I rarely buy canned enchilada sauce any more. Honestly it’s not because I’m being a princess about canned foods, but it’s because even ones labeled “mild” are too spicy for my kids. I think I've tried just about every brand of "mild" sauce I can find, and none of them are really all that mild. I love spicy foods, but my kids aren't there yet. So if I want them to enjoy the meal I am making, then I need to figure out ways to remove spice but preserve flavor.
So after looking at a bunch of different recipes online, I decided to come up with my own version of a simple sauce that suits us just perfectly. It's really flavorful and gives a nice southwest style flavor to dishes, but it's not spicy at all. I love to use this for enchiladas, or more often just an enchilada casserole, but it's also great for simmering chicken or other meat in, to shred up and use for tacos, burritos, salads, etc. I make no claims about this being any kind of authentic - 'real' enchiladas would definitely have a sauce made of chilis. But we're not in Mexico and I'm not Mexican, so this is just my American girl version of this style of dish. I also love that this doesn't require any special or unique ingredients - I can whip up a pot of this sauce very quickly with just ingredients that I pretty much always have in my pantry.
It seems like a lot of spices, and it is. But what we're doing here is making up for the lack of spice from peppers by adding a lot of other flavor. And, as with all of my recipes, this one is super flexible. The quantities of spices are just a guideline.
- 1 quart of chicken broth
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 3/4 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 4 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- salt, to taste
If you know how to make gravy with a roux:
Basically, you’re making a simple gravy with a butter & flour roux, and chicken broth + tomato sauce for the liquid, and spices added for flavor. It’s that simple. The way I like to do it is add all the spices (except salt) at the beginning with the butter and flour, so they toast a bit and get more flavorful. Then whisk in the liquid as usual, and taste to adjust seasoning.
If you don’t know how to make gravy:
Put the butter, flour and all the spices except the salt in a medium stock pot. Stir until the butter is all melted and you have a well blended paste. If you’re feeling brave, you can stir this around in your pan for a few minutes to get a little toasty flavor on everything, just be careful not to burn it. Once the butter and flour are well combined, slowly add your broth, whisking the whole time to avoid lumps. Then add the tomato sauce. Alternatively, you can hold off on adding the spices until you have the liquid mixed in. Let it all simmer for about 10-15 minutes, not boiling, stirring frequently. Taste as you go and decide whether you think you like the flavor, or you want more garlic, or more chili powder, etc. I hold off on the salt until I have everything else combined, because the saltiness of any particular batch of chicken broth or tomato sauce can really vary. So get it all mixed up and then add salt if you feel like it needs it.
- As with basically all of my recipes, this is totally flexible. The spice quantities are just a guideline and you should totally play with the amounts. If you actually want to make this spicy, add a little cayenne pepper, or a bunch more chili powder.
- You can also make this without the tomato sauce, I’ve had it that way and it’s great too.
- This freezes great. This recipe makes more than you’ll need for one recipe of enchiladas, because I like extra. I put it in jam jars and freeze, and then I can just pull out a jar and thaw in the microwave, almost as easy as opening a can.
- You know how much I love homemade chicken broth, but honestly I’ll tell you that it’s not necessary in this recipe. The spices cover up most of that awesome chicken flavor anyway, so I would save your homemade broth for soup and just use a carton of good quality store broth for this. The one exception to this was the time I made a really delicious garlicky broth - that extra garlic flavor was awesome in the enchilada sauce.
- If you wanted to make it vegetarian I don’t see why you couldn’t use vegetable broth.
If you want to make a great shredded chicken for use in other dishes - put chicken pieces in a pot of enchilada sauce, and simmer until it's easy to just pull apart. Then take a fork and shred it up.
Now you can make enchiladas! I never actually make real enchiladas - all that rolling is just too time consuming for my lifestyle. What we make here is an enchilada casserole. It's basically everything you would put in enchiladas, but layered in a casserole instead of rolled up.
Ingredients for Enchilada Casserole:
- 2 cups enchilada sauce
- 3 cups grated cheese
- 1 large or 2 small chicken breasts, cooked.
- 2 cans cream soup (or about 2 cups homemade white sauce)
- 1 can diced green chilis
- about 2 dozen corn tortillas
As with everything, quantities are approximate and can really vary depending on how thick you layer it and how deep your baking dish is.
For white sauce: you can look up a recipe for easy white sauce, or just follow the basic directions for the enchilada sauce above, using milk instead of broth for the liquid, and season with just salt, pepper, garlic, and onion.
Mix the green chilis in to the cream soup or white sauce.
Shred or dice the chicken. You can cook it in the enchilada sauce for extra flavor, or just use plain chicken.
In a casserole dish, spread a layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom. Then cover with a layer of corn tortillas. You can break up a few tortillas to fill in any overlaps or gaps. Then spread a layer of cream soup or white sauce. Then a layer of chicken. Then a layer of shredded cheese. Then more enchilada sauce. Repeat the layers until your dish is full, and top with one final layer of tortillas, sauce and cheese. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until bubbly and browned on top. I cut this into squares or rectangles just like I would a lasagna, and serve with a little shredded lettuce, sour cream, diced avocado, and salsa on top.