Chicken · Mexican & South American Cuisine

Red Chile Enchiladas

Something is wrong with the typical enchilada – it’s disturbingly unexciting. Regardless of what is stuffed inside, it’s a tortilla filled with  meat that’s covered in a bland questionable sauce and then smothered with a plastic-y goop of cheese.

Thank goodness for Cooksillustrated as it delivers enchiladas that packs in the flavor with a red sauce imbued with chicken, picked jalepenos, and fresh cilantro.

 This is the one recipe that introduced me to the joys of cooking back in the college days when my cooking obsession began…and consequently the mounds of dirty dishes. There is always the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that day…when does mold begin to grow?

 This enchilada may seem tedious to make but trust me when I say you will never look at an enchilada the same after you’ve had this.

Note: This recipe is perfect for using that 4.99 rotisserie chicken (Hi Costco! I love you). Before embarking on this recipe, make sure you have all the ingredients and a medium-size meshed strainer!


Sauce and Filling

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or corn oil
  • 1 medium onion ,chopped fine (about 1 cup)
  • 3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 4 thighs), trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips or shred some pre-cooked rotisserie chicken
  • 2 cans tomato sauce (8 ounces each)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 can (4 ounces) pickled jalapeños , drained and chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese , grated (2 cups)

Tortillas and Toppings

  • 10 corn tortillas (six-inch)
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 3 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 avocado , diced medium
  • 5 leaves romaine lettuce washed, dried, and shredded
  • 2 limes , quartered


1. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes.

2. Add garlic, chili powder, coriander, cumin, salt, and sugar; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until coated with spices, about 30 seconds.

4. Add tomato sauce and 1/4 cup water; stir to separate chicken pieces. Bring to simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and flavors have melded, about 8 minutes. Reduce cooking time if using shredded chicken (3-4 minutes, until chicken and sauce have heated through)

5. Pour mixture through medium-mesh strainer into medium bowl, pressing on chicken and onions to extract as much sauce as possible; set sauce aside. Transfer chicken mixture to large plate; freeze for 10 minutes to cool, then combine with cilantro, jalapenos, and cheese in medium bowl and set aside.

6. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees.


1. Smear entire bottom of 13 by 9-inch baking dish with 3/4 cup chili sauce.

2. Place tortillas on two baking sheets. Spray both sides lightly with cooking spray. Bake until tortillas are soft and pliable, about 4 minutes.

3. Place warm tortillas on counter-top. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees. Place 1/3 cup filling down center of each tortilla.

4. Roll each tortilla tightly by hand and place in baking dish, side by side, seam-side down.

5. Pour remaining chili sauce over top of enchiladas. Use back of spoon to spread sauce so it coats top of each tortilla.

6.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup grated cheese down center of enchiladas.

7.  Cover baking dish with foil. Bake enchiladas on lower-middle rack until heated through and cheese is melted, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover and serve immediately, passing sour cream, avocado, lettuce, and lime wedges separately.


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