Chicken Enchiladas

4.97 from 235 votes
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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 chicken preparation before rolling them in the tortillas.

Plate of chicken enchiladas topped with sour cream, avocado, and jalapenos.

Recipe Science

  • Heat tortillas on the stovetop before wrapping so the starches become soft, allowing the tortillas to bend easily around the filling.
  • Use high-moisture, shreddable cheeses like cheddar and Monterey Jack. The smooth melt is due to their higher fat and water content.
  • Covering the casserole when baking ensures the cheese steams and retains moisture for a gooey melt.

Why It Works

Chicken enchiladas are a fantastic choice for Cinco de Mayo recipes when you need an easy casserole dish that can serve many. The best part is that you can prepare the dish in advance for busy weeknights or festive gatherings. Just pop it into the oven and delight in the gooey cheese as it melts.

Instead of settling for bland, canned products from the grocery store, I’ll guide you through making the red enchilada sauce from scratch. This sauce features a simple tomato base enhanced with chipotle peppers, chicken broth, and vibrant seasonings, perfectly enveloping each wrap.

Ingredients You’ll Need

Shredded chicken on a plate with spices and enchilada sauce.
  • Chicken: Taking my cheese enchiladas a step further, I add boneless, skinless chicken breast. The pieces are seasoned with a savory blend of ground cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.
  • Seasoning: Season the meat with store-bought or homemade taco seasoning. I usually have a jar in the pantry to grab quickly when making ground beef tacos.
  • 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 combines crushed tomatoes and chipotle chilis in adobo sauce, minced garlic, chicken broth, cumin, chili powder, and smoky chipotle chili powder.
  • Tortillas: I prefer using flour tortillas because they hold together well. But corn tortillas also work. They should be about 6 inches in size.
  • Cheese: For casseroles, it’s best to use higher-moisture, firm, shreddable cheeses, like cheddar and Monterey Jack. The increased amount of fat and water gives the right melt consistency. Aged sharp cheddar adds a more intense flavor, while Monterey Jack is milder and slightly sweet.
  • Garnish: Sliced green onions add a delicate allium flavor. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro for an herbaceous note.

See the recipe card below for all ingredients and measurements (US and metric).

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Chicken Options: 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. Leftover roasted chicken or rotisserie chicken from the store is a quick option. Shred or chop it up for the meat filling.
  • Switch up the Tortillas: Make homemade flour tortillas or corn tortillas.
  • Green Sauce: If you prefer a milder sauce, try my green chili chicken enchiladas recipe.
  • Cheese Swaps: Shredded mozzarella and queso asadero add a mild cheese taste. For a stronger crumbled cheese flavor, sprinkle the enchiladas with queso fresco or cotija.
  • Add to the Filling: Black beans, pinto beans, sauteed mushrooms, zucchini, green chilies, bell peppers, black olives, or corn can make the chicken mixture even more hearty.

How to Make Chicken Enchiladas

For the Enchilada Sauce

Step 1: Saute the Garlic and Chilis

The enchilada sauce starts by cooking the aromatics to build a flavor base. Saute the garlic in hot olive oil for 30 seconds. Canned chipotle chili is smoky in flavor and has a robust lingering heat. It’s an essential ingredient for boosting flavor. Break them into smaller pieces in the pan.

Metal spoon stirring a pot of red sauce.

Step 2: Simmer the Sauce

Stir in the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, salt, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and chipotle chili powder. If you prefer a milder sauce, omit the chili powder. The enchilada sauce briefly simmers to meld the flavors. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 5 minutes.

Red enchilada sauce in a blender cup.

Step 3: Puree

Add the sauce mixture to a food processor or blender, then process until smooth. For a thinner sauce, add more chicken broth. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

For the Chicken Enchiladas

Step 1: Preheat the Oven

Adjust the oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 400ºF (204ºC). This temperature will help concentrate the flavorful sauce on the wraps and quickly melt the cheese.

Step 2: Prepare the Chicken

For even cooking, pound the pieces to about ½ inch thickness or cut them into two cutlets if thicker than 1 inch.

Step 3: 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 season the meat’s surface.

Pro Tip: I like to save about a teaspoon of the seasoning mixture to toss with the shredded chicken for an extra burst of flavor.

Two seared chicken breasts cooking on a stove top pan.

Step 4: Cook the Chicken

The seasoned breasts cook on the stovetop, taking 5 to 7 minutes per side. For better control and accuracy, I use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness. The temperature should register between 160 and 165ºF (71 to 74ºC) in the thickest part of the meat.

Step 5: Shred into Pieces

Once cool enough to handle, chop into bite-sized pieces, or check out my guide for how to shred chicken quickly.

Step 6: Warm the Tortillas

Lightly toast the tortillas in a pan over medium-high heat. This adds flavor to the surface and makes the tortillas more pliable for wrapping—heat for 10 to 15 seconds per side.

Photo of a person sprinkling cheese over enchiladas.
Chicken enchiladas in a casserole dish with unmelted cheeses.

Step 7: Assemble the Enchiladas 

Lightly dip the warm tortillas in the enchilada sauce before filling with shredded chicken. Place the stuffed tortillas seam-side down in a greased 13 by 9-inch baking dish so they don’t open up when serving. Top with more sauce, and then add the grated cheese.

Make Ahead Tip: 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.

Step 8: Bake the Casserole

The enchiladas bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, quickly warming the wraps and melting the cheese. Covering the casserole with aluminum foil keeps the cheese hot and melted.

Tips for Perfect Execution: Cooking uncovered for an extended period dries out the chicken and tortilla edges and makes the cheese harder as it cools.

Casserole dish with chicken enchiladas straight out of the oven.

Step 9: Serve the Chicken Enchiladas

Right before serving, top with sliced green onions and cilantro.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do enchiladas taste better with corn or flour tortillas?

My top choice for enchiladas is flour tortillas. The gluten-formed wrap gives them a soft, sturdy, and pliable texture. However, they 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 skipping that step entirely. They tend to break apart, making them difficult to remove from the pan after baking.

What is a grain-free tortilla alternative?

For a grain-free alternative, try my homemade cassava flour tortillas. They have a nice chew and hold up well in the casserole.

Can I use uncooked tortillas for enchiladas?

No! Cook raw, fresh tortillas before wrapping. Otherwise, they will become soggy and never become thoroughly cooked.

How do you make chicken enchiladas not soggy?

Heat the tortillas on the stovetop before wrapping. The surface hardens slightly, creating a better barrier between the sauce. You can even fry them 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.

How do you roll enchiladas without breaking them?

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.

Serve This With

If you tried this Chicken Enchilad Recipe, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below!

Chicken Enchiladas

This easy chicken enchiladas recipe is an authentic Mexican food staple. Tender pieces of spiced shredded chicken are rolled in flour tortillas, topped with a homemade enchilada sauce and cheese.
4.97 from 235 votes
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour
Servings 10 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine Mexican

Ingredients 
 

Enchilada Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • ¼ cup chipotle chilis canned in adobo sauce
  • 1 cup unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder, optional

Chicken Enchiladas

  • 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" size
  • 4 ounces grated monterey jack cheese
  • 4 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Instructions 

Enchilada Sauce

  • Saute the Garlic and Chilis – In a medium saucepan, add olive oil and heat over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the chipotle chilis, then stir and break them into smaller pieces. Cook for 1 minute.
  • Simmer the Sauce – Stir in the chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, salt, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, and chipotle chili powder (if using). 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.

Chicken Enchiladas

  • 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. Use a meat mallet to 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) on a meat thermometer, 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 13×9 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.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Topping Suggestions: Diced avocado, diced tomatoes, sour cream, or jalapenos. Sprinkle on soft cheese like cotija or harder cheese like Parmesan 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 or chipotle pepper. Reduce canned chipotle chilis.
  • Make it Gluten-Free: Use corn 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 at 15-second intervals on high.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 10 servings
Calories 253kcal (13%)Carbohydrates 13g (4%)Protein 24g (48%)Fat 13g (20%)Saturated Fat 5g (25%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 66mg (22%)Sodium 558mg (23%)Potassium 143mg (4%)Fiber 2g (8%)Sugar 0.4gVitamin A 600IU (12%)Vitamin C 5.8mg (7%)Calcium 200mg (20%)Iron 2mg (11%)

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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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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59 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Sarah says

    First time I made homemade enchiladas. ?They are the best. Our friends devoured
    them. So delicious.
    Also made the Mexican rice to go along with the enchiladas. The best.
    Thank you Jessica ?

  2. Judy says

    Yowee!! I can’t wait to make these. They look beautiful and I always enjoy all the details and photos you include. You make cooking fun for us.

  3. Kellie says

    These Chicken enchiladas are by far the best I have ever had from any Mexican restaurant!! Hands down!! My whole family agree. We will definitely be adding this to our receipes! Thank you Jessica for your amazing easy receipes! Haven’t had one let me down yet. I have tried a ton already!!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you so much, Kellie! What a huge compliment that you think this enchilada recipe rivals one at restaurants. The best part, you made it chef!

  4. Sara says

    I’ve made these twice and they were delicious both times. Can they be pre-made and frozen? If so, do you recommend fully defrosting before baking or baking frozen (and what temp if frozen).

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