My favorite chicken enchilada recipe is easy to make, customizable with your favorite fillings, and made with my favorite homemade enchilada sauce. It’s always a crowd fave, and perfect for meal prep and freezing too!
Say hello to my all-time favorite chicken enchiladas. ♡
This chicken enchilada recipe was actually one of the first-ever posts that I shared here on Gimme Some Oven back in 2009. And now, more than a decade later, it still continues to be one of the recipes I make most often for dinner here in our house — and one of the recipes that our readers make most often too! I’m so happy you all continue to enjoy it!
For those of you who are new to this recipe, these Tex-Mex style chicken enchiladas are easy to make with a basic filling of sautéed chicken, green chiles, onions, beans and shredded cheese. Then they are rolled up in your choice of either flour or corn tortillas, baked until hot and melty, and sprinkled with lots of fresh toppings. But I have to say that the real magic of this recipe lies in the homemade red enchilada sauce that brings it all together. This red enchilada sauce only requires a few extra minutes of prep time, but the flavor that it adds to these enchiladas is major. Sooo much better than the canned stuff!
I’m also a big fan of these homemade chicken enchiladas because they are easy to make ahead (perfect for meal prep), the leftovers freeze beautifully (which is why I usually go ahead and make a double batch while I’m at it), and they are also a wonderful meal to pack up and bring to friends who may be in need of some cozy comfort food (another good reason to make and freeze a second batch ♡). This recipe can also easily be adapted to be gluten-free or customized with your choice of protein, beans or cheese. And if you’d really like to make the prep quick and easy, I’ve included a few additional time-saving shortcuts below too.
Bottom line, these chicken enchiladas have been one of my go-to recipes for years and years, and they are always a hit when we serve them to friends and family. So if you have yet to give this recipe a try, I say that it’s time we make some enchiladas together!
Chicken Enchilada Recipe | 1-Minute Video
The History of Enchiladas
We have the rich food traditions of Mexico to thank for bringing enchiladas to the world. ♡ Historians believe that the origins of enchiladas actually date back to Aztec times, when the tradition of rolling or folding food into corn tortillas is believed to have begun. (The word enchilada is derived from the Spanish verb enchilar, which means “to season with chili.”)
In the centuries and decades since, dozens of different varieties of enchiladas have become traditional in different regions around Mexico, as well as in various nearby countries in Latin America (such as Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala). And of course, they have also become wildly popular in the United States as well, especially in New Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine.
This particular chicken enchilada recipe probably most closely aligns with Tex-Mex and New Mexican styles of enchiladas, especially being made with flour tortillas (although you are welcome to use corn tortillas), filled with green chiles and soft shredded cheese, and made with a tomato-free red chile sauce. But if you are looking to try authentic Mexican-style chicken enchiladas, I would encourage you to consider this traditional recipe. So many delicious enchilada recipes to try!
Chicken Enchilada Ingredients
Before we get to the full recipe below for how to make chicken enchiladas, here are a few notes about the ingredients you will need to make this easy chicken enchilada recipe…
Chicken: I typically sauté diced boneless skinless chicken breasts for the enchilada filling. But feel free to use pre-cooked chicken (such as a shredded rotisserie or any leftover diced/shredded baked chicken) if you would like to save some prep time.
Onion and diced green chiles: White, yellow or red onion will work for the enchilada filling sauté. Then I always like to add in a can of diced green chiles too for extra flavor.
Beans: I typically add a can of black beans or pinto beans to the filling for extra protein. But white beans, lentils or chickpeas would also work well here.
Tortillas: Corn tortillas are traditionally used in Mexican-style enchiladas, but I typically use flour tortillas (which are more commonly used in Tex-Mex and American-style enchiladas) since they are much easier to roll. That said, just about any style of tortillas will work in this recipe.
Cheese: I most often use either Asadero, Pepper Jack, or a Mexican-blend of shredded cheese for these enchiladas. But feel free to use any type of shredded cheese that you love best.
Toppings: When it comes to enchiladas, I vote the more toppings the merrier! Any combination of chopped fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, diced red onion (or quick pickled red onions), sliced radishes, fresh or pickled jalapeños, sour cream or Mexican crema, and/or extra cheese would be delicious!
Enchilada sauce: Finally, you can use any type of enchilada sauce that you prefer for this recipe, but I highly recommend using my favorite homemade enchilada sauce! It only takes a few extra minutes to prep and can simmer on the stovetop while you prepare the rest of the enchiladas. It’s made with simple ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry (oil, flour, a handful of spices, and chicken stock). But most importantly, it’s incredibly delicious and tastes a million times better than the store-bought canned stuff. Thousands of our readers have made and loved it over the years, so I highly recommend giving it a try!
Chicken Enchilada Recipe Variations
As I mentioned above, this chicken enchilada recipe is incredibly flexible, so please feel free to customize it however you would like! For example, feel free to…
Use corn tortillas: To make Mexican-style enchiladas, use corn tortillas (homemade or store-bought) in place of flour tortillas. Since corn tortillas are typically smaller, you will likely need to use nearly double the quantity of tortillas. (Just arrange them in the pan however you’d like.) Then to bring out that toasty corn flavor and prevent the corn tortillas from tearing, I recommend either flash-frying the tortillas for about 10 seconds per side in a skillet that has been lightly drizzled with oil. Or alternately, you can just dip the tortillas briefly in the warm enchilada sauce before rolling them up.
Use green enchilada sauce: Instead of red enchilada sauce, try making green chicken enchiladas with my homemade green enchilada sauce recipe. It’s also very simple to make and brings the most delicious savory green chile flavor to this dish.
Use a different protein: I most often make these enchiladas with chicken, but they would also be delicious with ground or shredded beef, shredded pork (especially carnitas), shrimp, or any other protein that you prefer.
Use different beans: As I mentioned above, white beans, lentils or chickpeas would also work well here in place of pinto or black beans.
Make vegetarian enchiladas: To make these vegetarian enchiladas, simply omit the chicken and replace it with veggies (such as roasted cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, etc), extra beans, or any other vegetarian fillings you prefer. To make vegan enchiladas, use a vegetarian filling as well as vegan cheese.
Make gluten-free enchiladas: To make gluten-free enchiladas, use gluten-free corn or flour tortillas. And also be sure to use a 1-for-1 gluten-free flour blend (in place of all-purpose flour) in the homemade enchilada sauce recipe.
What To Serve With Chicken Enchiladas
Looking for some recommendations for side dishes to round out your meal? Feel free to check out our Mexican recipe archives for inspiration, or consider some of these favorite recipes…
Prep oven and enchilada sauce. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare your enchilada sauce.
Sauté the filling mixture. In large sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add diced chicken and green chiles, and season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Sauté the mixture for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the chicken is cooked through. Add in the beans and stir until evenly combined. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
Assemble the enchiladas. To assemble the enchiladas, set up an assembly line including: tortillas, enchilada sauce, chicken mixture, and cheese. Lay out a tortilla, and spread two tablespoons of sauce over the surface of the tortilla. Add a generous spoonful of the chicken mixture in a line down the center of the tortilla, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Roll up tortilla and place in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Assemble the remaining enchiladas. Then spread any remaining sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas, followed by any extra cheese.
Bake. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, until the enchiladas are cooked through and the tortillas are slightly crispy on the outside. Transfer the baking dish to a wire baking rack.
Serve. Serve the enchiladas immediately while they’re nice and hot and melty, garnished with lots of fresh toppings. Enjoy!
Storage instructions: Leftover (cooked) enchiladas can be transferred to a sealed container and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
Make ahead instructions. If you would like to make a pan of enchiladas in advance, follow the recipe instructions through step 3 (assembling the enchiladas). Wrap the pan tightly with foil. Then you can either refrigerate the enchiladas for up to 3 days, then bake as directed. Or you can freeze the enchiladas for up to 3 months, then let them thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours, then bake as directed.