Red Chili Chicken Enchiladas


Our favorite red chili chicken enchiladas! Corn tortillas are dipped in red chili sauce to bake in the flavor in this easy chicken enchiladas recipe. Simple make-ahead midweek dinner. Reheats well for leftovers!

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Do you love chicken enchiladas as much as we do? Here’s one of our favorite chicken enchiladas recipes!

These enchiladas can work for an easy mid-week meal and can even be made ahead.

VIDEO! Red Chicken Chili Enchiladas

How to Make Chicken Enchiladas

To make them, you first dip the tortillas in red chili enchilada sauce before rolling them up into enchiladas. This way the tortillas all get well coated with the sauce, and when you bake the enchiladas, the sauce will bake into the tortillas to infuse them with flavor.

All you need to make the enchiladas are corn tortillas, already cooked and shredded or chopped chicken meat, some grated melty cheese like cheddar or Monterey Jack, and red chili enchilada sauce. You can either use canned enchilada sauce or make your own from scratch. (It’s easy!)

Pan of Chicken Enchiladas with red chili sauce and cheese

Cooked Chicken Options for Chicken Enchiladas

  1. Poach skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts (we prefer thigh meat, more flavor) in salted water (here’s how).
  2. You can also use any leftover cooked chicken meat
  3. Pull and shred meat from a store-bought rotisserie chicken

Tips for Success

  • Always soften tortillas first before attempting to roll them into enchiladas. If you are avoiding fat, you can soften the tortillas in a microwave, but I recommend lightly frying the tortillas in a little oil because the flavor will be so much better. We give an approach below on how to stack the tortillas while frying them to help distribute the oil so only a small amount is needed for each tortilla.
  • Pick sturdy yellow corn tortillas when you make enchiladas. White corn tortillas work well for making soft-shelled tacos, but they tend to fall apart when you soften them and dip them in the sauce for an enchilada recipe. Yellow corn tortillas are sturdier, hold up better for making this casserole, and have more flavor.
  • If making homemade enchilada sauce, simmer the sauce first. Heating the chili powders and cayenne in a little oil first will help release the flavor of the chiles.

Garnish the chicken enchiladas with plenty of chopped red onion, fresh cilantro, shredded iceberg lettuce, sour cream, and guacamole.

Easy Chicken Enchiladas

What to serve with enchiladas

Serve with a side of Spanish Rice or Cilantro Rice as well as Refried Pinto Beans or Black Beans.

How to Store and Freeze Enchiladas

Chill the enchiladas in the refrigerator if making a day or two ahead, or freeze for up to a month (thaw in the fridge before heating).

Leftovers can be easily reheated. We love having leftover enchiladas for breakfast.

Want more Enchilada Recipes?

Our Favorite Videos

Red Chili Chicken Enchiladas Recipe

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

If you don't have leftover chicken on hand for this recipe, poach a few chicken breasts or thighs using this method.


For the enchiladas:

  • Extra virgin olive oil, corn oil, or peanut oil
  • 12 corn tortillas (thick and sturdy)
  • 2 14-ounce cans red chile enchilada sauce, or 3 cups homemade enchilada sauce
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
  • 2 cups grated cheese (about 1/3 pound)

For the homemade enchilada sauce (if using):

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed in with 3 tablespoons of water to form a slurry


  • 1 medium red onion, chopped, soaked in a mixture of half seasoned rice vinegar and half water
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Thinly sliced iceberg lettuce seasoned with salt and vinegar, no oil
  • Sour cream
  • Sliced avocados or guacamole


1 Prepare the enchilada sauce: (if making homemade, otherwise use canned and skip to the next step). Heat the oil in a sauce pan on medium high heat.

Stir in the chili powder and cayenne. Let cook only for half a minute (if longer the chili will burn), and add the water and tomato paste. Whisk until smooth.

Add the garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and cornstarch slurry. Let come to a simmer and remove from heat.

Taste for heat. If you want it spicier, add more chili powder or cayenne. Note that the tortillas and chicken will absorb some of the heat, so allow for that and let it be a little bit spicier than what you want in the finished dish.

2 Mix in 1/4 cup of the sauce with the cooked chicken. Set aside.

3 Prepare the tortillas: Traditionally, one would dip the tortillas in some sauce and then lightly fry them in a little oil, and then roll them up. It's a great way to infuse the tortillas with the chili sauce, but it's really messy and many tortillas are not sturdy enough to handle this treatment without falling apart.

So, instead, we soften the corn tortillas first, and then dip them in the sauce before rolling them. To soften them, and give them a little flavor from browning, I'll show you my mother's method for cooking the tortillas without using a lot of fat.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan to coat the pan. Place a tortilla in the skillet and heat for a few seconds, until the tortilla begin to show some air bubbles.

Use a metal spatula to flip to the other side for a few more seconds. Then add another tortilla on top of the first to soak up some of the excess oil. Flip them both together and add yet another tortilla.

Keep adding them wherever there seems to be some excess oil. The idea is to heat the tortillas and soften them with the minimum amount of oil.

As the tortillas become soft and heated, remove them to a paper towel to soak up even more excess oil. When you find you need more oil in the pan, add it.

4 Assemble the enchiladas: Preheat the oven to 350°F. One by one, dip a tortilla in the enchilada sauce and place in a 9x13 Pyrex baking dish.

Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of chopped chicken in each tortilla. Sprinkle with a little cheese.

Roll up the tortilla. Place in the baking dish and repeat until all dozen of your tortillas are neatly placed in rows in the casserole dish.

Cover the tortillas rolls with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese.

I recall often eating these chicken enchiladas with very little cheese on them. (My mom, bless her soul, has no recollection of the chicken enchiladas without the sprinkled cheese. But she's in her 80s and sometimes doesn't remember these things. Or she remembers later and doesn't remember that she ever forgot them in the first place. But heck, I'm in my 50s and my memory isn't what it used to be either.)

5 Bake: Place in the oven and bake at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

Use a metal spatula to serve.

Serve with thinly sliced iceberg lettuce that has been seasoned with vinegar and salt (no oil), chopped red onions that have soaked for at least half an hour in vinegar and water, guacamole or avocado slices, and sour cream. Garnish with cilantro.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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94 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Leah

    This enchilada sauce is wonderful, and so easy! I used to think the canned was good but it is pathetic compared to this! And this is so easy! I’ll be making it often, either with tortillas, or as chicken enchilada casserole for us Keto lifestyle people.

  2. Tina

    To be honest, I didn’t think this recipe wowed much. The enchilada sauce lacked spice (not necessarily heat level, but actual flavor of spice). The tortillas ended up a bit soggy. We ate the meal and enjoyed it enough, but both agreed this would not make it into our regular rotation.


  3. Cathie Berlin

    Great recipe and easy to follow instructions. Thank you for this!


  4. Sherry

    I just made the original version from 2006. I like this one, but we like the first one better. could you provide a link to the original recipes, when you update (for all the recipes)? I know you say to use the wayback search, but I am not very good at finding things on that. I had got used to just looking for the recipe and would not realize it had changed. Then I would wonder why we didn’t like it anymore. I have started printing what we like, but that doesn’t help if it was one before I started doing that. We really don’t care about all the new “healthy” changes. We prefer the old original recipes.


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  5. JMcNeal

    Why oh why are you using dried chili powder when making it with real, dried chilis is soooo easy and taste so much better?

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Easy Chicken Enchiladas in pan covered in red chili sauce and cheeseRed Chili Chicken Enchiladas