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Your Favorite Enchilada Recipe

I'd like to make enchiladas this weekend and I'm looking for inspiration. They can be beef, chicken or cheese, or a combination of ingredients. I'd like to make my own enchilada sauce, too. I've got access to a good selection of Mexican ingredients at nearby Mexican grocery stores. I won't be making my own tortillas (this time), so I'd like recommendations for what type to use (flour or corn) and maybe even a particular brand. And, what else do I need to know about making enchiladas? Thanks!

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  1. Corn. ONLY. Flour enchiladas? Sounds like something you'd get in Idaho, or Alabama. Corn tortillas are SO much better if they are used correctly. Depending where you are, you might want tortillas from a local tortilleria that are sold in grocery stores. I can recommend El Milagro brand, but i have no idea if they are sold in your area.

    For filling, I'm partial to chicken (dark meat) with spinach, mushroom and a tiny bit of cheese.

    Sauce? I either like NM green chile, or a simple red made from ancho, and guajillo, garlic, and the reg spices, thinned out with chicken stock.

    Then we can get into the moles if you wanna get fancier. You will also be able to buy premade concentrates in your Mex grocery stores - maybe even some housemade pastes if you have a good one. I have yet to find a decent tasting concentrate. I normally have to make it, and then doctor it up.

    If you don't wanna spend much time in the kitchen, you can buy a can of "enchilada sauce" and then doctor it up as you see fit.

    Simple important "must know" -
    You gotta heat up thos corn tortillas (griddle or pan is best) to make them pliable, and then dip them into a little bit of sauce right before you roll em up.

    23 Replies
    1. re: gordeaux

      This is an observation of corn tortillas vs. flour tortillas, at least in my neighborhood: flour tortillas seem to come in a number of different sizes; corn tortillas seem to be available only in one size, and that's small. Is this typical? Should I keep looking until I find larger corn tortillas? Or should I make my enchiladas with small corn tortillas?

      Also, when you mention "green chile", what, exactly, does that mean? Is that fresh NM chile? Poblano chile? Something else? How, exactly, do I make a sauce from ancho and guajillo chiles? And what other combinations of dried chiles make a good sauce?

      1. re: CindyJ

        Corn tortillas are always that "small" size. Fill with shredded chicken, ground beef, chicken. One thing you need to add is sliced black olives. Make any sauce that makes sense to you.

        1. re: CindyJ

          CindyJ -
          SamFujisaka gave you the short answer which is correct, but I'll goa tad deeper:

          Corn tortillas are always that size. They usually come in 2 sizes. Small, and a little bit smaller. Don't go looking for bigger ones - you won't find them. Not sure why you need bigger ones. Flour tortillas are ok in their place. Their place is not enchiladas.
          fajitas, and burritos, maybe. Just not enchiladas. I can see them ending up a gooey mess when made into enchiladas.

          Green Chile is a sauce that stems primarily from the SW areas of the US. New Mexico, Denver, Texas, and other surrounding places as well, but it's very prevalent in the Southwest. If you go to a Burger King in New Mexico, they will ask if you want Green or red chile on your whopper without any provocation - no joke. Chile is a sauce primarily consisting of either red or green chile peppers (specific chiles - a variety of the anaheim - usually grown in the SW region - (the town of Hatch NM is famous for these chiles. You will hear folks talking about Hatch chiles by name.) Anbyway, the chile sauce is made by roasting these green chiles, and making a stew type concoction of sorts. It is lethally delicious when done right. ONe of those things you crave, and can eat non stop. My favorite way is with fried eggs, hash browns, and hot corn tortillas. The red chile, which I am less familiar with is usually made from DRIED chile pods, and is usually more mild, but earthier.

          As for "how to" make a sauce from dried chiles, there are a zillion recipes. When Sam F wrote "make a sauce that makes sense to you" he wasn't kidding. Search the web for "enchilada sauce." I'd go with dried ancho, and guajillo, but that's me. What dried chiles make a good sauce? That is COMPLETELY up to you. It's why you were given a palate. Don't rely on my tongue to suit your tastebuds. My sauce would prolly be ancho, guajillo, sauteed onion, a little cumin, a tiny, tiny, hint of cinnamon, maybe some ground chipotle, and chicken stock. pureed in a blender after toasting the chiles and soaking them.

          One simple hint for you - beware any recipe that calls for "Chili Powder"
          the powder of ground chile pepper is good, but chili powder (the mix of spices) is usually a wrong turn imo. It's a blend of spices that again, someone ELSE likes. Don't use it. Use your OWN tastes.

          1. re: gordeaux

            That's sooooo helpful, gordeaux. Thanks! Obviously, here in SE Pennsylvania, we don't have the variety of fresh chiles that you get in the southwest. We can always get serrano, jalapeno, poblano, anaheim, and a mix of little hot ones (habenero, etc.) We do get quite a selection of dried peppers, however.

            As for "chili powder" -- I've made my own in the past by toasting dried chiles and grinding them in my old coffee grinder along with Mexican oregano, toasted cumin seed, and I can't remember what else. It's these sauces that are still a mystery to me. If it were Italian cooking I was doing, "any sauce that makes sense to [me]" would make sense to me. But I'm not as familiar with the nuances of Mexican flavors, so I guess it'll take a bit of experimenting.

            My inexperience is about to show even more. Here goes: Can tomatillos be used for an enchilada sauce? I once made a really wonderful, spicy, tomatillo salsa, and I'm wondering if I can resurrect that recipe for use this weekend. If not, can you offer another suggestion for using tomatillos? I just bought a pound plus.

            1. re: CindyJ

              If you wanna try to make a batch of green chile (nm style) I'd suggest using the fresh anaheims you can get - poblanos too - maybe a mix of both. It sounds like you know much more than you think, since you know that experimentation is the key to finding what you like, and you are willing to try.

              If you liked the tomatillo salsa you made, DEFINITELY use it for the enchilada sauce. It's all about what YOU like. Sounds like you're like 75% of the way to being comfortable with Mexican "sauces" already. Experimenting IS the key.

              Web up a recipe for Green Chile. My basic recipe:

              1.5 to 1 ratio of onions to peppers.
              Roast, peel, and rough chop the peppers
              Sweat the onions
              Add an amount of fresh mashed or chopped garlic that makes sense to you
              same with ground cumin, fresh ground black pepper, toasted onion powder.
              Sprinkle all ingredients with flour in the pan.
              Let this mixture heat through in your pan until the aromas are all present (few minutes, on med heat - don't want anything to brown) Also, heat it through until you are pretty sure that the raw flour taste is gone.
              From here, add in the peppers, and a rough cut bunch of cilantro.
              Once everything is heated through, add in little bit of chicken stock (basically enough to deglaze)

              Transfer all of it to a blender, and puree it. Add stock to get to the consistency of a thinnish gravy. Salt it to taste if needed. IF you'd like it to be SPICIER, then adjust it with some different (hotter) pepper of your choice, be it ground, fresh - whatever - use YOUR tastes.

              Brown some kind braise cut pork (bonelss pork stew, shoulder pieces, butt pieces etc - you get the drift)

              Toss the sauce, and meat into a pot, and slow cook it (covered) until the meat is tender. Take out the meat, and shred/chop it (bite size) and then throw it back in. Squeeze in a little lime juice. You're done.

              The anaheims are not a normally burning hot pepper. Of course, it all depends on your tolerance, and the variety of pepper, but I wouldn't plan on this sauce being really hot - more like nicely WARM in your mouth. This is a great enchilada sauce, and usually comes out with an almost buttery flavor. I think it's absolutely PERFECT as a topping for huevos rancheros. A pile of crispy hashbrowns topped with eggs over medium with hot corn tortillas. I could eat it breakfast lunch and dinner - no joke. If my kitchen wasn't gutted right now, I'd be pulling a package of my green chile out of the freezer right now, trust me. Oh yeah, you can roast off the chiles and they freeze beautifully.

              Anyway, sorry to ramble on but I love everything about Mexican (and Southwestern) food. Hope your stuff turns out great for you, but if not, you'll have learned a little more, and next time it will come out a little better. You'll be a pro in no time.

              1. re: gordeaux

                I'm guessing that the "slow cook" for the pork is going to take a couple or three hours. So I'm thinking that this is a sauce I'd want to make in quantity, and freeze in smaller portions for future use. It seems like a lot of effort (not that I mind that) for a one-time meal. Is that right?

                Thanks for the nice words of encouragement, gordeaux!

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Exactly right. The effort really comes in roasting / peeling the peppers. The rest is basically just tossing things into a pan. Slow cooking for a few hours is no effort - just gotta be @ home and stir it once in a while / make sure it's not burning.

                  I'd do a small batch first maybe something like 15 peppers, and three onions. Get a feel for it. Maybe you like it, maybe you don't. If you like it, then tweak it out.

                  I'd also suggest delving into moles if you wanna get into REALLY special, flavorful sauces

                  1. re: gordeaux

                    I think I have too much meat for the number of peppers I've got. I have just about 15 peppers, mostly Anaheim and poblano, but there are two longish green ones I couldn't identify, and I threw in a couple of serranos for good measure. They're roasted and they're steaming in a covered bowl right now, getting ready for peeling. I bought pork shoulder for the braise, but I've got over 2 lbs of meat. Maybe I'll braise it, use most for the sauce, and whatever is leftover, I'll use to fill a couple of enchiladas. Should I cube it before browning and braising?

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      "but there are two longish green ones I couldn't identify, and I threw in a couple of serranos for good measure."

                      AWESOME. YOU are someone who knows what they are doing. That is how to work a recipe. Some of this, some of that - THAT is how you make things that YOU like. You GO girl!

                2. re: gordeaux

                  Okay, gordeaux -- I totally trusted your instructions, even though this final braise seems more than a bit strange to me. What you're telling me is that the browned meat gets braised in the green sauce, right? It just didn't seem like any braising medium I've ever used before. But, I feel like I'm in good hands, and so the meat is presently braising in a 325 degree oven in this green chile sauce.

                  The sauce, by the way, was interesting -- tasty, with a nice bite of spice. I know the meat will change the flavor in some way, and I'm eager to find out just how. What makes this fun for me is that I have no idea how it's "supposed" to turn out; I just know it'll be yummy.

                  1. re: CindyJ

                    I would normally braise it stovetop - maybe I used the term braise incorrectly - would "stewing" be more appropriate? You wanna keep it "saucy" not sure if the oven will allow too much steam to escape. You can still get it out and throw it on the stove. I'd assume no big deal at all. Sorry for the late response, but I got pages by the isiots at work, and had to log in and fix some of their stupanity. I bet you're doing fine.

                    1. re: gordeaux

                      I think there's a fine distinction between stewing and braising, and either can be done on stovetop or in the oven. For braising, I prefer the oven -- it just seems more reliable to me. I'm using a LeCreuset French oven with a heavy lid, so I'm not afraid of steam escaping. My concern was with the nature of the braising "liquid". I checked on it about 15 minutes ago, and noticed a thin layer of fat on the top of the sauce. I guess I'll have to skim that off? I won't have time to chill it before I use the sauce for the enchiladas, so skimming the fat off the top is my only option.

                      Once the braise is finished (about an hour to go), and the meat is shredded and put back into the sauce, and I have my filling ready, what, exactly, do I need to do to the tortillas before I stuff and roll them?

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Heat them up a bit in a non stick pan just enough to make them nicely pliable (some tortillas may need a bit of water to get them more pliable); dip in sauce if you like (I don't. I just put in filling - mine are simple rather than braised meat - and a line of sauce) and roll up and place in baking pan seam down. Top with sauce (and cheese as we discussed above) and toss in oven. Easy peasy.

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            I use a just hand rub of water if the tortillas are a bit stiff. A bit of oil instead of water might be an alternative. For enchiladas I use my own homemade tortillas or buy thin pliable ones.

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              I was at the mercy of the Mexican grocery store when I picked up my corn tortillas yesterday. But, based on the abundant supply, I'm assuming they're good and also fresh. They seem fairly pliable.

                              I did browse in the back of the store where they have an eclectic collection of cooking tools, and saw a metal tortilla-maker (I forget what it was called) in a dusty box. I'm intrigued enough to go back and take another look at it.

                              1. re: CindyJ

                                I have a simple press. Have to make my own being here in Colombia. Normally the maize tortillas available in the US are good: fresh, soft, pliable.

                            2. re: CindyJ

                              Cindy, I usually very lightly brush my tortillas with a light oil like canola, and put them on a sheet pan in a 300 oven for a couple of minutes. If you go easy on the oil while brushing, it doesn't make them heavy or greasy but makes them pliable and subtle difference in the final dish.

                              I used to dip them in my tomatillo sauce instead to save calories, but now prefer the oil/warm oven method.

                      2. re: CindyJ

                        In my defense, I wrote:
                        "Brown some kind braise cut pork (bonelss pork stew, shoulder pieces, butt pieces etc - you get the drift)

                        Toss the sauce, and meat into a pot, and slow cook it (covered) until the meat is tender. Take out the meat, and shred/chop it (bite size) and then throw it back in. Squeeze in a little lime juice. You're done"

                        So, it was a braise cut of pork, tossed into a pot and slow cooked, covered.
                        Just covering my but in case it turns out funky, but you know what you're doing here. Meat in sauce. Just different spices, and ingredients. PLease let me know how it turns out. Sorry for any confusion, but it shouldn't be too off.

                        1. re: gordeaux

                          Actually, I think I remember reading somewhere that the difference between a braise and a stew (and I could be wrong about this) is that (1) a stew is done with smaller chunks of meat, while a braise is a large cut (like a pot roast), and (2) a braise is done with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pot, whereas a stew can have any amount of liquid and may be covered or uncovered during the cooking process. So I took your use of the word "braise" literally (as I understood it).

                3. re: CindyJ

                  I'm from Az. and flour tortillas are not used for enchiladas. Corn rules. Also my upbringing dictates that we make Sonoran enchiladas. These are not rolled but stacked. Most often it is done thusly: warm your sauce in a shallow skillet. In another skillet fry corn tortillas and then dip into warmed sauce. Place on a warmed plate. Top with chopped onion and grated cheese. Top with another fried and chili sauced tortilla and repeat with the cheese and chopped onion. When your stack is high enough, about 3 tortillas is good, pop the plate in the oven to heat and melt the cheese. Garnish with chopped ice berg lettuce and to go over the top, my favorite an over easy fried egg. Pure comfort food for me. Sigh! I wish I had traded my steak frites tonight for that.

                4. re: gordeaux

                  An Alabama foodie here defending my honor -- I would NEVER in a million years make enchiladas with flour tortillas. That's a recipe for Mexican goo.

                  1. re: redthong

                    LOL!
                    No offense meant to the 'Bamans, but I have had some FUNKY foodstuffs in that neck of the woods. I'm SURE, however, there are plenty of Alabamans that could cook me under the table.

                5. I'll say it again- Corn. ONLY. You'll find different brands available depending on your location. I always just buy whatever feels softest and most pliable in the store- some feel like those rubber disks you buy to move furniture around.

                  As far as filling goes, I like a mild, gooey filling that doesn't compete too much with the sauce. Honestly, I'm usually happy with a mix of corn, green chile, black beans, and cheese. I do also like a Cook's Illustrated rec from a few years ago, in which they cook chicken and onions in tomato sauce, stock, and spices, then strain it, using the solids for filling (mixed with cilantro, cheese, and jalapenos), and the liquid for sauce.

                  I like to make from homemade, but my new 1-hour commute has forced me to find some quicker palatable solutions. I've had good luck with Hatch brand sauce, with a little doctoring.

                  1. In my area I've only seen corn tortillas in one size. They may seem small, but a single serving is usually multiple enchiladas. I like a filling of sour cream, shredded jack and cheddar cheeses, minced onion, and I might toss in some shredded chicken, or not.

                    I make a green chile sauce for my enchiladas. New Mexico chiles are the best but available in my area only in late summer/early fall, so I'll use poblanos, jalapenos, or a combination of whatever I can get at the market . Here is my sauce, freely adapted from Jane Butel:

                    Mix four tablespoons flour with 1/4 cup cold water to make a smooth paste, then combine with 4 cups of chicken stock and blend well in a 2 to 3 quart saucepan. Cook until slightly thickened, then add 1 cup of finely chopped cooked chicken, 1 cup (or more) of choppped green chiles (that you have roasted, seeded, and peeled). Season with plenty of comino (I like comino so I use about a tablespoon or more, you might want to start with a teaspoon), salt to taste, one or two crushed garlic cloves, and simmer together for 15 minutes.

                    To make the filling, in a bowl combine 2 cups sour cream with 1 cup grated Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese, or a combination of the two, and 1 medium onion, very finely chopped.

                    To make the enchiladas, butter a 9x13 casserole. Heat a tortilla on a dry pan for a minute or two, then dip it into the sauce, add a spoonful of the onion-cheese-sour cream mixture, and roll the tortilla up. Place it in the buttered casserole. Continue making the tortillas one at a time, until you've filled up the casserole; 12 tortillas will usually do the trick.

                    Pour the remaining sauce over the tortillas, sprinkle with the rest of the grated cheese, adding more cheese if desired, and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes. These really can't be made ahead, for the tortillas will absorb the sauce and fall apart.

                    You could also make a stacked tortilla by frying the tortillas lightly in an inch of hot oil, placing a spoonful of sauce on a warmed plate, lay a (fried) tortilla on the sauce, spoon over more sauce and add a spoonful of the sour cream-cheese-onion mixture. Continue until you've built a stack of three tortillas on each plate and all the sauce is used. Top each with a generous amount of the sour cream mixture and sprinkle with more grated cheese. Bake in a 400-degree oven to melt the cheese.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: janniecooks

                      Thank you, thank you for your very detailed recipe. A question -- does the sour cream turn "runny" when it's baked with the other ingredients? The combination of chicken, cheese and sour cream sounds great; I was just wondering about the consistency of the filling in the finished product.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        No, it doesn't get runny, I think the cheese keeps the filling on the firm-ish side.

                        1. re: janniecooks

                          I put cheese and/or homemade yorgurt on the top (after saucing) rather than in the enchiladas themselves.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            Do you mean as a topping, before they're baked? Or as a garnish, after they come out of the oven?

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              Before baking. My stuffing is the meat, chopped red onion & cilantro, sliced olives, cumin, chile, posibly corn kernels, spritz of lime juice and a bit of the sauce, whatever that is for the day. Then sauce the whole top and top with and combo of grated cheese / torn Oaxaca cheese / yogurt and bake. All pretty simple and really good for the effort needed. You can also top with the cheese / yorgurt a bit before it all comes out if you're making a big, deep dish that requires a lot of time. I just put it all together when making a single layer for a quick liunch. The slight crunch of the cheese is a good thing.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                Got it! I think I'm about to create a hybrid recipe, culled from many of these suggestions. I'll let you know how it turns out. Thanks!

                                1. re: CindyJ

                                  Great! Once you start making enchiladas, there is no going back. They really are easy to make; and you can make them, including the sauce, according to what you have on hand at the time (within reason). And I've never met anyone who didn't just really love them. Yes, please report back!

                    2. I prefer red enchiladas, and it has to be corn tortillas. Here in northern California I have had good luck with Guerrero brand, but would second the comment that you should be able to bend a stack of 12 tortillas. Here is my favorite version. I like to stack them (New Mexico style) for just the 2 of us, because I really like them to be fresh, and if I make a 9X13 tray of rolled enchiladas, I end of with leftovers, which are not as tasty. I tend to make the full recipe of sauce, but assemble and bake only as much as will be eaten in one meal. Sometimes I splurge and soft fry the tortillas (the traditional method) rather than heat them on a griddle. Tastier, but much more fattening. The tomato in red chile sauce is controversial, but I feel that it balances the flavors out better. In the summer, I roast fresh tomatoes as a substitute for the canned tomatoes.

                      Stacked Red Enchiladas

                      8 to 10 large whole red chiles (like anchos, guajillos, or a combination)
                      2 c. boiling water
                      1 T. corn oil
                      1 T. flour
                      1 clove garlic, pressed
                      1/2 t. cumin, ground
                      1/2 t. salt
                      Pinch Mexican oregano
                      1 small can chopped tomatoes, not drained
                      1 canned chipotle, or 1/2 t. dried ground chipotle (optional, but I love it)
                      12 corn tortillas
                      2 c. shredded jack cheese or cooked chicken or turkey, or a combo
                      finely chopped white onion

                      Clean the chiles (I use a damp paper towel). Toast until aromatic but not burned (I usually use a toaster oven set on bake at about 300 F, maybe 5 minutes?). Remove all seeds and stems when cool enough to handle. Place in blender, cover with 2 c. boiling water. Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Taste the soaking water, if it tastes bitter or acrid, toss and add 1 cup of warm water. If it tastes okay, remove 1 c. of the soaking water, reserve, puree chiles until very smooth. Heat the oil in a skillet, add flour and cumin, stir until slightly brown, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, remove from heat. Add pureed chiles, stir well. Return to a hard simmer, stirring constantly, and cook until it has a nice smell and color. Puree the tomatoes and chipotle in blender. Add to skillet, stir well. Rinse the blender jar with about 1/2 cup of the reserved chile soaking water (if it wasn't bitter) or fresh water. Return to simmer, stirring constantly, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the flavors meld. Add salt to taste and oregano, set aside. It should be thick enough to coat a spoon, about the same thickness as canned tomato sauce. Lightly coat 4 dinner plates (oven proof) with enchilada sauce. Heat 4 tortillas one at a time on griddle, dip in sauce, place one on each plate. Sprinkle with cheese or chicken and chopped onion. Repeat with 4 more tortillas, sprinkle with cheese or chicken and onion. Repeat with 4 more tortillas, add a little more sauce, sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 300°F for about 5 - 10 minutes, until bubbly but not dried out. Serve. Can add shredded lettuce, cabbage, sliced green onions, finely chopped white onions, chopped cilantro, or sour cream (or some combination) at the table if you like. Toasted slivered almonds are also tasty.

                      3 Replies
                        1. re: Sharuf

                          Yes, red chile sauce starts with any variety of dried red chiles.

                      1. I've been making enchiladas for many years, and have had great success - even converting some of my friends who thought they didn't like Mexican food! Here's what I do:

                        In a sauce pot, saute a small minced onion and 2 cloves of garlic. Add chili powder, salt and pepper, cumin and hot pepper flakes to taste. Add 3 tablespoons tomato paste. Add 1/2 cup beer or wine and a large can of tomato sauce. Simmer over low heat.

                        Boil chicken parts and shred (or saute ground chicken or beef with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes). Slice black olives and scallions. Rinse and drain 1 can black beans and 1 can corn. Grate 1 lb cheddar cheese.

                        Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add about 2/3 cups veg oil. Lightly fry a corn tortilla (15-20 secs only until it feels like leather) and then dip it in the sauce. Transfer to a 9x13 baking dish and fill with meat, cheese, some scallions, corn, beans and olives. Roll up and lay in the side of the dish. Repeat until dish is full and ingredients are gone. Sprinkle any extra ingredients over the top, the spread with any extra sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 about 25 mins until hot and bubbly. Serve wouth sour cream, cilantro and limes.