Chilaquiles

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Chilaquiles. Chee-lah-KEE-less! I mentioned I wanted to make chilaquiles to a Mexican friend the other day and you should have see the smile and look of rapture that came over his face.

This is true Mexican comfort food, what your mom made you for breakfast when she had some stale tortillas that needed to get used up.

Chilaquiles are basically corn tortilla pieces that are fried, cooked in salsa, and sprinkled with cheese. They are often served for breakfast with eggs and a side of beans or nopalitos.

My mother grew up with her mother making them with green chile tomato salsa and grated longhorn cheese, a Tex Mex version.

I recently brought some homemade salsa verde over to my friend Arturo‘s house and he made two traditional Mexican versions for me, one with the salsa verde, and one with a red chile sauce made with dried ancho chiles (pictured above). Recipes for both follow.

Do you like enchiladas? Chilaquiles are basically the same ingredients, but with a lot less work. No rolling.

Chilaquiles Recipe

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  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

It will help with the frying if your tortillas are a little dry. If they are fresh, cut them first, put them in a warm oven for a few minutes first to dry them out a bit, then proceed.

Ingredients

  • 1 dozen corn tortillas, preferably stale, or left out overnight to dry out a bit, quartered or cut into 6 wedges
  • Corn oil
  • Salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups red chile sauce or salsa verde*
  • A few sprigs of epazote (optional)

Garnishes

  • Cotija cheese or queso fresco
  • Crema Mexicana or creme fraiche
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Chopped red onion
  • Avocado, sliced or roughly chopped

*Red chili sauce

Take 4 dried ancho chiles, remove seeds, stems, and veins. Heat chiles lightly on a skillet on medium heat to draw out their flavor. Put chilies in a saucepan, pour boiling hot water over to cover. Let sit for 15 minutes. Add chiles, 2 garlic cloves, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 1/2 cups of chili soaking liquid to a blender. Hold down lid of blender tightly while blending, blend until completely puréed. Strain through a mesh sieve into a frying pan to make the chilaquiles. (Red chile sauce recipe)

*Salsa verde

Put 1 lb tomatillos, husks removed, into a saucepan, cover with water by an inch. Add 1 jalapeno, stems and seeds removed. Add 2 cloves garlic. Bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes until tomatillos have changed color and are cooked through. Use slotted spoon to remove tomatillos, jalapeno and garlic to a blender. Add a cup of the cooking liquid. Blend until completely puréed. Add salt to taste. (Salsa verde recipe)

Method

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1 In a large sauté pan, coat pan generously with corn oil, (1/8 inch), heat on medium high to high. When the oil is quite hot, add the tortillas, fry until golden brown. Remove tortillas to a paper towel lined plate to soak up excess oil. Sprinkle a little salt on the tortillas. Wipe pan clean of any browned bits of tortillas.

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2 Add 2 Tbsp oil to pan, bring to high heat again. Add the salsa and let salsa cook for several minutes. If you have a few sprigs of epazote, add them to the salsa. Then add the fried tortilla quarters to the salsa. Gently turn over the pieces of tortilla until they are all well coated with salsa. Let cook for a few minutes more.

Remove from heat. Serve chilaquiles with garnishes and fried eggs and beans or nopalitos.

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Links:

Diana Kennedy has several fantastic recipes for regional versions of chilaquiles in her seminal The Art of Mexican Cooking and The Essential Cuisines of Mexico.

Chilaquiles Verdes
Chilaquiles made with salsa verde, garnished with cilantro, red onion, cotija cheese, crema Mexicana, and avocado and served with black beans

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Showing 4 of 42 Comments

  • Lori

    In Austin, Texas, a variation of this is called “migas.” I think it follows Elise’s basic chilaquiles recipe but with scrambled eggs mixed in. Every cheap diner, every fancy restaurant has a version of migas on their breakfast menus. (I’m from California, but I love Austin!)

  • Mau Ferrusca

    This is as close as the original recipie as you’ll get. Congratulations for sharing such an amazing, delicious and traditional dish from my country.

    Also, Cotija cheese is AWESOME. If you get a hold of it, just cut a slice, put it on top of a tortilla and then flip the tortilla with the cheese pressed against your favourite non-stick pan.

    Thank me later.

  • Jimmy

    I’m sure homemade tortillas are ideal but do you have a suggestion for a brand of store-bought corn tortillas for this recipe (or in general)?

    I’ve tried many and always find that they pale in comparison to the homemade stuff but would be eager to find a solid store-bought version. Ordering online would be perfectly acceptable. :)

  • Alanna

    Thanks for a fantastic, user-friendly recipe! I made these this morning with tomatillo salsa in order to use up some very stale corn tortillas; they were heavenly. I’m looking forward to trying them with the red sauce, too. Love your photos!

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