Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to assess the effect of the statistical admissibility of the recovered solution and the ability of the recovered solution to represent the singular solution; also the accuracy, local and global effectivity of recovery-based error estimators for enriched finite element methods (e.g. the extended finite element method, XFEM). Design/methodology/approach - The authors study the performance of two recovery techniques. The first is a recently developed superconvergent patch recovery procedure with equilibration and enrichment (SPR-CX). The second is known as the extended moving least squares recovery (XMLS), which enriches the recovered solutions but does not enforce equilibrium constraints. Both are extended recovery techniques as the polynomial basis used in the recovery process is enriched with singular terms for a better description of the singular nature of the solution. Findings - Numerical results comparing the convergence and the effectivity index of both techniques with those obtained without the enrichment enhancement clearly show the need for the use of extended recovery techniques in Zienkiewicz-Zhu type error estimators for this class of problems. The results also reveal significant improvements in the effectivities yielded by statistically admissible recovered solutions. Originality/value - The paper shows that both extended recovery procedures and statistical admissibility are key to an accurate assessment of the quality of enriched finite element approximations.