Hello! Welcome to Djalali Cooks. Today’s recipe is an easy favorite. How can you not love savory roasted chicken wrapped with cheese in a tortilla and baked in a rich, spicy, fire-roasted pepper sauce? Well, I am sure there are some folks out there who will take a pass on Chicken Enchiladas, but this recipe is not like the soggy, sauce drenched versions you find at many sit-down Mexican restaurants. It hits all the right notes and then some. Let’s get right to it!
I know many don’t have a wood oven for roasting your peppers, but it’s worth firing up the grill for these peppers. You can plan a little ahead and toss them on at the end or the beginning when you’re grilling something else, peel them and save them in the fridge or freezer for when you want to go for the Chicken Enchiladas. If you’re using a gas grill or even if you’re charring these in the oven, a little liquid smoke can help give you the fire-roasted flavor we are getting with the fire. Liquid smoke is a completely natural product that is simply condensed wood smoke.
I multitasked this fire on my pizza cook day this week; roasting the peppers and the tomatoes before the fire was up to temp for the pizzas. Once the peppers cooled enough to handle, I peeled off the charred skin, seeded and stemmed them; then tossed the peppers and the tomatoes (charred skin left on the tomatoes) in a container and put them in the fridge overnight.
Fire-Roasted Enchilada Sauce
To the roasted poblano peppers, jalapeños, and tomatoes; we will add one 28-ounce can of whole San Marzano tomatoes with their juices, one medium onion sliced in wedges, 2 cups of chicken bone broth, garlic, and a combination of chipotle powder, cumin, oregano and chili powder. I am using Guajillo chile powder because I prefer its fruity, sharp flavor. It brings a little more heat because it is not a blend, like chili powder. Chili Powder is a blend of chilis and often contains salt, ground oregano and cumin. If you’re using liquid smoke, now’s the time to add it to the mix. Just go a little at a time and taste the sauce after it’s blended and add more according to taste.
Toss everything onto a large pot or Dutch oven and being to a boil over medium-high heat. Then, reduce to a simmer and let simmer, stirring occasionally for about 35-40 minutes; until the onions are soft. Meanwhile, let’s get to the chicken.
While the sauce is cooking down, bake off the chicken thighs. We prefer dark meat, so I have 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I am just going to bake these in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes. You can certainly use a store-bought rotisserie chicken if you like. Typically in Chicken Enchiladas, the chicken is shredded, and I find that when it’s shredded, the texture of the meat gets lost in the soft tortilla, cheese and sauce. For today’s enchiladas, we are going to dice the chicken after it’s baked. Don’t bother to trim the excess fat; it will render in the oven and we can then pour the chicken fat drippings over the diced chicken.
As far as seasoning goes, you can just go with salt and pepper if you like, but I went with a blend of spices and used it as a rub to give the chicken its own flavor component; so it doesn’t just blend into the sauce. The spice mix I am using is roughly: 1 tablespoon of cumin, 2 teaspoons turmeric, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 tablespoons Kosher Salt, 1 teaspoon Guajillo chile powder. I typically have some mixture like this saved in a jar in the pantry. So these are rough measurements. Add more or less of anything you like! It’s a very cumin-forward spice blend that marries with the flavors of the sauce very nicely.
Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from the oven and reduce oven temp to 375 degrees. Let the chicken cool a bit; while you’re waiting, slice the Pepper Jack cheese in half lengthwise, then into strips. Shred about 1 to 1.5 cups of sharp cheddar cheese on a box grater.
Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, dice each thigh and once all are diced, drizzle the chicken drippings from the pan over the diced chicken, if desired.
Blend the Sauce
After about 35-40 minutes of simmering, the veggies should be soft enough to blend into a smooth sauce. Turn off the heat and let the veggie mixture cool for about 10-15 minutes. I have an immersion blender but you can do this in batches in a regular blender too.
Chicken Enchilada Assembly
Set up an enchilada-making station with your diced chicken and cheese, the enchilada sauce, flour or corn tortillas, and a 9″ by 13″ baking dish – sprayed with light layer of cooking spray. Spread 1 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Spread about 1 tablespoon of sauce on the bottom portion of the tortilla. Add a couple tablespoons of chicken, then a strip of cheese.
Then, from the bottom, tightly roll up the enchilada away from you. Place enchiladas, seam side-down horizontally in the baking dish. Depending on the size of your tortilla, the amount of filling will vary. Tortilla size will also determine how many you can fit in a dish. I was able to tightly fit seven enchiladas in my dish.
Once they’re all rolled and in place, cover with about two cups of sauce. I like to leave some of the tortilla ends exposed so they get a little crispy. You will have enough sauce remaining to make another batch or to save for another dish. I think the sauce would be a great base for chili, or to braise a pork shoulder for tacos.
Time to Bake!
Bake the Chicken Enchiladas covered, for 30 minutes on the middle rack of the oven. Take them out after 30 minutes and sprinkle with any remaining Pepper Jack cheese, and the grated cheddar. Place back in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes more – until the cheese is melted.
Top these bad-boys with your favorite Mexican condiments. I went with a little avocado salsa: one diced avocado tossed with the juice of one lime, some Kosher salt, cilantro and pickled red onions.
Serve them up one or two at a time and top with salsa, sour cream, avocado salsa – anything you like! Or nothing at all –because these Chicken Enchiladas are fantastic on their own!
What a satisfying dish! The chicken filling is so savory – it can stand on its own, but when mixed with the deeply flavored fire-roasted pepper sauce, it really sings. The red sauce seems spicy, on its own, but when it’s with the chicken, tortillas and cheese, the spice plays in perfect harmony. Cheddar and Pepper Jack cheese is gooey and melted, but not at all overwhelming. The flour tortillas are soft and pliable, not unlike a perfectly cooked lasagne noodle.
Thanks everyone, for stopping by today. I hope you give this dish a try. I know as the weather warms up a hot dish of Chicken Enchiladas might not be the first thing on your list – but it’s worth the trouble and the hot oven! Make a batch and freeze them for later, or bring them to a potluck, I guarantee they will be a winner! If you’re looking for a greener enchilada, try my Enchiladas Verdes. Remember you can follow me on Pinterest for all the Djalali Cooks recipes in one convenient location! Take care and be well, xo Kelly
Chicken Enchiladas with Fire-Roasted Pepper Sauce
Rubbed and baked chicken thighs fill soft flour tortillas with Pepper Jack cheese and a fire-roasted pepper sauce; topped with cheddar cheese and baked to enchilada perfection.
- Fire-Roasted Pepper Sauce
- 3 Poblano Peppers
- 3 Jalapeño Peppers
- 8-10 Campari or Plum Tomatoes, with their juices
- 1 28-oz. can Whole, Crushed or Diced Tomatoes
- 2 cups Chicken Bone Broth
- 1 medium Onion, cut in wedges
- 6-8 cloves Garlic
- 1 tbsp. Chipotle Pepper Powder
- 1 tbsp. Chili Powder (or Guajillo Chile Powder)
- 1 tsp. Ground Cumin
- 1 tsp. Dried Oregano
- 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
- Chicken + Rub
- 2 lbs. Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- 1 tbsp. Ground Cumin
- 2 tsp. Ground Turmeric
- 2 tsp. Garlic Powder
- 2 tsp. Dried Oregano
- 2 tbsp. Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp. Guajillo Chile Powder.
- 1 Package (9-12) 8-10" Flour Tortillas
- 3.5 cups Fire-Roasted Pepper Sauce
- 8 oz. Pepper Jack Cheese, cut into thick strips
- 1.5 cups Cheddar Cheese, grated
Fire-Roasted Pepper Sauce
Drizzle poblanos, jalapeños and plum tomatoes with grapeseed oil and sprinkle with Kosher salt.
In an oven with the broiler set to high, or over hot coals and flames of a grill, roast the peppers and the tomatoes until the skin chars and blisters. Watch them, and turn them as each side blisters, until the whole vegetable is blistered with char spots.
Remove from heat and let cool until cool enough to handle.
Remove the charred skin from the peppers, remove the stems and seeds.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, add the fire-roasted veggies, can of tomatoes, broth, onion, garlic and spices. bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 35-40 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to puree the sauce to a smooth consistency. Or, working in batches, transfer veggies to a blender and blend until smooth.
Chicken + Rub
While the sauce is simmering make a spice rub for the chicken thighs. In a small dish, whisk together cumin, turmeric, garlic powder, oregano, chile powder and salt.
Generously coat chicken thighs on all sides with the spice rub. place chicken pieces on a rimmed sheet tray and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until chicken is firm to the touch. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Lightly coat a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray and spread 1 cup of the pepper sauce in the bottom of the dish.
Lay a flour tortilla flat and spread about 1 tablespoon of the pepper sauce, in a stripe, on the lower part of the tortilla.
Add about 2-3 tablespoons of chicken. Lay one strip of Pepper Jack cheese in the center of the chicken.
Fold the bottom of the tortilla over the filling and tightly roll the tortilla up, away from you.
Place the tortilla, seam side-down in the baking dish. Continue with remaining tortillas.
Line them up, horizontally along the 9" side, in a single layer in the baking dish. Depending on the amount of filling and size of your tortilla, you should get 7-10 enchiladas to fit.
Cover the rolled enchiladas with about 2 cups of the pepper sauce and bake, covered for 30 minutes.
Remove from oven and add remaining Pepper Jack Cheese and grated cheddar, transfer back to oven and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Remove from oven and let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.
TerryJune 2, 2021 at 10:42 am
Yumm, thus looks really good. I usually make green sauce with enchiladas. But this red sauce looks really good I will definitely give this a shot ❤️Mom
Kelly DjalaliJune 2, 2021 at 11:02 am
It’s a very flavorful sauce, I think you will really like it, Mom. xo Kelly
Sylvia EspinozaJune 2, 2021 at 11:55 am
Thanks for the explanation on the difference between chile and chil powders. “Exactly the same, but different,” as my little boys once said to make their point in a debate with me long, long ago. You’ve also provided a great idea for what to do with peppers coming out of hubby’s garden! Will let you know if I try fire roasting them. Hugs!~
Kelly DjalaliJune 2, 2021 at 4:20 pm
Hi Sylvia, Such an interesting fact about the chili/chile powder! Definitely fire roast those peppers! Let me know how it goes! Good to hear from you, have a great week! xo Kelly
PeggyJune 4, 2021 at 12:46 am
Can’t WAIT to try this. I’ve made enchiladas over the years but have been thinking lately that I want something with more to it, more authenticity and complexity of flavor. I’m really looking forward to making it. Thanks, Kelly!
Kelly DjalaliJune 4, 2021 at 10:15 am
Hi Peggy! I know what you mean; I love chicken enchiladas, but I never order them at a restaurant…when I thought about why, it’s always because of the chicken filling and the bland red sauce. So this super savory cumin-forward rub, and dicing rather than shredding the chicken really makes the chicken stand out. And fire roasting the peppers and tomatoes (or adding liquid smoke) really does make difference. Try it and definitely let me know what you think! Thanks so much and have a great weekend! xo Kelly
Susan ValleeJune 4, 2021 at 7:30 pm
Kelly, This recipe was outstanding! I also used chicken thighs. They were very moist and flavorful. I will definitely make this recipe again! Another winner!
Kelly DjalaliJune 4, 2021 at 11:08 pm
Hi Susan, I am so happy you tried these enchiladas and it was a hit for you! Thank you so much for writing in. We have been snacking on the leftovers and I have to say, they are just as good as when it came out of the oven! Have a wonderful weekend! xo Kelly