Red Enchiladas are a scrummy combination of everything I love about comfort food and Mexican cuisine. They come out of the oven creamy, bubbly, and delicious. And unlike a lot of the recipes you’ll find out there, these enchiladas are made with authentic ingredients—particularly the homemade red enchilada sauce: no vile, store-bought sauce-in-a-jar (or can—GACK!).
This meal is Step 2 in my Red Enchilada Sauce “Saucy Two-Step”: a page out of my Flipped-Out Food “Playbook,” where you make a sauce as a fun weekend cooking project and then use it in easy meals during the busy workweek. This red enchilada sauce is made with rehydrated ancho chiles and charred veggies that are puréed together and slowly simmered until thick and rich. It freezes well, so any time you want an easy meal of enchiladas or enchilada sweet potato noodle bowls, for example, you can thaw the sauce out and zoom-zoom!
A quick bit of background: I credit a lot of what I know about Mexican-inspired cooking to poring over cookbooks like Rick Bayless’ Mexican Everyday and Mexico One Plate At A Time. These books share a bit about the culture behind each dish, and they’re beautifully photographed—a food pornographer’s dream. (My red sauce is adapted from the “Street Style” Red Chile Enchiladas in the second book.)
Another great thing about these Red Enchiladas is that they’re a fantastic way to use up leftover meat—like when you have a rotisserie chicken kicking around in your fridge. For us, it’s usually smoked pork: the hubster is an avid meat smoker, and we always have “food-savered” portions of yummy smoked pork in the freezer. But I do occasionally have part of a rotisserie chicken (a.k.a., Fricken’ Chicken) from the grocery on hand.
Assembling the Red Enchiladas
I’ll be straight with you: toasting the tortillas, dipping them in sauce, adding the meat, and rolling each enchilada one by one is a bit of a production. That’s why these days if I’m making Red Enchiladas, I either layer the tortillas as you’d do for a lasagna OR go the chilaquiles route, in which you coat extra-thick Mexican tortilla chips with your salsa, mix in your meat, and cover the whole thing with enchilada sauce, crema, and cheese before baking.
Speaking of cheese, you can use whatever you have on hand. My favorite combination is enchilada cheese and some grated Cotija cheese. I’m always careful with the Cotija, though: also known as “Mexican Parmesan,” it can be quite strong. Taste it first—if it’s a really strong flavor, only add about 1/4 cup to the entire casserole. Done this way, the cheese adds a subtle, complex, almost nutty flavor that does amazing things.
Whatever form of Red Enchiladas you choose to make, one thing I’ve learned from our three kids about any baked casserole-type meal is that picky eaters do not appreciate THINGS sticking out of the casserole that are not coated with sauce, that get crispy and browned (“burned”) in the oven. For this reason, I make sure that no naked spots are left in my assembled casseroles.
When the Red Enchiladas are baked, sprinkle them with cilantro (unless you’re a hater) and serve. I have been assured that the leftovers are great, despite cookbooks warning that the tortillas get soggy.
This is one of those “Old Faithful” recipes that I come back to again and again. It’s always a big hit with the fam.
- ~2 cups cooked meat, like leftover Pork Salsa Verde or cooked chicken
- 2 cups Red Enchilada Sauce (or use a good-quality jarred sauce)
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- 1 cup Mexican crema or sour cream
- 2 cups Mexican quesadilla cheese, divided
- ¼-1/2 cup Cotija cheese (optional, to taste; see notes)
- 12-13 corn tortillas, or see chilaquiles riff below
- Chopped cilantro for serving
- For Chilaquiles:
- 1 13 oz. bag of MEXICAN tortilla chips (THICK ones!)
- Preheat your oven to 350°. Mix about ¼ of the sauce, ½ of the crema (or sour cream), and ½ of the cheese with your cooked meat.
- Soften your corn tortillas by brushing lightly with oil and baking 2-3 minutes on a rack in the oven. To assemble the enchiladas, dip both sides of the tortilla into the sauce in the baking dish. Add a portion of the meat mixture (~2 tbsp, depending on the size of the tortillas), roll up, and place seam-side-down into your baking dish. Repeat until you fill the dish. Cover the enchiladas evenly with the remaining sauce. Cover with remaining cheese. Bake until bubbling and golden, 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately.
For Chilaquiles: Add your chips to an ungreased, 9x13" baking dish. Pour the salsa mixture over the chips, turning them as necessary to make sure they're all coated in sauce. Mix the pork with the remaining salsa and add to the chips, mixing to distribute the meat evenly. Drizzle with remaining crema and cover with remaining cheese and onion rings. Bake until bubbling and golden, 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve immediately.
Casserole-style: You can also make the enchiladas casserole-style by laying the softened, salsa-dipped tortillas flat across the bottom, adding your meat mixture, and topping with another layer of tortillas. Cover with the remaining sauce, cheese, and onion rings, and then pop into the oven. Bake and serve as directed above.
Authentic-ish, made with rehydrated guajillo chiles and charred vegetables, puréed, and simmered. Rich, smoky, and complex. Great to have on-hand for making an easy dinner anytime.
Made with Salsa Verde and leftover Green Chile Pork, these enchiladas are Mexican comfort food at its finest. (Easily adaptable to any cooked meat you have on hand!)
A healthier version of the enchilada bowls from Chipotle. Served with homemade red enchilada sauce, black beans, cheese, and any fixings you like.