red chile chicken enchiladas 4

red chile chicken enchiladas


Recently, I found a local store that has open boxes of dried chiles you can buy by the pound, and it has brought new excitement and joy into my life. I honestly don’t really know very much about how to use dried chiles, but they’re not always easy to find, especially in much variety. Lots of stores will sell little overpriced bags of ancho, guajillo, and de arbol chiles, which I still recommend getting if that’s all you have. But finding this random store with huge boxes of pasillas and chipotles in addition to the normal cast of characters makes me feel like I’ve found some secret treasure.

The problem, like I said, is that I’m not always super talented (yet!) at bringing out the full personality and potential of these little guys, and so far most of my chile improvisations have been confused and lackluster in the end. So for the moment, I look to recipes and experts to help me pull it off, and let me tell you, chiles are great. If you’re not cooking with chiles for any reason, I encourage you to try them out. They’re not just spicy– many are mild, fruity, complex, and add so much to your food. Get on it.

When I cook anything Mexican right now, I look to Rick Bayless as my guide. If you don’t know him, he’s basically a Julia Child for Mexican cooking. He’s thorough and laid back in explaining origins of foods, how to use unfamiliar ingredients, and ways to improvise and substitute without compromising the flavor and authenticity of a dish. I have one of his books (and probably will get more of them in the future), and it might well be the best cookbook I own.

This recipe was modified from one in Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen cookbook. It is delicious– if you’re not used to chile sauces as a flavor base, don’t be scared off. This is mildly spicy, rich, clean, and tasty. You’ll enjoy it.

 Red enchilada sauce

3 ancho chiles

3 guajillo chiles

5 cloves garlic

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 tsp salt

pinch cumin, freshly ground if possible

1/8 tsp cloves

pinch black pepper

2 tb cider vinegar


Red Chile Chicken Enchiladas 

1 1/2 pounds cooked, shredded chicken

12 corn tortillas

1 cup red enchilada sauce

1 cup shredded cheese

red chile chicken enchiladas

 Split the chiles and remove the stem and seeds. You can scrape out the brownish ribs if you want, since that is where most of the “heat” comes from. Neither anchos nor guajillos are very spicy though, so I don’t bother much with that unless someone hates any spiciness in their food.

Toast the chiles by briefly pressing them with a spatula into a medium-hot pan. Soak in a small bowl of warm water for 30 minutes until fairly soft and rehydrated, then discard the water.

red chile chicken enchiladas

Meanwhile, take the garlic cloves and place them directly on to your burner coil at low to medium heat. Allow them to roast and toast and blacken in spots, rotating to get cooked on all sides. If you have a gas range or don’t feel good about toasting right on the burner, feel free to improvise some other dry roasting technique.

Blend the chiles, garlic, chicken stock, salt and spices until they’re a smooth, rusty red puree. Strain through a medium mesh screen of some sort. You should have a thick-ish paste like the one I have pictured below.

Add the vinegar and enough water to make the paste more of a sauce-like consistency (but still not runny).

red chile chicken enchiladas

Bring a wide pan or griddle to medium-high heat. Take each tortilla and coat it on both sides in the enchilada sauce (this is what enchilada actually means… you’re “en-chile-ing” the tortillas as part of the cooking process). Coat the pan with a little oil and briefly sautee each tortilla on both sides.

red chile chicken enchiladasred chile chicken enchiladas

Mix the shredded chicken with enough sauce to make it delicious and most of the cheese. Wrap some chicken (a few tablespoons) in each tortilla and arrange on a pan with the edges tucked under so they don’t come apart.

red chile chicken enchiladas

Sprinkle the enchiladas with cheese and bake at 400°F for 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and browns somewhat.

red chile chicken enchiladas

Serve with onions, cilantro, and sauce or salsa of your choice as garnishes.

What do you think? Are chiles worth a spot in your arsenal? What’s your favorite recipe using chiles?

4 thoughts on “red chile chicken enchiladas

  1. Reply Abby VanTuil Feb 25, 2012 12:50 pm

    Hey Todd. So, I was checking out your recipe and got hung up on finding the chiles. They dont have them fresh or jarred at Wegmans. Have you experimented with any other types of chiles when using this recipe?

    • Reply Todd Feb 26, 2012 2:40 pm

      Hope you guys figured it out, Abby. Most chiles will work if you can find them. Ancho or guajillo are best, as are chipotles (but they’re a lot more spicy). If you’re stuck you could take a can or two of chipotles in adobo sauce and blend them up, but again it’ll be pretty spicy unless you go through and remove the seeds first. The super small dried chiles like d’arbol or japoneses are too spicy to use for this and don’t have a lot of flesh.
      A lot of grocery stores have it in the international section if you look around, or else if you have any kind of little international grocery they might have them as well. Good luck!

  2. Reply Dave Small Feb 28, 2014 7:48 pm

    I buy my dried chiles on the internet from The Chile Guy in New Mexico (

    Enchiladas are one of my favorite things. I’ll share my recipe here.

    1. Make a rich and delicious beef chile gravy. You can make it from scratch with dried chiles and real beef gravy but I’ve discovered an amazing shortcut. Buy a jar of Heinz Beef Gravy and a large can of red enchilada sauce at the supermarket. Brown a half pound of ground beef in a hot skillet, breaking the meat into very small pieces and really browning until almost crisp to bring out the flavor of the beef. Drain off any fat and then add the can of enchilada sauce and the Heinz beef gravy to the ground beef. Mix well and taste. Add salt and pepper if you think they are needed.

    2. Store bought corn tortillas are fragile and break easily when raw. After cooking in hot oil, they are crispy and break apart easily. They are at their best when about half way between raw and crisp. They are then chewy with lots of flavor. To get them just right, I spray them on both sides with a vegetable oil spray (PAM or equivalent) and then heat in a 350 oven or toaster oven for about 4 or 5 minutes until chewy but not crisp.

    3. Spoon about a cup of the beef chile gravy onto an oven proof plate. Fill two of your corn tortillas with coarsely grated extra sharp cheddar cheese, and/or rotisserie chicken, or other left over meat such as beef steak or pork roast. Place each rolled tortilla on top of the gravy. Sprinkle coarsely grated cheddar cheese on top of the enchiladas. Be generous with the cheese.

    4. Place plates with enchiladas in a 350 oven until the sauce is bubbly, tortillas are starting to brown, and cheese is melted.

    5. Serve the hot plates on double place mats to protect your table. Caution diners not to touch the hot plates.

    • Reply Todd Mar 7, 2014 5:04 pm

      Wow. That sounds incredible. It sounds like you have greater love and wisdom for enchiladas than I do so far. Gracias for the great technique!

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