I have been baking this 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 store. But it’s incredibly easy to make your own delicious homemade enchilada sauce with simple ingredients.
This recipe makes two pans of cheesy chicken enchiladas. You can halve this recipe if you only want to make one pan or see tips below for freezing the second pan.
Easy Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce
Enchilada Filling Ingredients
- 3 pounds chicken breast - cooked and shredded
- 6 green onions
- 1 pound cheddar cheese - grated
Red Enchilada Sauce Ingredients
- 24 corn tortillas
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Sour cream - optional for topping
- Cutting Board
- Mixing bowl
- Sauce Pan
- Mixing spoon
- Frying pan
- 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 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 1/4″ 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.
- As you fry the tortillas, set them on 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 the tortilla in a 9" x 13" baking dish. Add chicken mixture and cheese to the center of each tortilla, then roll them up and place seam side down so they don't unroll.
- Repeat until the pan is full. I can typically fit 8 enchiladas across the pan, and then 4 more lengthwise at the bottom of the pan. Fill the second pan.
- After your pans are full, pour the remaining 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. 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.
- 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.
Nutrition Information Per Serving
Tips for Making Homemade Enchiladas
1. What’s the 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 stock and let them cook overnight. The chicken is really easy to shred in the morning.
If you’re in a hurry, you can make Instant Pot chicken breasts and shred those. Even faster, use a rotisserie chicken instead of making your own.
2. Can you use flour tortillas?
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.
3. Can you use other types of cheese?
This recipe is also great with 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.
4. Can I use this recipe to make beef enchiladas?
Absolutely! Just replace the shredded chicken with shredded beef. I love using Barbacoa Beef in my enchiladas! It’s so flavorful.
5. Can I use canned sauce?
If you’re in a hurry or have some on hand, you can use canned enchilada sauce in place of my homemade red sauce. You can also substitute green sauce or sour cream sauce if you prefer.
6. Best sides to serve with chicken enchiladas?
7. Can I make these ahead of time?
Yes, I love to assemble the enchiladas one night, then bake them the next. 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.
8. Making 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 recipe above and keep it in your pantry.
9. Can you freeze these enchiladas?
If you want to freeze the second pan, cover unbaked enchiladas in pan tightly wrapped with foil and plastic wrap. They keep well in the freezer for 2-3 months. Defrost before baking.