Enchiladas Rojas are a staple in Mexican cuisine. Learn how to make the traditional recipe for red enchiladas and serve them just like in Mexico!
About Mexican Red Enchiladas
Mexican red enchiladas, aka Enchiladas Rojas, is a traditional recipe made of tortillas dipped in a red chili sauce, filled with various ingredients, rolled, and then served with different toppings.
The word rojo (or roja) means “red” in English and it refers to the sauce made of red chilies and spices.
There are many ways of making red enchiladas in Mexico, the ones I am sharing with you today are prepared with the traditional recipe from the central state of Aguascalientes.
They are made with a red sauce prepared with guajillo and pasilla chilies, stuffed with shredded chicken, and then served with carrots and potatoes on top, queso fresco, and cream.
This chicken enchilada style is one of the most popular Mexican street food in central Mexico and it can be found in many small restaurants called cenadurías.
- Corn tortillas: The traditional recipe is made with corn tortillas. You can use store-bought or make your own corn tortillas.
- Chicken: I used chicken thighs, but feel free to use chicken breast or drumsticks.
- Spices & Flavors: Onion, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, and salt.
- Oil: For frying, I used sunflower oil.
For the enchilada sauce:
- Mexican chiles. Use guajillo and pasilla chilies. Those types of dried peppers are available at Mexican local and online stores or on Amazon.
- Spices. Garlic, oregano, and pepper.
- Potatoes and carrots. Cut into small cubes.
- Veggies: Onions and lettuce, chopped.
- Dairy: Queso fresco and Mexican crema. Sub queso fresco with cotija cheese or other fresh cheese available to you. Instead of crema, you can use sour cream or crème fraîche instead.
How To Make Enchiladas Rojas Recipe
Step 1.- Prepare the filling
Place chicken in a medium-sized 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 stock and set it aside.
Allow the chicken to cool down enough to handle it with your hands, then shred the meat and seat it aside.
Step 2.- Make the red 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 chicken stock and blend until you will have a smooth sauce.
Strain the salsa roja on a bowl and set it aside.
Step 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 needed.
Step 4.- Make the chicken red 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 it too long or it will become crispy and you won’t be able to fold or roll.
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 on a serving plate.
Top enchiladas with sautéed potatoes and carrots. Add diced onion and cheese, and then drizzle with cream.
Add some lettuce on the side and serve.
- 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 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.
- For a healthier version, use a little oil to lightly fry tortillas, then dip them into the salsa roja and assemble them.
- Don’t overwhelm the taste and aroma of your enchilada sauce by adding lots of spices. You should feel the pepper’s flavors, not the spices.
- Be careful when placing the tortilla into the oil as the splatters could burn your hands (use gloves or just be careful when doing this step).
If you 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.
What to serve with this recipe
How To Store
Enchiladas rojas 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 for up to a week and in the freezer for up to 4 months.
- Cooked and shredded chicken can be placed in airtight containers and kept in the fridge for a couple of days, or place in resealable bags and store in the freeze for 2 months.
What are red enchiladas made of?
Mexican red enchiladas are made of dipped corn tortillas in a red chili sauce, stuffed with chicken, and served topped with vegetables, cream, and cheese.
Are enchiladas rojas spicy?
Enchiladas rojas spiciness will depend on the type of chilies used. In this recipe, I am using only guajillo and pasilla peppers, which are very mild, and not particularly spicy.
Can I make it ahead?
Yes. Make your enchilada sauce 2 or 3 days before and you can also cook the chicken up to 3 days ahead, those two steps will save you lots of time to make this recipe.
Are enchiladas 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 to fold them because I can quickly do it using just a spatula which prevents me from burning my fingers.
Mexican Enchiladas Rojas
- 16 corn tortillas
- 1 ½ lb chicken thighs (or drumsticks)
- 1 garlic clove (skin on)
- ½ small onion
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp thyme
- oil for frying
- salt (as needed)
For the sauce
- 2 pasilla chiles (seeds and stems removed)
- 4 guajillo chiles (seeds and stems removed)
- 1 garlic clove (peeled)
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 tsp black 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 crema (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 stock and set it aside.
- Allow the chicken to cool down, then shred it, cover it, and seat it aside.
Make the enchilada sauce
- Place chilies in a bowl and add hot water to cover them. Allow soaking for 10 minutes.
- Place chilies in a blender, and add garlic, peppercorns, and oregano.
- Pour in a cup of chicken stock and blend until you’ll have a smooth sauce.
- Strain the sauce and set it aside.
Make the veggies topping
- Peel the potatoes and carrots, then cut them into small cubes.
- Add them to a pot and cover them with water.
- Cook them until they are slightly tender but not fully cooked. Remove them from the hot water with a slotted spoon.
- 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.
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.
- Fry the coated tortilla on both sides for a few seconds, pay attention to not frying too 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 on a serving plate.
- Top enchiladas with sautéed potatoes and carrots, diced onion, cheese, and cream. Serve immediately.
- If you can’t find Guajillo and/or Pasilla chilies, 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.
If you liked this Mexican authentic recipe please don’t forget to rate it and leave us a comment below.
Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.