Easy Enchiladas Rojas

In four years spent living in the Southern tip of Mexico, I don’t think I ever had an enchilada. There were plenty of tacos, and even a flirtation with some killer breakfast enfrijoladas while visiting Playa del Carmen, but never a classic enchilada. Though they may be popular in other parts of the country, the dish isn’t a huge player in Yucatecan cooking, and certainly doesn’t compare to the Tex-Mex comfort food version we are used to in the United States. I would be lying, however, if I tried to pretend that a craving for big buckets of chile sauce and melted cheese didn’t strike me from time to time.

For some, making enchiladas (from the Spanish enchilar, literally, “to add chile to”) means opening a can of packaged enchilada sauce, a completely understandable move, since some enchilada sauce recipes take the better part of a day to properly prepare. Canned enchilada sauce is just awful; thin, watery, stuff that has more in common with bottled “taco sauce” than the rich, flavorful homemade version. Our technique for making enchilada sauce uses a few shortcuts and is done in just a few hours, but doesn’t sacrifice complexity of flavor.

The other big, spattery, kitchen-staining obstacle when making homemade enchiladas comes from the preparation of the tortillas. Traditional recipes call for warming the tortillas slightly in hot oil to soften, before dipping in the enchilada sauce, which is not only a messy proposition, but also features the use of at least two extra dishes. The microwave works just fine for warming corn tortillas, in this case. Just zap ’em until they are warm and pliable, dip them in your pan of enchilada sauce, and get on with your life.

Enchiladas Rojas

You can use any inexpensive cut of beef you like, including pre-cubed “stew” meat, but we like to use a well-marbled blade steak. Just make sure to take a moment to cut the center strip of chewy gristle out of the middle before cooking.

Enchiladas Rojas

Easy Enchiladas Rojas
Serves 4


  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 1 dried chipotle chile
  • 1 1/4 pounds top blade steaks, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded
  • Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 10-12 corn tortillas
  • Sour cream and sliced radish, to garnish


Cover dried chiles in hot water and let soak until soft, about 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl of a food processor and set aside.

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until nearly smoking. Season meat with salt and pepper, and cook until brown on both sides, about 6 minutes. Transfer meat to plate.

Reduce heat to medium, and add onions. Cook until onions begin to turn transluscent, about five minutes. Add garlic, chile powder, coriander, cumin, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt, and stir until spices become fragrant, about one minute more. Transfer onions, garlic, and spice mixture into food processor, with dried chiles. Add tomato sauce and 1/2 cup water, and puree. Transfer sauce back to Dudtch oven, and bring to a boil. Add meat and any accumulated juices, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until meat if fall-apart tender, about an hour and a half.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove beef from sauce, and shred or chop meat into small pieces. Transfer meat to a bowl and toss with 1 cup of the cheese and the cilantro.

Enchiladas Rojas

Spread 3/4 cup sauce on bottom of a baking dish. Divide tortillas into two stacks of 5 or 6 tortillas and microwave each stack for about 45 seconds, or until soft and pliable. To assemble, dip tortilla briefly in enchilada sauce to coat, then spread 1/3 cup beef mixture down the center. Roll tightly, and set in baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas and beef mixture. Pour remaining sauce over the top, and sprinkle with remaning cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake until heated through, about 20-25 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking until cheese browns, about five minutes more. Serve with sour cream and sliced radishes.

Enchiladas Rojas


Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road." He currently owns and operates the Ancho Honey restaurant in Maine.


  1. Nice! I have to admit, though, that my favorite application of the ‘dipped tortilla’ method, are Entomatadas, with Enfrijoladas coming in close second. I think we had them at least once a week when I was growing up in Mexico. Enchiladas were a once in a Blue Moon occurrence.

    1. I think these could almost qualify as entomatadas, considering the amount of tomato sauce used. Either way, they are divine.

  2. this looks really good – I’m gonna have to give it a try. where do the blade steaks come from? i don’t think I have heard of them before. I am guessing the front quarter section of the cow or something? a muscly area?

    1. Hi Trish! Blade steaks are cut from the chuck, and they’ll run you about five bucks a pound. They’re beautifully marbled but as I said, you’ve gotta take out the gristly middle, which is easy, because it’s clearly visible. Let me know what you think!

  3. These look SO delicious! Alas, currently living in Japan I would have to source my arse off (or order online) to find the chilies necessary to make the sauce…just finding Jalapenos in the market is cause for dancing in the produce aisle…

    But…I want to make this. REALLY badly. It looks so good…and I’ve been craving enchiladas very much, haha. Also..being in Japan…I don’t have a real oven, just a broiler thing that goes off after a few minutes..but I’ve made it work for pizza, so I’m sure I could manage enchiladas someday.

    This post makes me want to go live in Mexico or South America after my time in Japan is over. 😀

    1. Hi Jessica! If you don’t have access to dried chiles, you can omit them and bump up the amount of dried chile powder to three tablespoons. Just be sure to toast it for a few seconds with your garlic and onion, to let the spice open up. As for the oven? You’re on your own, there. 🙂

    2. Hi, we have the same problem. We’ve been stationed in Japan for 4 years and it’s a pain in the behind to get ingredients.
      If I may make a plug, try mexgrocer.com They carry the dry chiles you will need and they do ship internationally. It’s how we’ve been satisfying our Mexican food craving.

  4. Tried this Saturday night for a birthday party and loved it. I used flat Iron steak from a local meat shop. It just melted in your mouth. The sauce was what made the dish I think. Will make this again. I did have to use the dried chili that I had on hand but will keep a look out for the ones mentioned in the recipe. Thanks for such an interesting site. I check in often to see what you are cooking.

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