I have been baking this red sauce chicken enchiladas recipe from scratch for nearly 30 years now! It’s a family favorite for dinner on Mexican food night, so it’s on regular rotation in our meal plans.
In the past, I used canned enchilada sauce from the grocery store. But it’s incredibly easy to make your own delicious homemade red enchilada sauce with simple ingredients.
This recipe makes two pans of cheesy chicken enchiladas. You can halve this delicious recipe if you only want to make one pan or see tips below for freezing the second pan.
Next time you want to make a new Mexican cuisine for your family, try this easy chicken enchiladas recipe. It always gets rave reviews (from kids too)!
- By the Numbers: How to Make Chicken Enchiladas
- Step 1: Combine Shredded Chicken with Green Onions.
- Step 2: Make Red Chile Sauce Paste.
- Step 3: Whisk in Chicken Stock.
- Step 4: Whisk in Tomato Paste.
- Step 5: Add Remaining Chicken Stock.
- Step 6: Lightly Fry Corn Tortillas.
- Step 7: Drain Oil from Tortillas.
- Step 8: Dip Tortillas in Sauce.
- Step 9: Roll Up Enchiladas.
- Step 10: Fill Enchilada Pan.
- Step 11: Pour Sauce Over Enchiladas.
- Step 12: Sprinkle Enchiladas with Cheese.
- Step 13: Bake Enchiladas.
- Step 14: Garnish and Serve Enchiladas.
- Tips for Making Homemade Enchiladas
- Best way to cook chicken for enchiladas
- Substitute flour tortillas for corn
- Use other kinds of cheese
- How to make cheese enchiladas
- How to make beef enchiladas
- Using canned sauce instead of homemade
- How to substitute tomato sauce for paste
- Best side dishes to serve with chicken enchiladas
- Ideas for enchilada toppings
- How to prepare enchiladas ahead of time
- Make bulk enchilada sauce spice mix
- Freezing chicken enchiladas
- More Mexican food recipes
- Tips to simplify dinner prep
- Chicken Enchiladas in Red Sauce
- More Mexican Food Recipes
- 3 pounds of cooked and shredded boneless skinless chicken breast
- 6 sliced green onions
- 1 pound of grated cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup of butter
- 2 tablespoons of gluten free all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons of chili powder
- 1 tablespoon of cumin
- 1 tablespoon of garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
- 12 ounces of tomato paste
- 5 cups of chicken stock
- 24 corn tortillas
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Cutting Board
- Mixing Bowl
- Sauce Pan
- Mixing Spoon
- Large Skillet
- Aluminum Foil
- Two 9″x13″ Baking Dishes
By the Numbers: How to Make Chicken Enchiladas
Follow these simple step-by-step instructions to learn the easiest way make homemade chicken enchiladas with red sauce.
Step 1: Combine Shredded Chicken with Green Onions.
The first thing you want to do is to combine 3 pounds of shredded chicken breast with 6 sliced green onions in a large mixing bowl, then set aside.
Step 2: Make Red Chile Sauce Paste.
In a sauce pan over medium heat, melt ¼ cup of butter, then whisk in 2 tablespoons of gluten free all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 tablespoon of garlic powder, 1 teaspoon of onion powder, 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano to make a smooth paste.
Step 3: Whisk in Chicken Stock.
Add 2 cups of chicken stock to the saucepan, then use a whisk to combine everything really well, whisking until it’s smooth.
Step 4: Whisk in Tomato Paste.
When the mixture is warm and smooth, whisk in two 6-ounce cans of tomato paste until the enchilada sauce is nice and smooth.
Step 5: Add Remaining Chicken Stock.
Whisk in the remaining 3 cups of chicken stock over medium-high heat until smooth. Once it’s well combined and bubbling, turn down the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer for 10-15 minutes, whisking frequently so it doesn’t scorch to the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and set aside. That’s how simple it is to make your own enchilada sauce!
Step 6: Lightly Fry Corn Tortillas.
Heat olive oil or coconut oil (about ¼″ deep) in a frying pan. Fry each tortilla for about 10 seconds on each side. You just want to soften them, not fry them until they’re crispy.
Step 7: Drain Oil from Tortillas.
As you fry each of the tortillas, set them on a plate lined with paper towels to help to drain the excess oil from the tortillas.
Step 8: Dip Tortillas in Sauce.
Once all of the corn tortillas are lightly fried, dip them one at a time in the red sauce (still in the saucepan) using tongs. Be careful as they’ll be hot (the sauce should still be hot).
Step 9: Roll Up Enchiladas.
Lay the dipped tortilla in a 9” x 13” baking dish. Add chicken mixture and shredded cheese to the center of each tortilla, then roll them up and place them seam side down so they don’t unroll in the pan.
Step 10: Fill Enchilada Pan.
Continue dipping the tortillas, putting the filling on top of the tortillas and rolling them up, until the casserole dish is full. I can typically fit 8 enchiladas across the pan, and then 4 more lengthwise at the bottom of the pan, so that’s a total of 12 in each pan. Once the first pan is full, it’s time to fill the second pan.
Step 11: Pour Sauce Over Enchiladas.
After both of your baking pans are full of red enchiladas, you need to cover them in sauce. Pour half of the enchilada sauce evenly over one pan, then repeat with the second pan until you’ve used all of your sauce.
Step 12: Sprinkle Enchiladas with Cheese.
Sprinkle the enchiladas with the remaining cheese and extra green onions.
Step 13: Bake Enchiladas.
Bake the enchiladas covered with foil for 20 minutes at 350° F, then for an additional 10-15 minutes uncovered. If you refrigerate the pan of enchiladas before cooking (I often do this with the second pan), it usually takes about an hour to cook them thoroughly.
Step 14: Garnish and Serve Enchiladas.
We love to serve our enchiladas topped with sour cream and hot sauce, but they’re great on their own as well. Garnish with chopped green onions and/or fresh cilantro and serve with your favorite sides.
Tips for Making Homemade Enchiladas
Answers to all of your questions about making red chicken enchiladas, including tips and substitution ideas.
Best way to cook chicken for enchiladas
I like to put my chicken breasts in the slow cooker the night before I’m going to make enchiladas with some chicken broth and let them cook overnight. The chicken is really easy to shred in the morning.
If you’re in a hurry, you can use my Instant Pot Chicken Breast Recipe, then shred those. To save time, use a shredded rotisserie chicken instead of making your own.
Substitute flour tortillas for corn
I prefer to use fresh corn tortillas as I find that flour tortillas become gummy in enchiladas. So the leftovers don’t taste as good as corn tortillas. If you’re going to make enchiladas with flour tortillas, I recommend only making one pan at a time.
Use other kinds of cheese
This delicious enchilada recipe is also great with shredded Monterey Jack cheese, pepper jack or a blend of your favorites. You can use the pre-shredded Mexican cheese blend, but I find that doesn’t melt as well as shredding your own. Sometimes I’ll sprinkle them with a little Cotija cheese for extra flavor.
How to make cheese enchiladas
If you want to skip the meat and make cheese enchiladas, just increase the amount of cheese you’re filling your tortillas with. To make them completely vegetarian, the only change you need to make is to substitute 5 cups of water or vegetable broth for the chicken stock.
How to make beef enchiladas
Just replace the shredded chicken with shredded beef. I love using Barbacoa Beef in my enchiladas! It’s so flavorful. If I use beef, I like to use a combination of red onion and green chiles rather than green onions to flavor the meat.
Using canned sauce instead of homemade
If you’re in a hurry or have some on hand, you can use store bought, canned enchilada sauce in place of my homemade enchilada sauce recipe. You can also substitute green sauce, white sauce or sour cream sauce if you prefer.
How to substitute tomato sauce for paste
Yes, you can use tomato sauce instead of paste if that’s all you have. Cans of tomato paste are typically 6 ounces and cans of tomato sauce are usually 15 ounces. You’ll need to reduce the amount of chicken stock you add by about 2 cups if you use tomato sauce in place of paste or it’ll be too runny.
Best side dishes to serve with chicken enchiladas
Some of my favorite sides to serve with Mexican enchiladas are:
- Instant Pot Refried Beans
- Instant Pot Black Beans
- Instant Pot Pinto Beans
- Instant Pot Mexican Rice
- Cilantro Lime Rice
- Garlic Roasted Bell Peppers
- Spicy Carrots
Ideas for enchilada toppings
I most often top my enchiladas with sour cream, but there are lots of great options:
How to prepare enchiladas ahead of time
Yes, I love to assemble the enchiladas one night, then bake them the next day. This is also great if you want to take them to a pot luck. Don’t keep for more than 2-3 days without baking.
Make bulk enchilada sauce spice mix
I make enchiladas often, so I keep the spice mix premade in the our spice cabinet. If you want to do the same, you can double, triple or quadruple the amounts used in my chicken enchilada recipe and keep it in your pantry.
Freezing chicken enchiladas
If you want to freeze the second pan, tightly wrap your pan of unbaked enchiladas in both foil and plastic wrap. They keep well in the freezer for 2-3 months. Defrost before baking.
More Mexican food recipes
Growing up in San Diego, Mexican food was a staple of my diet. Here are some of my favorite recipes:
- Instant Pot Carne Asada
- Instant Pot Barbacoa Beef (a spicy dish)
- Homemade Tamales
- Vegetarian Tacos
- Chicken Chilaquiles
Tips to simplify dinner prep
There are 2 things I do to make dinner prep (and all meal prep) easier in my home. The first is to plan out our meals each month with a Printable Meal Planner. It’s so easy when you know ahead of time what you need to buy and make!
I also do a lot of grocery shopping online to keep our freezer and pantry well stocked with our staples. While I most often order from Misfits Market, there are lots of places where you can order produce online and buy meat online.
Chicken Enchiladas in Red Sauce
Enchilada Filling Ingredients
- 3 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast - cooked and shredded
- 6 green onions
- 1 pound cheddar cheese - grated
Red Enchilada Sauce Ingredients
- ¼ cup butter
- 2 tablespoons gluten free all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 12 ounces tomato paste
- 5 cups chicken stock
- Cutting Board
- Mixing bowl
- Sauce Pan
- Mixing spoon
- Large skillet
- Aluminum foil
- Baking dish
- Combine the shredded chicken and green onions in a large mixing bowl, then set aside.
- Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan, then whisk in the red enchilada sauce spices to make a paste.
- Add 2 cups of chicken stock, then whisk until smooth.
- When the mixture is warm, add the tomato paste and whisk until smooth.
- Add the rest of the chicken stock and continue whisking until smooth. Allow the mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes, whisking frequently. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Heat the oil (about ¼” deep) in a frying pan. Fry each tortilla for about 10 seconds on each side to soften them.
- Transfer fried tortillas to a plate covered in paper towels to help to drain the excess oil.
- Once all of the tortillas are lightly fried, dip a tortilla in the red sauce using tongs. Be careful as they’ll be hot.
- Place a tortilla in a baking dish, add chicken mixture and cheese to the center of each tortilla, then roll them up and place them seam side down.
- Repeat until the pan is full. Then fill the second pan.
- After your baking pans are full, pour enchilada sauce over the top of them.
- Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and extra green onions, if desired.
- Bake the enchiladas covered with foil for 20 minutes at 350° F, then for an additional 10-15 minutes uncovered.
- We love to serve our enchiladas topped with sour cream and hot sauce, but they’re great on their own too. Garnish with chopped green onions.