Like a little black dress, my recipe for cheese enchiladas is a versatile staple that works for every season, and any day of the week. It’s simple, timeless, unfussy, and will never let you down. Plus, file the homemade red enchilada sauce under: SPOON DRINK WORTHY!
That is to say, I pinky promise you’ll never buy canned or jarred enchilada sauce again once you taste my homemade recipe, which is made in under 10 minutes using fridge and pantry staples. GAHHH, so good!
Something I adore about this recipe is that I always have the ingredients on hand in my kitchen, 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. This are truly the best cheese enchiladas as they’re made with everyday ingredients but taste like they came out of a restaurant’s kitchen!
Here’s what you’ll need:
For the Cheese Enchiladas:
- White corn tortillas – I like Mission Gluten Free Super Soft Tortillas. See below for my tips on minimizing cracking when rolling. Feel free to use flour tortillas if you don’t need to eat gluten free and prefer the taste/texture.
- 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, not the kind that’s ground.
- Salt – The amount you need will depend on the sodium level of your broth.
- Garlic powder – Garlic flavor without having to peel garlic!
- Cumin – Use ground cumin, not 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
They’re easy, they’re cheesy, and they’re about to be on your dinner table! Here’s how to make this simple cheese enchilada recipe.
Step 1: Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350ºF then coat a 9×13″ baking dish, or two smaller casserole dishes, with nonstick cooking spray.
Step 2: Make the red enchilada sauce. Heat the oil in a saucepan set over medium heat then whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute. Add the seasonings and continue to whisk for a minute or two, or until the spices are toasted and fragrant.
Whisk in the tomato paste then slowly pour in the chicken broth while still whisking. Increase the heat to medium-high and simmer, stirring often, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Let the sauce cool slightly while you assemble the cheese enchiladas.
The red sauce can be made up to several days ahead of time, and it freezes beautifully, FYI.
Step 3: Roll the enchiladas. Pour 1/2 cup enchilada sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking pan 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 spoon the remaining enchilada sauce over the tops.
Step 4: Bake. Sprinkle extra shredded cheese on top of the enchiladas then spray a piece of foil with nonstick cooking spray and use this to cover the baking dish. Bake the cheese enchiladas 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 basically 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.
- 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. :)
How Do You Roll Enchiladas without Breaking The Tortillas?
The short answer is: you can’t. Or at least you can’t without either lightly frying the tortillas first, and/or taking the time to dip each tortilla in red sauce before filling which, in my opinion, takes a lot of time and creates a mess I don’t usually feel like cleaning up!
My best tip for keeping the corn tortillas from breaking or cracking is to wrap several tortillas in a damp paper towel then microwave for 15-20 seconds before filling and rolling.
There’s still a little bit of cracking even after warming (and again, I use Mission’s “super soft” tortillas) but that’s OK! You’ll never know in the final dish because the whole thing is generously covered in red sauce and cheese.
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
- 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 dish, 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 foil. Let thaw in the refrigerator before removing the plastic wrap and baking in the oven.
- Beef and Veggie Enchilada Skillet
- Mini Vegetable Enchilada Stacks
- Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas
- Roasted Poblano Salsa Chicken Enchiladas
- Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchilada Skillet
- Crock Pot Shredded Beef Enchiladas
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Cheese Enchiladas with Red Sauce
Cheese Enchiladas are 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, and then slowly stream in chicken broth while whisking to create a smooth sauce. Turn heat up to medium-high then 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 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 mega spicy. Use regular or hot chili powder to spice things up!
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.