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What Are Enchiladas?
Enchiladas are a classic Mexican entrée that consists of corn tortillas stuffed with filling—typically proteins like chicken, cheese, or beef—which is rolled and covered in a savory sauce. The name “enchilada” is a Spanish term that translates to "seasoned with chile," a reference to the native chile peppers prominent in traditional enchilada sauces.
Traditionally, the dish consisted of a corn tortilla dipped in salsa and folded over, and occasionally filled with hard-boiled eggs or fish. You can fill enchiladas with various ingredients, including zucchini, boneless chicken breasts, ground beef, diced tomatoes, and green chiles. You can use various types of salsas and sauces on top of your enchilada, like a chipotle salsa or French béchamel, and add sliced avocado, cheddar cheese, or sour cream for extra texture.
Popular Mexican Enchilada Variations
Popular Mexican enchilada recipes include:
- Enchiladas suizas, or Swiss-style enchiladas, feature a creamy cheese sauce.
- Enmoladas feature a mole sauce—a rich, complex sauce made with nuts, seeds, and dried chiles.
- Enchiladas Verdes (also known as green enchiladas) feature a salsa verde, a tomatillo–based sauce.
- Enchiladas Rojas (also known as red enchiladas) feature a tomato- and chile-based red sauce.
- Enchiladas poblanas are filled with poblano peppers and stringy queso Oaxaca.
Popular American-Style Enchilada Variations
Traditional enchiladas, once enjoyed by the ancient Aztecs and Mayans, are vastly different from the popular Tex-Mex enchilada casserole made with cooked chicken and cheese. There are a few regional varieties of enchiladas in the United States, including:
- California-style. Enchiladas feature a red chile and tomato enchilada sauce.
- Texas-style. Texas enchiladas are filled with cheese and onions and covered in cumin gravy.
- New Mexico-style. New Mexico-style enchiladas, also known as enchiladas montadas, are stacked rather than rolled and smothered in either red enchilada sauce or salsa verde. They are sometimes topped with a fried egg.
Best Chicken Enchiladas Recipe
Prep Time15 min
Total Time35 min
Cook Time20 min
- 1 pound tomatillos (about 12)
- ½ cup chicken broth (optional)
- 1 jalapeño pepper or serrano chile, seeded and sliced
- 1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems, plus more for garnish
- 1 garlic clove, sliced
- ½ cup olive oil
- 12 corn tortillas
- 1 pound shredded chicken meat, from a store-bought rotisserie chicken or other leftover skinless chicken
- ½ teaspoon of black pepper
- ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon of oregano
- ½ teaspoon of chili powder (optional)
- 1 cup shredded cheese such as queso Oaxaca or Monterey Jack cheese
- ½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
- Black beans, to serve (optional)
- Guacamole, to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Make the salsa verde. Remove husks from tomatillos and rinse. Place them in a medium saucepan with enough water to just cover. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Lower heat to medium and simmer until slightly soft, about 4 minutes. Drain, reserving cooking liquid.
- Add a ½ cup of the cooking liquid (or chicken broth) to a blender or food processor, along with jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, and cooked tomatillos. Blend or pulse briefly, until a coarse, chunky sauce forms. (Blend longer if you prefer a smoother purée.) Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.
- Remove the skin from the chicken and shred it into thin strips. Place the chicken in a large bowl and season it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and chili powder. Set the chicken mixture aside.
- Fry the tortillas. In a sauté pan over medium heat, warm olive oil until shimmering. Use tongs to fry the tortillas one at a time until golden brown, a few seconds per side. Transfer warmed tortillas to a baking sheet.
- Pour a thin layer of salsa verde onto the bottom of a 9x13-inch baking dish or casserole dish. Spread a spoonful of salsa in the center of each tortilla and top with a pinch or two of shredded chicken filling and cheese.
- Roll up tortillas and arrange in the baking dish seam side down. Pour the remaining sauce over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese.
- Bake until the cheese melts and begins to brown, about 10–15 minutes. Remove from the oven and dollop each enchilada with a spoonful of sour cream. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with black beans and guacamole.
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