Chicken Enchiladas

CHICKEN ENCHILADAS TO RIVAL ANY RESTAURANT AND EASY TO MAKE AT HOME!

This Chicken Enchilada recipe is easy, cheesy, wonderfully saucy, exploding with authentic Mexican flavor and destined to become a new family favorite.  It’s loaded with juicy rotisserie chicken, two cheeses and the BEST homemade red enchilada sauce.  The sauce really elevates this recipe into restaurant quality splendor – you’ll never go back to store bought again!  This Chicken Enchilada recipe is always a crowd-pleaser, can be prepped in the morning and baked at night, made in mass quantities, and/or frozen for later for the ultimate make-ahead dinner.   It also make terrific leftovers – even with eggs for breakfast! Get ready for the best Chicken Enchiladas of your life! 

showing how to top best chicken enchilada recipe by adding chopped avocados and cilantro

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Chicken Enchilada Recipe

A reader asked me for a Red Chicken Enchilada recipe the other week and I’m embarrassed that my site hasn’t had one until now.  It is actually quite shocking considering how much I love and make red Chicken Enchiladas and just enchiladas in general.  To me, enchiladas are the epitome of Mexican comfort food and Red Chicken Enchiladas are the gold standard – and this recipe does not disappoint. My husband who doesn’t usually like Red Chicken Enchiladas is obsessed with these – and you will be too!

Reasons to love this easy chicken enchilada recipe:

BEST ENCHILADA SAUCE.  Chicken Enchiladas are only as good as the sauce their bathed in, and this homemade enchilada sauce is spectacular.  It’s layered with Mexican seasonings plus a hint of cocoa powder, sugar and a pinch of cinnamon (to mimic Mexican chocolate) to create a deeply complex flavor profile that’s absolutely mesmerizing.  The homemade enchilada sauce elevates these Chicken Enchiladas to restaurant level – or beyond. 

FLAVOR!  Not only is the enchilada sauce bursting with flavor, but the chicken itself is seasoned with fiesta seasonings, green chiles, enchilada sauce, sour cream and cheese.  The resulting chicken filling is not only flavorful, but saucy, creamy and cheesy all at the same time – everything enchiladas should be. 

ONE STEP FILLING. Making Chicken Enchiladas is already easy but I’ve simplified the process even further. The seasoned chicken is combined with the seasonings, enchilada sauce, sour cream, and cheese for a one-stop filling instead of tediously layering them separately. This also creates the perfect ratio of ingredients in every bite.

NO TEAR CORN TORTILLAS.  I went with corn tortillas in this Chicken Enchilada recipe because I love the sweet, toasted corn flavor with the robust red enchilada sauce, but can use either flour or corn. If you’ve shied away from using corn before, I’ve included a fool-proof method to prevent your tortillas from tearing.

PANTRY FRIENDLY.  This Chicken Enchilada recipe uses pantry friendly ingredients, so keep them stocked and you can be basking in pure Mexican comfort food any night of the week.

VERSATILE.  You can follow the Chicken Enchilada recipe as written or use it as a springboard to create your own favorite enchiladas.  Swap the flour tortillas for corn tortillas, add beans, olives or jalapenos, add veggies such as squash/corn/zucchini/bell peppers, swap the cheeses or even make it with ground beef!

MAKE AHEAD.  These Chicken Enchiladas can be completely assembled ahead of time then just popped in the oven at dinnertime AKA winning at life. They keep and freeze exceptionally well do to the corn tortillas.

FREEZER FRIENDLY.  You can prep this Chicken Enchilada recipe to freeze or double the recipe and enjoy one now and freeze one for later. 

showing how to serve easy chicken enchiladas by scooping up two enchiladas with a metal spatula

WHAT CHICKEN IS BEST?

You have three options when it comes to which chicken to use to make Chicken Enchiladas.  You can use: 1) cooked rotisserie chicken, 2) make your own shredded chicken by cooking a whole chicken or 2) make your own shredded chicken by cooking chicken breasts or chicken thighs.

  • Rotisserie Chicken.  If you’re looking for the quick and easy Chicken Enchilada experience, use a rotisserie chicken.  It’s a big-time saver for a quick weeknight meal and taste fabulous.  Rotisserie chicken is a combination of light and dark meat so it’s extra juicy and flavorful.  It is also beautifully tender, delicately seasoned and delicious plain, so it makes a fabulous starting point for enchiladas. 
  • Whole Chicken.  Like rotisserie chicken, a whole chicken will give you the winning combo of both light and dark meat. Cooking a whole chicken on the stove takes about 30-35 minutes including chopping the chicken into pieces (most of that is hand’s off simmering), so it is also relatively quick, tastes great and you get the added bonus of homemade chicken stock.  You can also make the enchilada sauce while the chicken is cooking. Instructions to follow.
  • Chicken Breasts or Thighs:  You can make your own shredded chicken with either chicken breasts or chicken thighs so you can always make this Chicken Enchilada recipe with whatever chicken you have on hand.  Chicken thighs will give you juicer, more flavorful chicken, but chicken breasts will work as well.  You will need about 1 ½ pounds chicken breasts or thighs for this recipe.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN SHREDDED CHICKEN

This Chicken Enchilada recipe comes together quickly with rotisserie chicken, but if you don’t have it on hand, no fear!  You can easily make your own shredded chicken, here are two options:  

TO MAKE SHREDDED CHICKEN WITH BREAST OR THIGHS:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken and cook 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown on one side.
  • Flip chicken and add 2 cups chicken broth.
  • Cover and reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes, then flip chicken over and continue to cook 5-10 minutes (thighs will take less time) or until chicken is cooked though and tender enough to shred. Add additional chicken broth or water if the liquid absorbs before the chicken is cooked through.
  • Cooking time will vary depending on thickness of chicken and actual temperature. If your chicken does not shred easily, then continue to cook, adding additional broth/water if needed.
  • Remove chicken from skillet and let rest 5 minutes before shredding.

HOW TO MAKE SHREDDED CHICKEN WITH A WHOLE CHICKEN:

If you’ve never cooked a whole chicken before, it’s easy!  You will need:

  • 1 4 5-pound whole chicken cut into pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf

You can ask the butcher to cut the chicken up into pieces or you can do it yourself.  If you’ve never cut up a chicken before, do a quick google search and watch a HOW-TO video.  You really can’t go wrong and you don’t need to worry about it being pretty because we are shredding the chicken anyway.

To make:

  • Add chicken, onions, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper to a Dutch Oven or large stock pot. 
  • Add water until it reaches about 1-inch above the chicken.  Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer (covered) until chicken is cooked through and tender enough to shred, about 25 minutes.
  • Transfer chicken pieces to a cutting board using tongs.  Once cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and shred chicken with your fingers into bite size pieces.
showing how to serve chicken enchilada recipe by adding two red chicken enchiladas to a plate and garnishing with sour cream

WHAT GOES IN ENCHILADA SAUCE?

The homemade enchilada sauce MAKES this Chicken Enchilada recipe. The ingredient list might look lengthy, but they are pantry friendly, dump and simmer and SO worth the 10 extra minutes. The sauce can also be made up to a week in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator or even frozen. You will need:

  • Chili powder:  is where most of the flavor comes from so please use a quality brand such as McCormick.  Note that American chili powder is NOT cayenne pepper which it can sometimes be confused for internationally.  Chili powder is a blend of seasoning and 8X less spicy than cayenne pepper.
  • Seasonings:  In addition to chili powder, the enchilada sauce is seasoned with ground cumin,garlic powder, onion powder, ground coriander, smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt and cayenne pepper.  They all work together to create a deep, satisfying complexity.
  • Tomato paste:  adds the signature tomato flavor and slight tanginess.
  • Oil:  you will want to use a neutral oil such as vegetable oil that won’t add flavor to the sauce.  Other suitable neutral oils include grapeseed oil, corn, peanut, canola, or safflower oil.
  • Butter:  use unsalted butter so we can control the salt or you may substitute with the same amount of oil.
  • Flour:  is used to make a roux with the oil/butter to thicken the sauce.  You can use all-purpose flour or all-purpose gluten free flour.  
  • Chicken broth: forms the base of the sauce.  You may substitute with vegetable broth but it is not as flavorful.
  • Cocoa Powder + sugar:  this is an easy substitute for Mexican chocolate which I’m pretty sure most of you don’t keep stocked.  It adds a depth of flavor you will LOVE.
  • Apple cider vinegar:  awakes the flavors of the sauce.  You may substitute with distilled white vinegar.
showing how to make easy chicken enchiladas by pouring enchilada sauce over rolled enchiladas

Can I use store-bought enchilada sauce?

You can certainly use store-bought enchilada sauce but don’t expect restaurant-quality Chicken Enchiladas or the “best” chicken enchiladas.  The homemade enchilada sauce elevates this recipe to something truly spectacular and only takes 10 minutes to make!  If you do go the store-bought enchilada sauce route, you will need approximately two cups.  

WHICH TORTILLAS FOR the BEST CHICKEN ENCHILADAS?

Corn tortillas are the traditional tortillas used in authentic red Chicken Enchiladas – for a reason.  They boast a robust, slightly charred, sweet corn flavor that beautifully compliments the red enchilada sauce.  If you use flour tortillas which are neutral in flavor, you will be missing a dynamic flavor element. 

Another bonus of corn tortillas is they reheat and freeze better than flour tortillas. While flour tortillas are delicious right away, they tend to get soggy when frozen, whereas corn tortillas hold their shape.

If you have been wary about using corn tortillas in enchiladas because they fall apart just by rolling, never fear!  I have a foolproof method of preparing the corn tortillas so they don’t tear, crumble or fall apart!  Info to follow.

CAN I USE FLOUR TORTILLAS?

You can certainly use flour tortillas if that is what your family prefers!  I recommend toasting the tortillas in a skillet or over an open gas flame first to help prevent them from becoming soggy.   If you use flour tortillas, you can skip the step of dipping the tortillas in enchilada sauce before filling.

HOW TO PREVENT CORN TORTILLAS FROM TEARING? 

Use high quality tortillas.  For all of my taco recipes, I highly recommend La Tortilla Factory corn tortillas because they are thicker and don’t tear even when being piled with toppings or rolling enchiladas.  They come in 8 per package which means you will need 2 packages for this Chicken Enchilada recipe.  They are more expensive BUT less than dining out!  Warning: be aware that this brand of corn tortillas is not gluten free as it does contain corn AND wheat.

Flash fry tortillas.  If you don’t use quality corn tortillas, they will tear or completely fall apart if you try and roll them straight out of the package. Even if you dip them in enchilada sauce first, they will still break; but if you flash fry them, they emerge completely pliable.  Frying the tortillas also enhances the corn flavor – yum!

Dip in enchilada sauce.  If you use quality, thick tortillas, you won’t need the additional step of dipping them in enchilada sauce. If your tortillas are prone to tearing, however, immersing them in enchilada sauce makes them more pliable and creates a protective, cohesive coating.  

Microwave.  If you don’t want to fry your tortillas, you can soften them in the microwave instead but I don’t find this method 100% fool proof when not using quality tortillas – your call.  No one will really know if they have a couple cracks once they are smothered in enchilada sauce and cheese. To microwave, wrap  a stack of tortillas in damp paper towels or clean kitchen cloth and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Fill and roll tortillas while they’re still warm then repeat with remaining tortillas. 

While the steps of frying or microwaving and dipping might seem like a hassle, they only take a total of 20 seconds per tortilla (less if microwaving) and are SO worth the effort so you can use corn tortillas – because then you get to taste corn tortillas.

WHAT CHEESE IS BEST?

I love the combination of both sharp cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese.  Sharp cheese cuts through the earthy enchilada sauce and offers a distinct flavor contrast whereas Monterrey Jack is milder so it complements the sauce and offers hints of creamy, buttery flavor.  Monterrey Jack also melts beautifully to create a creamier filling.

Please use freshly grated cheeses because pre-shredded packaged cheeses use anti-clumping chemicals which prevent them from melting as well. 

HOW TO MAKE CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

STEP 1: MAKE ENCHILADA SAUCE: 

  • Cook flour and seasoning in butter/olive oil for a couple minutes then stir in tomato paste, followed by chicken broth. 
  • Bring the sauce to a simmer and continue to simmer, whisking often, until it thickens to your desired consistency, about 5-7 minutes.  Keep in mind the sauce will thicken some as it cools. 
  • As the enchilada sauce is simmering, I like to multi-task and fry the tortillas.

STEP 2 – FLASH FRY TORTILLAS:

  • Flash frying the tortillas is optional – you can use the microwave method instead – but flash frying enhances the corn flavor which is sublime.   You can flash fry the tortillas days in advance and store them in an airtight container at room temperature.   Alternatively, you can microwave the tortillas.
  • To flash fry tortillas, add enough canola or vegetable oil to a cast iron/medium skillet so it covers the bottom and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Working with one tortilla at a time, add tortilla and lightly fry for about 10 seconds on each side, just until soft with a few bubbles but not brown or crisp, transfer to paper towels. Repeat with all tortillas. 
showing how to make easy chicken enchiladas by flash frying corn tortillas in a cast iron skillet

STEP 3 – MAKE FILLING:

  • Add shredded chicken to a large bowl and season with chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. 
  • Stir in ½ cup enchilada sauce, sour cream and green chilies until evenly coated.   Stir in 1 cup Monterrey Jack and 1 cup cheddar.
showing how to make easy chicken  enchiladas by stirring gall of the filling ingredients together in a glass bowl until combined

STEP 4 – ASSEMBLE:

  • Spread ½ cup Enchilada Sauce on the bottom of a lightly greased 9×13 baking dish (layer will be very thin).
  • Fill each tortilla with a generous amount of filling (about ⅓ cup).
  • Roll up each tortilla and place seam side down in prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. 
  • Top enchiladas evenly with remaining enchilada sauce followed by remaining cheeses.
showing how to make chicken  enchilada recipe by adding chicken filling to the center of corn tortillas and rolling up

STEP 4 – BAKE:

Bake enchiladas at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and enchiladas are warm throughout.

top view of red chicken enchilada recipe garnished with avocados and cilantro

HELPFUL TIPS TO MAKE CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

  • Rotisserie chicken.  I always stock shredded rotisserie chicken in my freezer and it’s a huge time/last-minute-dinner saver.  I like to purchase rotisserie chicken from Costco because you get almost twice the amount of chicken on one bird for the same price.  You can portion the chicken into sandwich bags and freeze so you’re ready to make this recipe at a moment’s notice! 
  • Use quality corn tortillas. Set yourself up for success by starting with quality corn tortillas such as La Tortilla Factory which are much less likely to tear.  This also allows you to skip the step of dipping the tortillas in enchilada sauce.
  • Corn or flour tortillas. I prefer corn tortillas but you may use flour tortillas.  If you use flour tortillas, you do not need to fry them (although still recommended) or dip them in the enchilada sauce to prevent them from tearing.
  • Use homemade enchilada sauce.  Your enchiladas are only as good as the sauce, so start with the BEST enchilada sauce – you will not be sorry!
  • Customize heat.  If you don’t love heat, then omit the cayenne pepper from the enchilada sauce. Once the sauce is done, you can taste and add it back in if you wish.
  • INTERNATIONAL WARNING:  American Chili powder is a blend of chilies, cumin, garlic powder, and herbs with a ratio of one-part cayenne to seven parts the other spices.  Chili powders sold in other parts of the world, however, are 100% cayenne pepper and 8X hotter than chili powder! So, please use American-style chili powder to make this recipe or your mouth will be on FIRE!
  • Use MILD green chiles. Chopped green chiles and add a subtle tang but are not spicy unless you accidentally purchase the ones labeled “hot.”  Learn from my mistake and double check that your can says “mild.”
  • Prep ahead.  You can prep the Chicken Enchilada recipe ahead of time in steps:  make/shred the chicken, fry the tortillas, make the enchilada sauce, assemble the filling OR completely assemble and refrigerate. See prep ahead instructions.
  • Customize enchiladas.  You can customize your chicken enchiladas with any vegetables you like (see ideas to follow).  You can also add other favorite add-ins such as jalapenos, olives, black beans, etc.
  • Toppings!  Top your Chicken Enchiladas with all or some of your favorite toppings such as sour cream or Greek yogurt (highly recommend), cilantro, jalapenos, avocados, guacamole tomatoes, black olives, etc.
serving easy chicken enchiladas with a metal spatula and a half eaten baking dish

CHICKEN ENCHILADA RECIPE VARIATIONS

This Chicken Enchilada recipe is extremely versatile and a great springboard for all sorts of add-ins.  Just keep in mind that you will need to reduce the amount of chicken by the amount of add-ins in order to maintain the correct ratio of sauce/sour cream/cheese to filling and so you don’t end up with lots of extra filling.

  • Add beans:  pinto beans, black beans and even refried beans are yummy!
  • Add vegetables: corn, zucchini, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, spinach, olives, jalapenos, etc.  Pick your favs!
  • Add rice or quinoa. Add cooked rice or cooked quinoa directly into the filling for yummy texture.
  • Swap protein:  Although this recipe is “Chicken Enchiladas,” the recipe works well for shredded beef, ground beef, ground turkey, and ground chicken as well. You can also use any of my Mexican proteins (and skip the step of seasoning the protein in the recipe) such as  Chipotle Sweet Pulled PorkCrockpot Mexican Chicken10 Minute Mexican ChickenSalsa Verde Chicken, Beef BarbacoaCarnitas, or Mexican Ground Beef.
  • Swap cheese.  Use more or less cheese – and when I say “more or less,” I, of course, mean more. You can also swap the type of cheese but be aware this will change the flavor profile.  If you love spicy, consider using Pepper Jack cheese (you might want to omit the cayenne pepper in the enchilada sauce in this case).
  • Spice it up.  If you love heat, you have a few options to spice up this chicken enchilada recipe:  1) add additional cayenne pepper to the sauce, 2)  add hot sauce to the sauce, 3) add chopped, pickled jalapenos to the filling, 4) add minced chipotle peppers to the filling 5) swap the Monterrey for Pepper Jack.  Alternatively, you can allow everyone to control the spice level of their own portion by passing around a bottle of hot sauce.

WHAT TOPPINGS FOR CHICKEN ENCHILADA RECIPE?

Chicken Enchiladas are stand alone addicting, but as is the case with all Mexican food, whether it’s tacos, burritos, fajitas, tortilla soup or chicken enchiladas, they are even better with  toppings!   

TOPPING IDEAS:

  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt:  the bright tangy creaminess cuts through and compliments the earthy flavor profile.
  • Tomatoes: quartered cherry tomatoes or seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes or skip the plain tomatoes and use pico de gallo.
  • Pico de gallo:  is fresh tomato salsa that adds a vibrant, punchy freshness.  You can use my homemade pico de de gallo recipe or store bought. You can make the pico de gallo ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
  • Cilantro:  if you skip the pico de gallo, you can load on fresh cilantro and tomatoes instead for a fresh, zesty flair.
  • Avocados: chopped or sliced avocados.
  • Guacamole:  use my homemade guacamole recipe (amazing!), your favorite recipe or even use store bought.
  • Hot Sauce: pass around the hot sauce so individuals can customize the heat.
top view of two easy chicken enchiladas on a plate with a fork taking a bite out of one of the enchiladas

WHAT SHOULD I SERVE WITH EASY CHICKEN ENCHILADA RECIPE?

This easy Chicken Enchilada recipe is the main event and doesn’t need much of a supporting cast, but I always love serving it with rice and some sort of fruit. Here are a few side ideas:

What Can I Prep Ahead?

You can prep the Chicken Enchilada recipe ahead of time in steps – any or all of the following: 

  • Shred chicken: either shred rotisserie chicken, defrost pre-shredded chicken, or make your own shredded chicken. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Make enchilada sauce: prepare a batch of enchilada sauce according to recipe directions. Keep in an airtight container for up to one week. When ready to use, add to a skillet and gently warm with a little chicken broth in order to thin to desired consistency.
  • Make filling: mix together all of the filling ingredients so you’re ready for super quick assembly.
  • Flash fry tortillas. flash fry the tortillas then store them in an airtight container. When ready to use, wrap a stack in damp paper towels or a clean kitchen cloth and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Fill and roll tortillas while they’re still warm then repeat with remaining tortillas. 
a spatula picking up one chicken enchilada

CAN CHICKEN ENCHILADAS BE MADE AHEAD OF TIME?

Yes! You can make this chicken enchilada casserole recipe ahead of time for an easy bake and serve dinner!  I especially love using corn tortillas if making ahead because they hold up much better than flour tortillas. 

If you choose to use flour tortillas, just be aware they can become soft or even soggy if made ahead so I suggest assembling the enchiladas without the enchilada sauce, then pouring the sauce on when read to bake.

To make Chicken Enchiladas ahead:

  • Prepare enchiladas according to directions, cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  • When ready to cook, bake at 350 degrees F covered in foil for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and the enchiladas are completely heated through.
  • You can also prep all of your toppings ahead of time by chopping and storing in airtight containers or baggies.  The guacamole (if using) will keep for up to a day without changing color very much – just make sure to press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the guac to prevent oxidation. 

HOW TO REHEAT CHICKEN ENCHILADAS?

This easy Chicken Enchilada recipe keeps and reheats well both in the oven and in the microwave when using corn tortillas:

  • OVEN:  cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
  • MICROWAVE:  you can also reheat individual servings in the microwave by transferring to a microwave safe plate and microwaving for 90 seconds.  Continue to microwave at 30 second intervals until heated through.

HOW LONG ARE ENCHILADAS GOOD FOR?

Chicken Enchiladas should be covered tightly in plastic wrap or foil and stored in the refrigerator.  When stored correctly, they are good for about 5 days.  

HOW TO FREEZE ENCHILADAS?

While some chicken enchilada recipes don’t freeze as well due to a cream-based sauce and flour tortillas, these Red Chicken Enchiladas freeze great!   You can even double the recipe so you can enjoy one casserole now and one later. If you choose to use flour tortillas, I suggest holding the sauce and freezing it separately from the assembled enchiladas.

I like to freeze my chicken enchiladas in a disposable pan for easy cleanup, but any freezer friendly 9×13 pan will also work.  To freeze enchiladas:

  1. Assemble enchiladas up to the point of adding the cheese on top.  You can add the cheese, but the cheese will have a better texture if you add it just when you’re ready to bake.  
  2. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap a couple times then then cover with foil.  Label and freeze for up to three months. 
  3. When ready to eat, let enchiladas thaw in the fridge overnight.
  4. Add cheese, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or completely heated through.
  5. Alternatively, you can bake enchiladas from frozen at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until heated through.

More Chicken Enchilada Recipes!

If you love chicken enchiladas, you will love my other Chicken Enchilada Recipes!  Each one of them boasts a different flavor profile from honey lime salsa verde sauce to creamy jalapeno sour cream sauce, to green enchilada sauce to creamy green chile sauce so you can have a new taste bud thrilling experience every time:

  • Salsa Verde Honey Lime Chicken Enchiladas:  These are my most popular chicken enchiladas and one of my husband’s favorite recipes of all time.   They are a tantalizing combination of robust seasonings, tender chicken and sweet and tangy salsa verde sauce – and of course Pepper Jack cheese. 
  • Creamy Green Chili Chicken Enchiladas: These are tied for my most favorite chicken enchilada recipe.  They are addictingly rich, creamy, cheesy, tangy, saucy, with flavor exploding homemade green chilie sour cream sauce.
  • Cheesy Jalapeno Chicken Enchiladas:  These chicken enchiladas are irresistibly cheesy, stuffed with juicy chicken, both Monterrey Jack cheese and sharp cheddar cheese then doused in the most irresistible creamy jalapeno lime sour cream sauce – and of course topped with more cheese. 
  • Enchiladas Verdes: This chicken enchilada recipe is my only recipe (so far) that uses green enchilada sauce and corn tortillas.  They are cheesy, savory, tangy, smoky, flavorful and everything enchiladas should be.  I had to pull myself away from eating an unreasonable portion of these chicken enchiladas – but then I went back for more.
  • Barbacoa Beef Enchiladas these beef enchiladas need an honorable mention because they are my only beef enchilada recipe – so far.  They are bursting with unbelievably tender, flavorful Beef Barbacoa, loaded with cheese then smothered in rich, tangy enchilada sauce.

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showing how to top best chicken enchilada recipe by adding chopped avocados and cilantro

Chicken Enchiladas

This Chicken Enchilada recipe is easy, cheesy, wonderfully saucy, exploding with authentic Mexican flavor and destined to become a new family favorite. It’s loaded with juicy rotisserie chicken, two cheeses and the BEST homemade red enchilada sauce. The sauce really elevates this recipe into restaurant quality splendor – you’ll never go back to store bought again! This Chicken Enchilada recipe is always a crowd-pleaser, can be prepped in the morning and baked at night, made in mass quantities, and/or frozen for later for the ultimate make-ahead dinner. It also make terrific leftovers – even with eggs for breakfast! Get ready for the best Chicken Enchiladas of your life!
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

Enchiladas

  • 1 recipe red enchilada sauce
  • 3 1/2 cups shredded chicken
  • 1 4 oz. can mild chopped green chiles
  • 1/2 tsp EACH chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese divided
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided divided
  • 10-12 quality corn tortillas like La Tortilla Factory

Garnishes (Optional)

  • sour cream
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • olives
  • cilantro

Instructions

  • MAKE ENCHILADA SAUCE. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare enchilada sauce according to recipe directions (click on “enchilada sauce” in the ingredients.)
  • FLASH FRY TORTILLAS (optional – see microwave option in notes). While the sauce is simmering, add enough canola or vegetable oil to a cast iron/medium skillet so it covers the bottom and heat over medium-high heat. Working with one tortilla at a time, add tortilla and lightly fry for about 10 seconds on each side, just until soft with a few bubbles but not brown or crisp. Repeat with all tortillas.
  • FILLING. Add chicken to a large bowl and season with chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir in ½ cup enchilada sauce, sour cream and green chilies until evenly coated. Stir in 1 cup Monterrey Jack and 1 cup cheddar.
  • ASSEMBLE. Spread ½ cup enchilada sauce on the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish (layer will be very thin). Fill each tortilla with a generous amount of filling (about ⅓ cup). Roll up each tortilla and place seam side down in prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Top enchiladas evenly with remaining Enchilada Sauce followed by remaining cheeses. **If you don't use thick tortillas, you may need to dip tortillas in enchilada sauce before filling so they don't tear**
  • BAKE. Bake enchiladas at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until bubbly. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and other desired toppings.

Notes

Rotisserie Chicken

I always stock shredded rotisserie chicken in my freezer and it’s a huge time/last-minute-dinner saver.  I like to purchase rotisserie chicken from Costco because you get almost twice the amount of chicken on one bird for the same price.  You can portion the chicken into sandwich bags and freeze so you’re ready to make this recipe at a moment’s notice!

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN SHREDDED CHICKEN

This Chicken Enchilada recipe comes together quickly with rotisserie chicken, but if you don’t have it on hand, no fear!  You can easily make your own shredded chicken, here are two options:

CHICKEN BREAST OR THIGHS:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add chicken and cook 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown on one side.
  • Flip chicken and add 2 cups chicken broth.
  • Cover and reduce heat to medium and simmer 10 minutes, then flip chicken over and continue to cook 5-10 minutes (thighs will take less time) or until chicken is cooked though and tender enough to shred. Add additional chicken broth or water if the liquid absorbs before the chicken is cooked through.
  • Cooking time will vary depending on thickness of chicken and actual temperature. If your chicken does not shred easily, then continue to cook, adding additional broth/water if needed.
  • Remove chicken from skillet and let rest 5 minutes before shredding.

WHOLE CHICKEN:

You can ask the butcher to cut the chicken up into pieces or you can do it yourself.  If you’ve never cut up a chicken before, do a quick google search and watch a HOW-TO video.  You really can’t go wrong and you don’t need to worry about it being pretty because we are shredding the chicken anyway.
  • 1 4 5-pound whole chicken cut into pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Add chicken, onions, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper to a Dutch Oven or large stock pot.
  • Add water until it reaches about 1-inch above the chicken.  Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer (covered) until chicken is cooked through and tender enough to shred, about 25 minutes.
  • Transfer chicken pieces to a cutting board using tongs.  Once cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and shred chicken with your fingers into bite size pieces.

Flour vs Corn Tortillas

Corn tortillas are the traditional tortillas used in authentic red Chicken Enchiladas – for a reason.  They boast a robust, slightly charred, sweet corn flavor that beautifully compliments the red enchilada sauce.  If you use flour tortillas which are neutral in flavor, you will be missing a dynamic flavor element.  Another bonus of corn tortillas is they reheat and freeze better than flour tortillas. While flour tortillas are delicious right away, they tend to get soggy when frozen, whereas corn tortillas hold their shape.
You can certainly use flour tortillas if that is what your family prefers!  I recommend toasting the tortillas in a skillet or over an open gas flame first to help prevent them from becoming soggy.   If you use flour tortillas, you can skip the step of dipping the tortillas in enchilada sauce before filling.

The Best Corn Tortillas

Set yourself up for success by starting with quality corn tortillas such as La Tortilla Factory which roll beautifully and never tear (not an affiliate, just our favorite).  This also allows you to skip the step of dipping the tortillas in enchilada sauce.  They come in 8 per package which means you will need 2 packages for this Chicken Enchilada recipe.  They are more expensive BUT less than dining out!  Warning: be aware that this brand of corn tortillas is not gluten free as it does contain corn AND wheat.
If you use quality, thick tortillas, you won’t need the additional step of dipping them in enchilada sauce. If your tortillas are prone to tearing, however, immersing them in enchilada sauce makes them more pliable and creates a protective, cohesive coating.

How to Microwave Tortillas vs Fry

If you don’t want to fry your tortillas, you can soften them in the microwave instead but I don’t find this method 100% fool proof when not using quality tortillas (it will work for La Tortilla Factory) – your call.  No one will really know though if your tortillas have a couple cracks once they are smothered in enchilada sauce and cheese. To microwave, wrap  a stack of tortillas in damp paper towels or clean kitchen cloth and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Fill and roll tortillas while they're still warm then repeat with remaining tortillas.

Prep Ahead

You can prep the Chicken Enchilada recipe ahead of time in steps - any or all of the following:
  • Shred chicken: either shred rotisserie chicken, defrost pre-shredded chicken, or make your own shredded chicken. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Make enchilada sauce: prepare a batch of enchilada sauce according to recipe directions. Keep in an airtight container for up to one week. When ready to use, add to a skillet and gently warm with a little chicken broth in order to thin to desired consistency.
  • Make filling: mix together all of the filling ingredients so you're ready for super quick assembly.
  • Flash fry tortillas. flash fry the tortillas then store them in an airtight container. When ready to use, wrap a stack in damp paper towels or a clean kitchen cloth and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Fill and roll tortillas while they're still warm then repeat with remaining tortillas.

MAKE AHEAD

You can make this chicken enchilada casserole recipe ahead of time for an easy bake and serve dinner!  I especially love using corn tortillas if making ahead because they hold up much better than flour tortillas.  If you choose to use flour tortillas, just be aware they can become soft or even soggy if made ahead so I suggest assembling the enchiladas without the enchilada sauce, then pouring the sauce on when read to bake.
  • Prepare enchiladas according to directions, cover tightly with foil and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
  • When ready to cook, bake at 350 degrees F covered in foil for 15 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and the enchiladas are completely heated through.
  • You can also prep all of your toppings ahead of time by chopping and storing in airtight containers or baggies.  The guacamole (if using) will keep for up to a day without changing color very much – just make sure to press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the guac to prevent oxidation.

HOW TO REHEAT

This easy Chicken Enchilada recipe keeps and reheats well both in the oven and in the microwave when using corn tortillas:
  • OVEN:  cover the pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.
  • MICROWAVE:  you can also reheat individual servings in the microwave by transferring to a microwave safe plate and microwaving for 90 seconds.  Continue to microwave at 30 second intervals until heated through.

HOW TO FREEZE

If you choose to use flour tortillas, I suggest holding the sauce and freezing it separately from the assembled enchiladas.
  1. Assemble enchiladas up to the point of adding the cheese on top.  You can add the cheese, but the cheese will have a better texture if you add it just when you’re ready to bake.
  2. Wrap the pan tightly in plastic wrap a couple times then then cover with foil.  Label and freeze for up to three months.
  3. When ready to eat, let enchiladas thaw in the fridge overnight.
  4. Add cheese, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove foil and continue to bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or completely heated through.
  5. Alternatively, you can bake enchiladas from frozen at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until heated through.

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28 Comments

  1. Julie says

    These are AMAZING! I haven’t found a store bought enchilada sauce that I really like. This sauce really is the BEST. They are truly worth the effort. I almost didn’t buy the Tortilla Factory brand tortillas, but I’m glad I did! They rolled up beautifully!! Thank you!!

    • Jen says

      YES!!! Thanks Julie, that’s awesome you made these Chicken Enchiladas already and I’m thrilled you loved them so much!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and make my day!

  2. Wendy says

    Hola Jen; estoy atónita por el hermoso trabajo que haces en tu blog. Estoy suscrita hace poco tiempo, pero no me había parado detenidamente a leer el post completo y he alucinado de como cuidas a tus lectoras con cada detalle .Menudo trabajo te felicito y agradezco tu dedicación .
    Estoy con el nido vacío, somos 2 en casa pero haré éstas enchiladas que dicen cóooooooomemeeee!. Ya te contaré y lo pondré en mi Instagram con tu hashtag.
    Te deseo una feliz (ó por lo menos inténtalo ) semana.

    • Jen says

      Hi Wendy, thank you so much for your super thoughtful comment! I am honored you appreciate the care I put into my posts – I want every recipe to be a huge success for my readers! I hope you love these chicken enchiladas and that they entice your family to visit! Much love!

  3. Amy says

    This recipe looks delicious! I’ve made many of your recipes for my family and we enjoy every one! Can’t wait to this one.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Amy, that means so much to me! I can’t wait to hear what you think of these enchiladas!

  4. Rick Brand says

    We made these for dinner last night and they were the best Chicken Enchiladas we have ever had. They didn’t have any Corn Tortillas so we had to use Flour Tortillas but they were still so good. This will be our new Go To recipe for a Mexican dinner night and now waiting to hear from you on what would be the best side dishes to add?
    Thanks for sharing your fabulous recipes, this one was over the top delicious!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m honored these Chicken Enchiladas are the best you’ve ever had and your new go-to! Thanks so much Rick! As far as side dishes, if you scroll up a little from the recipe, I have a whole section on what to serve with them that I hope you find helpful!

  5. Susan says

    I was so thrilled when I checked my inbox this morning and saw the recipe. I cannot wait to make it this weekend.

    • Jen says

      I’m excited you’re excited! I hope they become a new favorite!

  6. Nikki says

    We made a double batch of your enchiladas for dinner. They were delicious! Sadly, due to my chocolate allergy, I couldn’t add the cocoa to the enchilada sauce, but the sauce was still great without it. This recipe is a keeper!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Nikki! I’m thrilled this Chicken Enchiladas recipe is going on repeat!

  7. Stephanie S. says

    I made these last night for my family and truly the best enchiladas we have ever had. Your homemade enchilada sauce is mind- blowing delicious and you could bottle it and make millions. No other recipe for sauce compares. To your fans, don’t make these enchiladas and throw canned grocery store sauce on them. Spend a little extra time to make Jen’s enchilada sauce and you will experience a dish that is better than any fine Mexican restaurant can serve up. It’s authentic, deep, rich spices almost like a mexican mole’ and the best I’ve ever had. The spice level was just fine for me young kids as well. Thanks Jen, I’ve been making your recipes for years and you are so talented in the kitchen!

    • Jen says

      THANK YOU Stephanie for your awesome comment! I’m thrilled/honored these are the best chicken enchiladas you’ve ever had and loved the enchilada sauce so much! Now off to making millions ;)…

      • Stephanie says

        Made this for the family again tonight with your sauce recipe & was much needed comfort food this week. xoxo

        • Jen says

          Thanks so much Stephanie! Sending prayer of comfort, health and safety! xo

  8. Mability says

    I tried thiis recipe out and I think the flavors are better than any restaurant chicken enchiladas in my vicinity. The enchilada sauce is awesome and better than any can/jar. I liked the addition of cocoa and cinnamon to give it a light mole flavor.
    I didn’t have Monterey Jack so I used a cup of Queso Fresco (only other cheese I had on hand) and the rest was cheddar. I also ran out of tomato paste so I had to substitute with tomato sauce.
    Never-the-less the sauce was fantastic. You always manage to hit the spices spot on. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Jen says

      You’re so welcome! I’m so pleased these Chicken Enchilada were better than any restaurant even with your slight adaptations! Thanks for taking the time to comment and make my day!

  9. Tina says

    These enchiladas and the sauce are absolutely INCREDIBLE and the best I’ve ever had. It’s a flavor explosion, tastes so authentic and freshly made. I’ve made it a few times now and don’t think I can try another chicken enchilada recipe ever again. I have to pack it up and give it to family so I don’t eat the entire tray in one day. I also pour your Avocado Ranch Dressing on top and it takes it to an even more heavenly level for me.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your awesome comment Tina! I’m thrilled these chicken enchiladas are a new favorite! And oh my goodness, the thought of the avocado ranch on top is heavenly – brilliant!

  10. Teena says

    These enchiladas were amazing and the sauce was over the top. The flavors were so authentic and the kitchen smelled amazing! The only change I made was to use gluten free flour. My husband can’t stop raving about them. This is the only recipe I will ever use. Next time I may try it with homemade tortillas. Thank you for an awesome recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Teena! I’m thrilled it’s your new go-to enchilada recipe and that you were able to make it gluten free. I can’t even imagine how good it will be with your homemade tortillas – yum!

  11. Leslie Clark says

    Another good way to do quick shredded chicken is to use the Instantpot. I throw breasts or thighs into the IP and add a cup of chicken stock or vegetable stock, cook on high 10 minutes with a 5 minute natural release, then shred away!

    • Jen says

      Awesome, thanks so much Leslie!

  12. Sonya says

    I have made your red sauce and now i must make these they sound like a crowd pleaser. Thank you.

    • Jen says

      The perfect use for homemade enchilada sauce, I hope you love them as much as us!

  13. Janet Bradley says

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you incorporate all the suggestions you have for your recipes into the “printed” version of your recipes,

    Thank you!!!

    • Jen says

      Thanks Janet, I’m so pleased you find it helpful!