Red Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas

January 17, 2012

chicken enchiladas

This was actually my third time preparing this recipe, while trying to take photos to share it with you on the blog. For the life of me I don’t remember why the first two times just didn’t work out. I’m sure it probably had something to do with the baby. Anyways, I wasn’t too upset about it. I LOVE Mexican food so it was quite a pleasure to have enchiladas so frequently. AND! It actually helped me come up with a few variations and tips to give you for making the process easier and the recipe more adaptable.

This is a Cook’s Illustrated recipe, so it was a little excessive with all the intricate steps required as per usual. But this was not even close to some of their more complicated recipes. I even found that some of the steps can definitely be considered optional.

One particular step to this recipe that I hate is the way they cook the chicken. They have you place the raw breast in the sauce and cook on the stove. About 20 minutes later they have you take the chicken out and shred it. I just don’t like the idea of cooking the breast that way. They’re so thick that it would seem that it wouldn’t be completely cooked… plus it probably won’t make the meat very tender and therefore it would be a huge pain to shred. I actually tried it this way so I know all this for a fact. But! Then again, let’s consider the fact that I can not stand shredding chicken. It is one of my least favorite tasks.

MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE WAY TO MAKE SHREDDED CHICKEN- the slow cooker. The morning of or the day before, throw the breasts in a slow cooker with a can of chicken broth. Let them cook on low for 6 hours. Take them out and you will barely have to put any effort into shredding them. They will almost fall apart on you. I love it. If you decide to make the chicken this way you would just proceed with simmering the sauce uncovered for about 20 minutes or until thick.

Now that we’ve discussed how I feel about shredded chicken, let’s get to making these enchiladas, shall we?


The first step is to create the delicious red chile sauce.

Finely dice up a medium sized onion.

Saute in a large saucepan with some oil and salt until nice and tender, about 10 minutes.


Once the onions are completely cooked, add the garlic and spices.

Cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the tomato sauce and water.

Simmer, uncovered until thickened 15-20 minutes.


While the sauce is cooking, prepare the chicken filling.

In a large bowl, combine (previously shredded and cooked) chicken,

cilantro (or parsley if you’re a hater like me),

and the chopped pickled jalopenos.

I like using these type of jalopenos. They add a lot of spice and flavor.

There are two alternatives to this.

You can add a can of chopped green chiles to the chicken.

Or you can add a chopped jalopeno to the chopped onion mixture in the sauce.

I’ve done it each way and this is my preferance.


And don’t forget the cheese!

Shred one cup each of monterey jack and cheddar.

Set aside 1/2 cup each to top the enchiladas.

Take the remaining 1/2 cup each and add it to the chicken mixture.

When the red chile sauce is done, add 1/4 cup of that to the chicken mixture as well.


Now it’s time to assemble.

You have two options for the tortillas.

They need to be warm so that they are pliable and will roll easily for you and not crack and break.

You can achieve this by microwaving them in small batches for a few seconds, covered with a damp papertowl.

OR you can throw them on a sheet pan and heat them in the oven for no more than 1 minute.

I did the oven method and I must advise you to do them in small batches so they don’t cool before you get to them,

otherwise they will be dry and crack on you.

Do 4 or 5 at a time and stack them on top of eachother once you take them out to keep them warm while you assemble.

To Assemble:

Place 1/3 cup filling down the center of each 6″ tortilla and roll tightly.

Place seam side down in a 9″ x 13″ pan.


Once they are all tucked in there (8 along the top, 4 across the bottom),

Sprinkle on the remaining cheese.

Add more if you like things especially cheesey : )

Highly recommended.

Bake, covered with tin foil, in a 400 degree F oven, for 20 minutes.

chicken enchiladas

And when you are finished you are going to have a pan full of delicious enchiladas!

Yum, yum, yum, yum, yum….

These are great served with some sour cream, avocados, guacamole, salsa, etc.

They are just such a great meal and not as difficult to make as you might think.

For years I avoided making enchiladas because I thought they would be too much work

as compared to one of our other Mexican household favorites, tacos…

but, I was wrong, and I admit it.

Enchiladas are pretty basic and a wonderful way to switch things up.


Red Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 (8-oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 large chicken breasts)
  • ¼ cup chopped pickled jalopeno slices, chopped (remove seeds to make less spicy)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • ½ cup minced fresh cilantro (or parsley)
  • 12 (6-inch) soft corn or flour tortillas (fajita-size for flour tortillas)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large saucepan, combine the onion, ½ teaspoon salt, and oil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions have softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12-20 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the chicken breasts you are using. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside to cool. Continue to simmer the sauce over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the leftover onion mixture from the strainer to a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to the onion mixture in the large bowl. Also stir in ¼ cup of the enchilada sauce, pickled jalopenos, ½ cup cheddar cheese, ½ cup Monterey Jack cheese and the cilantro. Toss to combine.
  5. Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; Microwave on high until warm and pliable, 40-60 seconds. Spread the tortillas on a clean work surface, and spoon ⅓ cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a greased 9×13 inch baking dish.
  6. Pour the enchilada sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil and bake 20 minutes, or until heated through.
  7. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese browns. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, additional cilantro, if desired.
You can also heat tortillas on a sheet pan in the preheated oven for 1 minute. No longer or they will start to dry out.


Adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe


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