The Perfect Cheese Enchilada

I know we all have our own ideas of what tastes perfect to us. That aside I find I’m having a more difficult time finding my quintessential cheese enchilada. I used to think they should be one of the easiest things to make in Mexican cuisine. I don’t always get them right a home either; last time I made a dried Hatch chile sauce to top them with. Just wasn’t right! That said we use good cheeses and typically good sauces. What we’re finding now is that the tortillas are crumbling up or degrading before we even get them on the plate. Guess I ned to get myself to the nearest mercado or tortilleria. Meanwhile if anyone has any tips would love to hear them. I hesitate to even order them out because they’re bad so often. We do however have chilies rellenos nailed, at least for our tastes. TIA


I admire you guys for trying. That’s one of the dishes that always taste better out than me making them.

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I agree. I can cook a lot of things, but enchiladas aren’t one of them. I now leave them to the experts! Some of my favorites are the enchiladas at The Shed and La Choza in Santa Fe.

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My SIL worked in a lot of restaurants when she was younger and I watched her make cheese enchiladas one night. After she was done frying the chips in hot oil she turned the heat off, waited a few minutes then dipped each corn tortilla in until pliable. Stuffed, rolled, topped with chili and baked in individual dishes. Best CE’s I’ve ever had. When I tried it later at home they weren’t anywhere near as good as hers. Some people just have a knack.


I cringe when I see an enchilada recipe calling for tomatoes. Also when they call for a tablespoon of chile powder. All chile, red or green, no tomatoes whatsoever.
I can make good cheese enchiladas, but they don’t taste the same as a good restaurante enchilada. i’m in southern AZ so ingredients are easy to get.
As for the (corn, please, not flour) tortilla, I heat them in a wipe of oil on a cast iron skillet until they get a little leathery before I assemble the enchiladas. It gives the tortillas strength and malleability. If I don’t do that the tortillas do tend to fall apart. Restaurants deep fry them for a few seconds, usually in lard, which is probably why they taste so much better.


Thanks for all your replies! No tomato, ever, homemade enchilada sauce from dried chilies and always always corn tortillas. What is the standard chile to use in these - Ancho?

I parallel your method, but I heat the sauce in a skillet, then dip each tortilla in the sauce before moving to a baking pan and filling them. Never had a problem with malleability of tortillas. Works, of course, with either red or green sauce, depending on filling and style.

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One more thing I almost forgot about the “perfect “ cheese enchilada. Raw onions are ubiquitous to this dish. NO thank you! My SIL put a toothpick in mine. And I don’t particularly care for that canned enchilada sauce a lot of people use to soften.

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I brush the tortillas lightly with the sauce & fry in a bit of oil. I do stacks of 3 with lots of chop scallion and a mix of jack and cheddar.
Love a fried egg on top.
Usually make the sauce from dried chiles and sometimes it’s way too hot for me, depending on the chili’s.
Any suggestions on the best chili’s to use for a mildly spicy sauce?


“I was in Marfa, that West Texas town where Austin hipsters go to retire and the East Coast jet-set-art-set fly their private planes in for cocktail parties in rundown adobe houses. I pulled into Mando’s, a down-at-the-heels Tex-Mex joint on the main drag and stepped over two mongrels sunning themselves on the steps leading up to the front door. If the quality of a restaurant’s food is measured by the health and chubbiness (or lack thereof) of the dogs “guarding” the entrance, this place was big trouble.

Fortunately, Mando’s turned out serviceable Tex-Mex. It’s one of those old-school Tex-Mex joints found in just about every Texas town; you know the one – interior decor that hasn’t changed since the 1970s and corresponding “Mexican food” sometimes referred to as “gringo-style” in reference to its lack of strong flavor and spice. Such old-school joints are often recognized by cracked leather booths and ornate ironwork, but Mando’s was outfitted with Dairy Queen-style particle board booths and concrete block. Easier for maintenance, I guess.”. …
In my non binding opinion, stacked enchiladas are a whole different ballgame, and I love em, but still crave the original too.

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Thanks for this. I had never seen, actually never heard, of the stacked enchilada. Kind of Mexican lasagna when you come down to it.

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I wonder if you might have better luck but still a reasonably authentic flavor if you used some of those La Tortilla Factory hybrid corn-flour tortillas? Trader Joe’s has a version as well, although to my taste they’re not quite as good.

I bet caramelized onions would be great though!

Those hybrid are a our go-to except when we really need simple corn or wheat.

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This is similar to the type of enchilada sauce I make.I actually don’t use recipes I use them for reference or ideas. In my experience with ancho chiles they can be a bit bitter so I only use one or two in a recipe I also will put things like chipotle peppers or even semi dark chocolate in my sauce. I like to make a big batch and freeze some of it, this is also the same sauce I use for tamales.

  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 5 or 6 dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 ½ cups boiling water
  • ¾ cup chopped white or yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon [fine sea salt]
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano , optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin , optional

That’s a good way to do it, too, and fewer calories that way.

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A belated thanks to all for your suggestions! I forgot I even started this topic - life is really surprising when one gets older!

I’ll let you know how they turn out when I make some this fall. If I remember lol :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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