Creamy Chicken Enchiladas are baked bubbly in a luscious tomato cream sauce topped with lots of cheese for a crowd pleasing hearty Mexican casserole. You’ll agree that these is the best creamy chicken enchilada recipe you’ll ever find.
This recipe was first published October 2009 and has been updated in October 2020.
Why This Recipe Works
Can you ever go wrong with Mexican Food? It’s perfect weather for a hearty Mexican casserole in the form of this baked creamy chicken enchiladas casserole. Your hungry family will love this creamy chicken enchiladas with red sauce. Let’s take a look.
This recipe comes with impressive credentials as it’s an adaptation of a Rick Bayless recipe. His expertise lies in the fact that he has spent a few years living in Mexico and brings us fresh, delicious creations inspired by authentic Mexican cuisine.
Along with it’s pedigree, this recipe has everything you want in an enchilada casserole:
Gather Your Ingredients For Creamy Chicken Enchiladas
- Roasted Chile Peppers Chile peppers are a staple in Mexican Cuisine. And more than likely they’re roasted to bring a hint of smoky flavor and that “just right” spicy heat.
- Mexican Crema A creamy tangy Mexican condiment that’s thicker and richer than American Sour Cream. It’s higher in fat so it doesn’t curdle as easy which makes it a perfect choice for stirring into hot soups and creamy sauces, like this tomato cream sauce for this recipe. It puts the “creamy” into this chicken enchilada recipe.
- Fresh Tomatoes When in season, sweet juicy fresh tomatoes will take this recipe over the top.
- Chicken Breast Roasted to perfection, juicy, tender and shredded, chicken breast makes this a healthier option when making enchiladas.
- White Cheese Enchiladas would be enchiladas without that ooey-gooey melty cheese factor. For this recipe we’re using a white melting cheese.
- Chicken: Roast boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this recipe. Shredded rotisserie chicken, both white and dark meat, also works well here. Grilled chicken is an excellent choice, bringing a smoky flavor to the recipe.
- Canned Tomatoes: If fresh tomatoes are not in season, please don’t turn to those sad hot-house tomatoes that we find in our markets during the winter. Canned tomatoes make a good choice. San Marzano tomatoes are an excellent choice. No need to drain them, and no need to roast them with the peppers.
- Oil: The recipe calls for olive oil to saute the onions. Lard or bacon fat is even better here. More flavor.
- Melting Cheese: Not all cheeses are good for melting. For this recipe choose Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack, or my favorite, Muenster. A good quality Mexican melting cheese is a great choice. Choose Chihuahua, Quesadilla, or Asadero. All can be found in well stocked produce section.
- Vegetable Broth: You can substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. If you’re in a pinch, and all you have is beef broth, you can substitute one for the other, but there will be subtle changes in the flavor and color of the finished dish. But it will still taste great.
I’ve always said, that if someone makes homemade enchiladas for you, it means they love you. The process can be tedious but the flavor outcome, incredible. Who can resist a savory sauce and lots of cheese.
For The Roasted Shredded Chicken Breast
- Generously brush three boneless skinless chicken breast halves with olive oil and roast for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
- While the chicken is roasting, start the tomato cream sauce.
- Cool the chicken and shred the meat. Set aside.
- Grate two cups of cheese. Set aside. Muenster or Pepper Jack works well here also.
Tomato Cream Sauce
- Place about 15 medium sized tomatoes and 3-4 chile peppers on a baking sheet. Use any combination of chile peppers that you like. Jalapeno, Poblano, Anaheim, Hatch or Mirasol.
- Broil in oven about 5 inches from heat for five minutes.
- I would suggest when in season, use fresh tomatoes. If using canned tomatoes you won’t need to roast them.
- When you start to see charred spots, turn the tomatoes and peppers over and broil another 5 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool.
- Working over the same baking sheet, remove skins and cores from the tomatoes and remove skins from the peppers.
Place tomatoes and peppers along with the juices from the baking sheet into a food processor and puree until smooth.
- In a Dutch oven saute one chopped onion in olive oil until tender, about 7 minutes.
- Turn up heat to medium high and add pureed tomato/chili mixture to onion.
- Add chicken broth.
- Partially cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- When done, the texture of the sauce should be soupy. If the sauce is too thick add a little more broth.
- Stir in 1/2 Cup of Mexican crema, set aside and keep warm. You’re ready to prep the corn tortillas to make this creamy chicken enchilada recipe.
Prepare the Corn Tortillas
How do you keep corn tortillas from breaking? You simply can’t take a corn tortilla out of the package and use it to make tacos or enchiladas. You’ve got to soften the tortillas by warming them. Only then can they be rolled into enchiladas or folded for tacos.
An easy way to heat corn tortillas is to spray them with oil and baking them. The oil creates a slight barrier which will help them soak up a little bit of the sauce but not too much to make them soggy.
A soggy or mushy enchilada will surely break your heart.
On a baking sheet, place 12 oiled corn tortillas. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with a towel to keep warm.
Roll Those Creamy Enchiladas
Spoon 1/2 of the tomato cream sauce into a casserole baking pan. Working fast, so tortillas don’t cool, place shredded chicken inside a warm tortilla and roll.
Start placing enchiladas seam side down into the sauce.
- Using all of the available pan space, use your imagination on spacing the enchiladas to fit.
- Spoon the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.
- Sprinkle with grated cheese.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubbly and cheese just starts to brown.
You’ve got yourself some creamy chicken enchiladas with a red sauce that’s beautifully creamy.
Garnish baked enchiladas with fresh sweet onion rings, cilantro and rings of sliced jalapeno.
Expert tips and FAQ’s
Dampen a clean kitchen towel by briefly running it under water from the faucet. Place a stack of tortillas on the towel and fold the towel over the tortillas. Place them inside a gallon zip-lock bag, don’t seal the bag. Place in microwave and cook for 4 minutes at 50% power level. Let the tortillas steam inside the bag for a few minutes before using.
Frying corn tortillas is the traditional way to soften corn tortillas to make enchiladas. Frying creates a barrier on the surface of the tortilla which allows the tortilla to soak up a little of the sauce, but not enough to disintegrate it. Using a large fry pan, add about 3 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is hot, place one tortilla at a time into the hot oil. Let it sizzle for about 15 – 30 seconds. Use a wide spatula to turn the tortilla over and fry for an additional 15 seconds. Remove the tortillas to a plate and cover to keep warm while frying the remainder of the tortillas.
No. A flour tortilla rolled with any type of filling is a burrito not an enchilada. Flour tortillas are thicker and will soak up too much of the sauce called for in this recipe. You’ll be left with a very dry casserole.
Once peppers are roasted, place them in a plastic bag. No need to seal the bag. Let them steam for about 5 minutes. Remove the peppers from the bag and slide most of the skins off with your hands. DO NOT run chiles under water to remove skin. You’re washing away that smoky flavor. I like to leave some little patches of skin on for the flavor.
Creamy Chicken Enchiladas with Red Sauce
I hope you give this baked chicken enchilada with red sauce recipe a try, and if you do, please give the recipe a star rating and scroll down a leave a comment about your experience with the recipe. I love hearing from my readers.
And if you have a favorite chicken enchilada recipe, let me know I’d love to give it a try.
More Enchilada Recipes
And if you love Mexican food, don’t miss my Mexican Southwest Category. It’s chock full of ole’ goodness. And you’ll find the most popular recipe of all time on my site, Hatch Green Chili, Colorado Style.
Creamy Chicken Enchilada Recipe
- 3 whole green chiles poblano, jalapenos, Hatch or Mirasol or a mixture.
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 cups chicken broth plus a little extra if needed
- 1/2 cup Mexican Crema or creme fraiche or heavy whipping cream
- 3 pounds fresh tomatoes or 2-28 ounce cans good quality whole tomatoes, drained
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon vegetable oil Or lard. Plus a little for brushing or spraying the tortillas
- 2 cups coarsley shredded chicken breast grilled, roasted, or rotisserie
- 2/3 cup Mexican Cheese Shredded. Monterey Jack, Chihuahua, quesadilla, asadero
- 12 corn tortillas
- 6 slices yellow onion separated into rings for garnish
- Fresh Cilantro for garnish
- Heat the oven to 350°.
- For fresh tomatoes: Roast the tomatoes and chiles on a baking sheet 4 inches below a hot broiler, until they're darkly roasted. Turning to roast all sides. Cut off the tops of the chiles, shake out the seeds, remove most of the charred skin with your hands. Place roasted peppers and tomatoes in a food processor and blend to a smooth puree.
- If using canned tomatoes: No need to roast canned tomatoes. Once the chiles are roasted, place canned tomatoes and roasted peppers into a food processor and blend to a smooth puree.
- Cook The Onions: In a 4-5 quart Dutch oven, heat the oil (or lard, or bacon fat) over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring regularly, until golden, about 5-7 minutes.
- Make the Sauce: Raise the heat to medium-high, and stir in the tomato/pepper puree. Cook, stirring, until darker in color and thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the chicken broth, partially cover and simmer 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon. The sauce should be a slightly soupy consistency—not as thick as spaghetti sauce. If it is too thick, stir in a little additional broth. Stir the Mexican crema into the sauce. Keep warm over low heat.
- Season the Chicken: Put the chicken in a bowl and stir 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture into it. Taste and season with additional salt if you think it needs it.
- Soften the Corn Tortillas: Lay the tortillas out on a baking sheet (2 sheets if you have them, for more even heating), and lightly brush or spray both sides of the tortillas with oil. Bake just to warm through and soften, about 3 minutes. Stack the tortillas and cover with a towel to keep warm.
- Build the Enchiladas: Smear about half of the sauce over the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking dish.
- Working quickly so the tortillas stay hot and pliable, roll a portion of the chicken into each tortilla, (don't over-fill) then line them all up in the baking dishes. Douse evenly with the remaining sauce, then sprinkle with the cheese.
- Bake until the enchiladas are hot through (the cheese will have begun to brown), about 15 minutes.
- Garnish with onion rings, slices of jalapeno pepper and cilantro sprigs. These are best served piping hot from the oven.
Creamy Chicken Enchilada Recipe … It’s Whats for Dinner
Why Trust These Recipes? Lea Ann Brown has lived, worked and played in Colorado for 45 years. She has immersed herself in the Colorado Culinary space, is a Culinary School Graduate and publishes her Colorado food Blog, Cooking On The Ranch.