This creamy green chile turkey enchiladas recipe is a family favorite. It’s a perfect use for leftover turkey (or chicken).
But the real star of the dish is the homemade green enchilada sauce. This creamy green sauce takes these enchiladas to another level of nirvana.
Years ago, I used to visit friends for Thanksgiving weekend. This visit was known as “Friendsgiving” or “the Liver Olympics”. It’s Wisconsin after all, so drinking was involved.
We’d always have way too much turkey, so making leftover turkey enchiladas became the post Thanksgiving Day tradition.
While these turkey enchiladas always came out great, we all agreed that the canned enchilada sauce we used was just too bland. Challenge Accepted!
Therefore, I developed my own creamy green enchilada sauce…and it stole the show. It takes these turkey enchiladas to a new level of YUM.
Continue reading: I'll walk you through key ingredients, my 5-step process for making turkey enchiladas, and of course how to make my fabulous homemade green enchilada sauce.
What type of tortilla for enchiladas?
Corn tortillas are a must. They hold up in the sauce much better than flour tortillas. Their texture also allows them to soak up the flavorful green sauce.
I always nuke them in the microwave first to soften. Or, if I'm feeling decadent, I give them a quick fry in oil (both sides).
Best cheese for enchiladas
I use Mexican quesadilla cheese (Chihuahua brand) mixed with some cotija. Cotija cheese is sometimes thought of as the Mexican version of Italy’s grated Parmesan. It can be quite strong depending on the brand, so proceed with caution.
Best green chile for enchilada green sauce
I have tried many types of green chiles and have determined that roasted Hatch chiles are THE perfect chile for enchilada green sauce.
They have a flavor like no other, and when you roast them until brown/black and blistery, they're magical.
The roasting process adds natural sweetness and smokiness to the chiles. Let them sweat in a plastic container for 20 minutes or so, then peel them and discard the seeds, peel, and stem. Use them right away, or freeze for later.
Unfortunately, Hatch chile season is rather short (from about early August to late September), so it can be difficult to find them. I've found canned Hatch chiles in my grocery store, but the next best thing to fresh chiles is to order flash-frozen chiles direct from the source: The Hatch Chile Store (You can also pre-order fresh chiles!).
How to make enchilada green sauce
This creamy green sauce starts by sautéing some shallots in butter over medium heat. Once translucent, add the flour and cook about a minute.
By adding flour to the fat (butter) we are creating a basic roux that will ultimately make this green sauce thick and creamy.
Make sure to whisk constantly as you add the stock. This keeps the roux from clumping up. After all, we want a silky, creamy sauce.
When the sauce begins to bubble, reduce to low heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken.
Now all you need to do is add the Mexican crema (or sour cream) to make this green enchilada sauce reach creamy nirvana.
But don't add it directly: it needs to be tempered first. If you don't, the cream will curdle and form clumps. Yuck!
To temper, place your crema or sour cream in a small bowl and add a ladle of the hot sauce. Stir well, then mix into the sauce.
What is in the enchilada?
My enchilada filling is a mix of chopped turkey or chicken (cooked), a mix of Mexican quesadilla and cotija cheese, and chopped green Hatch chiles.
My smoked pulled pork can easily be substituted for the turkey: it will turn out fantastic, smoky green enchiladas.
How to make the enchiladas
Step 1 - Start by saucing the bottom of your 9 x 13 inch baking dish with one cup of your creamy green enchilada sauce.
Step 2 - Microwave the tortillas on high for 20 seconds to soften them. (Or fry for 30 seconds per side in vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat)
Step 3 - Dip one side of each tortilla in the creamy green sauce and lay sauce-side-up on a cutting board.
Step 4 - Dollop about ¼ cup of enchilada filling on the sauced side of the tortilla. Next, roll it up and place into baking dish with the seam of the enchilada facing down. Continue steps 3 & 4 until your baking dish is full.
Roll up the tortilla and filling, then place into baking dish (make sure that the seam of the enchilada is facing down). Continue steps 3 & 4 until your baking dish is full. Note: in the photos below, I sauced the bottom of my baking dish with salsa verde rather than green enchilada sauce because I was trying to use up extra salsa.
Step 5 - Pour the remaining creamy green enchilada sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle the remaining cheese mix. Now they're ready for baking!
Or…make a turkey enchilada casserole
I sometimes prefer to just make a turkey enchilada casserole out of these same ingredients. It's faster and easier, but has the same great taste.
Simply sauce both sides of half the tortillas (6 qty), lay them on the casserole dish. Next cover these tortillas with your enchilada filling. Then layer again with your remaining tortillas that have been sauced on both sides.
Pour any remaining green sauce on top and sprinkle with the cheese mixture.
What temperature to cook the enchiladas
Bake these enchiladas (or enchilada casserole) in a pre-heated 400 ºF oven.
How long to cook the enchiladas
The total cook time for these enchiladas is about 30 minutes. For the first 15 minutes, the baking dish is wrapped in tinfoil.
Then you remove the tinfoil and continue to bake them another 15 minutes or until the edges are bubbling and the cheese is golden brown.
What to serve with enchiladas
Our family loves cilantro lime rice. Simply make some white rice, toss with a bunch of chopped cilantro and squeeze the juice of half a lime over the top. How easy is that?
We also have a classic black bean recipe that goes great with this dish. It involves canned black beans, lard, onion powder, cumin, Mexican oregano, salt, pepper.
I drain the beans (reserving the liquid), then add them to melted lard in a saucepan over medium-high heat to give them a quick fry. Then, I add the herbs and spices (about ½ teaspoon each, except for salt and pepper [use ¼ teaspoon or to taste]) along with half of the bean liquid. At this point, I leave the beans alone to simmer for 15 minutes if I plan to eat them whole.
OR, I give them a quick mash with an old-fashioned potato masher. BOOM! Fabulous refried beans. (Add additional bean liquid, if needed, to reach your preferred consistency)
These are our favorites:
- Chopped lettuce, onions, scallions, and cilantro
- Sour cream or Mexican crema
- Avocado slices (or homemade guacamole)
- Fresh Salsa Verde
- Lime wedges
- Cholula (or your favorite hot sauce)
That's it! THE most fabulous use of leftover turkey or chicken. I hope your family is a wild about these creamy green chile leftover turkey enchiladas as we are!
Stay safe. Stay well.
P.S. Need more recipe ideas for your leftovers? Check out my post on Using Up Leftovers!
FOR THE CREAM SAUCE
- 4 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup shallot, finely minced
- 4 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1 cup roasted green chiles, divided; well drained and finely chopped (see Recipe Note #1)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, (or to taste)
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 2.5 cups hot turkey stock, (see Recipe Note #2)
- 3 tablespoon sour cream
FOR THE ENCHILADAS
- 2 cups roasted turkey, shredded (or use roast chicken)
- ¾ cup cotija cheese, grated
- 2 cups quesadilla cheese, shredded (you can also use Monterey Jack cheese or a mix)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
- 12 corn tortillas
- thinly sliced white onion or scallions
- chopped cilantro
- shredded lettuce
- salsa verde
- sour cream or Mexican crema
- lime wedges for squeezing
FOR THE GREEN CHILE CREAM SAUCE (this can be made a day in advance!)
- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent and softened, 5–7 minutes.
- Mix the flour into the butter and shallots, stirring continuously. Cook for 1 minute, then mix in the ½ cup of the chiles, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper. Slowly add the stock, whisking constantly. When the sauce begins to simmer, reduce heat to low. Simmer gently until thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Place the sour cream or crema in a small bowl: temper it by slowly mixing in ¼ cup of the simmering sauce. Stir the mixture into the sauce in the pan. The finished sauce should be fairly thick. See Recipe Note #4 for work-ahead.
FOR THE ENCHILADAS
- Preheat the oven to 400º. Mix the cheeses in a bowl; combine the turkey, ½ of the cheese mixture, salt, pepper, and the remaining chiles in a mixing bowl.
- Pour 1 cup of the cream sauce into the bottom of a ~9x13" baking dish and spread evenly across the bottom.
- Wrap the tortillas in paper toweling and microwave for 20 seconds on high to soften.
- Dip one side of a corn tortilla into the remaining cream sauce. Set the tortilla onto a cutting board, sauced-side-up. Add 3 tablespoon of filling down the center of the tortilla, leaving ¼" of space between the filling and the top and bottom edges of the tortilla. Roll the filling up inside the tortilla like a burrito (there's no need to fold the ends over). Gently place into the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas. [To serve the enchiladas casserole-style, see Recipe Note #3]
- When all of the enchiladas are rolled, spoon the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
- Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until the top of the enchiladas is golden and the sauce is bubbling.
- Serve immediately with the garnishes of your choice.
- I love Hatch green chiles, if you can find them. Go for mild to medium heat, based on your level of heat tolerance. If you're concerned, start with a tablespoon of the chiles and adjust to taste. Even if the chiles are pre-chopped, I chop them even finer for a smoother sauce.
- This is a great time to have freshly-made turkey stock on hand, like my Crockpot Turkey Stock. If you don't have any available, just use your favorite chicken broth.
- You can serve these enchiladas casserole style: sauce both sides of 6 corn tortillas and arrange across the bottom of a 9 x 13" casserole dish. Spread the filling in an even layer to cover the tortillas. Top with 6 more corn tortillas (sauced on both sides). Cover with more sauce and sprinkle cheese on top. Bake as with the rolled enchiladas.
- The sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight, microwaveable container and reheated if you're working ahead (to reheat, microwave at 50% power until warm, stirring every 2 minutes).
- Reference the preparation collage in the post above for assembly technique!
- Any leftover filling can be frozen for up to 2 months for an easy meal down the road!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 enchiladas
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 731Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 20gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 140mgSodium: 1213mgCarbohydrates: 57gFiber: 6gSugar: 8gProtein: 37g
Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate: if you are tracking this information for medical purposes, please consult a trusted external source. Thanks!