Chicken Enchiladas

Chicken Enchiladas with Red Enchilada Sauce

Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa De Chile Rojo and some Queso Fresco sprinkled on top.

In case you’ve been wondering about the sporadic posts and lack of commenting, I’ve been in Asia for the past month. As much as I love the food of my homeland, eating nothing but Korean and Japanese food for the past thirty days had me itching for a change. Since I’m spending a week at a Napa retreat (a.k.a. my parent’s house), I decided to make the most of the plentiful Mexican supplies while I can. Chicken enchiladas from scratch seemed like a good place to start.

My mom has never been a big fan of the big bold flavours of Mexican food, but my gringo step-father and I grew up surrounded by it, and for me it’s as comforting as a bowl of mac and cheese. Chicken enchiladas are so often a greasy, soggy mess with pasty dried out chicken inside that I’ve given up ordering it in restaurants. When they’re done well though, they’re moist little rolls of flavour that dance around your tongue, putting a smile on your face.

Queso Fresco on Chicken Enchiladas

Just so there’s no misunderstanding, I’m about as Mexican as Taco Bell and these are not your abuela’s chicken enchiladas. But what they lack in authenticity, they make up for in flavour and I’d challenge my sternest critics to give them a try before you knock them.

I won’t lie to you, these chicken enchiladas aren’t a quick weeknight fix and they take a bit of time to make, but find a weekend with about two hours to spare and your tastebuds will thank you for it. This red enchilada sauce starts with a puree of caramelized onions and garlic, with roasted dry chilies, tomato and spices layered on. Together they form a rich symphony of piquant flavours, carefully balancing salt, sweet, tart, bitter and spice.

Chicken enchiladas

The sauce envelopes tender chicken that’s been poached in spices which are then rolled in pillowy homemade corn tortillas that soak up the extra sauce that’s poured on top. A brief stint in the oven melds all the flavours and yields a chicken enchilada that will make you swear off jarred and canned sauces forever.

Chicken Enchiladas

10 homemade corn tortillas

for chicken
1.5 lbs chicken breasts (or tenders)
2 qts water
2 Tbs salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 bay leaf

for enchilada sauce
5 Ancho chilies
5 Guajillo chilies
1 large onion
3 large cloves garlic
2 Tbs oil
15 oz can tomato sauce (pureed tomatoes)
2C water
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp Meican oregano

1/2 C crumbled queso fresco

Wash the chicken breasts and trim any fat, skin or tendon from the meat. Heat the water, salt, cumin, oregano and bay leaf to a boil. Add the chicken and return to a boil. Cover with a lid and turn off the heat. Let it sit for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked all the way through. When it’s done, strain the chicken and shred.

For the enchilada sauce, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray the chilies with oil, place on a baking sheet and roast until fragrant (about 7 minutes), be careful not to burn them or they will be bitter. When they’re done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool off enough to touch. Tear the stems off and remove all the seeds. Boil some water. Soak the roasted chilies in boiling water until rehydrated, about 45 minutes.

In a food processor, puree the onions and garlic. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and fry the pureed onion and garlic until reduced down to about 1/4 of the original volume and it’s nice and caramelized. This will take 20-30 minutes, but it’s where a lot of the flavor comes from so it’s worth the wait.

When the chiles are rehydrated, add them to the food processor and blitz until pureed. Add this to the caramelized onions, then add the tomato sauce, water, sugar, salt, cumin and oregano. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the enchilada sauce has thickened and the flavours have had a chance to meld. Pass the sauce through a mesh sieve to remove the chili skins and mix about a 1/3 of the strained sauce with the chicken.

Heat about 1/4″ of oil in a frying pan and fry the tortillas. They should heat through and get soft but be careful not to get them crisp. Drain the on paper towels and pat off any excess oil.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Put a couple spoonfuls of chicken into each tortilla and roll. In a 13″ x 9″ casserole dish, lay each enchilada down with the seam side down. Cover with the rest of the sauce and sprinkle the queso fresco on top. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbly.

I serve these chicken enchiladas with black beans and extra tortillas, but they’d also be great with a salad.

  • http://maclarty.blogspot.com/ Koek!

    This looks like heaven…

  • http://maclarty.blogspot.com/ Koek!

    This looks like heaven…

  • http://freshlocalandbest.blogspot.com/ Christine @Fresh Local

    This looks like a fabulous chicken enchilada recipe. I’m glad to see a recipe that calls for toasting the chiles before processing.

    My husband travels to Asia a couple times a year, bringing back stories of all the great meals he ate, from the open door noodle shops in Taiwan to wagyu beef-centric meals, and yet all he wants toward the end of the trip is pizza. It’s good to be back home.

  • http://freshlocalandbest.blogspot.com Christine @Fresh Local

    This looks like a fabulous chicken enchilada recipe. I’m glad to see a recipe that calls for toasting the chiles before processing.

    My husband travels to Asia a couple times a year, bringing back stories of all the great meals he ate, from the open door noodle shops in Taiwan to wagyu beef-centric meals, and yet all he wants toward the end of the trip is pizza. It’s good to be back home.

  • http://bloghob.com/ Rocky Garcia

    This looks very good. I’ll rate it 5/5! It looks like a recipe in a 5-star restaurant. And if I’m going to choose a food to eat in a restaurant and then I saw this one, I’ll buy it no matter how expensive the price is.

  • http://bloghob.com/ Rocky Garcia

    This looks very good. I’ll rate it 5/5! It looks like a recipe in a 5-star restaurant. And if I’m going to choose a food to eat in a restaurant and then I saw this one, I’ll buy it no matter how expensive the price is.

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    Oh my! These look so good! I love your version Marc…the caramelised onion and garlic is a great flavour enhancer…thanks for sharing!

  • http://souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    Oh my! These look so good! I love your version Marc…the caramelised onion and garlic is a great flavour enhancer…thanks for sharing!

  • http://anediblesymphony.blogspot.com/ Muneeba

    What a beautiful dark sauce! I really want to make these enchiladas … but I wonder what the difference is between regular oregano and the Mexican kind? And what can I swap for the guajillo chiles if I can’t find ‘em?!

    • marc

      Thanks:-) You can use regular oregano, it’s pretty similar although I just use mexican oregano for everything since I like the flavour better (tastes more fresh). As for the Guajillo chiles, it will be hard to find a substitute that tastes the same… If you live in the US, any latin american shop should carry them as they are probably the most commonly used dried chile in Mexican food (I can even get them in NYC). Good luck!

  • http://anediblesymphony.blogspot.com Muneeba

    What a beautiful dark sauce! I really want to make these enchiladas … but I wonder what the difference is between regular oregano and the Mexican kind? And what can I swap for the guajillo chiles if I can’t find ‘em?!

    • marc

      Thanks:-) You can use regular oregano, it’s pretty similar although I just use mexican oregano for everything since I like the flavour better (tastes more fresh). As for the Guajillo chiles, it will be hard to find a substitute that tastes the same… If you live in the US, any latin american shop should carry them as they are probably the most commonly used dried chile in Mexican food (I can even get them in NYC). Good luck!

  • http://www.frenchietbd.com/ Frenchie

    I really hope I find a spare 2 hours very soon. This sounds like it has an incredibly complex depth of flavor, right up my alley.

  • http://www.frenchietbd.com Frenchie

    I really hope I find a spare 2 hours very soon. This sounds like it has an incredibly complex depth of flavor, right up my alley.

  • http://memoriesinthebaking.blogspot.com/ Marysol

    Marc, that looks too good for mere words.

    I often make chicken enchiladas, using a white, creamy sauce. The red enchilada sauce is one I’ve been meaning to try for some time. And having access to all the ingredients listed, yours is the ticket. Thank you.

  • http://memoriesinthebaking.blogspot.com Marysol

    Marc, that looks too good for mere words.

    I often make chicken enchiladas, using a white, creamy sauce. The red enchilada sauce is one I’ve been meaning to try for some time. And having access to all the ingredients listed, yours is the ticket. Thank you.

  • Jane

    They look incredible, but I have to say ‘nay-nay’ on cumin. I despise that seasoning. I can just leave it out! Thank you for another wonderful recipe!

  • Jane

    They look incredible, but I have to say ‘nay-nay’ on cumin. I despise that seasoning. I can just leave it out! Thank you for another wonderful recipe!

  • http://www.figtreeapps.blogspot.com/ Figtreeapps

    OMG!!! This looks so good. Im heading to a spice store in Philadelphia to pick up all the seasionings. Ill let you know how it turns out.

  • http://www.figtreeapps.blogspot.com Figtreeapps

    OMG!!! This looks so good. Im heading to a spice store in Philadelphia to pick up all the seasionings. Ill let you know how it turns out.

  • http://www.macheesmo.com/ Nick

    The sauce looks very legit! No need for the jarred stuff at all :)

    Any reason why you couldn’t substitute dark meat for the chicken (thighs, etc?) I tend to prefer dark meat in enchiladas.

    Nice recipe.
    -Nick

    • marc

      I’m with you on the dark meat for 99% of recipes. I hardly ever use breast meat, but in this case, the breast meat shreds easier (unless you cook the thighs for a long time). Also if cooked properly (i.e. poached instead of boiled), the meat turns out very tender and moist.

  • http://www.macheesmo.com Nick

    The sauce looks very legit! No need for the jarred stuff at all :)

    Any reason why you couldn’t substitute dark meat for the chicken (thighs, etc?) I tend to prefer dark meat in enchiladas.

    Nice recipe.
    -Nick

    • marc

      I’m with you on the dark meat for 99% of recipes. I hardly ever use breast meat, but in this case, the breast meat shreds easier (unless you cook the thighs for a long time). Also if cooked properly (i.e. poached instead of boiled), the meat turns out very tender and moist.

  • http://simplyscrumptiousfoodie.com/ Jessie

    that looks awesome! I love making mexican dishes from scratch, it comes out so much better since you have more control over what spices goes into the dish.

  • http://simplyscrumptiousfoodie.com Jessie

    that looks awesome! I love making mexican dishes from scratch, it comes out so much better since you have more control over what spices goes into the dish.

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com/ Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    I like your poaching method for chicken – will have to try it. I see what you mean about the recipe – it’s not quick – but it definitely looks rewarding. Are you going to post a recipe for homemade tortillas too? :)

  • http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com Laura @ Hungry and Frozen

    I like your poaching method for chicken – will have to try it. I see what you mean about the recipe – it’s not quick – but it definitely looks rewarding. Are you going to post a recipe for homemade tortillas too? :)

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com/ we are never full

    when jonny and i spent almost a month in italy a few years ago i felt the SAME way as you. in fact, we actually found a mexican restaurant in alessandria which was nasty but totally hit the spot. there was rosemary in EVERYTHING and the “burritos” were topped w/ what looked like a kraft single. we had so much fun and drank LOTS of margaritas (which tasted SO freaking good after 4 weeks of peroni and wine).

    was wondering when you were coming back. jonny and i would love to meet up for drinks soon (maybe w/ stephane?) to hear all about your trip! maybe in a few weeks when you’re settled back?

    enjoy chez parents!

  • http://www.weareneverfull.com we are never full

    when jonny and i spent almost a month in italy a few years ago i felt the SAME way as you. in fact, we actually found a mexican restaurant in alessandria which was nasty but totally hit the spot. there was rosemary in EVERYTHING and the “burritos” were topped w/ what looked like a kraft single. we had so much fun and drank LOTS of margaritas (which tasted SO freaking good after 4 weeks of peroni and wine).

    was wondering when you were coming back. jonny and i would love to meet up for drinks soon (maybe w/ stephane?) to hear all about your trip! maybe in a few weeks when you’re settled back?

    enjoy chez parents!

  • http://drfugawe.wordpress.com/ drfugawe

    Hey Marc,
    We too are gringo Mexicanos, but we do spend a good amount of each winter SOB – frankly, the enchilada is our quick and dirty way of judging whether a Mexican restaurant will be good or not – most out here in my neck simply cheat and wrap a tortilla around some chick meat, cover it with whatever kitchen sauce, and call it an enchilada! Doesn’t happen much in Mex, but here, unfortunately yes.

    Thanks for showing us the real stuff, and the real way.

  • http://drfugawe.wordpress.com/ drfugawe

    Hey Marc,
    We too are gringo Mexicanos, but we do spend a good amount of each winter SOB – frankly, the enchilada is our quick and dirty way of judging whether a Mexican restaurant will be good or not – most out here in my neck simply cheat and wrap a tortilla around some chick meat, cover it with whatever kitchen sauce, and call it an enchilada! Doesn’t happen much in Mex, but here, unfortunately yes.

    Thanks for showing us the real stuff, and the real way.

  • http://www.bigboldbeautifulfood.blogspot.com/ Ninette

    Oh, guajillos. My favorite dried chili. I have guajillo puree in my fridge which I made for salsa and which would work nice here.

  • http://www.bigboldbeautifulfood.blogspot.com Ninette

    Oh, guajillos. My favorite dried chili. I have guajillo puree in my fridge which I made for salsa and which would work nice here.

  • http://cheffresco.com/ Cheffresco

    I love chicken enchiladas too. Beautiful pic.

  • http://cheffresco.com Cheffresco

    I love chicken enchiladas too. Beautiful pic.

  • http://www.fotoeragu.blogspot.com/ chiara.u

    Hi Marc! it passed some time since I moved here and now I find a great surprire! I love mexican, I love chicken enchiladas and I’ll surely spend some time to follow your recipe! thanks.

  • http://www.fotoeragu.blogspot.com chiara.u

    Hi Marc! it passed some time since I moved here and now I find a great surprire! I love mexican, I love chicken enchiladas and I’ll surely spend some time to follow your recipe! thanks.

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com/ Manggy

    Uh, forget quick weeknight meals, that super-special sauce with all the deep flavors is so totally worth it :)

  • http://manggy.blogspot.com Manggy

    Uh, forget quick weeknight meals, that super-special sauce with all the deep flavors is so totally worth it :)

  • http://www.thehealthyapple.com/ The Healthy Apple

    Honestly, you have me drooling right now. This looks like a bite of heaven … I may just have to whip this up tonight for myself; great post! I’m looking forward to meeting you in San Fran on Friday for the Foodbuzz Festival!

  • http://www.thehealthyapple.com The Healthy Apple

    Honestly, you have me drooling right now. This looks like a bite of heaven … I may just have to whip this up tonight for myself; great post! I’m looking forward to meeting you in San Fran on Friday for the Foodbuzz Festival!

  • http://baconandrhubarb.blogspot.com/ Rachel (S[d]OC)

    I’ve been wanting to make enhiladas for a long time now, but every recipe I find uses jarred enchilada sauce. I will definitely try these when I have some time on my hands. The sauce looks really delcious. I probably won’t make my own tortillas though, unless I’m feeling seriously ambitious.

  • http://baconandrhubarb.blogspot.com Rachel (S[d]OC)

    I’ve been wanting to make enhiladas for a long time now, but every recipe I find uses jarred enchilada sauce. I will definitely try these when I have some time on my hands. The sauce looks really delcious. I probably won’t make my own tortillas though, unless I’m feeling seriously ambitious.

  • http://tokyoterrace.com/ Tokyo Terrace

    Every time I leave Japan for the US I crave Chipotle. Yep. A big ole burrito. And my mom’s enchiladas. The lack of Mexican cuisine here is killer… Good thing there is a lot of other great food in Japan to tide me over though! Wish I could have met up with you guys. Next time?

  • http://tokyoterrace.com Tokyo Terrace

    Every time I leave Japan for the US I crave Chipotle. Yep. A big ole burrito. And my mom’s enchiladas. The lack of Mexican cuisine here is killer… Good thing there is a lot of other great food in Japan to tide me over though! Wish I could have met up with you guys. Next time?

  • http://www.choebrothers.com/ alecho

    niiiiice! just the recipe I was looking for! Girl I’m trying to impress loves enchiladas! thanx!

  • http://www.choebrothers.com alecho

    niiiiice! just the recipe I was looking for! Girl I’m trying to impress loves enchiladas! thanx!

  • http://food-4tots.com/ food-4tots

    I’m new to Mexican food but this dish looks awesome! Hope I wish I can have some now…..drooling!

  • http://food-4tots.com food-4tots

    I’m new to Mexican food but this dish looks awesome! Hope I wish I can have some now…..drooling!

  • http://ravenouscouple.blogspot.com/ ravenouscouple

    it was great to meet you at the FB festival!

  • http://ravenouscouple.blogspot.com ravenouscouple

    it was great to meet you at the FB festival!

  • French Cooking for Dummies

    They may not be from a Mexican grandma but they still look delicious to me ;-) I can’t wait to try your enchiladas!

  • French Cooking for Dummies

    They may not be from a Mexican grandma but they still look delicious to me ;-) I can’t wait to try your enchiladas!

  • http://nancyvienneau.com/blog nancy at goodfoodmatters

    Marc, being a new york transplant living for many years in nashville tennessee, I’m likely even less connected to true Mexican cuisine, but I must say your red enchilada sauce looks pretty dang auténtico to me!
    Delicious–and rich—a salad to accompany is all you really need.

  • http://nancyvienneau.com/blog nancy at goodfoodmatters

    Marc, being a new york transplant living for many years in nashville tennessee, I’m likely even less connected to true Mexican cuisine, but I must say your red enchilada sauce looks pretty dang auténtico to me!
    Delicious–and rich—a salad to accompany is all you really need.

  • D. Ortega

    My husband and I made your enchilada sauce. Yummmy! We had leftover turkey breast and corn tortillas to us up so we stuffed ours with turkey, cheddar cheese, and cilantro. Yum Yum! Lucky, we made enough for leftovers. Oh, did I say yummy? Yes, they are!

  • D. Ortega

    My husband and I made your enchilada sauce. Yummmy! We had leftover turkey breast and corn tortillas to us up so we stuffed ours with turkey, cheddar cheese, and cilantro. Yum Yum! Lucky, we made enough for leftovers. Oh, did I say yummy? Yes, they are!

  • http://www.sugarbar.org/ diva

    mmm for a second i thought u’d made mole poblano which i absolutely love! but enchiladas are great too. a friend of mine makes them so well i refuse to eat enchiladas not made by him but hey, i’m totally using your recipe! they look too good to pass up on and he lives too far away from me now to head over for an enchilada fix. time for me to become independent :)

  • http://www.sugarbar.org diva

    mmm for a second i thought u’d made mole poblano which i absolutely love! but enchiladas are great too. a friend of mine makes them so well i refuse to eat enchiladas not made by him but hey, i’m totally using your recipe! they look too good to pass up on and he lives too far away from me now to head over for an enchilada fix. time for me to become independent :)

  • http://peaslovecarrots.blogspot.com/ Mathea

    I’ve always loved that Mexican food is really very complexly linked to specific types of chilies for each dish. Americans typically just lump them all together as “chilies”… to the Mexican, they’re elevated to the respectful first-name-basis of “Ancho”, and “Pasilla”.

    I may be stating the obvious, here, but I always find it fascinating, especially considering how common Mexican food is here and I think it’s taken for granted as a convenience food sometimes.

    Great recipe!

    *hops off soapbox*

  • http://peaslovecarrots.blogspot.com Mathea

    I’ve always loved that Mexican food is really very complexly linked to specific types of chilies for each dish. Americans typically just lump them all together as “chilies”… to the Mexican, they’re elevated to the respectful first-name-basis of “Ancho”, and “Pasilla”.

    I may be stating the obvious, here, but I always find it fascinating, especially considering how common Mexican food is here and I think it’s taken for granted as a convenience food sometimes.

    Great recipe!

    *hops off soapbox*

  • Joe Bonanza

    A chef I worked with used to pass the chiles over an open flame very briefly. They puff up a little and smell instantly. Much easier than roasting them in the overn.

  • Melluvmutt

    Absolutely amazing sauce!  I had a blast making these enchiladas, and I learned a lot doing it.  I doubled the recipe, and I added black beans and corn that I simmered in salsa and cumin.  Also, since my partner and I are die hard cheese lovers, I added pepper-jack inside of the enchiladas.  So happy I took the time to make these!  YUM YUM YUM!!!

  • Mike

    i just made these and am eating them right now with my gf. We love it. Followed recipe, next time I will add perhaps beans and mushrooms, spinach, along with the chicken. Excellent. As good or better than any restaurant enchiladas.

Welcome!

I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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