When you live in Southern California, you love Mexican food. Not the drive-through stuff; I’m talking real homemade. My favorite dish is chicken enchiladas with tomatillo sauce. It’s what I used to order at Mexican restaurants until I created my own healthy and tasty recipe. Now I make them at home.
Roast Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce
To make this recipe faster, roast the chicken and prepare the sauce a day or two ahead, then assemble and bake when you are ready for dinner. For the chicken, roast, cool then shred the meat. Using leftover chicken from either a whole roast chicken or roast chicken breasts works great and is usually what I do. You can also use a store rotisserie chicken.
Homemade Tomatillo Sauce
For the sauce I use fresh diced tomatillos, diced onions and spices simmered for 20-30 minutes. A staple in Mexican cuisine, fresh tomatillos look like green tomatoes covered with a papery husk and have a tart flavor. Buy bright green firm fruit. Remove the husks and rinse off the light sticky film. I make this sauce ahead and freeze it, handy for whipping up a batch of enchiladas. If this is too much work (it REALLY is easy!), by a jarred sauce like Trader Joe’s Salsa Verde.
Roast Chicken Options
Our traditional Sunday dinner is whole roast chicken so I always have leftover shredded chicken for enchiladas. Another option is to get a couple of bone-in chicken breasts and roast them, then shred the meat. Directions are in the recipe. Yet another option is to buy a store roasted chicken and shred the meat. Once the is chicken ready and the sauce made it’s just assemble and bake when you are ready to eat.
How to Steam Tortillas and Assembling the Enchiladas
One thing about corn tortillas is that they break when you roll them. The secret I found is steaming them lightly first, then they roll without breaking. Here are ways to steam tortillas:
- Use a large pot with a folding steamer rack, without the center handle. Wrap a stack of tortillas in a clean kitchen towel and steam until soft and pliable. Placing the stack in a microwave safe bag helps.
- Use a bamboo steamer set over a large pot of simmering water.
- Use a steam oven
- Wrap tortillas in damp paper towels or damp clean kitchen towel and microwave for a minute or until just soft and pliable.
When assembling enchiladas I add sweet corn kernels for more texture and flavor. Frozen corn works just fine, and I use roasted corn when I can find it. You can also skip the corn.
Corn tortillas are traditional for chicken enchiladas and good if you eat gluten-free. I prefer organic corn tortillas because they are not GMO. Read labels for added ingredients like gums and choose one without if possible. Another option we enjoy is from Siete Foods. Their gluten-free tortillas are terrific. Next time you feel like good Mexican food, look no further than your own kitchen.
Roast Chicken with Tomatillo Sauce
Tomatillo Sauce (Yield 6 cups)
- 3 pounds tomatillos husked, rinsed and chopped
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 jalapeno pepper seeded and chopped
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4-5 cups tomatillo sauce recipe below or store purchased
- 3 pounds bone-in chicken breasts
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels thawed
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves plus more for garnish if desired
- 1/4 cup chopped green onions plus more for garnish if desired
- 8 corn tortillas
- 12 ounces shredded Mexican cheese blend
To Make the Sauce
- Combine tomatillos, onion, jalapeno, garlic, water, oregano and spices in a medium saucepan. Bring almost to a boil, turn down heat to low, cover with a lid and cook until tomatillos are broken down and saucy, about 20 minutes.
- Add cooked tomatillos to a blender and blend briefly to smooth it out. When blending hot liquids, take precaution. Fill blender only half full, place lid on top and a towel on top of the lid. Blend on low speed for a few seconds. Do in two batches for safety. Use tomatillo sauce immediately or cool completely and refrigerate for up two 3 days or freeze for several months.
To Roast the Chicken
- Pre-heat the oven to 375°F. Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil. Place chicken breasts on the baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven until chicken reaches 160-165 degrees, about 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. If you are going to complete the enchiladas now, turn the oven down to 350°F degrees. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove skin and shred meat. You should have about 3 1/2 cups. Save any extra for chicken salad or soft tacos.
Make the Enchiladas
- In a large bowl, mix shredded chicken, corn, cilantro, green onions and about ½ cup of the tomatillo. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Steam tortillas briefly to soften them making them easier to roll. Fill a large pot with a few inches of water. Place a steamer rack without the center handle in the pot. The water should reach just the bottom of the steamer. Place a lid on the pot and over medium heat heat until steam is coming out from under the lid. Add the tortillas and steam for approximately 4 minutes or until softened. See note at end for other ideas to steam tortillas.
- Assemble the enchiladas. Place one cooked tortilla on a plate. Top with 1 tablespoon of tomatillo sauce, then about 1/3 cup of chicken mixture on top, then sprinkle with cheese. Roll enchilada and place in the prepared baking dish seam side down. Complete with the rest of the tortillas. Top the enchiladas with sauce (you may not need it all) and sprinkle with cheese.
- Bake enchiladas covered with foil for 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and the enchiladas are hot throughout, 165°F. Take the foil off the last few minutes. To serve, garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of cilantro if desired.
- Use a large pot with a folding steamer rack, without the center handle.
- Use a bamboo steam set over a large pot of simmering water.
- Use a steam oven
- Wrap tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave for a minute or until just soft and pliable.