mushrooms but not many. You could frequently get a serving without one on your plate. Hope you try this recipe!

  4. Cindy Lagomarsino
    Posted December 27, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    I agree about the enchilada sauce possible being used for their mac and cheese. And the only commercial sauce made that seems to compare is Trader Joes’. It’s mild yet thick enough.

    • Posted December 27, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for the suggestion. And thank you for stopping by.

  5. Cruz-Ann
    Posted December 20, 2017 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I am an Estrada. My family owned many of them individually, and vellveta cheese wasn’t used. And I would bet that vellevta cheese came way after my great-grandma started Estradas

    • Posted December 20, 2017 at 6:43 pm | Permalink


      So happy to meet you! We loved and still love your family’s restaurants. This recipe was one trying to emulate the Visalia Estrada’s Macaroni recipe. It didn’t. I do have one that more closely “tastes” like the original. Try a search for Estrada’s Style Macaroni. Velveeta has been around since the very early 1900’s but I agree it was not used in the Estrada’s recipe. Thank you for stopping by.

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