Like a little black dress, my recipe for the best cheese enchiladas is a versatile staple that you’ll want to keep on hand for any worthy occasion: aka, every day that ends in —ay. ;) It’s a simple yet timeless recipe that truly tastes like it came from a restaurant, plus you’re going to want to file the homemade red enchilada sauce that’s smothered on top under the SPOON DRINK WORTHY category of your recipe binder!
That is to say, you’ll never buy canned or jarred enchilada sauce again once you try this homemade red enchilada sauce, which is made in under 10 minutes using fridge and pantry staples. It’s better than even the small batch varieties I’ve seen popping up on grocery store shelves lately (and way more economical!)
Easy Cheese Enchiladas Recipe
I think there’s a misconception that making homemade cheese enchiladas is a lengthy, fussy process. Happy to report that it could not be easier. Sprinkle shredded cheese into the center of corn tortillas then roll and place inside a baking dish. Cover with homemade enchilada sauce and more cheese then bake.
Not only is the red enchilada sauce make ahead, but you can freeze the assembled, unbaked cheese enchiladas to pull out for a nearly instant supper down the road — so make a double batch the next time you make this recipe!
How Do You Roll Enchiladas without Breaking The Tortillas?
The short answer is: you can’t, or at least you can’t without dipping each tortilla in red sauce before filling, and/or lightly frying the tortillas. Both options add more time to the assembly process that I don’t usually have in my quest to get dinner on the table quickly.
I recognize these are both traditional methods for assembling authentic cheese quesadillas and am not saying they aren’t important steps, it’s just that in my Iowa kitchen I’m ok with some tortillas cracking.
That said, my best tip for keeping the corn tortillas from breaking or cracking is to wrap several corn tortillas in a damp paper towel then microwave for 15-20 seconds before filling and rolling one by one.
If there’s still a little bit of cracking even after warming, that’s OK! You’ll never know in the final dish because the whole thing is generously covered in red sauce and cheese.
Something I adore about this cheese enchilada recipe is that I always have the ingredients on hand so it’s a great answer to the occasional: it’s 4pm and I have no idea what I’m going to make for dinner, dilemma. Here’s what you’ll need:
For the Cheese Enchiladas:
- White corn tortillas – I like Mission Gluten Free Super Soft Tortillas. You can use flour tortillas if you prefer the taste or texture and don’t need to eat gluten free.
- Shredded Mexican cheese blend – This is usually a blend of shredded monterey jack cheese, cheddar cheese, and a Mexican blend of asadero plus queso quesadilla cheeses. It melts SUPERBLY. I have also made these enchiladas with a oaxaca and asadero cheese blend, which is also fantastic.
For the Red Enchilada Sauce:
- Vegetable oil – Or another neutral-flavored cooking oil like avocado or canola.
- Flour – I recommend a measure-for-measure or 1:1 gluten free flour versus a single-ingredient flour like coconut or almond flour. You can use all-purpose flour if you don’t need to eat gluten free.
- Chili powder – I use mild chili powder in the red enchilada sauce to keep the spice level at a 2-3 on a scale from 1-10, with 10 being super spicy. Feel free to use hot chili powder or add a pinch of cayenne pepper to spice things up.
- Onion powder – This lets you add onion flavor without having to fuss with chopping onion.
- Dried oregano – Use the dried leaves vs ground oregano.
- Salt – Just a pinch.
- Garlic powder – Garlic flavor without having to peel garlic!
- Cumin – Use ground cumin vs cumin seeds.
- Tomato paste – Tomato paste adds deep, rich flavor and that unmistakable red color.
- Chicken broth – Use vegetable broth to make these cheese enchiladas vegetarian.
How to Make Cheese Enchiladas
Step 1: Make the Enchilada Sauce
Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat then whisk in gluten free flour and cook for 1 minute. Add seasonings and spices then continue to whisk until they’re toasted and fragrant, 1-2 minutes.
Whisk in tomato paste until smooth then slowly pour in chicken broth while whisking to create a smooth sauce. Increase the heat to medium-high then simmer, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Let the sauce cool slightly.
Like I said, you can make the enchilada sauce several days ahead of time — it freezes beautifully, too.
Step 2: Fill then Roll the Cheese Enchiladas
Scoop 1/2 cup enchilada sauce into the bottom of a nonstick sprayed baking dish then spread it into an even layer. One at a time, place a corn tortilla on a plate or cutting board then sprinkle a small handful of cheese in the center of each tortilla and roll snugly.
Place seam-side down in the baking dish then continue with the remaining cheese and tortillas.
Lastly, spoon the remaining enchilada sauce over the top, taking care to cover every inch of tortilla with sauce. Any un-sauced portions of tortilla will come out tough and dry after baking.
Step 3: Bake the Cheese Enchiladas
Sprinkle more shredded cheese on top of the enchiladas then cover with a piece of nonstick sprayed foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is hot and bubbly. Let the enchiladas cool for 5 minutes then serve.
Recipes Notes and Tips
Clearly these cheese enchiladas are super easy and essentially fool proof, but here are a few tips to help make sure they turn out perfect.
- Get a head start. Feel free to make the red enchilada sauce several days ahead of time or even freeze it. Just warm it back up in the microwave or in a saucepan before using.
- Cover the tortillas completely. Be sure to cover every inch of corn tortillas with the red enchilada sauce. I use the back of a spoon to evenly spread the sauce. Any uncovered areas will end up dry and tough after baking.
- Add protein: Add browned ground beef or shredded chicken to the tortillas before rolling for a protein-packed enchilada.
- Don’t stress. I DO want to stress that this is a cozy, unfussy meal. That said, don’t stress if your corn tortillas crack while rolling. They’ll be covered in sauce and cheese anyway!
What to Serve With the Cheese Enchiladas
Like most Tex-Mex meals, cheese enchiladas can be enjoyed as-is, but they really shine when you pile on the toppings. Here are some ideas for enchilada garnishes and sides.
- Sour cream, shredded lettuce, sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, diced red onions, sliced black olives
- Refried Beans
- Mexican Rice
- Fresh Pico de Gallo
- Cuban-Style Black Beans
- Cilantro-Lime Rice
- Restaurant Style Salsa
- Quick Guacamole
How to Store and Reheat Leftovers
Leftover cheese enchiladas store and reheat beautifully. Cover leftovers with foil in the baking pan, or transfer them to an airtight container. They’ll keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days and can be reheated in the covered baking dish in a 350ºF oven, or in the microwave.
Can This Recipe Be Frozen?
Absolutely! Cheese enchiladas are ideal for freezing. I recommend you freeze them before baking, and they’ll keep in the freezer for up to 3 months when wrapped tightly first with plastic wrap, and then with foil. Let thaw completely in the refrigerator before removing the plastic wrap and baking in the oven.
More Tasty Tex-Mex Recipes
- Beef and Veggie Enchilada Skillet
- Chicken Fajitas
- Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas
- Mini Vegetable Enchilada Stacks
- Cheesy Chicken Burrito Skillet
- Roasted Poblano Salsa Chicken Enchiladas
- Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchilada Skillet
- Crock Pot Shredded Beef Enchiladas
- Homemade Crunchy Taco Hamburger Helper
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Cheese Enchiladas with Red Sauce
Cheese Enchiladas with Red Sauce is a family-friendly dinner recipe that's perfect for busy weeknights. You'll never buy canned again after tasting my easy homemade red enchilada sauce!
- 14-16 white corn tortillas (I like Mission GF Super Soft Tortillas)
- 16oz shredded Mexican cheese blend
- For the Red Enchilada Sauce:
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 Tablespoons gluten free flour OR all purpose flour (dish will not be GF if using AP flour)
- 3 Tablespoons chili powder (see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees then spray a 9x13" baking dish, or two smaller casserole dishes, with nonstick spray and set aside.
- For the Red Enchilada Sauce: Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat then add flour and whisk constantly for 1 minute. Add seasonings - chili powder through cumin - then whisk until the spices are toasted and very fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add tomato paste then whisk until combined. Slowly stream in chicken broth while whisking to create a smooth sauce then turn heat up to medium-high and simmer until sauce has thickened, 3-4 minutes, stirring often. Cool slightly - can be made up to several days ahead of time. Warm before using.
- Assembly: Spread 1/2 cup enchilada sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish then reserve 1 cup shredded cheese and set aside. Place 1 tortilla on a plate or cutting board then add 1/4 cup shredded cheese into the center and roll snugly. Place seam-side down into the baking dish then continue until the dish has been filled.
- Spoon enchilada sauce over the tops of the tortillas ensuring they are completely covered - uncovered spots will come out tough and hard - then sprinkle reserved cheese on top.
- Cover baking dish with nonstick sprayed foil then bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and sauce is hot and bubbly. Let enchiladas rest for 5 minutes then serve.
- I use mild chili powder to keep this on the low end of the heat scale - maybe 2-3 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being ultra spicy. Use regular or hot chili powder to spice things up!
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.