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Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce

These Shredded Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce are a great alternative to the typical Tuesday taco night. Filled with spicy authentic Mexican flavor and topped with the basics of Mexican cuisine, this is an easy crowd pleaser any weeknight.

Overhead image of red chicken enchiladas on a black serving plate topped with radishes, lettuce, and cotija cheese.

The Origins of Enchiladas

Now a popular item in most American diets, enchiladas were originally known as tlaxcalli and can be dated all the way back to the Mayans. The name enchilada came about when Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Western hemisphere and discovered the dish. Currently, it is available in many variations including corn and flour tortillas, beef and chicken, and a wide array of toppings and add-ins. Enchiladas were once a very simple meal consisting of an empty corn tortilla that has been dipped in chili sauce. Over time, ingredients were added to create what we know as enchiladas today. 

How to Make Authentic Chicken Enchiladas 

Like the very first enchiladas, the key to making them at home is to start with the tortillas. Once you have that down, it’s all in the filling! For this recipe you’ll need two pieces of cast iron. I used the cast iron casserole dish and a number 10 skillet.

Step One: Warm the sauce. Pour half of the enchilada sauce into the casserole dish over low heat on the stovetop. Heating the enchilada sauce really activates the flavors and creates a nice coating on the bottom of your casserole dish. If you do not have a cast iron dish, us another cast iron skillet.  

Step Two: Dip the tortillas. Use a pair of tongs and submerge the tortillas in the warm sauce, coating on both sides.

Step Three: Pan-fry the tortillas. Once fully coated in the sauce, place the tortillas on a hot skillet to sear. This will only take 1-2 minutes per side. Do not add oil or butter of any kind to the pan as it will prevent the tortilla shells from properly searing. You want a nice char on both sides of the tortilla without making it stiff. Once fried, set aside to a large plate to prepare filling.

Step Four: Add the fillings, Roll, and Repeat. For this recipe, stuff the corn tortillas shells by adding shredded chicken and canned jalapeños to the center of each shell. Then, tightly roll the tortillas over each other, and lay them seam-side down in a casserole dish. Repeat this step until all of the chicken has been used, and the casserole dish is full. Make sure you leave room on the edges to roll them without breaking or losing stuffing

Step Five: Add the sauce and bake. The final step in preparing this chicken enchiladas recipe is to pour the rest of the sauce on top of the tortillas making sure it is evenly distributed across the top. Once covered, place the dish in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15 minutes. To finish, top the baked enchiladas with shredded lettuce, sliced radishes, and cotija cheese.

Optional Add-Ins and Variations

Whether you’re looking for an authentic version or more of the Tex-Mex version of red enchiladas, you’ll find there are tons of options when it comes to what ingredients you can include. If you’re looking to switch things up try out a few of the following ideas.

  • Alternative Protein Sources – Chicken, beef, shredded pork, shrimp, and of course beans are all great options.
  • Green Sauce – For a different flavor profile, try using green sauce or salsa verde for a stronger green chile taste.
  • Beans – Use a variety of beans to bulk up your homemade enchiladas by adding them on top of the dish, stuffing them inside, or serving them on the side as refried beans.
  • Vegetarian Options – Perfect for meatless meals or to fit all your vegetarian needs, the chicken can easily be removed and substituted with roasted veggies such as zucchini, cauliflower, and bell peppers.

What is Cotija cheese? 

Cotija cheese is a Mexican cheese named after the town of Cotija located in the state of Michoacan. It is made out of cow’s milk and comes both fresh and aged. Both versions have a salty flavor and crumbly texture. However, the fresh version is a much softer cheese while the aged version has a harder consistency more like Parmesan. Unlike other cheeses, Cotija doesn’t melt. Therefore, it is often used as a finishing ingredient to enhance the flavors of dishes like beans, tacos, enchiladas, and tostadas. 

Do I have to use Cotija cheese? 

No, if you want to use a different cheese, I recommend opting for a shredded variety such as Mexican cheese, cheddar, or a liquid queso blanco. 

Common Questions about Enchiladas

What tortillas are best?

For many American made enchiladas you’ll see burrito size flour tortillas used. For this recipe I chose to go with smaller corn tortillas. There is a bigger flavor in corn tortillas and the smaller size helps with portion control. Corn tortillas are also gluten-free.

How should I store leftovers

To store enchiladas, place them in an airtight container removed from your casserole dish and refrigerator for up to 4 days. 

How to freeze enchiladas with red sauce

To freeze fresh enchiladas let them cool completely. Then, place them in an airtight container or wrap each enchilada individually with tin foil, and keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

How to reheat enchiladas

The key to reheating enchiladas is to put the dish in the oven before it has heated. Make sure it is covered with foil, and let them sit in the oven as it reaches a temperature of 350 and the center of enchiladas has completely warmed. This will take roughly 20-25 minutes.

What to serve with enchiladas 

In all honesty, this is a filling recipe on its own and can be served as a complete dinner. However, if you want to add a few side dishes, it pairs great with rice and beans, Mexican slaw, chips and salsa, guacamole, or Elote (Mexican Street Corn). 

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Easy Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce

These easy chicken enchiladas are semi-homemade with store-bought red sauce and flour tortillas. Filled with shredded chicken and topped in authentic Mexican style with shredded lettuce, radishes, and Cotija cheese, you'll love adding this meal to your Taco Tuesday rotation.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:15 mins
Cook Time:15 mins
Total Time:30 mins

Equipment

  • cast iron casserole dish or two cast iron skillets
  • tongs
  • Measuring Cups
  • mixing bowl
  • Knife
  • Cutting board
  • pastry brush

Ingredients

  • 28 ounces red enchilada sauce mild or hot
  • 8 corn tortillas taco size
  • 3 cups shredded chicken
  • 4.5 ounces chopped jalapenos canned
  • 1 cup lettuce shredded
  • 1/4 cup radishes thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup Cotija cheese crumbled

Instructions

  • Pour half of the enchilada sauce into the cast iron casserole dish or a skillet and heat over medium-low on the stovetop. Dip the tortillas one at a time, coating both sides, and sear in a hot, dry skillet on both sides until charred. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl combine shredded chicken with canned jalapenos.
  • Divide evenly and fill the tortillas with the shredded chicken mixture in a line in the middle of the tortilla. Roll tightly and set inside the casserole dish seam side down. Repeat until all chicken and tortillas are used.
  • Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over the enchiladas and spread with a pastry brush to cover completely. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes.
  • Top with shredded lettuce, sliced radishes, and crumbled Cotija cheese before serving.

Notes

The secret to enchiladas is dipping the tortilla in sauce first and giving it a sear on both sides before filling. This chars the tortilla and seals the sauce into the tortilla without becoming a soggy mess.

Nutrition

Serving: 1g | Calories: 203kcal | Carbohydrates: 21g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 44mg | Sodium: 1232mg | Potassium: 223mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 1020IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 57mg | Iron: 2mg
Course: Dinner, Main, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chicken, enchiladas, mexican, mexican-inspired, red sauce
Servings: 8 enchiladas
Calories: 203kcal
Author: Katie Chase

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