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Adventures in food for curious cooks.

Red Chicken Enchiladas


Red Chicken Enchiladas

Lynley Jones

This is the style of enchiladas I grew up with in Arizona (you can read the Notes section for a brief trip with me down memory lane). Enchiladas are a great use for leftover chicken. You can make your own sauce like this one, or keep things simple and use a good canned sauce. All good.

Makes 12 enchiladas, which serves 4 as a main dish.


Red Chicken Enchiladas, made in the Adventure Kitchen

Flavorless high-heat oil such as canola 

1 cup diced yellow onion

3 cups cooked shredded chicken, very well seasoned (plus a pinch of salt if not well seasoned)

1/4 cup chicken broth


2 cups enchilada sauce such as Guajillo Enchilada Sauce (or use storebought, see notes)

12 corn tortillas (see notes)

6-8 ounces shredded mild, melting cheese such as colby or Monterrey jack

Optional: roughly chopped cilantro for garnish; or if you prefer, sliced black olives, shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes (see notes)


1. Warm the enchilada sauce in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. In a separate skillet, warm about 2 Tablespoons of the oil over medium heat and add the onions. Saute until soft, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the chicken and broth to the pan with the onions and toss to warm through and combine flavors. Taste and add a few pinches of salt if needed - the chicken should be highly flavorful. Turn off the heat and put the lid on.

3. Separately, choose a small, shallow pan for frying the tortillas. Add oil to a depth of about 1/2 inch. Warm the oil until it's hot enough to sizzle gently when you dip the edge of a tortilla into it.

4. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees with the rack in the middle. Choose a shallow casserole dish that will accommodate 12 rolled tortillas (mine is about 7"x11"). Arrange your stovetop and countertop for a smooth workflow between the tortilla-frying pan, the casserole dish, the chicken skillet, and the enchilada sauce, so that you can easily do this: 

First: Briefly place a tortilla in the hot oil, carefully flip it once, remove it with tongs and lay it flat in the casserole dish. The tortilla should just soften in the oil, not become at all crisp.

Testing the oil - the tortilla should sizzle gently when it touches the oil.

Testing the oil - the tortilla should sizzle gently when it touches the oil.

Flipping the tortilla with tongs

Flipping the tortilla with tongs

Removing the tortilla when it has softened in the oil, but before it becomes crisp

Removing the tortilla when it has softened in the oil, but before it becomes crisp

Second: Lay some of the shredded chicken across the center of the tortilla, then ladle about 1 Tablespoon of enchilada sauce over the chicken.

Third: Roll up the tortilla with the chicken and sauce inside, and place it against one end of the casserole dish with the open edge down so that it stays rolled.

Repeat with the rest of the tortillas, until all the chicken has been used and all the enchiladas are rolled up in a row in the casserole.

6. Ladle the rest of the enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas. Spread the shredded cheese on top. Bake for about 10 minutes, until everything is bubbly and the cheese is melted. Garnish as you wish and serve.


You can absolutely use canned enchilada sauce. I often do. The brand I usually use is Hatch Red Enchilada Sauce, which has the right flavor and consistency for this dish. I just discovered the same company makes another sauce called "Tex-Mex Sauce." I've never used this and don't know what it is, so can't recommend it (but the words "Tex-Mex" make me nervous for this recipe).

Read the ingredients on your tortillas to be sure they don't contain any wheat flour. Some manufacturers add this to make the tortillas softer and more pliable for people who aren't comfortable using all-corn tortillas. But tortillas with flour won't turn out well when you fry them, so steer clear.

To serve, I usually sprinkle a little chopped cilantro over the top, but if you really wanted to serve this in traditional Arizona restaurant style, you could toss sliced black olives on top after baking, and serve with shredded lettuce and diced tomatoes, either on top or on the side. I never do this, because to me it's an unnecessary distraction from the enchilada main event. But if you do, you can pretend you're sitting next to me at Don Jose's in Phoenix in the 1970s. I'm somewhere between the ages of 4 and 12. The walls are adorned with bright oil paintings of bull fighters on black velvet, and my dad has ordered a Schlitz with his albondigas soup. And my Auntie La La is probably sitting with us, so it's a really, really good day.

This recipe was featured in my Series of Unfortunate Recipes, inspired by the foods in the Lemony Snicket books and Netflix series. (Don't worry - this dish is super tasty. It's the story that's unfortunate.)