Enchiladas Rojas are a staple in Mexican cuisine. This recipe features a traditional way of making enchiladas where corn tortillas are first dipped in a delicious red salsa then fried, filled, rolled, and finally be served with various typical toppings.
What are Enchiladas Rojas?
Enchiladas rojas, as their name implies, use red chilies as the main ingredient for making the sauce. Rojo is the Spanish word for red.
There are many ways of making enchiladas rojas in Mexico, the ones I am sharing with you today are prepared with the traditional recipe from Aguascalientes which is also similar to the one from Guanajuato where they are called Enchiladas Mineras.
This chicken enchilada style is very popular in the States of central Mexico and they can be found in many small restaurants called cenadurías or small stands, being one of the most popular Mexican street food in the country.
Are they spicy?
Depends. In this recipe, I am using only guajillo peppers, which are very mild, and not particularly spicy at all. But in most cases, enchiladas rojas spiciness will depend on the type of chilies used.
Folded or rolled?
It doesn’t matter. Even in Mexico, and in the same city, you’ll find them either way. So whatever is easier for you. I like mines folded because I can do quickly do it using just a spatula which prevents me from burning my fingers :)
Even though traditional Enchiladas Rojas in central Mexico are filled only with shredded chicken or a mixture of queso fresco and fresh onions, you might feel adventurous and want to try other fillings, check out our recommendations:
- Chilorio – Shredded pork simmered in an earthy chili sauce.
- Beef Birria – Got some leftovers? Use them to make this recipe.
- Tinga – Shredded chicken cooked in chipotle sauce.
- Camarones a la diabla – Spicy shrimp.
- Refried Beans – For a vegetarian option, try those creamy beans.
- Calabacitas – Those Mexican zucchini are another vegetarian/vegan option.
The ingredients in this recipe
- Corn tortillas. The traditional enchiladas rojas recipe is made with corn tortillas. You can use store-bought or make your own homemade tortillas.
- The filling. You can fill your enchiladas with so many ingredients, from chicken to beef or pork, to vegetables and cheese. I am using chicken in this recipe, which I cooked with herbs and then shredded.
- Mexican chiles. Guajillo and ancho are the first options for this type of enchilada recipe. You can use only one type if you prefer. In the USA you can find other types of chiles that can easily replace guajillo, such as dried Anaheim peppers or California dried peppers.
- Spices. Garlic, oregano, and pepper. Don’t overwhelm the taste and aroma of your enchilada sauce by adding lots of spices. You should feel the chilies flavors, not the spices.
- Potatoes and carrots. They add the distinctive touch of the traditional chicken enchiladas from Aguascalientes. They are sautéed in a pan with a bit of enchilada sauce.
- Toppings. Onions, lettuce, queso fresco, and crema. Sub queso fresco with cotija cheese or other fresh cheese you can find where you live, and Mexican crema with regular whole cream.
The Step By Step Recipe
1.- Prepare the chicken filling
Place the chicken in a medium-size stockpot. Add garlic, onion, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, and salt. Cover with plenty of water and cook until chicken becomes tender (about 1 hour). Strain the broth and set aside.
Allow the chicken to cool down enough to handle it with your hands, then shred the meat and seat aside.
2.- Make the enchilada sauce
Clean the chiles cutting them longwise and discarding seeds and the stem. Place them in a bowl and add hot water until covered. Allow to soak for 10 minutes or until chiles are very soft.
Place the chiles into a blender, add garlic, peppercorns, and oregano. Pour in a cup of the chicken cooking water you reserved before and blend until you will have a smooth sauce.
Strain the sauce on a bowl and set aside.
3.- Make the veggies topping
Peel the potatoes and carrots, then cut them into small cubes. Boil the vegetables with salt until soft on the outside but still a bit hard on the inside. Remove from water and place on a plate.
In a sauté pan heat two tablespoons of oil and sauté the potatoes and carrots until fully cooked, add one tablespoon of the chili sauce, mix well and turn off the heat. Keep them warm until need it.
4.- Make the chicken enchiladas
Heat a good glug of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Dip one tortilla in the sauce making sure is well coated on both sides.
Now, fry the tortilla on both sides for a few seconds, pay attention to not fry long or they will become crispy. Also, be careful when placing the tortilla into the oil as the splatters could burn your hands (use gloves or just be careful when adding it)
Place the tortilla on a plate and add some shredded chicken in the middle.
Now, fold the tortilla or roll it, whatever you prefer.
Repeat with the remaining tortillas and chicken and place 4 enchiladas on every plate or all of them in a serving plate.
Top enchiladas with sautéed potatoes and carrots, add diced onion, cheese, and drizzle with cream. Add some lettuce on the side and serve immediately.
- Look for guajillo chilies with brilliant red color. They should be easy to fold. If the chilies break when you fold them, it means they are too old.
- If you want enchiladas rojas to be spicer, add a few chile de árbol to the sauce.
- Eat your enchiladas rojas as soon as they’re out of the pan or they will become too soggy.
- Make all arrangements before starting to cook enchiladas. Have all your toppings ready and prepare a large plate for assembling each piece, then transfer it to the serving plate.
- Want a healthier version of enchiladas rojas? Use a little oil to lightly fry tortillas, then dip them into the sauce and assemble.
What to serve with this recipe
Make your enchilada sauce 2 or 3 days before you intend to eat enchiladas rojas. You can also cook the chicken some days ahead, those two steps will save you lots of time the day you want to cook enchiladas for lunch or dinner.
Even though enchiladas are best to eat as soon as they’re out of the pan, you can still store the ingredients separately:
- Sauce lasts for up to 3 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer. Read our recipe and guide for enchilada sauce for more tips.
- Tortillas can be also stored in the fridge and freezer for the same amount. Especially if they’re homemade!
- Last, cooked and shredded chicken can be placed in airtight containers and kept in the fridge for a couple of days, or place in zip bags and store in the freeze for a couple of months.
Authentic Enchiladas Rojas
- 16 corn tortillas
- 1 ½ lb boneless chicken (tighs, drums or breast)
- 1 garlic clove (skin on)
- ½ small onion
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp thyme
- oil for frying
For the sauce
- 2 pasilla chiles (see notes)
- 4 guajillo chiles (see notes)
- 1 garlic clove (peeled)
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 1 ½ tsp salt
For the toppings
- 2 large potatoes (about 1 lb/450 gr)
- 2 medium carrots (about ½ lb / 225 gr)
- 1 cup Queso fresco (or any other fresh cheese you prefer)
- ½ cup mexican sour cream (or any other cream you prefer)
- 1 ½ cups iceberg lettuce (chopped)
- Cook chicken with water, garlic, onion, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and salt. Strain the broth and set aside.
- Allow the chicken to cool down, then shred it and seat aside.
Make the enchilada sauce
- Clean the chiles cutting them longwise and discarding seeds and the stem.
- Place them in a bowl and add hot water to cover the chiles very well. Allow to soak for 10 minutes.
- Place chilies in a blender, add garlic, peppercorns, and oregano. Pour in a cup chicken stock and blend until you’ll have a smooth sauce.
- Strain the sauce and set aside.
Make the veggies topping
- Peel the potatoes and carrots, then cut them into small cubes. Boil the vegetables with salt until al dente and then drain them well.
- In a sauté pan heat two tablespoons of oil and sauté the potatoes and carrots for a couple of minutes.
- Add one tablespoon of the chile sauce, mix well and turn off the heat. Keep the vegetables in a warm place until need it.
Make the chicken enchiladas
- Heat a good glug of oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Soak one tortilla in the sauce making sure is well coated on both sides.
- Fry the coated tortilla on both sides for a few seconds, pay attention to not fry long or they will become crispy.
- Place the tortilla on a plate, put some shredded chicken in the middle and fold or roll (as you prefer).
- Repeat with all tortillas and chicken and place 4 enchiladas on every plate or all of them in a serving plate with lettuce.
- Top enchiladas with sautéed potatoes and carrots, diced onion, cheese, and drizzle with cream. Serve immediately.
- If you can’t find Guajillo and/or Pasilla chillies, you can replace them with any other dried red peppers, such as Hatch or Anaheim.
- You can also make the sauce ahead, the day before or even 3 days prior to making the enchiladas.
- If you’d like a vegetarian version, replace the chicken with mushrooms sautéed with olive oil, onion and garlic.
- Use your roasted chicken leftovers or even better: Thanksgiving turkey! to make those scrumptious enchiladas!
- Be careful when placing the tortilla into the oil as the splatters could burn your hands (use gloves or just add it very careful).
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