Chilaquiles

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

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

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.

36 Comments

  1. Chez US

    We recently had these on a trip to Mexico – loved them so much we ate everyday for a week! Saveur has a great recipe in their breakfast issue, we made a couple weeks ago – fantastic! I will have to try your recipe with the green sauce, sounds great!

  2. patrick

    Darby “The Dessert Diva”, you could always suggest the idea of “Hey, honey! how about you try making it.” :)

    Mexican food is very limited here in Japan. I think the only Mexican food I`ve ever tried is tacos. This dish sure looks delicious though. The only problem for me is perhaps finding the ingredients.

    Very difficult to find ingredients for Mexican food in Japan, at least as I remember it when I lived there. There are some specialty markets in Tokyo that have foreign foods, but still, it’s difficult. If I were back there again, I would try to have shipped in masa harina to make my own tortillas, and dried ancho and guajillo chiles for sauces. Other ingredients wouldn’t be as hard to find. ~Elise

  3. Ellie

    I am so excited about this recipe! Chilaquiles Verdes were one of my favorite breakfast items while living in Mexico! I’m so excited to try this! We use your carne asada recipe all the time, I bet this will be just as wonderful!

  4. Johanna

    My heart stopped when I saw this recipe. I’m from the south of Mexico and this is exactly how we make them. Sometimes we even top them with shredded chicken. Great Pics, Thanks Elise!

  5. Walkiria

    Hey Johanna, I was just about to say that, I also top them with shredded chicken and then it mostly becomes something you eat at lunch. Here in my uni they normally put some beans on the bottom. So it ends up being beans, then chilaquiles with shredded chicken, and on top some type of guacamole sauce. It tastes fabulous.

  6. Maria Garcia

    Hi, I make my chilaquiles in a cassorole style, this is good if you want to take as a dish to a gather or if you want to cook a day ahead for next day dinner. Make chilaquiles as you wish.Get a glass baking dish, spread some homemade or can refried beans, sprinkle, chesse of your choice (quesadilla, mozorella cheddar) spread chilaquiles sprinkle cheese again. Cover place in oven when ready to eat or even microwave. Top with sour cream, jalapenos. Good

  7. Christy

    I’m so HAPPY that you posted this recipe. I can sometimes find chilaquiles in red salsa but it’s hard to find the green ones! When in need, make your own, right?!?! I’ll have to find my old “Yo

  8. Lori

    My grandma used to make Chilaquiles always cooked with scrambled eggs, so the tortillas get that perfect texture of softened but with a crunch. Now I make for my kids and it’s one of their favorite dishes. Definitely a comfort food (Mexican version of Mac & Cheese)!

  9. JayhawkMom

    OK, I make a totally bastardized version of this in casserole form that I simplified from an Emeril recipe. It is delish and easy, especially if you have pre-cooked chicken.

    If you have some pre-cooked shredded chicken, you’re all set. If not, poach two or three chicken breasts in chicken broth, a clove or two of garlic and some coarse ground pepper. After the chicken is cooked, shred it.

    Simmer together a few cups of salsa verde, a cup of the poaching liquid and the shredded chicken. If you had pre-cooked chicken, add a cup of chicken broth, the garilc and pepper at this point. No salt is necesary.

    In a casserole dish, place a layer of corn tortilla chips, a layer of the chicken/salsa mixture and then repeat. Add a generous layer of cheese (I like the Mexican cheese blend.) and some diced tomato, sliced black olive and sliced green onion if you wish. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

    This is really good fresh out of the oven for dinner, and ridiculously good reheated with some scrambled eggs for breakfast the next day.

    Certainly not gourmet or authentic, but good for a crowd.

  10. Alex

    Ah, so this may be where the central Texan dish Migas got it’s start. Fry up corn tortilla strips much like that, but then add to scrambled eggs, with green onions. Sometimes they’re rolled into breakfast “tacos” with avocado or bacon.

  11. Iva

    Oh, that’s what chilaquiles are! I had a fancy version of them at a restaurant (Feast in Tucson, AZ) last week. Here is the menu description: “Sweet Potato Chilaquiles: tortilla casserole layered with sweet potatoes, tomatillos, poblano peppers, onions, cilantro and Monterey Jack cheese”. The dish was more like a lasagna made with corn tortillas, layered with sweet potatoes and generously topped with cheese and pickled onions. It was delicious! Tank you for the eye-opening post as to what chilaquiles really are!

  12. Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    Oh my – these look incredible!! Are they hot? I guess I’ll just have to make them to find out.

    Hi Tabitha, they are as hot as your sauce. The red chile chilaquiles are going to be rather hot. The salsa verde ones can be less hot if you use less chiles in making the sauce. ~Elise

  13. Fabby's

    Hi! I’m from México! I love Chilaquiles but not with cotija cheese. I prefer queso fresco. I like eat “torta de chilaquiles” it’s like a chilaquiles sandwich with baguette. Try it!

  14. shanlee

    I just commented to my husband last night that we haven’t had these in a long time. A Mexican friend told me how to make them. She said you can also use flour tortillas and/or canned El Pato sauce (for a really quick meal). And she taught me to make them with scrambled egg mixed in. Fry the tortillas, add the eggs and scramble until cooked, add El Pato sauce and then cheese to melt on top. YUMMY!

  15. Kim

    I have Diane’s book, but it has been years since I spent time cooking with it. This is one of my favorite dishes that you have made. Everything about it looks just awesome. Thanks for a really great meal!

  16. Jaden, Steamy Kitchen

    OMG – so that is what we ate every morning for bfast in Ixtapa!!! Loved them!

  17. Susan

    I made these for a friend on Friday and now I will make them for dinner tonight with a little poached chicken. They are just like what I remember from my time living in Oaxaca!

  18. Lisa (Homesick Texan)

    I just went out to Queens to have lunch at a taco truck that caters to Mexican workers. Chilaquiles was today’s special and you would have gotten a kick out of hearing the other patrons say with a big smile,”Chilaquiles! Yo quiero chilaquiles!” when they saw it on the menu. I thought of you and your friend!

  19. Abbey

    Hi!

    My husband loves these! I can’t wait to make them. How do you add chicken to the recipe?

    You can add cooked, shredded chicken to the chilaquiles on top when serving. ~Elise

  20. Michele

    Tasty stuff. I was just reading in the Penzey’s magazine just yesterday that Kosher salt makes things saltier than regular salt. I didn’t heed the warning and used 1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt. It was overly salty. Next time I use Kosher salt I’ll bring it down to about 3/4 tsp. Otherwise, it was tasty and very easy. It makes me think that it may be possible to use good quality corn tortilla chips and skip the first fry. What do you think?

    They would need to be very good quality tortilla chips. The kind that are actually fried tortilla chips, not processed corn formed into chips. ~Elise

  21. Annalisa

    My mom used to make these for us when I was little and recently I started making them as well. We fry the tortillas, then sauté a little onion, add a can of tomato sauce, chopped garlic, 1/2 cup of homemade salsa (tomatoes, garlic, onion, etc) and let it boil and get flavorful. Then add the tortillas back to the pan, get them sauced up and sprinkle generously with colby jack cheese, take of the heat and cover till cheese melts. Serve with a fried egg on top! YUMMM. My wife LOVES this, and so does my little boy.

  22. Lisa

    Made these for breakfast this morning. Deee-lish! Kept me out of the leftover pumpkin pie for at least a few hours. :)

    A question: can you please describe the texture to aim for? Should the tortillas still be crunchy, or should they return to their soft tortilla texture? I think my personal preference is a little crunchy, goes well with soft scrambled eggs.

    Two comments: I made mine with “authentic” tortilla chips that definitely are actual tortillas cut and fried, and it worked great. Also a great use for stale chips. But it definitely wouldn’t work with most snacking chips, like Tostitos.

    Also, I made the mistake of using a jar salsa that was “just a little” too hot. Just a little too hot for snacking translates into a lot too hot–there is a lot of salsa in this recipe; unlike when you’re using salsa as a condiment, you can’t just use less if it’s a little too hot.

    Thanks for the great recipe that is easy and, looking at all the variations on it listed here, very versatile!

    I would say cook them the way you like. I like them soft like enchiladas. Totally agree about the Tostitos, they wouldn’t work. If you are using jarred salsa, you might want to dilute it a bit with some canned tomatoes. ~Elise

  23. 3rd gen Cal-mex

    We make them with scrambled eggs, corn kernels, and onions tossed in with the crisp fried tortilla pieces. This is the way we always ate them growing up in my parents house, and now in my house.

    They’re good with salsa on the side or ketchup, also a sprinkling of Cotija cheese or Parmesan can add another complimentary layer of flavor.

  24. Marlene in Escondido, Calif.

    Hello fellow foodies! I was born in Mexico City, but I’m too lazy to cook any Mexican food here in California. (My American hubby doesn’t like spicy food). However, this recipe seems really easy to finish! Mmmh! Moreover, all Mexicans love chilaquiles, and as someone else mentioned: Chilaquiles is like the Mac and Cheese for Mexicans. Did you know that Mexicans love Chilaquiles after a night of heavy drinking? They’re one of the best hang-over cures known to man!!! LOL! Warmest regards to everybody in this website!

  25. Shannon

    I love making these with homemade salsa when I have it leftover…but if I don’t I just use canned tomato sauce and top the final product with either shredded lettuce and cheese (usually cotija), or cheese and an over-easy egg. I’m surprised no one else has had that suggestion yet. I also make mine very crunchy, I don’t like them soft.

  26. Licha

    Hey! This is fabulous for me! I’m very glad I read this recipe because I had no clue how to make them at first. Now my boyfriend and I make them every Saturday ;) Thanks guys for the recepi

  27. Jennifer

    I LOVE Chilaquiles. We do ours a bit different though, we smother them in Tillamook sharp Cheddar and Jack cheese. Also, we use Herdez salsa and a good dose of black pepper. We always fought over leftovers in my family and I would get in trouble for stealing the freshly-fried corn chips. Ah, memories!

  28. Tobey

    Chilaquiles are a great way to use up broken up leftover stale (any of the above) corn chips too. They add a lot of flavor or crunch, depending on when you mix them in.
    This was introduced to me by a neighbor of my Dad’s when he had retired to Las Brisas (Manzanillo).
    These were served instead of Bloody Marys as a hangover cure!

  29. Cindy

    Mmmmm… Chilaquiles are so good. We had this dish in Mexico while visiting family. They made it with topped with chorizo, onion, spinach and eggs. Definitely a dish that allows for a lot of creativity. Also delicious.

  30. rooBDE

    This was great – easy to assemble, very flexible. Local and homemade ingredients make this much better than what we’ve found when we go out.

  31. Kati

    This recipe made my husband’s Father’s Day! Our honeymoon was in Cabo, and he had Chilaquilles every morning for breakfast. He begs me to make them, and my first attempt, with a different recipe, was horrible. He LOVED these yesterday! Kept talking about how great they were. So, thank you, thank you! It may be a little extra work to make the sauce…but seriously worth it according to the hubs. Next time I think I’ll make a lot of the sauce, and marinate some chicken it…and freeze some to have on hand. So happy I found your blog!

  32. Brittni

    We just got back from Mexico and my husband ordered this dish numerous times for breakfast! The restaurant recommended that he top it off with a fried egg (over easy). It was delicious! He will be so pleased that I found this recipe…I can’t wait to try it!

  33. Christina

    I LOVE chilaquiles!! They are so simple and delicious…I do mine a bit differently though. For another great chilaquiles recipe visit: therefinedpalate.com!

  34. vanessa wood

    These are so good & so easy! I almost always have the ingredients on hand, so I make them at least once a week!

  35. 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!

  36. johanna

    Oh I love my chilaquiles! I have never made them outside Mexico though, must try. Tortillas never get stale around here, it’s almost impossible to get any! I prefer the green version, although a lot can be said for good chipotle sauce.
    I have Diana Kennedy’s book and it’s the best book on Mexican cuisine I have. Although I do like the modern approach of Dona Tomas as well, do you know her book? The photography and plating is to die for, not the norm in Mexican cookbooks!
    Thanks for the recipe and the mouth-watering pictures!

    Hi Johanna, yes, I have Dona Tomas’ cookbook too, great book! Diana’s books are the ones I turn to the most for reference though. She’s the queen. ~Elise

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