Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Authentic Enchilada Sauce and Chicken Enchiladas plus Enchilada Shrimp Soup

 Authentic Enchilada Sauce

I have been making this enchilada sauce for years. It's the first sauce I attempted and never made another one since. You know when you just nail the perfect recipe the first go around? That's what this one is for me. It's so authentic with a little smokiness and spice in the background, and a perfect balance between the tomatoes and chilis. It tastes like a little old lady living in an adobe house in central Mexico whipped this up. And if you are going to make homemade enchilada sauce, it should, right?


My Aunt Colleen is the one who introduced me to this recipe. It's from her friend Cecila. Cecilia is a gourmet chef and the owner of a catering company. She grew up in Mexico and learned how to make this enchilada sauce as a child from the servants that worked for her parents (swanky, huh?) These enchiladas are Cecilia's most popular menu item, probably in part to the sauce, but also because she wraps a hefty amount of chicken in each fried corn tortilla, bakes it to perfection with a bit of Jack cheese and tops it with a bunch of cold toppings. When I say a bunch, I'm not joking. She sets out trays of shredded iceberg lettuce, sour cream, sliced radishes, cilantro, lime wedges, avocado slices, and olives. It's the mixture of hot and cold, crunchy and soft that makes this dish special.

Enchiladas and Homemade Sauce

The sauce itself is easy. The only step needed before putting the whole thing together is softening the chilis in boiling water then removing the seeds. Next, just throw the chili's in a blender with onion, garlic and enough water to blend and puree until smooth. Add it to a pot with tomato sauce and spices and you are set to go. I usually double the recipe because this keeps so well in the freezer and I'm always excited to use it.

Enchilada Sauce
adapted from Cecilia

3 bags Pasillo or Pasilla chili's- they are shorter, darker and wrinklier than "california chili's"
(about 4-5 come in a bag)
1 onion, cut in quarters
5 coves of garlic
2 28oz cans tomato sauce
2 Tbsp tomato or chicken bullion
1 tsp salt (I added more)
optional: just a touch of cumin and oregano

Simmer pasillo chili's in a pot of water until soft (approx. 30 min.) Put a lid on the pot if you have trouble keeping the chilies underwater. Drain the chili's in a colander in the sink. Once chili's have cooled enough to touch, rip the stems off and remove seeds (I just run them under water to make quick work of it. The unwanted parts go right into the garbage disposal) and place in a blender. Blend chili's with the onion and garlic, adding 1/2 to 1 cup of water to make a smooth paste. Put the paste in a saucepan and add tomato sauce, salt, bullion, cumin and oregano if using. You can add water if you think it's too thick. It should be the consistency of spaghetti sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes. Cool completely and refrigerate until ready to use, or store in quart size freezer Ziplock bags and freeze for future use.

This sauce is foundation. The heat chili's give off is varying. If you get a spicy batch you can add more tomato sauce to make it less spicy. Mine was fine with the quantities as written, but it did have a little spice to it which I like. Taste and adjust what you need to.

Authentic Chicken Enchiladas

Assembling the Chicken Enchiladas:

Boil a chicken for 45 minutes. Remove the meat from the bone. One chicken will make one dozen enchiladas (more if you use less chicken in each one) OR buy a rotisserie chicken and remove the meat from the bones.

Fry corn tortillas in vegetable oil over medium heat on both sides, briefly. Oil must be very hot. Fry for about 30 seconds on one side, 20 on the other or until the tortilla is starting to crisp up but is still pliable enough to wrap around the chicken. Put on paper bags or towels and stack.

Dip fried tortillas in enchilada sauce (you can probably tell I skipped this step from the picture, shame same, but I usually do it and it tastes better). Wrap around a good amount of chicken. Line them up in a 9x13 pan. Pour more sauce and grated jack cheese over the pan of enchiladas and bake in a 350 degree oven until warm, about 30 minutes.

*THIS IS KEY- Serve the enchiladas with a variety of cold toppings...shredded lettuce, sour cream, sliced radishes, cilantro, lime wedges, avocado slices, and black olives. It's the mixture of hot and cold, crunchy and soft that makes this dish special.

Enchilada Shrimp Soup

Cecilia's Easy Shrimp Soup using Enchilada Sauce:

Here is another delicious main dish to make using the enchilada sauce. This soup is hearty. The ingredients do not need to be measured. Just improvise.

Saute garlic, celery and onion
Add diced potatoes, carrots and water just to cover, simmer until potatoes are cooked through
Add some shrimp bullion and or chicken bullion and enchilada sauce (enough to make a soup consistency)
At the last minute, add loads of cut up pre-cooked shrimp

Serve with oregano, jack cheese, great bread and a salad.

When I made this, I used 2 garlic cloves, 2 stalks of celery, 1 small onion, 1 russet potato, 2 carrots, 2 1/2 cups of water, 2 1/2 teaspoons chicken bullion, 1 to 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce and salt to taste. I also used about 4-5 shrimp per person. It served 4 people. Keep in mind you may need to add more or less of these ingredients for your desired taste.


  1. I'm seriously in love with this sauce. Dare I say it? I've never made my own. This is about to change! Thanks Krysta!


  2. Oooo! The sauce looks wonderful! I'm going to have to give this a whirl. I'm excited about the soup recipe too. Thanks for posting!

  3. this looks great! going to try this recipe for dinner tomorrow. how many ounces of tomato sauce are in 2 large cans? I make my own, so not sure!


  4. What kind of bullion do you use? Cubes, granulated, the paste?

  5. I used granules, but it really doesn't matter. 1 cube is equal to 1 teaspoon of granules and so fourth.

  6. This sauce is fantastic! I used chicken broth instead of water and added some chipotle in adobo sauce. Can't wait to try the shrimp soup. The extra tips (prep, serving suggestions) were great. Thank you.

  7. It is in the oven as I type this :) Sauce is wonderful :)

  8. Delicious! I made it tonight and received raves! Thanks for posting.

  9. I've never attempted my own sauce... but I do not like the canned stuff.. so enchilada dinner tonight with this sauce it is! Can't wait to try it!!! :)