Traditionally, in my family, chicken enchiladas were prepared with corn tortillas that were filled and then rolled tight. They were be served to order, individually onto your plate, topped with enchilada sauce and a sprinkle of cheese. The fillings were simple, either a lightly seasoned poached chicken or a crumbled queso cotija or queso fresco with sliced onions. They were rarely ever baked in the oven. Although, I do enjoy that cheesy version too!
Crumbled Cheese Or Melted Cheese?
Whether you are a more traditional crumbled cheese or a melted cheese enchilada person, a good sauce and good corn tortilla are key too! It really depends on my mood, but I lean towards the crumbled cheese enchiladas. I will share with you a few variations on how to prepare enchiladas.
Once You Try Homemade Sauce, It’s Hard To Go Back!
To save time, you could use a store-bought rotisserie chicken for this recipe. Many times, my mom would take a little help from the market and purchase store bought enchilada sauce. It was not available to me, until recently, so I learned to prepare my own. And after trying the homemade version, I really enjoy it. Here is a basic sauce recipe that I use all of the time. It freezes well and can be used for various dishes that call for a chile sauce.
Basic Chicken Enchiladas
- 3 boneless chicken breasts or 5 boneless thighs 2 pounds
- 5 cups of water
For the Enchilada Sauce: (Ranchero Sauce)
- 2 ancho chile peppers stems and seeds removed
- 8-9 guajillo chiles stems and seeds removed
- 4-6 chile de arbol peppers optional
- 1 large Roma tomato sliced in half
- ½ white onion quartered
- 3 large cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup avocado or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 3-4 teaspoons Knorr chicken bouillon optional
- 4 cups chicken broth from poaching the chicken
- Salt to taste
You Will Also Need:
- 16 corn tortillas
- avocado or canola oil
- 8 oz Monterey Jack or Chihuahua cheese shredded
- 8 oz queso fresco or cotija crumbled fine
- Shredded lettuce thinly sliced onion, sliced tomato and sliced jalapeño
- thin sliced onion
- thin sliced tomato
- Mexican crema
- Avocado slices
- Add the chicken to a sauce pan and cover with 5 cups of water. Season with salt, bring to a boil, reduce heat and poach for 45 to 50 minutes or until tender and easy to pull apart with a fork. Remove chicken and shred while still warm, cover and set aside. Strain the broth and reserve for making enchilada sauce.
- Combine the dried chiles, tomato, onion and garlic in a medium sauce pan. Drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and heat to medium. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring often. Cover with 4 cups of broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook until tomatoes are tender and peppers are soft and start to turn red. Let sit for 10 minutes. Using tongs transfer all the solids to blender first. Carefully pour in all the broth from pan. Add oregano, cumin, peppercorns and bouillon. Pour in another 1- 1 1/2 cups of broth(if available). If not use water. Blend on high until smooth, taste for salt.
- In the pan you cooked the peppers in, add 2 tablespoons of oil and preheat on medium for 2 minutes. Strain the sauce through a wire strain directly into the pot with hot oil. If using a power blender, like a Vitamix, no need to strain. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes.
- For Family-Style: In a 13×9 pan, spread 1 cup of enchilada sauce evenly to cover the bottom of the pan, set aside. In a skillet, preheat 1/2 cup of oil to medium heat for 3-4 minutes. When oil is hot, fry the tortillas for 30 seconds per side, just to soften them. Stack on to a plate, cover with foil paper.
- In a bowl, combine the shredded chicken breast with ½ cup of enchilada sauce, stir well to combine. Now you are ready to start building your enchiladas. Take one tortilla and fill with about 2 tablespoons of chicken, roll shut to resemble a flute. Lay the enchiladas in the baking pan with the sauce already in it. Once you have filled and rolled them all, top with the remaining sauce and jack or chihuahua cheese. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. Serve and garnish with queso cotija, onion, avocado, crema and fresh toppings!
- For Serving Individual plates. Make sure your sauce and chicken are warm if you are serving individually. Fry, fill and roll the enchiladas and place them onto individual plates. Ladle a generous amount of warm sauce on top, sprinkle on melting cheese and heat to melt in the microwave for less than a minute. Garnish with cotija cheese and with any of the fresh garnishes listed. This was how my Mom served them at home.
I love cheese, but sometimes I really just want to enjoy the flavor of the sauce with the corn tortillas.
Before the cotija cheese…. If you are serving the enchiladas on individual plates, you probably will have leftover sauce. More Mexican food the next day!
The red corn tortillas remind me so much of the simple cheese enchiladas that they serve in Monterrey, Mexico. I have prepared my own, but they are never as thin as these store bought tortillas. I found these while I was visiting my family in Austin. My sister in law was nice enough to mail me a few packages.
I cook my chicken in the pressure cooker or slow cooker for the best shredded chicken. I enjoy breast meat, but the boneless thighs are so much more flavorful.
I took no pictures of the sauce on it’s own! So, for now, here it is on top of the enchiladas, ha, ha!
And not only for enchiladas, but the colored tortillas make the best chips!
Follow the link to see the full recipe on how to prepare homemade chips and salsa!