A red chile stacked enchilada in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Red Chile Stacked Enchiladas

If you have ever been through New Mexico, or at least been to a New Mexican restaurant, odds are you have had enchiladas. Red chile, green chile, chicken, cheese, beans, mushrooms, vegetarian or vegan, they are delicious any way they come. Personally, I like recommending red chile over green for enchiladas, because I think the textures match, and the sauce is also easier and less work to make. In fact, if you have a chile ristra hanging, you can just pull a few chile peppers off the bottom and make it like that. Ristras are food after all.

Restaurant style enchiladas

Typically if you go to a restaurant, you will be served rolled enchiladas. Rolled enchiladas are a delicious treat, but somewhat harder to make in a home kitchen. One reason is that restaurants often have more resilient corn tortillas, which haven’t cooled down yet. When corn tortillas cool down after being made from masa, certain oils retract, and leave the outer edges prone to cracking and breakage. Unless you plan to make your own corn tortillas, which are delicious, but also labor intensive, stacked enchiladas are a great way to go.

Home-style stacked enchiladas

Think about a stacked enchilada in a similar way to a lasagna. You want the same type of deep pan. From there, layer corn tortillas and red chile sauce, along with your other ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. If you are making a big, thick dish, cook it longer. That being said, this is an incredibly forgiving recipe. The corn tortillas will soak up the sauce, but not really get soggy. The water in the sauce also prevents it from really getting burned. If you cook it for an hour, you still won’t really destroy it. Because of that, have fun with it.

Different ingredients to use

As you can see, I have intentionally left the recipe very vague. With a red chile stacked enchilada, you will be working with a delicious New Mexico chile sauce, which works well with just about everything. If you like cheese, layer it in with the sauce when you are building your dish. The same goes with shredded chicken, pork, minced meat, or anything else. The main thing is to use meat that is in small and manageable pieces. If you use thick pieces of steak or chicken, then cutting through them will also end up destroying the structure of the enchilada. These things should be fork tender, so either use a tender pre cooked meat, or cut it into very small pieces.

Vegetarian and vegan options

If you are looking for a vegetarian way to make this dish, cheese and red chile has been a local classic for generations. You can also mix cheese with beans, mushrooms or other things. Mushrooms have a lot of water in them, so sauté them first in your favorite oil before building your enchiladas. Beans from a can typically have a good texture, but if you are cooking from dried beans, make sure they are nice and soft. Soak them, boil them, season them and give them a small mashing. It really helps bring the texture together with the corn tortillas. Nut based cheeses work pretty well in this dish, but an easy way to test is to simply mix a bit of your red chile sauce with the nut cheese. If it tastes nice, then it will be even nicer baked with some nice corn tortillas. I made a red chile hummus that was incredibly nice in this dish before. Something about sesame, cumin, and red chile really melded well together with the corn tortilla. Another nice idea is to use some chicos beans, just make sure they aren’t too wet!

Final comments

I worked a few years as a chef, but I never really blogged about it at the time. I know that my recipes aren’t terribly detailed, but I hope that you can take away some new techniques. I’ve always felt that rigid recipes mean boring food, and instead like to impart my cooking philosophy with what I write. This dish is one of the best ways to take a New Mexican classic and really make it your own. With red chile stacked enchiladas, you can take about an hour to make a meal for the whole family, and even have nice leftovers for lunch. It’s a classic soul food here, and I really hope you can share it with the people you love

Be sure to check out our recipes section for more ideas about how to use New Mexico’s favorite food!