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 Prep Time
6servings 30minutes
Cook Time
25minutes
Servings Prep Time
6servings 30minutes
Cook Time
25minutes
showing how to top best chicken enchilada recipe by adding chopped avocados and cilantro
Ingredients
Enchiladas
  • 1recipe red enchilada sauce
  • 3 1/2cups shredded chicken
  • 14 oz. can mild chopped green chiles
  • 1/2tsp EACH chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder
  • 1/4tsp EACH salt, pepper
  • 1/2cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheesedivided
  • 1 1/2cups shredded cheddar cheese, divideddivided
  • 10-12 quality corn tortillaslike La Tortilla Factory
Garnishes (Optional)
  • sour cream
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • olives
  • cilantro
Instructions
  1. MAKE ENCHILADA SAUCE. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare enchilada sauce according to recipe directions (click on “enchilada sauce” in the ingredients.)
  2. 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.
  3. FILLING. Add chicken to a large bowl and season with chili powder, ground cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup enchilada sauce, sour cream and green chilies until evenly coated. Stir in 1 cup Monterrey Jack and 1 cup cheddar.
  4. ASSEMBLE. Spread 1/2 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 1/3 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**
  5. BAKE. Bake enchiladas at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until bubbly. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and other desired toppings.
Recipe 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
  • 1/2 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.