Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

The tomatillos in my garden are all ripening at once. Have you ever cooked with tomatillos? They look like little lanterns, with their green papery husks. Sometimes people mistake them for green tomatoes (doesn’t help that their Spanish name is “tomate verde”); they are related to tomatoes (same family, different genus), but the taste is quite different. They are used to make the distinctive Mexican salsa verde or green salsa. In this chicken enchiladas recipe, the sauce is made with boiled tomatillos (you could also roast them), serrano chile peppers, and sour cream. The filling is made with shredded meat from chicken thighs; the deeper flavor of the dark meat holds up much better to the chile and tomatillo sauce than chicken breasts. I made these for dinner tonight and even the kid, my young nephew, went for seconds. Not a smidgen of sauce was left on any of our plates.

Chicken Enchiladas Verdes Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6.

A shortcut for this recipe is to use already prepared bottled salsa verde (heat the sauce and add sour cream at the end) which should be available at any market that carries Mexican foods. Use 2-3 cups. You can also use rotisserie chicken instead of poaching your own.

Packaged tortillas vary in their thickness and quality. Thicker corn tortillas will hold up better to the frying, softening, and dipping in sauce than thin ones, which can tend to fall apart.




  • 4 chicken thighs, bone-in, skins removed (about 1 3/4 lbs)
  • 1 1/2 lbs tomatillos, papery husks removed, rinsed
  • 4 serrano chile peppers, top cut off to expose interior and to remove stems
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/4 of a whole white or yellow onion
  • Salt
  • 1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and chopped, stems included
  • High smoke point cooking oil such as canola oil, peanut oil or grapeseed oil
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 3 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Mexican Cotija or Queso Fresco cheese


1 Put chicken thighs in a medium sized saucepan and just cover with water. Add one clove of garlic that has been cut in half, 1/4 of an onion, and 1 teaspoon of salt to the water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low simmer, and cook, covered, for 20 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through. Remove chicken thighs to a separate bowl and let cool enough to touch.

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2 While the chicken is cooking, put the tomatillos and 3 serrano chile peppers in a separate sauce pan and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the tomatillos are cooked, and have changed color, but are not mushy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer tomatillos and serranos to a blender. Add 1/2 cup of the tomatillo cooking liquid to the blender, as well as 2 cloves of garlic, a third a cup of your chopped onion, and about 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro (packed). (Remaining chopped onion and cilantro will be used for garnish.) Add one teaspoon of salt. Purée until completely blended, 15 to 30 seconds. Taste for heat. If not spicy enough add another chile pepper (doesn't have to be cooked). Note that sour cream will eventually be added to the sauce which will cool down a lot of the spiciness. Add more salt to taste if necessary. Pour sauce into a skillet, bring to a simmer and let simmer for 5 minutes. Then remove from heat.

3 Remove the cooked chicken meat from the bones. Shred the meat with a fork or knife. Put the chicken in a bowl and add 1/3 to a 1/2 cup of the tomatillo sauce to the chicken. Taste the chicken; if it needs salt, add a little.


4 Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Add a tortilla to the pan and use a metal spatula to flip it to the other side. Place another tortilla on top of this one (to soak up the excess oil) and flip again. When the tortillas are heated through, remove them to a plate lined with paper towel. Add a little more oil to the pan, and add another couple tortillas. Continue to heat through and soften all of the tortillas. Note that if you are using just made homemade tortillas you can skip this step because the tortillas are already hot, softened, and ready to eat.

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4 Warm the oven to 200°F. Dip a tortilla in the salsa verde tomatillo sauce and place it on an oven-proof serving dish. Scoop a spoonful of chicken into the center of the tortilla and roll up the tortilla. Place on the serving dish and repeat with all of the tortillas. Put into the warm oven to keep the enchiladas warm while you finish the sauce.

5 Heat the salsa verde sauce again until simmering, then remove from heat. Stir in the sour cream until well blended. Remove the warming enchiladas from the oven and pour salsa verde sauce over all of them. Top with chopped onion, cheese, and cilantro.

Serve immediately. Serve with extra garnishes of onion, cheese, and cilantro on the side.

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Showing 4 of 32 Comments

  • sylvie

    Very tasty! My early crop of tomatillos was ridden with chewing caterpillars, but for the last couple of weeks, we have been harvesting lots of healthy fruit. Salsa verde hads been on the menu quite a few times. Tomatillos freeze very nicely too – a boon to take care of the extra without canning.

    Your recipe is a tasty recipe that’s simple enough for everyday – a real keeper. Thank you,Elise. Another alternative to the broiling or boiling of the tomatillos for a deeper flavor (but a smoky kitchen) is to heat up a cast iron pan (no oil) and put in there halved tomatillos, chunks of onion and the garlic and let them charred. Then add a little oil, shake the pan to loosen all ingredient (use a mtal spatula if needed), lower the heat and cook until tomatillos are soften (may need to add water) and then transfer everything to the blender.

    Thanks for the suggestion, Sylvie! ~Elise

  • Zoe

    This looks really good. Usually when I need shredded chicken i just bake a chicken and shred it. I am wondering, when you boil the thighs, does it create a broth?

    Yes, it does create a stock. After I remove the chicken and strip the meat from the bones, I return the bones to the stock and cook them on a bare simmer for several hours longer. Then strain out the solids and refrigerate. We use chicken stock so often around here that every opportunity I have to make stock I take! ~Elise

  • jonathan

    I’ve been reading a lot lately about poaching chicken (albeit chicken breasts) in broth, or even milk, presumably to bring a little extra flavor to a dish. Anyone ever try this, particularly the milk trick?

    These do look amazing. Just pass me some big bowls of rice and beans to serve alongside, and try not to talk to me for a half hour or so.

    Me gusto.

    Me gusto mucho.

    Hi Jonathan! I think if you are working with boneless chicken breasts you almost have to poach them in something other than water. Poaching bone-in will create its own broth, but without the bones, I would poach them in stock. ~Elise

  • Espahan


    You are so on the spot with the cooking tips. I am referring in this case to flipping the tortilla in the pan and then stacking another tortilla on top, flipping that one over with the first one and so on until all the tortillas are heated up. I learned that trick some 25 years ago. What a time saver from doing each one individually. I use a small iron skillet and two forks to flip them. I can do about ten at a time.

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