This authentic chicken enchiladas recipe, known as enchiladas rojas de pollo in Spanish, features a homemade red chile sauce prepared with guajillo and ancho peppers, cumin, garlic and Mexican oregano. The traditional flavors of fresh cilantro and Mexican fresh cheese (queso fresco) finish the dish. The recipe will make 12 enchiladas.
Step 1: Make the Chile Sauce
Start your enchiladas by making the chile sauce.
Red Chile Sauce Ingredients
- 4 fresh guajillo peppers
- 4 fresh ancho peppers
- 1 jalapeño pepper (optional)
- 2 peeled and roughly chopped garlic cloves
- 1 medium roughly chopped onion
- 1 cup seeded, diced tomatoes
- Chicken stock to thin, if necessary
- 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Red Chile Sauce Instructions
- Roast the washed and dried guajillo, ancho, and optional jalapeño pepper under a broiler until all sides are lightly charred, turning as necessary. Remove to a heatproof bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and steam for 15 minutes.
- When cool enough to handle, remove the stems and seeds. It's not necessary to remove the skins as they will be strained out.
- Place the peppers in a blender with the garlic cloves, onion, and tomatoes. Blend until smooth. Add a little chicken stock, as necessary, if the sauce is too thick. It should be pourable and not like a paste.
- Strain the sauce into a pot large enough to accommodate a corn tortilla. Add oregano, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and keep warm.
Step 2: Gather the Chicken Filling Ingredients
Using all-white-meat chicken or a combination of white and dark meat is your choice. Freshly poached, sautéed or grilled chicken is ideal, but leftover cooked chicken meat, good-quality canned chicken breast or deli-roasted chicken also are good choices. Make sure the chicken is warm when filling the tortillas.
Chicken Filling Ingredients
- 3 cups cooked and shredded boneless, skinless chicken, warmed
- 3/4 cup warm red chile sauce
- 1 1/2 cups crumbled queso fresco (Mexican fresh cheese)
- 3/4 cup finely chopped onion
- 3/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
The chicken filling ingredients are not mixed together, but are kept separate and layered on the chile sauce-dipped and fried corn tortilla, as outlined in step 3, below.
Step 3: Fry the Tortillas and Assemble Enchiladas
You'll fry the enchiladas and keep them warm in an oven as you assemble the rest.
- 1/3 cup neutral oil like canola or vegetable
- Warm red chile sauce
- 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
- Filling ingredients listed above
Frying and Assembling Instructions
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet, adding more as necessary.
- When the oil is hot but not smoking, dip each tortilla in the warm red chile sauce and then briefly fry both sides in the hot oil. Remove to a plate or work surface to assemble.
- Place 1/4 cup warm shredded cooked chicken in the center of each sauced and fried tortilla. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon warm red chile sauce, top with 2 tablespoons crumbled cheese, 1 tablespoon chopped onion, and 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro.
- Roll the tortilla and keep it warm by placing it in a heatproof pan, loosely covered with aluminum foil, in a 350-degree oven. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling ingredients.
Step 4: Garnishing and Serving
Once all enchiladas have been assembled, you'll be ready to serve them.
- Thinly sliced radishes
- Chopped onions
- Crumbled queso fresco
- Additional warm red chile sauce
- Cilantro sprigs
Serve the Enchiladas
- Place two to three enchiladas per serving on a plate.
- Garnish with a light coating of warm red sauce, if desired, a sprinkling of crumbled queso fresco and chopped onion or any other topping of choice like thinly sliced radishes. Traditionally, the cheese on top is not melted.
While chicken enchiladas are considered the most authentic, variations do exist. Other popular fillings include shrimp and crab, beans and cheese, beef, pork, potatoes, vegetables, cheese and many more, and the sauce also can vary.
- Enchiladas verdes: Filled and rolled tortillas are topped with a green sauce made with tomatillos.
- Enchiladas entomatada: In this variation, a tomato sauce is used to nap the rolled tortillas instead of a chile sauce.
- Enchiladas enmolada: A mole sauce is used to top the filled and rolled tortillas instead of a chile sauce.
- Enchiladas suizas: In this variation, the filled and rolled tortillas are topped with a milk- or cream-based sauce, similar to a French béchamel sauce.
- Americanized enchiladas: For an easy casserole option, try this chicken enchilada casserole recipe.
Great Enchilada Accompaniments
Turn chicken enchiladas into a complete Mexican meal by serving them with these traditional sides. Provide a bowl of seeded and diced jalapeño or serrano peppers for those who like more heat. Other accompaniments might include shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes, guacamole, salsa, Mexican rice, or refried beans (frijoles).