There’s a reason everyone always asks for this chicken enchilada recipe. It’s unlike most others. While most chicken enchiladas are drowning in sauce to keep them from tasting dry, these are tender and packed with flavor all the way through.

This recipe gives the perfect tricks to have a tender flavor packed chicken filling and homemade sauce. Once you make these, you’ll never want any other chicken enchiladas again.

chicken enchiladas in a baking dish topped with sour cream and fresh cilantro

I’ve eaten a lot of enchiladas in my life. For me, having enchiladas at least once a week has been normal since I was a small child. All of that to say, not all chicken enchiladas are created equal.

Enchiladas are a true staple when it comes to Tex Mex and you can pretty much find it on just about every menu around here, including the kids menus. You can get everything from verdes to sour cream to carne to seafood.

There’s one thing you notice when you’ve had as many enchiladas as I’ve had in my life. It’s that most chicken enchiladas you’ll get are dry and basically drowning in sauce to try to mask the dry, bland chicken.

This is where this recipe comes in. This is the one your friends and family will ask for on repeat because it’s unlike all of the others. You won’t have any bland or dry chicken here. These are packed with flavor from the chicken all the way to the homemade sauce.

Why you’ll love

FLAVOR! The one downside to ordering chicken enchiladas at most Tex Mex restaurants is that they end up dry and bland inside. Not these. Not only is the sauce packing a major flavor punch, but so is the filling.

You can make them ahead of time. One really great perk of enchiladas is the ability to make them ahead. You can keep them in the fridge or even freeze them. I love prepping them as a freezer meal for later.

They’re full of classic Tex Mex flavor. Enchiladas are a total Tex Mex staple and a good enchilada is where it’s at. This simple dinner is one your whole family is going to love. Don’t be surprised if it starts getting requested in the weekly dinner rotation.

chicken enchilada ingredients

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs – the chicken thighs can be replaced with boneless skinless chicken breasts or wings. If you use skin-on or bone-in chicken, you’ll need to lengthen the cooking time and remove the skin and bones once the meat is done cooking.
  • salt & pepper – I always opt for coarse kosher salt and ground black pepper.
  • Avocado oil – I use avocado oil for its neutral flavor and high smoke point temperature. It can be replaced with any neutral flavored oil with a similarly high smoke point.
  • Chicken broth – Homemade gives the best flavor (and is super easy to make), but store bought is great too. You could also use stock. You’ll be cooking the chicken in this.
  • Fresh garlic – It’ll need to be minced. Don’t be afraid to grab some jarlic (jarred garlic – that’s pre-minced) or already peeled garlic to save you some time.
  • Onion – Stick with a sweet onion or white onion for this.
  • Dried oregano – Mexican oregano is the best in this recipe, but any dried oregano will work and still taste great.
  • White corn tortillas – If you can’t find white corn tortillas, yellow corn tortillas work as well.
  • Monterey jack cheese – I recommend shredding it yourself. The pre-shredded kind has an anti-caking agent on it that prevents it from melting as smoothly.
  • All purpose flour – This acts as a thickener for the enchilada sauce.
  • Chili powder – Just your standard chili powder is great, but for a little bit of a different taste, you could also try ancho chili powder. It’s delicious as well.
  • Garlic powder – Making sure it isn’t expired is key!
  • Ground cumin – You’ll find this in your grocery store with the other spices.
  • Low sodium vegetable stock – This is going to be for the sauce. You can also use your chicken broth that you cook the chicken in for this.

The homemade sauce can be replaced with store bought sauce – I recommend and prefer the Gebhardt brand if you aren’t going to make the homemade sauce. Gebhardt is a local San Antonio company that produced the first commercial chili powder in 1896 and the first canned chili in 1908. Gebhardt, a German immigrant, and his chili powder helped popularize chili throughout the entire USA.

ingredients to make homemade chicken enchiladas

how to make chicken for enchiladas

I like to sear my chicken before adding liquid to poach it. It really helps lock in more of that great flavor, which is then imparted into the enchiladas themselves.

Heat a little avocado oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the chicken and sear on each side for about 2-3 minutes. Once the chicken is seared, add the broth, garlic, onion, and oregano. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer the chicken for about 15 minutes, just until the chicken is cooked through and the internal temperature is 165°F at the thickest part.

seared chicken, onions, spices, and broth in a pan

boiling chicken for enchiladas

The first thing to know about boiling chicken is that you aren’t actually boiling it. You want to poach the chicken in a lightly simmering liquid so your cooked chicken doesn’t end up tough and chewy or rubbery.

Bring your seasoned water or stock to a boil, then turn the heat down to low so the liquid is just at a slow simmer. Add your chicken so it’s completely submerged and covered. Place the lid on the pan and allow the chicken to simmer for about 12-15 minutes for boneless, skinless or about 30 minutes for bone-in chicken with the skin. Most importantly is cooking until the internal temperature has reached the appropriate 165°F. 

Remove the chicken and allow it to cool before shredding it.

how to make chicken enchiladas and red sauce

Follow these step-by-step instructions for the best enchiladas.

Sear the chicken

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of avocado oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.
  3. Add the chicken and sear on each side for about 2-3 minutes. You aren’t cooking the chicken through, you’re just searing it on each side.
  4. Once the chicken is seared, add the broth, garlic, onion, and oregano.
  5. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer the chicken for about 15 minutes, just until the chicken is cooked through and the internal temperature is 165°F at the thickest part.
  6. Remove the chicken from the broth, shred it, and set it aside.
seasoned raw chicken thighs on a cutting board
seared chicken, onions, spices, and broth in a pan

Make the sauce

  1. Begin making the sauce by adding 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet on medium heat.
  2. Sprinkle in the all purpose flour and whisk to combine. It should be smooth and creamy looking.
  3. Season it with chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, and dried oregano. Whisk to combine.
  4. Slowly pour in the broth while whisking until it’s fully combined and thickened. Remove it from the heat. Give it a quick taste to see if it needs salt (this will depend on the stock you use). Add the salt to taste. 
a roux in a skillet
seasoned roux in a skillet
homemade enchilada sauce in a skillet

Assemble the enchiladas

  1. Scoop a little bit of sauce into the bottom of a baking dish, just enough to barely spread across the bottom and set it aside.
  2. In a separate skillet, add 1/4 cup of oil and heat over medium heat.
  3. Add a tortilla to the oil and heat it about 5-7 seconds per side. You aren’t crisping them, you’re just heating them through.
  4. Remove the tortilla from the oil and dip it into the pan of sauce.
  5. Place the sauced tortilla on a flat surface (I use a cutting board) and add some of the shredded chicken along with about 1-2 tablespoons of cheese.
  6. Roll the tortilla up and place it seam side down in the baking dish.
  7. Repeat this for all of the tortillas. I like to work with about 3 tortillas at a time. Once all of the enchiladas are rolled and in the baking dish, pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining shredded cheese.
tortilla being coated in homemade enchilada sauce in a skillet
sauced tortillas on a cutting board
cheese and chicken on top of sauced tortillas on a cutting board

Bake the enchiladas

  1. Bake the assembled enchiladas in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, just until they are hot and the cheese is bubbly.
  2. Allow the cooked enchiladas to cool for about 5 minutes before serving and enjoy!

Short on Time Shortcut

If you’re short of time and it’s a busy night, you can substitute the homemade sauce with canned pre-made sauce. I prefer Gebhardt brand for this. You can also substitute the poached chicken with shredded rotisserie chicken.

tips & tricks

When you’re heating the tortillas, you aren’t frying them to a crisp. They only need a few seconds on each side to heat them and make them soft and pliable so they’ll roll up. 

Use an electric mixer or stand mixer to quickly shred the chicken. 

Instead of using vegetable stock for the sauce, you can use the stock that the chicken was cooked in. Just strain off the garlic and onion or blend it in. 

You can also make shredded chicken in the Instant Pot. It’s a simple, quick way to make a lot of shredded chicken.

what to serve with chicken enchiladas

These are just a few of my top favorite sides to serve with chicken enchiladas for a complete meal.

chicken enchiladas topped with sour cream and cilantro in a baking dish surrounded by serving utensils and fresh cilantro

how to store leftover enchiladas

Allow cooked enchiladas to cool completely before wrapping or storing. Place leftovers in an airtight container or cover tightly with plastic wrap. Stored properly, refrigerated enchiladas will be good for 3-4 days.

freezing chicken enchiladas

These chicken enchiladas can even be made ahead and freeze well for up to 3 months! Enchiladas freeze exceptionally well.

Cook the enchiladas fully and allow them to cool completely. Once cool, place them in a large freezer safe bag or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Then cover that tightly in aluminum foil. Stored properly, frozen enchiladas will be good for up to 3 months.

I like to wrap them in a couple different portion sizes from individual to family portions.

how to reheat leftover enchiladas

You can reheat leftover enchiladas in the microwave or in the oven.

In the Microwave – Place them on a microwave safe dish and cover loosely. Reheat on high in 30 second bursts until enchiladas are heated through.

In the Oven – Reheat enchiladas in a preheated 350°F oven for approximately 10-15 minutes until hot.

Reheat from Frozen – Reheat frozen enchiladas in a preheated 350°F oven for approximately 30 minutes until heated through. Make sure you remove them from the foil and plastic wrap before reheating.

I highly recommend reheating them in the oven. They retain their moisture and you’re less likely to overcook the chicken.

FAQs

Can you freeze chicken enchiladas?

You can absolutely freeze enchiladas. Cook the enchiladas fully and allow them to cool completely.

Once cool, place them in a large freezer safe bag or wrap them tightly in plastic wrap. Then cover that tightly in aluminum foil. Stored properly, frozen enchiladas will be good for up to 3 months.

Do enchiladas taste better with corn or flour tortillas?
I think enchiladas taste better with corn tortillas. Corn tortillas have a bigger flavor than flour tortillas. Also, corn tortillas are the more traditional choice authentic to Mexico, while flour tortillas are more common to the Tex-Mex version.

More Tex Mex recipes you might like

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Red Sauce Chicken Enchiladas

5 from 1 vote
Prep 30 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 45 minutes
Servings: 15 enchiladas
These delicious Red Sauce Chicken Enchiladas are a quintessential Tex Mex dinner. Forget bland, dry chicken enchiladas. With this recipe, you'll have the best enchiladas everyone will be asking for the recipe.

Ingredients 

Sauce Ingredients

Instructions 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of avocado oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.
  • Add the chicken and sear on each side for about 2-3 minutes. You aren’t cooking the chicken through, you’re just searing it on each side.
  • Once seared, add the broth, garlic, onion, and oregano.
  • Cover it with a lid and simmer it for about 15 minutes, just until the chicken is cooked through and the internal temperature is 165°F at the thickest part.
  • Remove the chicken from the broth, shred it, and set it aside.
  • Begin making the sauce by adding 2 tablespoons of oil to a skillet on medium heat.
  • Sprinkle in all purpose flour and whisk to combine. It should be smooth and creamy looking.
  • Season it with chili powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, and dried oregano. Whisk to combine.
  • Slowly pour in the broth while whisking until it’s fully combined and thickened. Remove it from the heat.
  • Scoop a little bit of sauce into the bottom of a baking dish, just enough to barely spread across the bottom and set it aside.
  • In a separate skillet, add 1/4 cup of oil and heat over medium heat.
  • Add a tortilla to the oil and heat it about 5-7 seconds per side. You aren’t crisping them, you’re just heating them through.
  • Remove the tortilla from the oil and dip it into the sauce.
  • Place the sauced tortilla on a flat surface (I use a cutting board) and add some of the shredded chicken along with about 1-2 tablespoons of cheese.
  • Roll the tortilla up and place it seam side down in the baking dish.
  • Repeat this for all of the tortillas. I like to work with about 3 tortillas at a time.
  • Once all of the enchiladas are rolled and in the baking dish, pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and top with the remaining shredded cheese.
  • Bake them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, just until they are hot and bubbly.
  • Allow them to cool for about 5 minutes before serving and enjoy!

Video

Notes

Shortcut Tip: 
The homemade sauce can be replaced with store-bought sauce. I recommend and prefer the Gebhardt brand if you aren’t going to make homemade sauce. 
  • When you’re heating the tortillas, you aren’t frying them. They only need a few seconds on each side to heat them and make them pliable.
  • Use an electric mixer to quickly shred the chicken.
  • Instead of using vegetable stock for the sauce, you can use the stock that the chicken was cooked in. Just strain off the garlic and onion.

Nutrition

Serving: 1enchilada, Calories: 181kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 14g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 49mg, Sodium: 328mg, Potassium: 126mg, Fiber: 0.4g, Sugar: 0.2g, Vitamin A: 268IU, Vitamin C: 0.3mg, Calcium: 183mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner, Main Course, Main Dish, Main Dishes
Cuisine: Mexican, Tex-Mex

Hi! I’m Kara!

Kara loves all things food and spending time with her family and dogs. She has a passion for cooking and loves making yummy, family-friendly recipes.

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