Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

A shortcut for this recipe is to use already prepared bottled salsa verde which should be available at any market that carries Mexican foods. Use 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 frying than thin ones, which can tend to fall apart.

  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

Chicken:

  • 1 1/3 pounds skinless chicken thighs, boneless or bone-in (1 3/4 lbs if bone-in)
  • 2 clove garlic, halved
  • 1/4 onion
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

Tomatillo Salsa:

  • 1 1/2 lbs tomatillos, papery husks removed, rinsed
  • 2 serrano chile peppers, top cut off to expose interior and to remove stems
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, stems included
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Enchiladas:

  • 1 tablespoon of high smoke point cooking oil such as canola oil, peanut oil or rice bran oil
  • 12 corn tortillas (use sturdy yellow corn tortillas)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Mexican Cotija or Queso Fresco cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion for garnish
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, including stems for garnish

Method

1 Poach chicken thighs: Put chicken thighs in a medium sized saucepan and just cover with water. Add the halved garlic, 1/4 of an onion, and and 2 teaspoons of salt to the water.

Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to very low to maintain the heat at just below a simmer, and cook, covered, for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is just barely cooked through. Remove chicken thighs to a separate bowl and let cool enough to touch.

2 Make tomatillo salsa verde: While the chicken is cooking, put the tomatillos and 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 serrano chiles to a blender. Add 1/4 cup of the tomatillo cooking liquid to the blender, as well as 2 cloves of garlic, a half cup of chopped onion, 1 tablespoon of lime juice, and about 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro. Add one teaspoon of salt.

Purée until blended, 15 to 30 seconds. Taste for heat. If not spicy enough add another chile pepper (doesn't have to be cooked). Add more salt to taste if necessary.

You should have 3 cups of salsa.

3 Shred chicken meat, toss with salsa verde: Remove the cooked chicken meat from the bones (if using bone-in thighs).

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

4 Soften the tortillas: Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Add a tortilla to the pan and let it sizzle for 10 seconds or so. Use a metal spatula to flip it to the other side. Let it sizzle for a few seconds. Place another tortilla on top of this one (to soak up the excess oil) and flip again.

You can keep going, stacking corn tortillas on top of the tortillas that appear to have excess oil. This way the new tortillas absorb some of the excess fat from the other tortillas.

When the tortillas are heated through, remove them to a plate lined with paper towel. Add a more oil to the pan as needed, and continue to heat through and soften all of the tortillas.

4 Roll up tortillas with chicken: Preheat the oven to 250°F. Scoop a spoonful of chicken into the center of the tortilla and roll up the tortilla. Place the rolled tortilla seam side down in a casserole dish and repeat with all of the tortillas.

5 Cover with foil and warm in oven: Cover the rolled tortillas with foil and keep warm in a 250°F for 10 minutes.

6 Heat salsa and smother the rolled tortillas with it: Place the tomatillo salsa in a small saucepan and heat on medium high heat until simmering. Remove warmed rolled tortillas from the oven and smother with the salsa.

Let some of the sauce go between the rolled up tortillas so that it gets to the bottom of the pan.

7 Add sour cream and garnishes: Top with crumbled cotija cheese, chopped red onion, and chopped fresh cilantro.

Thin the sour cream with a tablespoon of water and drizzle all over the top of the enchiladas. (Don't skip the sour cream! It's essential to balance the sharp acidity of the salsa verde.)

Serve immediately.

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Comments

  • Debbie McCarrick

    Elise, this was a wonderful recipe. Simple, yet tasted delicious. I went out and picked tomatillos from my garden and dinner was ready in no time. Next time I am going to try to use less oil for the tortillas so I can keep the calorie count under 200 each per enchilada. My son enjoyed them too! Thanks for a winning recipe to put in my arsenal!

  • Sandy S.

    Once again you hit it out of the ball park Elise! Love this tomatillo salsa!! And the enchilada recipe!! As long as I can get tomatillos it’s my new ‘go to’ recipe. I like the broiler method for doing the tomatillos. And thank you for reminding me that I really like poached chicken! I don’t know why I forget about poaching chicken? It’s so easy and tasty and tender. You have added some welcome zip to my fall meal planning! Thanks so much!

  • Marc

    The timing of this recipe was perfect for me. Tomatillo season is coming to an end and I had some tortillas in the refrigerator, so this was last night’s meal. I complicated some parts — oven roasting the tomatillos and reducing the sauce — but followed the chicken instructions exactly. It turned out great!

    I use the oven to softening tortillas: after preheating the oven to 300 F, I brush tortillas with oil and build stacks of 3 on a baking sheet. After a few minutes in the oven, they are pliable. It probably takes as much effort as the skillet method, but for me it’s more of a passive activity — they won’t burn or overcook. It might also be better for thinner tortillas because there is less handling.

    A chile substitute I like is swapping in a puree of canned chipotle chiles in adobo for the fresh green chile. The chipotle give a nice smokiness to the sauce. For a recipe like this, 1-3 teaspoons is a good guess. It’s handy because I always have a bag of puree blobs in my freezer — carefully labeled because they look like tomato paste and I don’t want to make that substitution!

  • Bethany

    These are my favorite enchiladas, and surprisingly not common at Mexican restaurants. This is how my mom makes them, but she uses canned (or homemade by a friend) salsa verde. East of Texas, pre-made salsa verde is impossible to find. All of your recipes for making your own have changed my life! Thank you!

  • Jody

    Question: I wonder if you could make a sauce using green tomatoes instead of tomatillos? I have tons of them from the garden. Looks like a great recipe I shall try out.

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Jody, oh I don’t recommend using green tomatoes instead of the tomatillos. They really are not interchangeable. I do recommend making a green tomato chutney with green tomatoes, then roasting chicken and serving it with the chutney.

      • Jody

        Thank you for your quick response so I didn’t make something terrible. The chutney sounds good! I love your site and always refer back to it when I want something really delicious!

  • Paul

    Seriously…the best enchiladas I’ve ever tasted. My tweaks that made the recipe better:
    1) I roasted the tomatillos and serranos at 425 degrees in the oven until they lost most of their green color (about 25 minutes) and added about 3/4 cup water to the pan about 15 minutes in to get the requisite 1/2 cup cooking water to mix with the salsa.
    2) I baked the enchiladas without the sauce at 400 degrees for 15 minutes before adding the sauce on top.
    3) I mixed the cotija cheese with the leftover sauce in the skillet when I re-warmed the sauce prior to spreading the sauce over the enchiladas.
    I love this recipe!

  • Stony

    I always use some cumin powder, garlic powder, and Mexican spice blend to add more flavor to my sauce. Tomatillos don’t have much flavor on their own

  • Armando

    If you put some cilantro in the blender with salsa and stir fry the green salsa with minced onion before you pour it in the enciladas it wil taste better

  • Kate

    These were sooooo good!! My local grocery didn’t have serranos, but I halved the recipe and used 1 jalapeno, and it was the perfect amount of heat. (I like things about a 5 out of 10.) Husband loved it too. Thanks!!

  • Tiffani

    This recipe just replaced my old recipe for chicken enchiladas verde! Now I just need to find some sturdier corn tortillas. I served with fresh sliced of avocado and salsa. Yum!

  • Janet

    Great recipe…and easy…

  • Colleen

    Fantastic recipe! I have made it several times and it has become one of my favorite recipes! I’m so happy I found it! I fell in love with verde salsa after a trip down to albuquerque, nm and have been craving it ever since. this recipe is wonderful. thank you!

  • Diana

    I made these for the second time this evening and my boyfriend ate 4 of them plus 2 servings of spanish rice (adapted from your recipe)! I have been a silent follower of your blog for some time now and I can honestly say I have never gone wrong when making a dish based on something I’ve seen here. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  • Anne

    Why is it that when corn tortillas are used here they hold together and don’t fall apart but when I do it I couldn’t keep a corn tortilla together for my life?

    I’ve tried using corn tortillas and it just doesn’t seem to work. I always end up using flour.

    I think it has to do with the quality and thickness of the corn tortilla. We get pretty thick corn tortillas from Trader Joe’s, here in Sacramento. But they don’t carry the same kind at the TJ’s I have visited in Massachusetts. The thin ones you typically find at a grocery store tend to fall apart. ~Elise

  • SarahRGV

    First time making enchiladas and they were great!
    Thanks for the great & simple recipe!

  • Shannon

    So I’ve never worked with fresh chiles before and my grocery store had the serranos right next to the jalepenos…guess who ended up using three jalepenos in this dish by mistake lol. My roommates and I still ate it because it was soooo good – the pain was totally worth it :) Thanks for all the fantastic recipes!

  • Barbara B

    Thank you for posting this, I have never had the guts to work with tomatillos or chiles and today I did both. I made this for company tonight and I believe it went well.

    I will be making the Salsa Verde again – I will probably try your other Salsa Verde recipe. I really do not like heat, would these recipes work as well with a Poblano or Anahiem chile?

    Sure, you can also just keep out the chilies all together and just use the tomatillos. ~Elise

  • Bronwyn

    We had these for dinner last night–delicious! My husband thinks I should make huge batches and freeze them. Does anyone have any suggestions for freezing?

  • Lindsay

    Want to say how much I LOVE this site, I have used so many of your recipes and they are all fabulous.
    One quick kinda dumb question, is there any other chile or pepper I can use instead of serrano? I want to make this for my parents when they next visit but my mom cannot handle any heat (spicy hot) AT ALL.. Any suggestions?

    Hi Lindsay, what I would do is leave out the chile entirely from the sauce. Then take some sliced pickled jalapenos and add them as a garnish on the enchiladas of those of you who like spiciness. ~Elise

  • Kate

    This sounds terrific! Can’t wait to try it…. but what would a good bean side dish be?

    Our standard for Mexican dishes is refried beans. ~Elise

  • Pamela

    Made this tonight for dinner. Having just recently visited New Mexico and purchased roasted green chiles, I incorporated those as well. Now, I have cooked with tomatillos frequently and love them. But to answer someone’s question from above, canned tomatillos are great! I had a can of the Hatch brand crushed tomatillos and used one can of those along with 8 roasted, peeled and deseeded green chiles, garlic, and one fresh jalapeno diced in lieu of the serranos. I knew our green chiles were hot enough and didn’t need to add much more heat.

    I enjoyed the trick of ‘stacking’ the tortillas while heating them. Never knew about that and what a difference it makes. I did use oil but might go back to another trick I learned when heating and softening corn tortillas…spray them with cooking spray and then put in the warm skillet. They will still soften but not become as saturated with oil. For those of us watching our fats, it’s a healthy alternative!

    I used HEB rotisserie leg quarters for my chicken and shredded the meat – it was wonderful.

    My only other change was adding some shredded jack cheese in addition to the queso fresco…just for an added depth.

    Dinner was wonderful. My husband devoured them and unfortunately, we have no leftovers to enjoy tomorrow! ;-)

    Thanks again for a wonderful recipe!

  • Veronica

    Holy cow! This was OUTSTANDING. My husband and I liked this recipe so much we almost did damage to ourselves by overeating (not recommended, but hard to resist). This was my first shot working with tomatillos and queso fresca, and I was a little nervous. Also, I am not a heat demon, so I was nervous about the chiles, but I wound up using just two (one was huge, though) and it was just perfect for me. I highly suggest this recipe. Also, I found it extremely helpful to know how to warm the tortillas so they don’t tear and get awful – have made enchiladas before, but never knew to heat them first. Seems common sense, but that just tells you a little something about me. Make, devour, enjoy! This is a keeper.

  • Sarah

    I made these last night, they were fantastic. Tomatillos can be hard to find here and though I’ve seen canned ones in the store I’ve never tried them. Would they work when I can’t find fresh?

    The canned tomatillos should work fine. ~Elise

  • ChristinaM

    Looks like a nice recipe. I was wondering if you’ve tried other methods of softening/heating the tortillas that don’t involve oil? One method I use is wrapping a stack in slightly damp paper towels and microwaving around 1 min.

    Or, the other day, I discovered you can easily heat them up by turning a gas burner on low and tossing a tortilla directly on the flame for a few moments, then (carefully) flipping to warm up the other side. Gives them a nice toasty texture as well.

    Just suggestions!

    We toast flour tortillas directly on a gas burner, but not store-bought corn tortillas. You can soften the corn tortillas in a microwave, but frying them in a little oil does enhance their flavor. ~Elise

  • Matt

    My wife and I tried this recipe last night. We loved it. We took the shortcut and bought the bottled salsa verde but plan on trying to make it again when we have more time.

  • ashley

    Not a big enchillada fan but made these for my husband tonight and he LOVED them! The only thing I did different from the recipe was use a mexican cheese blend since I couldn’t find the suggested cheese at the store. Definitely a keeper!

  • Erin

    This was an awesome salsa! I used my aunt’s homegrown tomatillos and married the sauce with a Cooking Light recipe for chicken tostadas. So good!
    Thanks! :-)

  • tastyeatsathome

    So, you inspired me to make enchiladas last night. I made quite a few changes, most of which were good, but my tortillas fell apart and don’t look as pretty as yours. I wonder if they were “too” fresh. Anyway, I started by using chicken breasts and boiled them in some cumin, coriander, garlic, onion, chicken broth and beer, and then shredded and mixed with cream cheese and some of the salsa. (slightly different salsa recipe than yours…quite spicy!) I did like the sour cream and salsa mix for the sauce though, tasty! I ate four enchiladas as a result. Do you have other ideas for tomatillos? I have no idea what to do with them other than recipes like this.

    If you like tomatillos, you might want to try our chile verde. I love it! ~Elise

  • Jeanette

    This is in response to Jonathon’s query about poaching chicken breasts, without the bone.

    I do this all the time. I just put them in whatever size pot is necessary, add water to just cover the chicken breasts, add around 8 to 12 peppercorns, a bay leaf, maybe half a teaspoon of salt, about a third of a medium onion cut in chunks, a small carrot peeled and cut in chunks and half a rib of celery. If you have parsnips, a small one peeled and cut in chunks adds great flavor as well.

    I just bring to a quick boil, cover, and turn down to a bare simmer and cook for maybe 10 minutes maximum. Then I cover the pot and allow the chicken breasts to marinate in the broth until they are cooled, 2 or 3 hours.

    Remove the chicken breasts and use them for whatever was your intention. Chuck the veggies and spices.

    Strain the poaching liquid through a double layer of cheesecloth and you have a wonderful chicken broth to use in whatever recipe you wish.

  • Greg

    I boiled my chicken thighs the night before I made my enchiladas and used the broth from that to cook the tomatillos and peppers. Turned out great! I served the enchiladas with some black beans. It was a big hit with everyone.

  • Chris

    This is a great recipe. In fact this is my old recipe. But I really have to watch my weight so instead of frying my tortillas, I just put them (1 dozen at a time)in the microwave. While they’re hot I’ll spoon in some salsa, then chicken and then roll them up. Once they’re ready for the oven, I will pour some salsa over them. You can even try Wheat Tortillas.

  • Espahan

    Elise,

    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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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