On two lucky occasions I’ve been a guest chef at Rancho La Puerta, a wellness retreat outside of Tecate, Mexico. Both times I’ve been hyper aware of the real pros in the kitchen: The women who cook glorious Mexican dishes for guests year-round. Always on the menu is a rainbow of salsas, including a salsa verde made by whirling roasted tomatillos and chiles into a well-balanced, just-spicy blend. It’s such a brilliant and easy technique and one I’ve used in my own home kitchen. These enchiladas are built on that same tangy, savory salsa verde.
As for what goes into the filling for these enchiladas, it’s a bright mix of roasted corn, zucchini, and poblano peppers tossed with spicy Jack cheese, black beans, and a hint of cumin. When rolled into corn tortillas, smothered in salsa, and baked until bubbling, you arrive at a crowd-pleasing one-dish meal that will satisfy vegetarians and omnivores alike. It’s not too laborious for a weeknight supper but is particularly well suited to weekend cooking.
Tomatillos for the Win
The tomatillos that are the foundation of the enchilada sauce resemble small green tomatoes encased in a papery husk. Tomatillos are tangier than tomatoes, even when ripe. Choose medium-sized tomatillos that are firm to the touch with husks that hug closely to the fruit. Just peel off the husk and rinse under the tap before using. Don’t be surprised that the surface of tomatillos are a little sticky, which is perfectly normal.
Easy to Make Vegetarian Enchiladas
What I love about this recipe is its relative ease; everything is done in the oven. There is no sautéing, stirring, or fussing required. You start by piling whole tomatillos, onion, garlic, and poblano peppers on a single sheet pan. Once tender, you transfer everything to a blender to whirl it into a salsa. Easy!
Meanwhile, the vegetables for the filling go on a separate sheet pan and roast until sweet and tender. Roll that filling into corn tortillas along with beans and cheese, smother it in salsa, add more cheese, and pop it into the oven. Done!
Roast the Veggies and Make the Salsa Ahead
It’s best to serve this dish soon after it’s pulled from the oven. If you want to get some of the work done ahead of time, you can make the sauce and roast the vegetables in advance and store them in the fridge for a day or two until you’re ready to make the enchiladas. You can also assemble and refrigerate the enchiladas the same day you plan to bake them. Just transfer from the fridge to a preheated oven when the dinner hour approaches.
Even better, make a double batch of enchilada sauce and store half in the freezer, where it will keep for up to 6 months. If you’ve got leftover enchiladas, they are tasty reheated the next day in the microwave until the cheese bubbles.
Round Out the Meal
Because these enchiladas have all the elements of a complete meal—whole grains from the corn tortillas, protein from the beans and cheese, and plenty of vegetables—it’s a dish that can stand on its own.
That said, I like to pair something fresh and bright on the side, such as this jicama salad, this watermelon salad with cotija or even a simple green salad tossed with the cilantro lime dressing in this recipe. In a pinch, a plate of sliced cucumber or jicama doused with lime juice and chili powder or Tajin will do the job.
Set a bottle of Mexican hot sauce on the table when you serve these. They range in spiciness and have a nice vinegary flavor. I like Cholula and Tapatio. Having a bottle of Mexican hot sauce in the fridge is invaluable.
Swaps and Substitutions
- Use cooked pinto beans, cannellini beans, or black-eyed in place of black beans.
- Bump up the spice factor in the salsa verde by adding a whole jalapeño to the mix.
- Use one red or yellow bell pepper in place of the poblano chiles for the filling.
- Use frozen defrosted corn in lieu of fresh corn.
- If you’re short on time or can’t find tomatillos, store-bought enchiladas sauce makes a solid substitute for homemade. Read the label before buying because some products are made with artificial colors.
- If you’re more team “red sauce” than green, feel free to use red enchilada sauce, such as the one in this recipe or opt for store-bought.
- Use sharp Cheddar, plain Jack, or a traditional Mexican cheese such as Oaxaca in place of pepper Jack.
- Make these vegan by leaving out the cheese altogether. Top the cooked enchiladas with cubes of diced ripe avocado just before serving.
More Enticing Enchilada Recipes
Vegetarian Enchiladas with Easy Tomatillo Salsa
For the tomatillo salsa
1 pound tomatillos (about 8 total), husks and stems removed
1/2 large yellow onion, cut in quarters
2 large cloves garlic (not peeled)
1 poblano pepper
1/2 packed cup cilantro leaves and stems
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup water
For the enchiladas
1 medium zucchini, diced
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 ears corn, shucked (or 2 cups defrosted frozen corn)
2 whole poblano peppers
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained, or 1 1/2 cups homemade
10 ounces (about 3 cups) pepper Jack cheese, grated
12 (6 inch) corn tortillas
Cilantro leaves and tender stems
Mexican hot sauce, such as Cholula, Tapatio, or Valentina
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Set aside two baking sheets. Line one large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Roast the tomatillo salsa vegetables:
Arrange the tomatillos, onion, garlic, and poblano pepper on a large unlined baking sheet. Roast until the tomatillos are soft and start to ooze and the pepper darkens, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, roast the vegetables for the filling:
While the tomatillos are roasting, pile the zucchini, onion, corn, and poblano peppers onto the lined baking sheet. Add the oil, cumin, and salt, toss well, and spread out evenly. Roast until tender and a little juicy, but not mushy, about 20 minutes.
Once the poblanos are cool enough to handle, chop into a small to medium dice. Transfer everything to a large bowl. Set aside.
Blend the tomatillo salsa:
Carefully pull the stem off the pepper. Squeeze the soft garlic from its skin. Transfer to a blender along with the roasted onion, tomatillos, cilantro, salt, and water. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. It should be one even color with no obvious bits of vegetables.
Finish the enchilada filling:
Pour 1/3 cup tomatillo salsa over the vegetables in the large bowl. Add the beans and 2 cups of cheese. Toss everything together.
Warm the tortillas:
Set a skillet over high heat. Warm a tortilla on both sides in the skillet until pliable, using tongs to turn it over, about 30 seconds. Wrap tortilla in a dish towel to keep warm and repeat with remaining tortillas.
Assemble the enchiladas:
Spread 1/3 cup tomatillo salsa along the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch pan. Lay a tortilla on your work surface and spoon about 1/2 cup of the vegetable mixture onto it. Roll it up snug and set it seam side down in the pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, nestling them close so they stay rolled up. (If you have a little leftover filling, save it to add to scrambled eggs or to make simple tacos).
Pour the remaining tomatillo salsa over the enchiladas and use your hands or a spoon to spread it evenly and into the cracks. Scatter remaining 1 cup cheese over the top.
Bake the enchiladas, garnish, and serve:
Bake until sauce bubbles and the cheese melts, about 15 minutes. Garnish with a handful of cilantro, if desired. Serve with Mexican hot sauce on the side.
Refrigerate leftovers for 3 to 4 days.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 20g||25%|
|Saturated Fat 10g||49%|
|Total Carbohydrate 56g||20%|
|Dietary Fiber 12g||44%|
|Total Sugars 8g|
|Vitamin C 38mg||190%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|