This chicken enchiladas recipe is the perfect weeknight meal: quick, easy, but stills feel like a warming hug from a friend — the feisty, spicy one that you want to have over for margaritas.
Enchiladas are thought to date back to the ancient times of the Aztecs. They’re prepared a little differently now and may not accurately reflect Aztec cuisine, but one thing is for sure: The ones that you’ve likely tried are still downright delicious.
These days, in the United States, Tex Mex chicken enchiladas reign supreme. But instead of going over to a certain chihuahua-marked fast food taco chain, make these 30-minute chicken enchiladas at home, and see what a difference fresh ingredients and a secret sauce can make. Just a warning: There’s a good chance that these are going to become a staple in your kitchen once your family and friends taste just how darn good they are.
Gather the ingredients for this chicken enchiladas recipe
The main ingredients for this easy chicken enchiladas recipe are shredded rotisserie chicken, tortillas, shredded cheese, onion, and cilantro. You can use either corn or flour tortillas, but we recommend flour for easy rolling.
But really, we all know that chicken enchiladas are really about the sauce. In the days of the Aztecs, and even in modern times in Mexico, enchilada sauce is made from assorted chiles, blistered on a hot, flat cast-iron pan called a comal. The chiles are then ground to a sauce with spices and diluted slightly with water.
But because we know most of us don’t have access to the special chiles required for traditional chicken enchiladas, our easy-breezy red enchilada sauce is made up of simple, everyday spices and a touch of tomato paste and broth.
Prep spices and dice vegetables for this chicken enchiladas recipe
The first thing you’ll want to do before getting ready to make this chicken enchiladas recipe is shred your chicken. If you’re using traditional rotisserie chicken, we recommend removing the skin from around the breast area and just using your hands or two forks to shred the breasts. You’ll need about two cups of shredded rotisserie chicken for eight chicken enchiladas.
If you don’t have rotisserie chicken, you can also poach raw chicken breasts in boiling water for about ten minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Simply cover chicken with water in a large saucepan, season with salt and pepper, bring to a boil, and allow to cook for another ten minutes. Once the chicken is shredded, you’ll need to slice half a purple onion into half moons and mince half a cup of fresh cilantro. Set both aside for later.
And finally, right before moving onto the next stage, measure out the ingredients for the enchilada sauce. Set all the enchilada sauce ingredients by your cooking station. The enchilada sauce ingredients you’ll need are: mild chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, salt, tomato paste, and vegetable broth (or water).
Cook the enchilada sauce for this chicken enchiladas recipe
Set a frying pan to medium heat. Add oil and heat it through for about two minutes. Add flour and begin to whisk constantly for about one minute. Add in the mild chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, and salt. Continuing to whisk and cook for another minute, until spices are fragrant.
Add in the tomato paste and keep whisking. Slowly add in the broth (or water), continuing to whisk all throughout until no lumps remain. Bring sauce to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes, uncovered, until sauce has thickened. Remove from stovetop, and taste and correct seasonings as needed (you may want more salt).
The taste of the sauce for this chicken enchiladas recipe should taste bold and strong, like toasted chilies and cumin. It should be fragrant and a bit bitter at the end (don’t worry, none of the bitterness will come through once it’s inside the enchiladas).
Assemble this chicken enchiladas recipe
With your red enchilada sauce ready, it’s time to assemble the chicken enchiladas themselves. First off, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Now, set yourself up at a large, clean counter area. Spread a tortilla on the counter. Add two tablespoons of enchilada sauce, and spread the sauce in the middle.
Top the sauce with shredded chicken. Be generous, but don’t overstuff, as your enchilada may seem bursting at the seams when you attempt to roll it. Top the shredded chicken with a few pieces of raw onion and a tablespoon of minced cilantro. Roll into a tube and place, seam side down, in a casserole dish. Repeat with all tortillas and chicken until no more enchiladas remain (you may end up skimping on the filling at first and then being more generous later on. It’s okay!)
Top all the chicken enchiladas with the remaining enchilada sauce, and liberally pile on leftover cheese. Reserve slivered onions and minced cilantro for later.
Bake this chicken enchiladas recipe
Get your oven gloves on, and place this chicken enchiladas recipe in the oven. For the best cooking, we recommend placing them on the lower oven rack — the heat is stronger and more even there.
Bake chicken enchiladas at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. Your cheese should be melted and bubbly, the sauce should have baked into the tortillas, and the whole casserole should smell like the best Mexican food: spicy, hot, and cheesy.
If desired, you may set the oven to broil for the last minute, just to give the cheese a bit of a blistering from the top — but you better keep your eyes open, or those amazing chicken enchiladas may burn!
Serve this chicken enchiladas recipe hot from the oven
Remove this chicken enchiladas recipe from the oven, and don’t forget to use those oven gloves, as that casserole dish is hot, hot, hot. Top your chicken enchiladas with more raw slivered purple onions and minced cilantro. You can even add some thinly slivered limes, for presentation.
Make yourself a nice cold lime margarita or a Michelada — it’s going to go really well with those hot enchiladas! Serve your chicken enchiladas immediately with sour cream and lime wedges. You can even up the spice quotient with some Mexican hot sauce, if desired.
Leftover chicken enchiladas will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for five days.
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons mild chili powder (if using cayenne powder, reduce this to 1 tablespoon)
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 6 flour tortillas
- 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
- 1-½ cups shredded cheese
- ¼ purple onion
- ½ cup cilantro, chopped
- Cut purple onion into half moons and finely mince cilantro. Shred the chicken.
- Measure out dry ingredients. Set all the enchilada sauce ingredients (mild chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, salt, tomato paste, and vegetable broth or water) by your cooking station.
- Set a frying pan to medium heat. Add oil and heat it through, for about 2 minutes. Add flour and whisk constantly, for about 1 minute. Add in enchilada sauce ingredients (besides tomato paste and broth) and, continuing to whisk, cook for another 1 minute, until spices are fragrant. Add in tomato paste and whisk. Slowly add in the broth, continuing to whisk all throughout until no lumps remain. Bring sauce to a simmer and let cook for 10 minutes, uncovered, until sauce has thickened. Remove from stovetop, taste, and correct seasonings as needed (you may want more salt).
- Assemble enchiladas: Spread a tortilla on the counter. Add two tablespoons of enchilada sauce and spread in the middle. Add shredded chicken. Top with a few pieces of onion and a tablespoon of minced cilantro. Roll into a tube and place, seam-side down, in a casserole dish. Repeat with all tortillas and chicken. Top with remaining enchilada sauce and cheese. Top with a bit of onion and cilantro.
- Cook at 375 degrees Fahrenheit in the oven for 25 minutes. Serve immediately, with sour cream and Mexican hot sauce, if desired.