The whole family is going to love these tasty beef enchiladas! This easy casserole recipe harmoniously comes together with a flavorful red sauce, bubbly melted cheese, and bold seasonings in the ground meat.
Get ready to satisfy your Mexican food cravings
To elevate the flavors, look no further than your spice cabinet. I use plenty of dried spices and seasonings like onion, garlic, chilies, paprika, cumin, coriander, and oregano to add rich flavors that complement the savory ground beef.
You can wrap the meat in either corn or flour tortillas before topping with spiced enchilada sauce and plenty of cheese. Baking infuses all the flavors together and gives a great contrast in textures. Feel free to add extra toppings like sour cream, chopped avocado, or spicy salsa to customize the dish.
Bumping up the beefy flavor
The protein of choice for these hearty enchiladas is ground beef, but shredded beef is also an appetizing option if you want to switch it up. Although already rich and savory, there are simple ways to enhance the flavor. First, the ground beef and onions are sauteed and browned in a hot skillet. This ensures that the vegetables develop a slight sweetness and the surface of the meat picks up more aroma and flavors.
Next, a combination of dried seasonings, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder is sprinkled on top and cooked in the hot fat. This releases the fat-soluble compounds that are locked in the spices, adding depth to the plain beef. I use a similar spice blend in my taco seasoning recipe and it works well for chicken enchiladas too.
Add a little flour
To make sure that the seasonings mixed with beef cling to the meat filling, add some flour. Incorporate the flour with the dried seasonings then simmer with water until the sauce lightly thickens. This will keep the beef stay moist and flavorful when encased inside the tender tortillas.
I prefer flour tortillas to wrap my enchiladas because they’re soft and very flexible. If you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative with earthy flavor then corn tortillas are a tasty option. Although sometimes the store-bought versions are very brittle and break apart, so I avoid using those.
Make sure your wraps are about 6-inches in size to hold ⅓ cup of filling. Tortillas out of the package are pretty bland, so I like to heat them in a skillet until small flavorful brown spots form. Then add the fillings and toppings.
Canned or homemade sauce
The pourable deep red tomato-based enchilada sauce is what makes this dish so special. If you’re in a hurry you can purchase the canned sauce, either in mild, medium, or spicy varieties.
To add more authentic and bold flavors, I recommend making my enchilada sauce recipe from scratch. It has a nice spicy and smokey taste from the crushed tomatoes and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. The heat level can be adjusted to your liking.
Enchiladas are like little mini wet burritos. To quickly assemble the casserole, grease a baking dish and make sure you have the beef filling, toasted tortillas, enchilada sauce, and shredded cheese ready to go. I like to add some sauce on the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking and to evenly coat each portion.
Add the beef to the center of each tortilla then wrap it up and place it in the pan seam-side down. Once all of the filled tortillas are lined up, pour more sauce over the top to lightly coat. Sprinkle the cheese evenly on top, I like to use a combination of sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack for a more interesting appearance.
Cover the dish with foil and bake at 400ºF (204ºC) until the enchiladas are hot and the cheese is completely melted.
Toppings for the casserole
Although a hot pan of enchiladas is delicious on its own, I like to add some contrast in texture and fresh flavors on top. Sliced green onions, chopped red onion, diced avocado, and cilantro leaves are my top picks. Some sour cream or plain Greek yogurt can cool any spicy bites if you added extra peppers. Homemade guacamole or chunky salsa are also nice additions.
Stellar side dish pairings
Increasing the spice factor
If you want to bump up the heat level in the beef filling add some freshly chopped peppers like jalapenos or serrano, or green chilis. A small amount of dried chilis like cayenne, chipotle or hot paprika quickly increases the heat and adds some smokiness. A little goes a long way, just about ¼ teaspoon at a time to the beef mixture.
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- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked
- ¾ teaspoon cumin
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon coriander
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup diced red onion
- 1 ¼ pounds ground beef, 80 to 90% lean
- ¾ cup water
- 10 tortillas, flour or corn, 6-inch size
- 2 cups enchilada sauce
- 4 ounces monterey jack cheese, about 1 cup grated
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, about 1 cup grated
- 1 tablespoon sliced green onions
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- Adjust oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 400ºF (204ºC).
- To make the spice mixture, in a small bowl combine flour, paprika, cumin, salt, black pepper, coriander, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder. Set aside.
- Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, once hot, add the onions. Saute until translucent, 2 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium-high, add the beef, cook until browned, breaking the meat up until smaller pieces, about 4 to 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle the spice mixture over the beef. Stir and cook for 1 minute.
- Slowly add the water and cook until the beef sauce slightly thickens, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat.
- Heat a small pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Warm each tortilla until lightly toasted on both sides and flexible, about 15 to 20 seconds per side.
- Lightly coat a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray or olive oil. Evenly spread ½ cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom.
- Transfer the tortillas to a plate and fill the centers with about ⅓ cup of ground beef. Roll into a cylinder and transfer to the pan. Repeat the process until 10 enchiladas are rolled and lined up in the pan.
- Evenly pour and spread the remaining sauce over the enchiladas, just enough to lightly coat the surface. There will be extra sauce leftover.
- Sprinkle the monterey jack cheese and cheddar cheese on top.
- Cover with foil and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Garnish with green onions, red onions, and chopped cilantro.
- Serving Size: 1 enchilada
- Storing: Leftovers should be cooled down to room temperature. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Microwave each enchilada on high power until warmed, about 1 ½ to 2 minutes.
- Make-Ahead: The beef enchiladas can be assembled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 5 days before baking. Add more sauce if desired as it may absorb into the tortilla as it sits.
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