easy chicken enchiladas
This chicken enchilada recipe is very easy to make because it uses left-over (or rotisserie) chicken and a few simple ingredients. It’s great for weeknight dinners because it only takes about 15 minutes of hands-on time to prepare, and you can even prep-ahead the filling to make it even faster!
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My love affair with Chicken Enchiladas goes way back, and I can’t even tell you when the origin of my love began, because as far as I know, I have ALWAYS loved them. Along with Ceviche and Ruedas (which my mom made to mimic those from a restaurant called La Bodega in Midland TX), Enchiladas was one of the top recipes I would request for my birthday dinner when I was a girl. I adore them!
Mexican food is a BIG deal in my family. My mom’s side of the family is really into cooking (thanks to Grandma Ginger being a really great cook) and they’re also from West Texas, which means they’re really into Tex Mex cooking.
Every time we get together, the meal is all about Tacos, Guacamole and Enchiladas! Plus my mom will always make Summer Squash casserole with green chilies (remind me to share that recipe with you all this summer- it’s so good!)
My Grandmother’s recipes are the ones we all follow, and her enchiladas were so amazing. She took care to hand soften each tortilla (handmade and brought to Vermont in her suitcase) in hot oil before filling them with shredded chicken and cheese. Sadly though, they were so labor intensive that we only got to have them at these big family meals (or when I asked for them for my birthday.)
I don’t ever think to make enchiladas at home now because when I think of all the work that goes into them, I opt to not make them. That’s why I decided to come up with a super fast Easy Chicken Enchilada recipe for the blog. One that I knew was easy enough to make for a weeknight dinner, but still checking all those boxes of the delicious homemade enchiladas I love so much!
Today I have the results of my testing… which if you follow me on Instagram, you know I have been working on for more than a month! At long last, here they are today and I am so psyched for you to try them!
Ingredients For Easy Chicken Enchiladas
Red Enchilada sauce
- Buying the sauce is key to making this a super fast recipe. Though I do love making Enchilada Sauce from scratch, this was a time I knew I needed to cut some corners to make it a weeknight friendly meal.
- I ended up trying three different brands of canned sauces. I also tried this with green enchilada sauce (which is also a great option!) I highly recommend the Hatch Red Mild Enchilada Sauce(or Medium if your family likes spice) brand if you can find it. It has the best flavor by far. Not only is it Organic but it has the cleanest ingredient list. I found it at the health food store.
- Note: canned enchilada sauce comes in 10, 15 and 20 ounce cans- you can use either 15 or 20 ounces. I’ve tested it any which way, and either works!
The scallions do double duty as part of the filling and partly garnish. I love the oniony flavor that they add- but it’s not overpowering.
Canned diced chilis
These canned green chilies also go into the filling. If you are a big fan of spicy Mexican food, you can sub in canned jalapeños, just drain them and chip them up.
This recipe calls for cooked chicken because taking the time to cook the chicken will make the recipe take longer. If you don’t have cooked chicken, you can either buy a Rotisserie chicken (I tested it and it worked perfectly.)
Or you can buy raw chicken and cook it. I used my instant pot to do so while I was meal prepping another recipe. Just let it cool before adding it to the filling- especially if you’re following the make ahead instructions.
This was an easy way to get extra veggies into this recipe to make the filling more healthy, but without a lot of prep work or any additional cutting. You can thaw the corn by just putting it into a sieve and running warm tap water over it for a minute or two. It’ll thaw super fast!
Here’s where you can really amp up the heat if you want. My kids are tolerant of heat, but I still try to keep things on the more mild side for them. If you like spicier enchiladas, you can use a “hot” salsa.
Reduced Fat Sour Cream
To make the enchilada filling creamy but still healthy, I used reduced fat sour cream to help lower the calories. If you prefer, you can use full fat sour cream. If you are avoiding carrageenan, check the ingredients before purchasing. I like the Organic Valley brand.
- This was part of the reason it took me a month to develop the recipe. I kept running into tortilla problems!! In the end I found that regular corn tortillas work well (more on that below.)
- Or if you can find them, there are corn tortillas that have some flour added to them to make them more pliable. I like the GMO-free corn and flour blend tortillas made by La Tortilla Factory best.
- I do not recommend flour tortillas- they end up becoming incredibly gummy and the texture is not pleasant.
- If you make this with 100% corn tortillas- this recipe is gluten-free!
Shredded Mexican cheese
Here again is a place you can really save a ton of time. I bought a 6-ounce package of pre-shredded Mexican cheese to make this as simple as possible.
How To Make Easy Chicken Enchiladas
There are basically two main steps to making this recipe. One is mixing the filling and two is filling the tortillas and assembling the casserole.
Before you start
- Gather up all your ingredients to make sure you have everything you’ll need.
- Make sure you start heating up the oven because the filling really comes together super fast so you don’t want to be waiting for it to preheat after the enchiladas are built!
- I also like to get my casserole dish ready to go too. I just coat it in a quick coat of cooking spray and put a little bit of the sauce (1/2 cup) into the bottom. Then just set it nearby.
Making the Enchilada Filling
- You will need two cups of cooked chicken. This works out to about two medium/small chicken breasts or about 9 ounces cooked chicken.
- If don’t have cooked chicken, I’d advise you to get the smallest package you can (it’s less than a pound) and measure it out once it is cooked.
- Mix the chicken with the thawed corn, salsa, sour cream and scallions in a bowl.
Fill Tortillas and Assemble Enchiladas
Warm the tortillas to make them pliable
- Corn tortillas can be kind of brittle when they are cold, so it is important to warm them up before you fill them or they will crack when you try to roll them.
- My grandmother used to dip each one into a skillet of hot oil to soften them up and make them pliable. In order to keep the calories in check and make this recipe easier and healthy, I opted to warm my tortillas up in the microwave.
- If you do not have a microwave you divide them into two stacks and wrap them with foil. Then just warm them up in the oven as it preheats.
Fill tortillas with Chicken Filling
- Working one at a time, hold a warmed tortilla in your left hand (non-dominant) and scoop up about 1/4 cup chicken enchilada filling with your right.
- Cradle the tortilla and gently fill it with the chicken mixture.
- Then using both hands, form the enchilada into a long roll, and set immediately seam-side down into the casserole dish.
Assemble The Enchiladas
- Try to keep them as tightly rolled as possible, but do not freak out if they do not look perfect. As you add more enchiladas in, you can sort of prop up any oddly shaped ones. And remember- they’re going to be covered in sauce and cheese which makes everything better!!
- I fit four enchiladas on the side lengthwise, and the six others crosswise against the other edge of the casserole dish. (See photos)
- Pour on the rest of the enchilada sauce covering over them as much as possible.
Bake and Serve the Enchilada Casserole
Then pop the whole thing in the oven to warm them through. This takes about 15 minutes. Then add on the cheese and continue baking for another 10 minutes or so just until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling along the edges.
Note: just like hot pizza, the longer the baked enchiladas sit, the easier it is to get them out of the pan!
Top them with the remaining chopped scallions and if you like some more salsa too.
I served these with Mexican coleslaw (recipe coming soon!) and sliced avocados. To make this a complete gluten-free meal, serve these enchiladas with this easy peasy Gluten-free Mexican Dessert Torte for dessert.
How To Meal Prep Enchiladas
- To meal prep the enchiladas you can make the filling up to two days ahead. Stir the ingredients together and then store the mixture in the refrigerator in a resealable container.
- If you are buying a rotisserie chicken, make sure to check the expiration date on the chicken!
- If you are using freshly cooked chicken, make sure it’s cool before stirring it together with the other ingredients.
- I do not recommend building these ahead of time because the sauce softens up the tortillas too much and they kind of disintegrate into mush.
More Mexican and Tex Mex Recipes
Chicken Chilaquiles, this is like a cousin to enchiladas- and very easy to assemble!
If you’re feeling the from scratch vibe, try this Homemade Enchilada Sauce from fellow culinerd, Jessica Gavin.
Homemade Tortillas from my friend and also another Vermont food blogger Aysegul.
Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup, this is a set it and forget it slow cooker recipe with a TON of flavor!
For a Mexican party, this Mexican Corn Salad with Jalapeno Cilantro Dressing is so flavorful!
Another big side dish for a party is this Mexican Four Bean Salad with avocado. It’s a big crowd pleaser and so pretty!
Make these Easy Chicken Enchiladas in just 15 minutes of prep time. The filling is made with leftover chicken (or use rotisserie) salsa and sour cream. They’re fast and delicious!
1 15-ounce can Enchilada sauce (or 2 cups)
4 scallions, sliced, divided
4-ounce can diced chilis or canned jalapeños, drained and chopped* see ingredient note
2 cups diced or shredded cooked chicken
1 cup frozen corn, thawed under running water
½ cup salsa, plus more for serving
1/3 cup sour cream, preferably reduced-fat
10 corn tortillas (6-inch or soft taco size) *see ingredient note
1 ½ cup shredded Mexican cheese (6 ounces)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread ½ cup Enchilada sauce in the bottom of the dish.
- Stir 2 scallions, canned chilis or jalapeños, chicken, corn, salsa and sour cream in a medium bowl until coated.
- Warm 5 tortillas in the microwave* for 20 to 30 seconds until pliable. Spoon ¼ cup filling onto the center of a tortilla. Roll up and set, seam-side-down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining warmed tortillas. Warm the remaining 5 tortillas and continue filling them and arrange them into the casserole dish. Spread the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.
- Transfer to the oven and bake 15 minutes. Top with cheese and continue baking until the enchiladas are steaming hot all the way through, the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes longer. Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Serve topped with the remaining 2 sliced scallions.
Corn tortillas are very delicate and can split or fall apart as they bake. If you can find corn tortillas that have some flour blended into them, such as La Tortilla Factory brand, they work very nicely with this recipe, are easy to fill (without having to warm them to fill them) and they don’t break apart easily for serving.
*If you do not have a microwave, you can warm the tortillas in the oven. Wrap a stack in foil and set in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.
Make Ahead: Step 2 can be done 2 days ahead. Transfer to a resealable container and refrigerate. When ready to bake, prepare casserole dish and preheat oven as directed in step 1. Then stir filling. Follow instructions continuing with step 3.
- Serving Size: 2 enchiladas
- Calories: 421
- Sugar: 10 g
- Fat: 17 g
- Saturated Fat: 8 g
- Carbohydrates: 40 g
- Fiber: 5 g
- Protein: 29 g