Here’s everything you need to know about whipping up mouthwatering enchiladas like it’s nothing. 

By Tiffany Stevens
February 03, 2020
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Anyone who claims they don’t care for casseroles hasn’t considered that enchiladas—a heavenly blend of sautéed fillings, melted cheese and spicy sauce—fall into that category. The Mexican favorite, featuring rolled tortillas nestled under generous amounts of cheese and chilis, is a sure departure from other hodgepodge casseroles you might remember being served during group potlucks and family reunions. Enchiladas are also relatively easy to bring together quickly, making them a dinner-time staple worth adding to the regular rotation. Of course, you can buy pre-made enchilada frozen dinners or enchilada kits. There’s really no need though, given that you likely have everything you need to whip up this delightful dish at home. 

If you’re already an enchilada champ, you likely have your go-to fillings and sauces on deck. But if you’re looking for a way to shake up your usual routine, or if you’ve never rolled up enchiladas before, then this guide can give you some ideas before dinnertime. Tortillas and sauce are the only constant in enchiladas, so consider this an opportunity to experiment to your heart’s content. 

Step One: Choose Your Tortillas

Before picking out your fillings, you’ll want to start with the type of tortillas you’d like to roll up. Flour tortillas will be the most pliable, so if you’re not used to manipulating tortillas, these will be your best bet. But corn tortillas can also make for a delicious enchilada, if you know how to manipulate them without breaking them. Try gently warming up your tortillas before stuffing and rolling them. You can either do this by wrapping them in aluminum foil and sticking them in a warm oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or you can cover them with a damp paper towel and stick them in the microwave for a few seconds. 

Once you get used to using regular tortillas, feel free to branch out to other variations. A vegetarian enchilada dish might be complimented best by a spinach tortilla wrap, for example; or you could use sun-dried tomato tortillas to compliment a red sauce variation. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and the offerings of your local tortilla aisle.

Photo: Jennifer Causey; Styling: Claire Spollen

Step Two: Choose Your Fillings

Now that you’ve chosen your tortillas, it’s time to decide what you’d like inside them. And the possibilities are pretty expansive — you could choose chicken, pork, beef or lamb, or you could simply pick out your favorite vegetables, saute them, and stuff them inside. You could even simply fill your tortillas with your favorite kind of cheese for a simple but satisfying dinner.

If you’re using ground meat or uncooked chicken, you’ll of course want to saute those ingredients in  a pan before stuffing them inside your enchilada, to make sure they finish cooking. (Of course, enchiladas are a great opportunity to use leftovers or shredded rotisserie chicken as well.) And if you’d rather have caramelized onions or tender mushrooms, those too might need to be precooked a bit. But other ingredients will need little to no prep—black beans, for example, can be added straight from the can, as can corn and other common vegetarian enchilada ingredients. 

Once you’ve chosen (and, depending on your choices, cooked), your ingredients, add them to a large bowl and stir to combine evenly. Lay out your tortillas, spoon some of the filling onto one end, and then roll the tortilla toward the other end. If you’ve ever made a jelly roll, the same process applies here. Place the enchiladas seam side down in a baking dish, and get ready to add your finishing sauce.

Photo: Kelsey Hansen; Prop Styling: Kashara Johnson; Food Styling: Adam Hickman and Briana Riddock

Step Three: Choose Your Sauce

Once your filling ingredients have been picked out, you’ll want to consider what kind of sauce you’d like to use to finish off your enchiladas. The simplest solution would be to go with a canned version of red or green sauce, whichever you prefer most. But you can also make those sauces at home, if you’re willing to put in a bit of effort. 

For a red sauce, saute a bit of onion, garlic, and poblano or serrano chili in a pan, and then add a cup of vegetable or chicken stock and two 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce. Once it’s thickened, it can be used to top your enchiladas. Green sauce is made in a similar way, but uses roasted and de-seeded poblano, anaheim, or hatch chilis to make the sauce. Instead of using tomato sauce, try a few tablespoons of olive oil and butter combined, along with a cup or two of chicken stock to round out the sauce. If you’d like a creamy finish instead of the usual red or green sauce, try melting a tablespoon of butter in a pan and adding an 8 ounce package of cream cheese. That cheese, when combined with roasted peppers, will make a topping so richly delicious that the whole family will ask for seconds. Once prepared, pour the sauce over your rolled enchiladas in the pan and then top with the shredded cheese of your choosing. 

Step Four: Assemble and Cook Your Enchiladas

Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Victoria Cox and Elise Mayfield; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen

How to Make Enchiladas In the Oven

With your tortillas all rolled, arranged in the casserole dish, and covered in sauce and cheese, it’s time to finish off your dish. The oven, of course, is a natural choice for this finishing step. Most recipes will ask that you cook your enchiladas for 20 to 30 minutes in a 350° oven. If you’re preparing a cheese-heavy dish, like the Swiss Enchiladas listed above, you may want to check in on the cheese or cover it until the end to make sure it doesn’t get overly brown. 

Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Christine Keely; Food Styling: Torie Cox

How to Make Enchiladas In a Skillet

If you want to skip on any significant bake time, you can always make enchiladas in the skillet. This can be done in one of two ways. As demonstrated by the Creamy Spinach Mushroom Enchiladas listed above, you could always saute up your ingredients, roll them up in  your tortillas, and then arrange them in the pan. Top with cheese and sauce, and broil in the oven to finish. If you’d like, dip your tortillas in sauce before arranging them in the pan for even more flavor. For an even easier enchilada take, saute your vegetables, meat, and aromatics in a cast-iron pan, stir in your cheese and torn up bits of tortilla, and then finish the skillet for five minutes under the broiler. You’ll have an enchilada entree that requires no rolling at all. 

Photo: Jennifer Causey

How to Make Enchiladas Even Easier

Enchiladas are already fairly simple, but there are a few shortcuts you can use to make them even easier. For one thing, you can buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it to save some cooking time. You could also use canned meats to easily bring an enchilada dish together. Look for opportunities to buy already marinated or cooked meats on sale in your grocery store, since that will help you throw together a delicious meal even more quickly. 

If rolling up enchiladas is too difficult for you, consider creating a stacked variation, as described in the above recipe. For this style of enchilada dinner, toast your tortillas and then cook your fillings as you normally would. Then, when you’re ready to assemble, dip your tortillas in sauce, add a layer of fillings and cheese, and then continue with two or more tortilla layers. Finish in an oven-safe dish or in the microwave, and dinner is served.