Red Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas

Red sauce enchiladas have been scarce on my dinner table for the last eight years. Shocking, I know, especially since they make up a huge portion of Mexican-food-loving fare. But I just haven’t been able to get behind them. I’ve tried dozen of recipes and my husband and I have concurred that we must be true enchilada snobs: far preferring these creamy green chile enchiladas (and these honey lime…and oh, wait, these shrimp enchies) to any red sauce variety.

Until this sweet little recipe entered my life, that is. I decided since it had been years (years!) since I’d attempted a red sauce enchilada, it was time. And this recipe spoke to me. It doesn’t hurt that originally it comes from America’s Test Kitchen, a source nearly always to be trusted, but with the rave reviews of other bloggers, I gave it a go.

And I have to say that my expectations were far exceeded. The beauty of this recipe is that you are able to whip up a from-scratch enchilada sauce in no time (my beef with other recipes, in large part, has been the canned enchilada sauce, I believe) and the chicken basks in the gloriousness of the flavorful, simmered sauce until cooked to tender perfection. Rolled up in tortillas (corn or flour…your choice!) with creamy cheese and fresh cilantro, these smothered enchiladas have renewed the love for red sauce chicken enchiladas in our home.

Long live the enchilada (all varieties, of course)!

Red Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas

What To ServeTortilla chips and Balsamic Black Bean Salsa
Garnishes such as lime wedges, cilantro, sour cream, extra cheese, or cherry tomatoes
Summer Corn Salad

One Year Ago: Buttermilk Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Glaze
Two Years Ago: Baked Pasta with Chicken Sausage
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

Red Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas

Yield: Makes 12 enchiladas

Red Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas


  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 (8-oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 large chicken breasts)
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 12 (6-inch) soft corn or flour tortillas (fajita-size for flour tortillas)
  • cooking spray
  • salt and ground black pepper


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the onion, jalapeno, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and oil. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili powder, cumin, and sugar, and cook until fragrant, less than 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato sauce and water. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Nestle the chicken into the sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12-20 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the chicken breasts you are using. Transfer the chicken to a plate, and set aside to cool. Continue to simmer the sauce over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Strain the sauce through a strainer into a medium bowl, pressing the onion mixture to extract as much liquid as possible. Season sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the leftover onion mixture from the strainer to a large bowl and set aside.
  4. Shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to the onion mixture in the large bowl. Also stir in 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese and the cilantro. Toss to combine.
  5. Stack the tortillas on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; Microwave on high until warm and pliable, 40-60 seconds. Spread the tortillas on a clean work surface, and spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture evenly down the center of each. Tightly roll each tortilla and lay seam-side down in a greased 9Γ—13 inch baking dish.
  6. Heat oven to 400 F. Pour the enchilada sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas. Top with the remaining cheese. Cover dish with foil and bake 20 minutes, or until heated through.
  7. Remove foil and bake another 5 minutes, until cheese browns. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before serving.
  8. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, salsa, additional cilantro, if desired.


Make Ahead Instructions: Follow the recipe, letting the sauce, onions and chicken come to room temperature before assembling the enchiladas. Finish following the recipe instructions and instead of baking, cover the pan with a layer of tin foil and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. Bake covered for 20 minutes, uncover and bake an additional 5-10 minutes. Alternately, the assembled enchiladas can be covered with a double layer of tin foil and put inside a jumbo-size ziploc bag (if you don’t have a jumbo-sized bag, make sure the edges of the pan are sealed well with tin foil). Freeze for up to 2-3 months. Bake from frozen, baking for 1 1/2 hours covered at 350 degrees F. Uncover and bake an additional hour until hot and bubbly.

Recipe Source: adapted from Pink Parsley, originally from America’s Test Kitchen

142 Responses to Red Chile Sauce Chicken Enchiladas

  1. Kim says:

    Looks Yummy! Just wondering if this can be made with your crepe recipe instead of using the store bought tortillas??

  2. Misty says:

    I have made this a dozen times and my family LOVES it! It is a favorite in our house now!

  3. Meemz says:

    I made this recipe twice and we love it. Thank you so much πŸ™‚

  4. Stephanie says:

    I made this recipe for friends tonight and it was a big hit! I will be making it again for sure:)

  5. Catherine says:

    These enchiladas were so good! Thank you for the recipe. I served them with cilantro and lime rice, which my husband said went together perfectly. In fact, he commented on it again this morning. You know it was good when they are still talking about the food the next morning.
    It took me a long time to chop, cook, assemble and bake these enchiladas, but they were worth it. I made a double batch and I’ll definitely do that again to make the time:food ratio worth it. I second Mel’s earlier comment: you only need to 1 1/2 times the sauce recipe in order to make a double batch.
    My corn tortillas held together in the pan, until I served them. Then they fell apart, so it was like a casserole on your plate, but it tasted heavenly.

  6. denise says:

    Made these Sunday night, ate for lunch Monday and Tuesday. Thinking about making again this weekend!!!! so delish!!!! wow!!!!

  7. Lizzie says:

    I made these last night, and my husband said they are the best enchiladas he’s ever had! My tortillas stuck to the foil in the oven, so they weren’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever made, but who cares what they look like if they taste that good!

  8. Celeste says:

    Best enchiladas ever, seriously.

  9. Maureen Widmer says:

    I found this post & literally danced in my kitchen! I love-love-love enchiladas, and am proud to say that they are resting comfortably before being devoured by my crew. A couple points I’d like to offer:

    1) I used chicken from a bird I boiled yesterday. I just tossed the hot sauce over the shredded meat and allowed it to “hang out” until it cooled enough to add the cheese.
    2) I somehow have it in my head that the tortillas are supposed to also be ‘slathered’ in some of the sauce before adding the cheese / chicken mixture. This helped to soften the corn tortillas a little more, no tearing!
    3) When softening corn tortillas, make sure that the plastic wrap is tightly sealed – it is the steam that softens them! (Although fried in oil sure sounds yummy too!)
    4) I didn’t add the cheese until I removed the foil. I allowed it to melt & turned off the oven. The enchiladas will ‘rest’ in the oven until the Spanish rice (Mahatma brand – best there is!) and beans are almost ready. I’ll pull them just before to allow them to rest at room temp.
    5) If you are going to make ahead and freeze, I would offer that the tin foil MUST be sprayed with oil or the cheese will eat through the foil. I know this from experience! Alternately, omit the cheese until fully cooked and add for just the last few minutes to melt.

    I made a large pan of flour and a smaller pan of corn for me (gluten intolerant…boo-hiss.)

    I so appreciate this post, and am looking forward to many wonderful dinners to come! We are having a Latino guest for supper tonight…let’s see what the verdict is! (But I don’t really care…this recipe is a keeper!)

    Finally, I’m curious whether the canning debate ever got settled? I’d like to make a bunch of this up & pressure can it, but am concerned about acidity levels, even using commercially canned tomato sauce.

    Please feel free to contact me at [email protected] if you have tips or tricks or a recipe you’d like to share!

    Best to you & your family…and thanks so much again!

    P.S. The green enchiladas are next!!! I still have leftover chicken! πŸ˜‰

    • Mel says:

      Hi Maureen – I hope your family loved the enchiladas! As far as the canning goes, I haven’t tried canning this yet so I can’t give any details but I’ll be sure to report back if/when I do. Thanks!

  10. Katie says:

    Hi Mel, I tried this recipe a couple weeks ago, and it was fantastic!! I will definitely make them again. Indeed, the sauce is loads better than canned sauce. My question to you is have you ever made a huge batch of the sauce and then frozen it in portions for later use? I would love to just whip out the red sauce for any other recipe that calls for enchilada sauce instead of using a can.

    • Mel says:

      Katie – I haven’t done that but think it’s a great idea. I’m actually working on a homemade red enchilada sauce (version of this) that can be portioned and frozen/canned.

    • Andrea says:

      I have frozen red chile sauce made from scratch (from. New Mexico chile pods) that I had leftover from my Xmas tamales. I pulled it out of the freezer 5 months later and it’s just as delicious. I stored it in a plastic container.

  11. Valerie says:

    I microwave my corn tortillas in damp paper towels and that seems to help with the pliability factor.

  12. Cjackson says:

    Can you use real red chili for this recipe and just substitute it for the tomato sauce?

    • Mel says:

      Cjackson – Definitely worth a try – I haven’t made it like that. Each brand of red enchilada sauce differs so make sure you like the taste of whatever brand used. Good luck.

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  16. Lisa says:

    I made this last night for dinner, and my husband asked if I had picked up takeout! Lol! I used a rotisserie chicken and pulled meat from it to put in the sauce. Then, I strained the whole mixture to separate out the enchilada sauce that you pour over the rolled enchiladas. It saved me about 20 minutes, in case you need a time saving strategy. Also, at my grocery store there is a new brand of tortillas called Tortilla Land that makes uncooked tortillas without trans fats and preservatives. They can be warmed in the microwave between paper towels for just 40-60 seconds and work great in this recipe. They have both corn and flour, and I have used them both. The idea of microwaving something in plastic freaks me out, and I’ve never had trouble using paper towels instead…or even a clean kitchen towel.

    Thanks for such a great recipe. I will be making this again!

  17. gina says:

    I made these last week-end for a group of guys that my boyfriend and I were guiding on a kayaking trip. I made them entirely at the campsite and put them in a disposable foil pan and finished on the grill with indirect heat. They were awesome. There were six guys sitting around a campfire having a few cold beverages, but when these were served it actually got quiet. Except for chewing noises, of course. I don’t think that there could be higher praise. Thanks Mel.

  18. Sue Jackson says:

    I love your recipes and would love to get your blog. I’m new to this. How do I do it?

  19. Amanda Z says:

    I just made these for the second time tonight and devoured them just as quickly as the first time! This sauce is so good, I can never go back to using a canned enchilada sauce again! I only wish my enchiladas looks as pretty as yours at the end, my tortillas got a little too soft and got a little mushy, but delicious all the same! Thanks for a great dinner!

  20. Jennifer says:

    Are these really spicy?

    • Mel says:

      They aren’t too spicy for us – just right. But if you are worried about spice, you can cut down on the heat a bit and they’ll still taste great.

  21. Jena H says:

    Hi Mel,
    What do you think if I make these enchiladas with your green enchiladas sauce? Any tips or suggestions?

    Thank you!

    • Mel says:

      I haven’t tried it myself but it sounds yummy, Jena – I’d probably just use an equal amount of green enchilada sauce for the red sauce (about 3 cups give or take).

  22. Nicole says:

    Me and my roomy made these tonight but unfortunately are corn tortillas went moldy (we only bought them saturday). So we actually ended up subsuituiting tortilla chips and omitting the step where you pour most of the sauce on top (don’t worry we saved it). So we did a layer of chips the chicken/cheese/sauce mixture and another layer of chips on top and then the remaining chesse. It was awesome! I really wanted enchiladas but no doubt we will make these “nachaladas” again. The sauce mixed with the chicken was fantastic!

  23. Kim says:

    * * * * * 5 Stars! These are tasty! Thanks, Mel.

  24. Bonnie Sanders says:

    These were Awesome! I’m going to make them in a few weeks for my husband’s 60th birthday party.


  25. Nita says:

    These were great and a hit with all the kids! My 3 year old loves taco sauce on almost anything and she really loved this red chile sauce. I’ve actually made a batch to keep in the fridge to use on eggs or whatever she wants to use on. I almost didn’t get to use it in the enchiladas! I gave her a spoon to taste it and she came back a million times for tastes! Lol I served these with your Mexican corn and tomato salad and sliced avocado. It was a great meal.

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