Here’s a quick and easy chicken enchiladas recipe that makes enough to feed a hungry family. The secret is the flavorful seasoning blend and preparation of the chicken before rolling them in the tortillas.
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Chicken enchiladas are a great option when deciding on an easy casserole dish to feed a crowd. The best part is you can prep the dish ahead of time for those busy weeknights or holiday celebrations like Cinco de Mayo. Just pop it into the oven and watch the gooey cheese melt.
The lean white meat is sauteed, shredded, and tossed in bold spices to ensure flavorful bites. Instead of buying bland canned products from the grocery store, I’ll show you how to make the enchilada sauce from scratch. It’s a simple tomato base blended with chipotle peppers, chicken broth, and bold seasonings to coat each wrap.
Homemade enchilada sauce
We’ve all grabbed a can of the runny, premade enchilada sauce when in a hurry. However, the flavor intensity is unmatched once you try my homemade enchilada sauce. It’s a straightforward combination of crushed tomatoes, chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, minced garlic, chicken broth, cumin, chili powder, and smoky chipotle chili powder.
The sauce simmers to meld the flavors together, then gets pureed in a food processor or blender until smooth. The spice level is on the hotter side, but you can omit or reduce the amounts of dried chili powders to your liking.
Taking my cheese enchiladas a step further, I add boneless skinless chicken breast. For even cooking, pound the pieces to about ½ inch thickness, or cut them into two cutlets if thicker than 1 inch. If you prefer dark meat, you can use boneless chicken thighs for the recipe. However, I suggest you trim off the excess fat before cooking.
This recipe also works great for leftover roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.
Season the meat
For incredibly flavorful chicken, I use a bold mix of dried spices. Traditional Mexican ingredients like cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper are used to season the meat’s surface. I like to save about a teaspoon of the mixture to then toss with the shredded chicken.
If you have premade taco seasoning, you can use that for convenience. I usually have a jar on hand in the pantry to quickly grab when making ground beef tacos.
Cook the chicken
The seasoned breasts cook on the stove top. The process takes about 5 to 7 minutes per side. I like to use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness for better control and accuracy. The temperature should register between 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC) in the thickest part of the meat.
Once cool enough to handle, shred or chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
Using flour or corn tortillas
My top choice for enchiladas is flour tortillas. The gluten-formed wrap gives it a soft, sturdy, and pliable texture. Use tortillas about 6-inch round in size. It can taste a little pasty when eaten directly from the package, so I warm them on the stovetop until the surface is lightly charred.
Corn tortillas are a gluten-free substitute, although I recommend not letting them soak up too much sauce when dipping or skip that step entirely. They tend to break apart, making them difficult to remove from the pan after baking. For a grain-free alternative, try my homemade cassava flour tortillas. They have a nice chew and hold up well in the casserole.
How to make chicken enchiladas
Chicken enchiladas are a baked casserole dish with four essential components; chicken, a mild to spicy red sauce, tortillas, and cheese. The heated tortillas get lightly dipped in the enchilada sauce and then filled with chicken. The stuffed tortillas are rolled and placed seam-side down in a greased 13 by 9-inch baking dish, so they don’t open up when serving.
A blend of two kinds of cheese, sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack provides a super melty consistency. If you want to make the recipe ahead of time or make a freezer meal, this is the perfect place to stop. The pan can be covered and refrigerated or frozen until ready to bake.
Bake the casserole
The enchiladas bake at 400-degrees for 20 minutes to quickly warm up the wraps and melt the cheese. I find that covering the casserole with aluminum foil keeps the cheese hot and melted. Cooking uncovered for an extended period dries out the chicken and edges of the tortilla and makes the cheese harder as it cools.
Serve this with
Frequently asked questions
Heat the tortillas on the stove top before wrapping. The surface hardens slightly, creating a better barrier between the sauce. You can even fry it in oil for a lipid coating. Do not drench the tortillas in the sauce before wrapping—just a light dip to add flavor. Corn tortillas break down quicker if they get too wet.
No! Cook raw, fresh tortillas before wrapping. Otherwise, they will become soggy and never become thoroughly cooked.
Packaged corn or flour tortillas should be lightly heated before wrapping. The heat helps them become more pliable, making them easier to fold. Lightly dipping them in enchilada sauce adds enough moisture to soften it, making it easier to roll without breaking. Just do not soak the corn, or it will break apart after baking.
Choosing the right cheese
For casseroles, it’s best to use higher moisture, firm, shreddable cheese, like cheddar and Monterey Jack. The increased amount of fat and water gives just the right melt consistency. Aged sharp cheddar adds a more intense flavor, while Monterey Jack is milder and slightly sweet.
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- 1 ½ pound boneless skinless chicken breast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 10 flour tortillas, 6-inch size
- 4 ounces grated monterey jack cheese
- 4 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 teaspoons sliced green onions
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- Saute the Garlic – In a medium saucepan, add olive oil. Heat over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
- Saute the Chilis – Add the chipotle chilis, then stir and break them into smaller pieces. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add the Seasonings – Stir in the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, salt, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and chipotle chili powder (if using).
- Simmer the Sauce – Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 5 minutes.
- Puree – Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree on medium speed until smooth, about 30 seconds—season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust with chicken broth if needed to thin the consistency.
- Preheat the Oven – Adjust the oven rack to the center position—Preheat to 400ºF (204ºC).
- Prepare the Chicken – Place the chicken between two plastic sheets or in a large plastic bag. Flatten to an even thickness, about ½-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining pieces. Alternatively, cut in half horizontally for pieces 1-inch thick or larger to make cutlets.
- Season the Meat – In a small bowl, combine salt, 1 teaspoon of cumin, paprika, garlic powder, and black pepper. Reserve 1 teaspoon of the mixture. Evenly season each side of chicken with the mixture.
- Cook the Chicken – Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Once hot and shimmering, add the chicken. Cook until lightly golden brown, about for 5 to 7 minutes. Flip and cook until no longer pink and the internal temperature reaches 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
- Shred into Pieces – Use your fingers or two forks to shred the chicken into smaller pieces. Alternatively, chop them with a knife. Add the reserved seasoning mix and combine until evenly coated.
- Warm the Tortillas – Place the tortillas in a pan over medium-high heat to lightly toast and make them pliable. Alternatively, warm them directly over a gas flame for 10 to 15 seconds on each side.
- Assemble the Enchiladas – Lightly coat a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray or oil. Evenly spread ½ cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom. Pour ½ cup of enchilada sauce into a shallow bowl large enough to fit the tortillas. Lightly dip each side of the tortilla in the sauce.Transfer to a plate and fill the center with about ⅓ cup of chicken. Roll into a cylinder and transfer to the baking dish. Repeat the process until 10 enchiladas are rolled and lined up. Evenly spread the remaining sauce over the top then sprinkle with Monterey jack cheese and cheddar.
- Bake the Casserole – Cover the baking dish with foil and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes.
- To Serve – Garnish with green onions and cilantro. Serve while still hot.
- Topping Suggestions: Diced avocado, diced tomatoes, sour cream, or jalapenos. Sprinkle on soft cheese like cotija or harder cheese like Parmesan just before serving.
- Using Pre-Cooked Chicken: 4 cups of shredded roasted or boiled chicken can be used instead of the sauteed chicken.
- Using Canned Sauce: Use 2 cups of canned enchilada sauce.
- Make it Less Spicy: Reduce or omit dried chili pepper or chipotle pepper. Reduce canned chipotle chilis.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Use corn tortillas or cassava tortillas instead of flour tortillas.
- Make-Ahead: Assemble the enchiladas, cover, and refrigerate for up to 2 days. Freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw before using.
- Storing: Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Reheat: Cover and warm in a 325ºF (163ºC) oven until hot. Or cover and individually microwave portions in 15-second intervals on high.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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