Enchiladas Rojas

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My answer to New Mexico’s state question — red or green? — is almost always “Christmas,” which means both sauces. I already have a great recipe for green chile enchiladas, so I thought I’d post up my recipe for enchiladas rojas, or red enchiladas.

So yes, I know that many New Mexicans prefer stacked enchiladas, and they are fantastic. That said, most people outside of NewMex prefer rolled, so I went with these. Also, yes, this is a Desert Southwest recipe, not a Mexican one. Hundreds of variations on enchiladas exist south of the border, and I will get to them, eventually.

Two plates of enchiladas rojas
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Enchiladas rojas are serious comfort food, not unlike lasagna in Italy. Soft, warm, just a touch picoso, they’re also thrifty.

You can make fantastic enchiladas with leftover meat and stale tortillas, and you can make the red enchilada sauce up to a week, or even two weeks, ahead. With the bones of the dish hanging around in your fridge, you can make a batch of red enchiladas easily on a work night.

Any meat works here. I like to use either shredded leftover meat or tender, raw meat cut into small dice. Yes, raw. If you use something like venison loin, or grouse or turkey breasts, they will cook perfectly in the baking process; this avoids overcooking.

If this horrifies you, just cook the meat first. I won’t mind. But know that the breast meat of any bird, or tender red meat, will cook beautifully this way.

(For a cool alternative to enchiladas, make Mexican enmoladas with mole sauce instead of a red enchiladas sauce.)

When you make your red enchilada sauce, you are looking for reasonably hot, not truly hot, dried chiles. Obviously the various NewMex chiles are good choices, as are chile colorado or California chiles, which are basically dried Anaheims. For Mexican chiles you’d want guajillos for a bright red sauce, or anchos or pasillas for a darker, more brick-red sauce.

If you want the sauce to be picante, my advice is actually to add the hot sauce of your choice at the table, rather than to include seriously hot chiles in the red enchilada sauce itself. That lets everyone get the heat they want.

A word on how I soften the tortillas for the enchiladas rojas. I prefer to limit the amount of fat in my enchiladas, so I don’t fry the tortillas in oil first, the way many people do. I find that heating them up on a comal or cast iron frying pan, then letting them steam in a tortilla warmer or somesuch does the trick without the added oil.

Closeup of enchiladas rojas on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

If you want to fry your tortillas, just pass them through the hot oil a few seconds to soften. Any more than that and they will become tostadas, which you don’t want.

Once made, your enchiladas rojas will keep in the fridge up to a week, and are excellent reheated for weekday lunches.

Closeup of enchiladas rojas on a plate
4.92 from 12 votes

Enchiladas Rojas, Red Chile Enchiladas

Don’t get all hung up on the exact array of dried red chiles here. The weight is more important, and even that doesn’t have to be exact. And as with all enchiladas, any meat will work here, or if you are a vegetarian, mushrooms are a good choice.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American, Mexican
Servings: 8 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients 

Red Chile Sauce

  • ½ pound dried red chiles (New Mexican, ancho, guajillo, etc)
  • tablespoons  lard or cooking oil
  • large white onion, cut in quarters
  • garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled
  • teaspoons  cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano, Mexican if possible
  • 1 quart stock, preferably homemade
  • Salt,  smoked salt if you have it
  • Black pepper to taste

Filling

  • 1 pound diced meat
  • Salt,  smoked salt if you have it
  • About 1/2 cup red chile sauce  (see above)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 12  ounces shredded Monterey Jack and/or cheddar cheese (5 ounces for the filling, the rest as topping)
  • cup  minced white onion
  • Fifteen 6-inch tortillas

Instructions 

  • Prep the chile sauce. Start by taking the stems off and opening the chiles to shake out the seeds. Flatten them as best you can. Heat a cast iron skillet or better yet, a Mexican comal over high heat. When it is blazing hot, toast the chiles. Press them down with a spatula for just a couple seconds: When they blister, flip them and do the other side. Remove to a bowl.
  • When all the chiles have been toasted, char the quartered onion and the garlic cloves on the comal or skillet. You want some blackening. The garlic cloves will blacken first, so watch them.
  • Now that you have everything smoky and charred, tear the chiles in pieces. Chop the onion. Peel the garlic. Heat the lard or vegetable oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the chiles, onions and garlic and saute for a minute or two. Pour in the stock, add the cumin and oregano and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste and simmer gently until the chiles are soft, about 20 minutes.
  • Puree the sauce in a blender. This sauce can be made up to a week in advance and stored in the fridge.
  • Make the filling. Cut the meat into pieces about the size of your fingernail. Salt well. Mix with about 1/4 cup of the red chile sauce, the chopped sage as well as about 5 ounces of cheese and the minced white onion.
  • Prep the tortillas. Heat the tortillas on a comal or other heavy skillet until they blacken a little. Then put them in a tortilla warmer, or stack on a plate and put a bowl over them. Let them steam a few minutes before building the enchiladas.
  • Build the enchiladas. Pour a little red chile sauce into a casserole dish. Dip a tortilla in the red chile sauce briefly and shake off the excess. Fill a tortilla with a little of the filling and roll it up. Place seam-side down on the casserole. Repeat until you’re done. You should get about 15 tortillas.
  • Pour more red chile sauce over the enchiladas and top with lots of the shredded cheese. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes and serve.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 414kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 78mg | Sodium: 337mg | Potassium: 900mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 7890IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 383mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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22 Comments

  1. I have lots of separated goose tenders (snow, Canadian, spec mix)Already did fajitas and some Asian dishes. Love the dove enchilada recipe. Any changes if I used chopped up goose tenders? Thinking I don’t want them to over cook. Maybe less time in oven?

  2. What kind of stock do you recommend?
    I’m fresh out of venison stock right now, but have homemade chicken stock.

  3. As a traditional Northern NEW MEXICAN born and rasied. we do NOT use cumin or cilantro in our cooking.

  4. Love this recipe, the sauce is so damn good and can be used on so many other things if you have leftovers. Fed them to my friend with braised/shredded elk meat and he said, what’s in that sauce, I’ve never had enchilada sauce like that.

    I used a mixture of ancho, Chile negro and guajillo, probably 60/20/20, respectively. After blending I had a touch of bitterness, so I mixed in a bit of honey…..probably a sauce crime that would get me slapped from an abuelita I wish I had, but it did the trick 🙂

  5. Made these for Christmas Eve and overall the recipe was a very enjoyable experience. Another unique and interesting recipe that allows the cook to dive deeper into a genre of food one has not previously made. This recipe taught me how to make a Mexican red sauce and encouraged me to make homemade corn tortillas from masa. The sauce is more bitter than sweet and tastes very complex. Took closer to 3 hours from start to finish. Only additions would be to add some sour cream, tomatoes, lettuce, avocados, and even some additional cheese right before serving.

    1. Yes, I noticed the same bitterness. Admittedly, I do not have a experienced palette for authentic Mexican flavors. I am just wondering if I did something wrong (burnt the chiles), or is this the flavor profile it is supposed to have. Is there anything I can do to cut the bitterness?
      Thanks

      1. Nate: Highly likely you burnt the chiles, or used soaking water that got bitter. I will edit the recipe to make sure people are aware of this potential problem.

  6. Delicious! Born and raised in Albuquerque but transplanted to Oklahoma years. Miss those NM enchiladas so much as OK style Mexican food is definitely not what I grew up. Every time we go back to visit we load up on red chili pods and green chili. Tried your chicken enchilada recipe and they were delicious! Thanks for sharing your recipe.

  7. Nothing like southern NM red enchiladas, you barely recognize this difference in northern and southern NM culture, I would never make these being from southern NM.

    1. Cesario: Uh, OK. So explain to me the differences between northern New Mexico enchiladas and southern New Mexico enchiladas. These are, admittedly, based off enchiladas I ate in Santa Fe.

  8. I’ve made this twice now, fantastic. One question though. Have you ever had an issue with the sauce not blending to smooth? The second time around, after blending, there were lots of small pieces of peppers, kind of an unpleasant texture. I tried a few things and got it pretty good in a nutri bullet. Ever had an issue like this before? If so, any good remedies?
    Thank you

    1. Miguel: Ah, that means you don’t have a powerful enough blender. The fix for that is to run the blended sauce through a fine-meshed strainer. That will trap all those little bits and make the sauce perfectly smooth.

  9. Leftover enchiladas, rolled or stacked, reheated with fried eggs on top. Breakfast of the champions. Even better with chopped onions on top of you don’t have any meetings or a date later in the day.

  10. Good stuff Hank! I repurposed the leftover ancho sauce from your elk tenderloin recipe into some tasty enchilada sauce and made these, big hit with the family!

  11. Ah, memories of my childhood in Albuquerque–the stacked enchiladas were such a treat! Mom and Dad would take my sister and me down to Old Town and we would have them as well as sopapillas. I loaded those sopapillas with honey–got wonderfully sticky. I am eager to try your version of the rolled ones. I wonder what Old Town is like now, haven’t been there for over 50 years. It smelled so good–spicy and pinion incense…
    I love getting your emails! Thanks for them!

  12. Didn’t know about the stacked enchiladas in New Mexico. That was a fun fact to start my morning! How well does the sauce freeze?