How to Make the Best Enchiladas

Enchiladas are essential comfort food. Savory fillings rolled up in soft tortillas, lined up in a casserole dish, covered in sauce, topped with cheese, and baked until hot and bubbly — what’s not to love?! Add a dollop of sour cream or a spoonful of fresh guacamole, and you’ve got a never-fail, family-pleasing meal. Let’s break down the components and dish up some top-rated recipes.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

Photo by Meredith

First, we’ll look at the fillings.

Enchilada Fillings

This classic Tex-Mex dish is one of America’s original fusion foods, the delicious result of a mingling of Mexican, Native American, Texas cowboy, and Anglo cultures. As such, enchiladas are by nature incredibly versatile. They take deliciously to a variety of fillings: shredded meats like beef, pork, or chicken, as well as meat-free fillings like beans, sour cream, or cheese.

Shredded Beef Enchiladas

Photo by Meredith

Some top-rated enchilada fillings:

Enchilada Sauces

In the American kitchen, enchilada sauce falls into three basic categories: red, white, and green.

Red sauce has a deep and rich taste derived from its base of both dried and fresh chiles, often with the addition of tomato puree. Many red enchilada sauce recipes you will see call for chili powder. Chili powder is not a single spice, but rather a custom blend of dried red chiles, cumin, oregano, garlic and salt.

Green sauce has a light, fresh taste thanks to its base of fresh green chiles. Both red and green enchilada sauces are seasoned with garlic, onions, cumin, salt and pepper.

Finally, the most distinctly American of the three varieties is the white sauce enchilada. “White sauce” often consists of nothing more than sour cream, although it is often mixed with diced green chiles, fresh herbs, lime juice, or even condensed soup.

Red Enchilada Sauce

Photo by Meredith

Some top-rated enchilada sauces:

Tortillas for Enchiladas

Tortillas come in two basic varieties: corn and flour. Both varieties are common in Tex-Mex cooking, and they’re available everywhere. But you can also make your own. It’s easy!

Corn tortillas are made from a simple mixture of water and masa harina, a specially treated corn flour. Flour tortillas are made from wheat flour and usually contain baking powder and shortening or lard. They’re larger and thinner than corn tortillas, and because the wheat flour allows the dough to be stretched without crumbling.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Homemade Flour Tortillas | Photo by Holiday Baker

Both varieties of tortilla are kneaded into a pliable dough, pressed or rolled into thin discs, and cooked quickly on a hot iron griddle.

Unless you are using tortillas that are literally “hot off the press,” your best bet is to heat tortillas briefly in a hot pan with a small amount of oil to make them pliable and resistant to tearing. If you have a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, you can skip the oil and just heat the tortillas for about thirty seconds per side.

Stack them in a clean kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft until you’re ready to fill and roll the enchiladas.

How to Make Tortillas from Scratch

See how to make homemade tortillas that are supple, chewy, moist, and tender — and incredibly delicious.

Get the recipe for Chef John’s Flour Tortillas.
 
To make your enchiladas, spread a spoonful of your favorite filling down the middle of a tortilla, add a stripe of sauce, then roll it up tightly and place it in a baking dish, seam-side down. Continue filling the enchiladas, lining them up in the dish side by side; cover them with more sauce before baking.

Toppings for Your Enchiladas

If you love cheese-topped enchiladas, try Cheddar, Jack, or Mexican Cotija cheeses.

Sprinkle shredded cheese generously over the top of the enchiladas, then bake them in a moderate oven — 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) — until the enchiladas are heated through, the sauce is nice and bubbly, and the cheese is melted. This should take about 30 minutes. (Cover pan with foil if you’d like to keep the edges of the enchiladas soft.)

Meanwhile, prepare your favorite accompaniments: chopped cilantro, thinly sliced red onions, diced tomatoes, chopped lettuce, sliced olives, salsa, sour cream, guacamole, or anything else that makes your Tex-Mex feast feel complete!

Toppings for Enchiladas

Photo by Meredith


Check out our complete collection of Enchilada Recipes.


Get more cooking tips and awesome food finds.