Enchiladas

Mexican and Tex MexGluten-FreeVegetarianEnchiladas

Family favorite, Tex Mex cheese enchiladas recipe. Corn tortillas, lightly fried, rolled up with Jack or cheddar cheese, arranged in a casserole dish, covered with tomato and green chile sauce, and baked.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

When I’m asked, “what’s your favorite recipe on the site?,” my reply without hesitation is this one, my mother’s cheese enchiladas!

We had enchiladas at least once a month my entire childhood; it’s still the most requested recipe from any of my siblings when they come home to visit. We’ll often make extra just so my father can have leftover enchiladas for breakfast the next day (it’s his version of chilaquiles).

My mother, a fifth generation hispanic Arizonian, was taught this recipe by my grandmother. Note that there are many kinds of enchiladas—green chile, shrimp, chicken, red chili—to name a few. This recipe is much more “Tex Mex” than Mexican, and is easy to make.

Enchiladas Recipe

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  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4

A note about the tortillas. Sturdy yellow corn tortillas hold up better in these enchiladas than more delicate white corn tortillas. The corn tortillas must be softened before they are rolled and baked in the casserole. Frying them gently in a little oil greatly enhances the flavor of the tortillas. Do not use flour tortillas for this recipe.

If you don't have green chiles, you can substitute the chiles with a cup of your favorite prepared salsa (cooked, do not use salsa made with fresh, uncooked tomatoes)

Ingredients

  • Peanut oil, canola oil, or other high smoke point oil
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil (or peanut or canola)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 14-ounce can (about 1 3/4 cup) crushed tomatoes (preferably fire roasted)
  • 3/4 cup of chopped cooked green chiles (about a 4-ounce can), or 1/3 cup chopped pickled jalapeños (more or less to taste, depending on the heat of the chiles and how spicy you want your enchiladas)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 lb (4 cups) of jack cheese, mild cheddar , or a mix, grated
  • A handful of cilantro
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • Half a head of iceberg lettuce

Method

1 Preheat oven to 350° F.

2 Lightly fry the tortillas to soften: In a large frying pan at medium-high heat add a tablespoon of oil. When the oil is shimmering and hot (not quite smoking), add a corn tortilla to the pan. Cook it for 2-3 seconds, use a metal spatula to turn it over, and cook it for 2 to 3 seconds more.

soften corn tortillas before rolling them into enchiladas soften tortillas for enchiladas by frying them first

Lift up the tortilla with a spatula, add another tortilla underneath. Cook the second tortilla for 2-3 seconds, lift both tortillas, and add another tortilla underneath.

Repeat the process with all the tortillas, adding more oil as needed. This way you can brown and soften the tortillas without using a lot of fat.

It's important to pre-cook the tortillas because not only does cooking them help soften them for rolling, cooking them in a little fat helps develop the flavor of the tortillas.

As the tortillas brown a little, remove them to a plate.

stack fried tortilla on top of newly placed tortilla to soften tortillas for enchiladas stack tortillas to absorb excess fat for making enchiladas

3 Make the enchilada sauce: Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.

saute onions for enchilada sauce

Add the crushed tomatoes. Add the green chiles. Add 1/2 cup of water. Add the oregano. Bring to a simmer and taste. If the sauce tastes too vinegary, add half a teaspoon of sugar to the sauce. Remove from heat.

make enchilada sauce

4 Roll up the tortillas with cheese: Put a little olive oil on the bottom of a 3-quart casserole pan. Take a tortilla, cover 2/3 of it lightly with the shredded cheese, then roll up the tortilla and place it in the casserole pan.

sprinkle inside of tortillas with cheese for enchiladas roll up tortillas for enchiladas recipe

Continue until all tortillas are filled and rolled.

add rolled tortillas to enchilada casserole dish fill enchilada casserole dish with rolled tortillas

5 Add sauce and cheese: Add sauce to the top of the tortillas in the the casserole pan. Make sure the rolled up tortillas are covered with the sauce. If not, add a little water to thin the sauce to spread it more evenly over the tortillas. Cover the whole thing with the rest of the grated cheese.

cover enchiladas with sauce sprinkle enchiladas with cheese

6 Bake: Put the casserole in the 350°F oven for 10-15 minutes or until the cheese melts.

Serve with sliced iceberg lettuce that has been dressed only with vinegar and salt. Garnish enchiladas with cilantro and sour cream.

See Perfect Guacamole for a great guacamole avocado side dish.

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Elise's mother softening tortillas for enchiladas

Elise's mother softening tortillas for enchiladas

Cheese Enchiladas

original photo of enchiladas on Simply Recipes

Original enchiladas photo, first posted in 2005

Showing 4 of 114 Comments / Reviews

  • Bebe

    Years ago my Mexican aunt-by-marriage taught me to make enchiladas. She had to pans going – one with a bit of oil and one with slightly diluted canned red enchilada sauce. The little fry softened the corn tortilla and also sealed it. Then it was dipped into the red sauce and placed in the baking dish to be filled and rolled. One by one. Sauce poured over the lot and cheese on top.

    When I tried it and thought I could skip that little fry in oil, I found that the corn tortillas soaked up the red sauce and became very soggy. Recommend that little extra step.

  • Paula

    Hi Elise…love this site and it is a “go-to” for me anytime I need help or inspiration! Just curious…I printed this recipe back in 2009 and noticed today the recipe is slightly different. I dissolved 3T tomato paste in 1cup water, used 1C salsa and 1C fire roasted tomatoes….did not call for oregano. I am quite sure either recipe is fine but just wondering if there is another recipe or if this just got altered over the years?

  • Sarah

    And! the lettuce salad was the perfect side dish. I used rice vinegar & added some sliced avocado.

  • Sarah

    I love that this is a family recipe. I followed the recipe & techniques carefully except for some tweaks to make it suit my own family (extra oregano, triple garlic, some cumin, and some spicy cooked ground lamb, onion, and herbs mixed in with the filling). Oh, and since we prefer cheese that is not too much cooked, I put the topping cheese on in the last few minutes of baking.

    My only mistake was not making a double batch! I won’t make that mistake again. Everyone was hoping for leftovers, but there are none!

    I did use white corn tortillas since that’s all I had access to today, but they were good quality I think and worked okay. Maybe a little falling apart-ness, but not bad.

    Thank you for this well-written and well-photographed recipe.

  • gigi

    do you cover with foil before putting in the oven? Thanks.

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