HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


I make lame enchiladas. Help?

So I've been futzing around with enchiladas, and they're coming out really boring. What I'm looking for ideally is something chicken-based where the filling can be started in the crockpot (like chicken thighs cooked in some kind of delish sauce, which then becomes the filling for the enchiladas.) It seems in theory like an ideal recipe for long hands-off cooking and then short assembly time/baking after we get off work, but in practice...nope! Every time I've actually followed a recipe and taken all day, they've been great - but every time I try to shorten the hands-on process at all, they're bland, to say the least.

Any ideas? Or do I just have to do the Mexican grandma bit and cook all day to get good enchiladas?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Enchiladas, in my opinion, are a way to dispatch leftover chicken. Cook a nice, well-seasoned roast chicken for dinner one night, and whatever meat you have left, shred. Mix it with a spoonful of pureed chipotle in adobo, some cheese, onions and peppers. Make sauce of your choice (green, red, whatever). Heat corn tortillas one at a time in hot skillet (they're brittle when cold and will disintegrate when you try to roll them up), add a spoonful of the filling, and roll up. Put in a greased 9x13 pan, top with the sauce and a little cheese, and put them in a 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or so to get everything heated through.

    1. I make killer enchi's and what works for me is garlic...lots of raw garlic added to your chicken or ground beef/beef when cooking the meat..
      Becomes this flavorful blend that will never be bland and isn't garlicky at all..
      From start to finish takes about an hour+ to prepare and bake.
      Sometimes I use the Dona Maria for Mole Enchiladas.

      1. Keep it simple. I poach and shred the chicken and spend the next 15-20 minutes making up the sauce according to what we feel like having. Usually keep shredded poached chicken in the ref, so it takes just a bit more sauce prep time to get the enchiladas in the oven,

        1. I recently posted a recipe for zucchini, corn and black bean enchiladas and the sauce for it is easy and excellent. You could go ahead and cook your chicken in the crock pot and then assemble and bake with the sauce in 1/2 hour. I also make spinach, mushroom and chicken enchiladas but I plan to make this sauce for them to in the future. If you want the recipe I can find the post!

          1 Reply
          1. re: 4chowpups

            I actually already copied that recipe - that sauce does sound good. I should probably spend a day making lots of sauce and freeze it, and then use these ideas for the filling. Sounds like there are few shortcuts for good enchilada sauce!

          2. Most enchiladas in Mexico aren't baked, they're simply prepped and served. In fact, you don't even have to roll them, folded or stacked are pretty common too. The flavor comes from not only the sauce and filling but the garnishes used as well.

            Rick Bayless in his cookbook Everyday Mexican has a pretty decent crockpot recipe for chicken with tomatillo sauce. The recipe is easy, washed and quartered tomatillos go into the crockpot along with a little garlic, some sliced white onion, a jalapeno or serrano chile (more if you want spicy), sprigs of cilantro and some salt. Put the chicken on top and cook for 5 or 6 hours. I think there may have been a little added broth or water, but crockpots seem to wring every last drop of fluid out of anything put in them. Towards the end of cooking you add some potatoes and more cilantro.

            You could make the recipe, take the chicken out, let it cool and then shred it. Then take the cooking liquid and puree it adding some water or chicken stock if needed. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed and pour into a pie plate of cake pan without a removable bottom. To assemble all you'd need to do would be to heat some oil in a small skillet with sides, dip a corn tortilla in for about 10 seconds per side, or enough to soften. Then dip in the sauce, put it on a work surface and fill with the shredded chicken. Roll, or just fold it in half like a taco. If you want to bake them put them in a baking dish and pour any left over sauce over them and bake. If you don't want to bake them, once you've finished folding, put them on a serving plate (lined with shredded cabbage would be nice), reheat the remaining sauce and pour over the enchiladas.

            Top with grated cotija cheese, white onion rings, chopped cilantro, sliced radishes and perhaps some pickled jalapenos, drizzle with crema, creme fraiche, or sour cream that has been thinned with some milk.

            8 Replies
            1. re: DiningDiva

              I think that Rick Bayless method would work (I also have that cookbook). To cut back on the fat a little, I think you could just dip the tortillas into hot sauce until they are soft. That way works for me. For red sauce, you're going to want to use a lot of reconstituted and pureed ancho chiles.

              1. re: diva360

                The Rick Bayless method sounds PERFECT. I'll try it and report back! Thanks!

                1. re: marigolds

                  Actually, the crockpot chicken recipes is Rick's, the suggestion to puree and use the cooking liquid as the enchilada sauce is mine. The oil dip, sauce dip and fill method with no baking is classically Mexican ;-)

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  The recipe says to use skinless thighs, so they shouldn't dry out (I wouldn't use breasts or skin-on chicken in a slow cooker). You could do the same braise in the oven for a shorter time.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    The recipe really says to cook the thighs for 7-8 hours in a crockpot, which is way, way, way too long.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Different crockpots go at different speeds. I do a poached/steamed whole chicken and it takes only 2-1/2 hours on high.

                      1. re: Sharuf

                        Sharuf is right. You should occas. check the temp accuracy of a crockpot just as you do an oven, so you can know how to adjust a recipe's stated cooking time.
                        Some of the early ones cooked at so low a temp that there was danger of food poisoning, and probably in overreaction to that many new ones cook too fast. If yours tends to the latter and you're afraid to go to work and leave something to cook all day even on LO, you might try this same test with a toothpick under the edge of the lid to keep the top barely tilted.


                  2. Fast lazy good enchiladas. Buy an unseasoned rotisserie chicken or do your crock pot chicken. Shred the meat coarsely--don't pulverize it. You should be able to bite into some chunks or slivers of pure chicken.

                    Herez and La Costena and several other companies make very good green sauce/salsa. Heat up your favorite, taste it, tweak it to please you. I always add at least garlic.

                    In a bowl combine chicken, chopped onion, chopped hot peppers or chiles if you want more heat than the sauce has, add enough of a half & half mixture of sour cream and your green sauce to bind the chicken mixture. Have a bowl of grated cheese beside it.

                    I've tried dipping the tortillas in the heated sauce but they fall apart faster than I can fill them and I don't like their consistency when they've baked. They turn into mush. I use oil.

                    Heat a good 1/2" of oil in a skillet just a little larger than your corn tortillas. Put an unlighted safety match in it and get ready to move fast for a few minutes. Next to the stove have a stack of layered paper towels and another wad of them ready to lightly & quickly blot excess oil out of each tortilla before it can stick to the paper towel.

                    When the match ignites, take it out w/the tongs and put in a tortilla, almost immed. flip it, almost immed. take it out and put it on the layered paper towels, blot it w/the wad in your hand, move it to a plate or board, put your little row of the chicken mix, top w/cheese, roll & put in baking dish you've previously covered the bottom of with some of the green sauce. Next tortilla into the oil.......(If the oil starts smoking between tortillas you're not moving fast enough. Should be no more than 10-12 seconds.)

                    When the dish is packed, sprinkle them with plenty of the Mex 4-cheese blend, pour the green sauce over them generously (saving a C. or so to serve hot on the table), dot with big blobs of sour cream, bake 325-350 til bubbly in the middle.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: PhoebeB

                      OK, I finally did this frying/match trick - it took a LONG time to get hot enough, but you were right - that is the perfect test of oil temperature! They came out great! (I had my best friend do the frying - she dropped, flipped, and pulled out onto the paper towels, I blotted, filled, and rolled. It was very easy!)

                      Thanks for all your help, everyone - these are the best enchiladas I've made so far. (I did the cook-Bayless-sauce-all-day thing, though, so I haven't tried out all the sauce ideas yet.)

                      I hope freezing them filled, rolled, and sauced but pre-baking is OK, b/c that's what I had to do - I'm taking them to the beach next week frozen to cook there. (Did NOT want to waste my ocean time making enchilada sauce!)

                    2. For chicken enchiladas I would take raw chicken and simmer it directly in herdez salsa casera and chicken broth until it turned into a stewy mess. You can do it with cooked chicken the same way. It comes out just great. Then saute the corn tortillas very briefly, dip them in enchilada sauce, roll em around the (somewhat drained) chicken and a little bit of jack cheese (or not), top with more cheese and serve with green onions and sour cream. Yum!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: NeNePie

                        Yes, it's Herdez I meant to say, not Herez. Good stuff.

                        1. re: PhoebeB

                          Yeppers, I use Herdez brand salsa verde when recipe calls for it...very good quality!

                          1. re: Val

                            I wish it came in bigger cans. I like La Costena Green Mexican (med.hot) Salsa, too. Comes in a ~17 oz. plastic bottle. One of my daughters loves Old El Paso's Green Enchilada Sauce, and her enchies are delicious.

                            NeNePie's recipe, BTW, sounds perfect for doing chicken in a crockpot.

                      2. Is it the napping sauce that falls short? If so, consider making your own. You can take a few shortcuts and it will still be very nice.

                        Toast 3-4 dried poblano peppers lightly in a dry heavy skillet. Place them in a blender jar with 2 c boiling water. Weigh down so they're submerged. Let soak 10-15 minutes. Remove the peppers, remove seeds and stems, and replace peppers in blender jar. Add 2 cloves of garlic, and whirl till smooth. Pour into a pan and add 1 small can tomato sauce, a pinch of Mexican oregano, salt to taste, 1/2 tsp toasted cumin powder, 2 T olive oil, and heat to a bare simmer for 10 minutes.

                        20 Replies
                        1. re: toodie jane

                          I'm off to la tienda to stock up on herdez and la casera for sudden enchilada whims! (And phoebeb, I'm a bit terrified of your tortilla method, but I will go forth and bravely try it, b/c it sounds delish.)

                          I am going to have enchiladas coming out of my ears here soon - I'm going to have to make them every week for 2 months to try all this great advice. Thanks to everyone - I'm printing off the whole thread.

                          1. re: marigolds

                            It's not as scary as it sounds. Corn tortillas are delicate to work with, but you'll quickly get the hang of it though you'll probably ruin a few in the learning process, so get some extras. They're cheap.

                            The match trick is an old one and the only way I know to be sure (when you can't conveniently use a deep-fry thermometer) oil is hot enough to instantly sear things so that they absorb the minimum of grease. (It's not dangerous in any way. It flares and goes out instantly and there's nothing in a kitchen safety match to hurt you or affect the taste.)

                            The blotting w/paper towel is not compulsory; it just cuts the fat calories and makes me feel a little better. But the tortillas love to stick to it, as you'll see, so it takes a light touch.

                            What will take you a few tries is timing the tortillas before you flip or remove them. You want them to turn a shade browner, but if they get too crisp they'll break when you roll them.

                            And if the oil starts smoking, no big deal. Keep your exhaust fan going and if necessary turn the heat down just a tad.

                            If you have everything all prepared and arranged properly (what's the Spanish for "mise en place"? ) your work is mostly done.

                            Let me know how they turn out.

                            P.S. I just went to the Herdez website and see that they do make the Salsa Verde in a 16 oz. bottle. I'll have to ask my grocer if he can stock it. It takes several of the measly 7 oz cans to do a worthwhile mess of enchiladas.

                            The Salsa Casera is a red salsa I've never used, though I'll bet it's excellent and I know most people make red enchiladas. I'm partial to green chiles, esp. with chicken. But get some of each to try, or make a dish of each while you're at it.

                            To know how to tweak commercial salsas, read the ingredients. The basis of most green sauces is tomatillas. La Costena adds just onion and jalopenas, so I add garlic, cilantro and green chile. The Herdez has all of these so I add only a little fresh garlic and a little more (hotter: NM Sandia) green chile. Experiment and come up with a formula you like.

                            And NeNePie's mention of garnishing w/sliced green onions is the finishing touch.

                            1. re: PhoebeB

                              Why fry the tortillas? I just fill with chicken and suace and brush tops with sauce before they go in the oven,

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Sam, if you have an easier way of making corn tortillas (1) roll w/o crumbling, (2) not absorb so much liquid they turn to mush in baking, please tell me.

                                The frying (to both soften and quasi-seal so they'll retain some structural integrity) is a PITA and the reason I don't do enchiladas as often as I'd like.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    Yup. me too. it's not very hard. The question being whether dried (or even better fresh) masa is available. I usually roll out the tortilla's between pieces of wax paper and then cook them on a griddle or tava (Indian chaptai pan). I usually botch the first couple, but after 2 or 3 i start making sturdy roundish tortillas. It takes a little time but is well worth it. texture is great, and though I usually skip the frying I do love to fry the tortillas.

                                    As for sauces - i use Rick Bayless's ancho chile sauce usually. Again a bit time consuming, but you can make it in quantity and freeze individual servings. That way you have something much better than store bought sauce on hand.

                                    1. re: kolgrim

                                      Will you guys HUSH?????

                                      So I reply to you that you've convinced me: I'm going to start making my own tortillas. Someone will say that if I want good tortillas I must get my cornmeal from such & such at $25 a lb. plus shipping. If I say I can't afford that someone will tell me to grind my own cornmeal. If I agree to grind my own cornmeal someone will say it's a waste of time if I don't use hand harvested Tibetan monastery blue corn. If I say that is impossible someone will say that the only real alternative is to grow my own corn. Then the disputes over what variety of corn, organic or non-organic, how to make a home stone-grinding mill, etc. etc. etc.

                                      I have 17 grandchildren, a house to keep clean and a yard to tend, a commercial antiques-restoration workshop, a hydrocephalic son to care for, three and sometimes four different choirs to direct/accompany/practice accompaniments for, a church to provide music for.

                                      I just want some decent enchiladas now and then, and if mine aren't decent at least I don't know that and don't want to find out. There's a little-known corollary of the Peter Principle that states, "Chowhounds in a food chat group tend to rise to the level of knowing so many better ways to do things that they stop making good things they love because they don't have time to do it the best way." Or as the old poem goes,

                                      "There, little luxury, don't you cry;
                                      You'll be a necessity by & by."

                                      Edit P.S.
                                      Upon re-reading I sound more testy than amused, and I assure you it was the other way around.

                                      I love homemade tortillas; had them often at Pilar's in Dallas. I even have a tortilla press (tho I admit I've never used it).

                                      I think homemade tortillas would be almost wasted in baked enchiladas: all the competing flavors, all that moisture and long cooking. They are too good to not be savored individually, warm with butter and white queso dip, with carnitas or fajitas.

                                      Blue Goose in Dallas has the most amazing old Rube Goldberg-ish tortilla machine. Have you ever seen one?

                                      1. re: PhoebeB

                                        The Chevys/Rio Bravo chains have a machine like that. It's interesting. But they're flour tortillas.

                                        I have a recipe for homemade tortillas from an old Betty Crocker cookbook--they don't involve masa and are more like crepes than any tortilla I've ever seen. I don't normally make my own. One advantage of the influx of Latino immigrants in our area is that there is a tortilleria in Storm Lake, 25 miles away, and fresh tortillas available from them at the Mexican butcher where I buy my meats and other assorted goodies, or undoubtedly directly from them if I went there.

                                        1. re: PhoebeB

                                          You don't need to differentiate between testy and amused. One can tell! I should have added in my reply that making the tortillas is just as much a PITA as deep frying them. On the other hand, one of my close colleagues just came back from a few days in Mexico with the promise to bring me fresh maize tortillas. I will be making enchiladas.

                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                            Thank you, Sam. You're the last person I'd ever get testy with.

                                            I stilll think you'd do better to use those fresh maize tortillas in carnitas.

                                    2. re: PhoebeB

                                      I have a little nonstick skillet that I heat really hot, and lay a tortilla in that hot, ungreased skillet for a few seconds on each side. That softens the tortilla so it's not too brittle to roll, and I don't really have a problem with them coming apart when I serve them.

                                      1. re: revsharkie

                                        You give me an idea. I'm scared of getting non-stick coated skillets too hot with nothing in them (fumes could be bad for my canary), but I do have every size of old seasoned cast iron skillets and they can get hot as all get-out and hold the heat. I think the next time I do corn tortillas I'll brush each tortilla very lightly w/clarified butter and do what you say. The taste of butter never hurt anything, and I do think the searing in some kind of oil gives the enchiladas a better taste and texture.

                                        1. re: PhoebeB

                                          Hmmm...and I'll have to try that.

                                          Yeah, I suppose a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet would work as well. I don't have a small one, though. Never really thought of fumes from a nonstick.

                                          1. re: revsharkie

                                            I am the last person in the world to want to add something else to the "150 Newest Things You Should Live In Terror Of", but google "fumes from non-stick". In a well-ventilated kitchen I doubt humans are in peril, but birds certainly are and I love my little 13 year-old American Singer buddy.

                                            1. re: PhoebeB

                                              They must be non-stinky fumes, because I can't smell them. But you're right, I wouldn't want to expose a little beastie to something that might hurt it and that it can't get away from.

                                1. re: marigolds

                                  Both brands are really good as additions to your own sauce, or salsa. You can find these at any Mexican market and they have the better tortillas too.

                                  1. re: chef chicklet

                                    Is there a brand called "La Casera"? My mistake then: I thought Marigolds meant Herdez's "Salsa Casera".

                                    1. re: PhoebeB

                                      maybe you're right. I don't have any in the pantry (that brand) at the moment, I do have others I use. Herdez salsa casera, and salsa verde. And Comida Sabrosa -salsa verde, I could of sworn I buy a brand called La Casera....getting old...Faraon is also good

                                2. re: toodie jane

                                  Yes, make your own. I use mild hatch chile powder from Native Seed Search (it takes like a 1/2 cup), you can order on-line. They send the recipe with the chile. This is a great source for lots of different dried chiles too.

                                  1. re: toodie jane

                                    My recipe is almost the same but I add 2 tablespoons of canola oil. I always make the sauce first and then add some to the meat filling and let it cook down.

                                  2. I make enchiladas often, and I see that you have some really good suggestions going on here. I would never cook a chicken in a crockpot that long.It will be mushy and not good at all. Better to simmer it for 45 minutes with lots of garlic, cilantro, onion, salt and pepper. I actually bring it to a boil then put the lid on and let it sit for 1hour. Comes out perfect every time. Then I pick it/ shredded it and make the enchiladas with thigh or breast meat.
                                    The flavor for the enchilada comes from a good home made red sauce.
                                    I do bake mine, fry the corn tortillas gently, blot dry and fill with chicken, cheese and roll then cover with sauce and cheese. Bake until heated through. Serve with crunchy lettuce and tomatoes with olives ( hot cold thing) salsa, and sour cream and fresh cilantro and scallion. They keep in the fridge and freeze well too. I get lots of requests for them so I guess they're pretty good.

                                    But its about moist flavorful chicken, very tender tortillas (not those rubbery thick commercial circles) and a really good spicy red sauce, not too thick and not too tomatoe-y (new word). I hate eating a dry enchilada, and the tortilla is rubbery or they use tomato sauce, that is not an enchilada.

                                    I also love the seafood enchiladas with green sauce and shrimp! Oh MY!

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                      I poach/simmer chicken with a couple of dried chipotles. The broth is a fringe benefit.

                                      Re: that "bring to boil and leave covered for an hr." way. I assume the chicken must be cut up? That might be the best trick I've heard in a long time.

                                      1. re: PhoebeB

                                        No actually bring a whole chicken to a rolling boil, then shut the heat off and cover with the lid.The steam will cook the breast area. I always make my broth for Asian soups this way, adding ginger and garlic and cilantro.It works everytime, and the brothdoesn't get as foamy. Done in one hour. I fill the water in the pot about two thirds up.

                                        I like that you add the chili, I'm going to try that PhoebeB, Dried Chipotles? Why is it I have every other chili in my pantry but that!
                                        thanks for that tip!

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          You leave the breast meat above the water?

                                          1. re: PhoebeB

                                            yes the very top is not covered. It will cook easily from the steam.
                                            It's pretty hot in that pot. The breast meat comes out perfect and moist.

                                    2. As DiningDiva said, one of the tricks of Mexican women cooks is to pass the tortilla through hot oil, the texture and flavor improve and mix well with whatever salsa you chose, which should be cooked ans preferably creamy rather than chunky and also, don't forget loads of thin onion slices, mexican cream, and queso fresco on top to really seal the deal.

                                      My favorite enchildada momma folds the tortillas in triangles, and puts the shreded (boiled, braised, or grilled) chicken on top, rather than inside. And serves three enchiladas made of three different sauces.

                                      Your other option is to start making "enfrijoladas," which is the exact same thing but with bean sauce and you will fall in love with them and be the enfrijolada queen forever!


                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mirilara

                                        I like to add in vegetables when I can, so I use enchiladas for a cleaning of my veggie tray! However you're going to do the chicken (I've done rotisserie, poaching, leftovers, etc) and any way works great. Shred it and saute some onion in olive oil and garlic, then add your other veggies (usually, corn, zucchini, bell peppers, poblanos, anaheim, etc) or throw in a bag of frozen mixed veggies if I'm in a pinch. I like to add a palmful of cumin, and a squeeze of lemon juice, then add some salsa (either fresh or your favorite) and cook this down a bit. once most of the juice is gone, I either: use this as my filling, OR mix in cream cheese (if i have it) then top with cheese after I've filled the enchiladas. I usually add black beans too.

                                        Frying the tortillas does help, but I usually remember this step after I've started filling the enchiladas...

                                        top with sauce, cheese and green onion and off you go...

                                      2. Check this link out: http://www.hotgoat.org/mt-archives/ho...

                                        This guy is making chicken "carne adovada" - basically, chicken that's marinated in red chile sauce and baked for a few hours. You can use it in a variety of ways, including enchiladas. Just roll the adovada up into some good corn tortillas, or serve them flat. Put some cheese on it, and bake. Myself, I'd just make cheese enchiladas and serve the meat on the side.

                                        I can vouch for this red chile sauce recipe. I make mine in a very similar way (been posted here before, but I don't feel like digging up the thread). If you make this sauce, be sure to have plenty of sour cream on hand to counter the heat a bit.

                                        You could also make more of a "Tex Mex" style enchilada sauce which involves making a roux and adding in some chile powder. Some recipes may also call for tomato products. I like the New Mexican style much better though.

                                        One thing though - I would encourage the use of chopped up pork butt (the same stuff you make BBQ pulled pork with) rather than chicken. Keep it real, yo.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: AbdulSheikhMohammed

                                          Thanks for all the tips, everyone. My enchilada-loving family is going to be VERY happy as I test out all these cooking methods and sauce recipes and tortilla-frying tips.

                                          Sounds like I need to spend a whole day in teh kitchen making tortillas and sauce and filling and freeze them in reasonable portions, then I could do a relatively quick assembly after work in the evening. I guess there are no shortcuts (like crockpots) to really good enchiladas! (And what a great welcome for my first post, too! Thanks for all the help, everyone!)