How to Cook Authentic Red Enchiladas Like the Pros

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This authentic red enchilada recipe (enchiladas rojas) is what real Mexican-Americans make at home. (Ask me how I know this.) This is what we call enchiladas callejeras or “street enchiladas.” It’s a recipe I enjoyed as a child, and my own kids leap for joy when I make it now. I hope this simple Mexican dish will become part of your meal rotation too.

Red enchiladas (enchiladas rojas) served with diced carrots and potatoes, charro beans and Spanish rice

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What are red enchiladas?

Red enchiladas typically consist of a savory filling like beef, chicken or cheese, rolled in lightly fried corn tortillas covered in a sauce.

Red enchiladas topped with queso fresco cheese and cilantro, served with sides of diced potatoes/carrots, rice and beans

Compared to other red enchiladas, you’ll find this recipe has a more earthy, hearty flavor, since the sauce sticks to the tortilla itself as opposed to flooding the plate.

You’ll cook these enchiladas in a skillet rather than the oven, and the traditional serving suggestion includes diced carrots and potatoes coated in the same red enchilada sauce. Heavenly!

Ingredients for red enchiladas, including corn tortillas, queso fresco, carrots, red potatoes, and ancho chiles
Ingredients for enchiladas rojas

The best cheese for red enchiladas

These enchiladas rojas include the smoky flavor of real ancho chile peppers complemented with the rich and smooth taste of queso fresco.

If you’re not familiar with queso fresco, it has the crumbly consistency of feta or goat cheese, but the flavor is far smoother and brighter. My favorite brand of cheese is La Vaquita, which originated right here in Houston, Texas!

Unlike cheddar cheese or Monterey Jack, queso fresco stands up to the heat and doesn’t melt completely. It resembles the texture of ground beef, so it provides a hearty filling for enchiladas.

No more cheese sauce running into your frijoles, mis amigos!

Choosing the right peppers for enchiladas rojas

Ancho chiles with seeds and stems being removed

You must use dried ancho chiles to get the right flavor for these enchiladas. I have mistakenly bought a different variety in the past (Pasilla peppers), and I had some harsh critics at dinner that night. Whoops!

Your best bet is to find an authentic brand of packaged peppers in the international food aisle. Amazon even sells these dried ancho chile peppers online.

Note: The freshest dried peppers should bend without breaking or crumbling. Always remove the seeds before cooking.

For another recipe using ancho chiles, try my authentic chicken mole recipe.

What to serve with red enchiladas?

Enchiladas rojas or red enchiladas served with Spanish rice (Mexican rice) and charro beans

Most restaurants will serve enchiladas rojas with some form of rice and beans (refried or charro). I have an excellent Spanish rice recipe (a.k.a. Mexican rice) you should try!

As mentioned, this recipe traditionally comes with diced carrots and potatoes, and you can add a garnish of cilantro, onions, lime wedges, sour cream, green onions, or sliced lettuce and diced tomato. Get fancy with it!

More recipe notes

  • For added flavor, some people choose to add diced onion to the cheese filling before rolling the enchiladas. (Not for my kids, though!)
  • Feel free to add other alternatives like shredded chicken or ground beef as a filling.
  • To keep enchiladas warm, you can pre-heat an oven to 200°F and place rolled enchiladas there in a baking dish before serving. However, I find that throwing them back in the skillet or comal is enough to serve them piping hot.
  • While you need no added spices to get great flavor in these enchiladas rojas, you can experiment with roasting your peppers before immersing in water or adding garlic, oregano or other Mexican spices.
  • Never boil your peppers, or they will become bitter.
  • Some recipes call for using other peppers like guajillo, but there’s really no need since the anchos already provide a sweet, rich taste.

Don’t forget to pin this for later!

Red enchiladas with potatoes, carrots, rice and beans
Red enchiladas served with diced carrots and potatoes and sides of borracho beans and Spanish rice

Red Enchiladas Recipe (Enchiladas Rojas)

Yield: 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

These red enchiladas (enchiladas rojas) have the smoky, rich taste of ancho chiles balanced by the smooth, bright flavor of queso fresco. It's a traditional Mexican dish that is hearty and satisfying.

Ingredients

Red enchilada sauce recipe

  • 5 dried ancho chile peppers
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt to taste

Tortillas and filling

  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 8 ounces queso fresco
  • 1/2 onion, diced (optional)
  • 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Sides

  • 4 carrots
  • 3 red potatoes

Instructions

  1. Peel and slice carrots, and dice the peeled potatoes into small cubes. Then boil the vegetables over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until tender but firm. Drain completely. Sliced carrots and diced potatoes with cilantro
  2. Remove seeds and stems from ancho chiles.Removing seeds from ancho chile peppers
  3. Place 2 cups of water in a small pot and bring to a boil, then immediately remove from heat.
  4. Add chiles to hot water and steep for 2-3 minutes until softened.
  5. Remove softened chiles from the pot and blend in a food processor or blender briefly until the mixture becomes like a paste. Add 4-5 tablespoons of water from the pot and season with salt.Red enchilada sauce in food processor after blending
  6. Place the sauce in a pie pan or shallow dish.
  7. Heat just enough vegetable oil in a skillet or comal to cover the surface of the pan. Leave at medium high heat.
  8. Place the tortillas into the sauce and smother both sides.Coating a corn tortilla in homemade red enchilada sauce to prepare for frying
  9. Fry the tortillas in the skillet or comal for about 10 seconds per side, enough to moisten the tortilla but not break apart.
  10. Fill the tortilla with queso fresco cheese and onions (optional) or any other savory filling of your choice.
  11. Return the rolled enchiladas to the skillet for another minute to reheat along with the carrots and potatoes. Add the remaining sauce to the vegetables until coated. Add more oil to the pan if needed to make the enchiladas slightly crispy.

Notes

Never boil the chile peppers, since this may cause the sauce to get bitter. Only steep them in hot water.

You may need to add more oil after to the skillet making a few enchiladas since the tortillas will absorb some of the oil as you cook.

For a complete list of FAQs, please see the full post.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 322Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 20mgSodium: 330mgCarbohydrates: 41gFiber: 7gSugar: 4gProtein: 11g

Nutritional information may vary based on specific products used.

Did you make this recipe?

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FAQs

Over the years, I’ve asked my mom many of the below questions in learning how to cook authentic Mexican food. If you have another question, please leave a comment! I typically respond within a few hours.

Can I use other types of peppers?

You can choose to complement your ancho chiles with other members of the “holy trinity” of Mexican peppers, like Pasilla or Guajillo. The anchos are necessary for a subtle sweetness, however. Using only Pasilla peppers will result in a more bitter flavor, for instance.

What kind of cheese do you use for red enchiladas?

You can use cheddar, Monterey Jack, queso blanco or queso fresco for cheese enchiladas. My favorite is queso fresco since it doesn’t melt completely and provides great texture and substance.

Are enchiladas better with corn or flour tortillas?

Authentic enchiladas always use corn tortillas (tortillas de maiz). Typically you would use flour tortillas in dishes without sauces like tacos al carbon or Tex-Mex dishes like my chicken fajitas recipe.

Can I use uncooked tortillas for enchiladas?

No, do not use uncooked tortillas for enchiladas as these will not absorb the enchilada sauce properly. Always fully cook your tortillas before making enchiladas.

Why are my enchiladas soggy?

Soggy enchiladas happen when the tortilla is fried too long before rolling or sits in the sauce too long before serving.

Why do my tortillas fall apart when I make enchiladas?

Tortillas can break apart for three reasons: 1) the tortillas were previously frozen or soggy before frying, 2) the tortillas were fried for too long before coating in sauce or 3) the tortillas themselves are of poor quality.

Certain brands of tortillas tend to hold up better when frying, so you might try another brand if you’ve ruled out other possibilities.

How do you make crispy enchiladas?

After rolling enchiladas with filling, you can make them crispy by returning them to them to a hot skillet or comal lightly coated in vegetable oil. Flip only once to prevent the enchiladas from becoming dry.

Can you freeze cooked enchiladas?

You can freeze cooked enchiladas for up to 3-4 months, and you may find that broiling them or lightly frying them again in a skillet will help them return to a crispy texture. Using a microwave to reheat the dish will likely result in soggy or chewy enchiladas.


I was amazed at how much my two boys loved this recipe the first time I made it. I hope your family will enjoy it every bit as much. Don’t forget to tag me on Instagram if you try it!

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6 Comments

  1. Yum, this recipe looks amazing. I cannot wait to make it for my family. I pinned this recipe for safekeeping.
    Have a beautiful day,
    Kippi

  2. Oh I’m going to try these next week! We love enchiladas and this will be a great new recipe. And it’s gluten free!

    1. That’s awesome, Christina! Thanks for letting me know! I suggest buying the Bolner’s Fiesta Ancho Chile Pods that come packaged. They should be in the international aisle or spice aisle. I also like the corn tortillas in the bakery section. Let me know how it goes!