Creamy Chicken Enchiladas with Charred Tomatillo Sauce

I have a soft spot for melted cheese.

No, really – it’s right in that area where my pants are supposed to be buttoned.

Vertical image of chicken enchiladas with bubbly golden brown melted cheese on top in a metal baking pan, on a beige and blue striped cloth surface, printed with orange and white text at the midpoint and the bottom of the frame.

As someone who’s known for their cooking, people often ask me what my favorite thing to make is.

Ugh. I hate that question.

Of course I have a handful of staples that my husband would gladly eat three times a day. But do I have a favorite dish that gets my culinary juices flowing on the reg?

Meh.

I can throw together a red coconut curry in my sleep. I could develop a new pizza every day. I’m kind of a master of braised chicken thighs with Madeira and mushrooms.

Do I have to pick just one?

Vertical overhead image of a white ceramic plate of chicken enchiladas with tomato slices and fresh cilantro, on a wood table with a glass of beer and a colorful striped cloth.

If you ask me about my favorite ingredient, on the other hand, I will reply without hesitation: the answer is cheese.

Sometimes I lie in bed at night and realize that everything I ate that day contained some form of cheese. Scrambled eggs with goat cheese. Cheddar cheese and crackers. Naan flatbreads with ricotta.

Not that I’m saying there’s a problem here. I’m just saying that I really, really like cheese.

Vertical overhead image of chicken enchiladas with bubbly melted cheese on top, and a garnish of sliced tomato and fresh cilantro, on a white ceramic plate on top of a multicolored cloth.

So, when it comes to enchiladas (basically a dish that’s meant to be unapologetically smothered in cheese), I ask myself only one question:

How can I make it even creamier?

I have recently been making many a roux.

For those who are unfamiliar, a standard roux is a marriage of equal parts fat (typically butter) and flour. A creamy substance – often milk – is streamed in once the flour is cooked and vigorously whisked to create a bechamel.

Now that I’ve been making this decadent mixture often, I understand why bechamel is referred to as a mother sauce.

It’s really mother you-know-what-ing good.

In an enchilada filling, the protein typically isn’t folded into a luxuriously silky pool of half-and-half and savory chicken broth. But that before those enchiladas met me.

A store-bought rotisserie chicken makes this process all the more easy, and I say go for it. You’re already making a tomatillo salsa and a bechamel from scratch. Buy the chicken, bro.

Horizontal overhead image of a white plate of enchiladas with a few slices of tomato and a sprig of cilantro, on a colorful striped cloth on top of a brown wood surface.

If I spy tomatillo salsa, also known as salsa verde, on a restaurant menu, I’ll do whatever I can to find a way to incorporate it into my meal. Whether it’s dressing tacos or taking enchiladas for a deep dive into the tart, fruity condiment, I can’t turn it down.

In this Mexican-influenced dish, flour tortillas are stuffed and rolled with a saucy mixture of shredded chicken and mild Jack cheese, saturated in a homemade tomatillo salsa, topped with even more cheese (obvi), and baked until ooey-gooey.

The salsa comes together in a snap, and I love peeking through the oven door as the tomatillos’ green halves begin to bubble and char, not to mention the aroma of the garlic beginning to caramelize, and the serrano peppers becoming even more sassy.

Who needs air fresheners?

And if you have your own vegetable garden at home with some space for a few tomatillo plants to make your own homegrown sauces, more power to you. Talk about local!

These enchiladas are the model make-ahead meal, they freeze like a boss, and they will fill you with happiness.

And cheese.

Well, I guess that’s the same thing…

Print
Horizontal overhead image of chicken enchiladas on a white plate with a sprig of cilantro, a few slices of tomato, and a wedge of lime.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas with Charred Tomatillo Sauce


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 50 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
  • Yield: 12 enchiladas 1x

Description

Got salsa verde on the brain? Don’t just use it for chip-dipping. Smother creamy chicken enchiladas in the smoky, charred sauce.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed, halved (about 8 medium)
  • 1 small red onion, halved
  • 2 serrano chilies, seeds and ribs removed, halved
  • 4 large cloves garlic, divided
  • Juice of 1 lime, plus additional limes for garnish
  • 6 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions, white and light green parts only
  • Pinch ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, room temperature
  • 1 rotisserie chicken (about 3 pounds), deboned, meat shredded
  • 12 flour tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Diced Roma tomatoes, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Adjust your oven rack to about 4 inches below the broiler, and preheat the broiler on high.
  2. On a large baking sheet lined with foil, arrange the tomatillos cut side down with the onion, chilies, and 2 of the garlic cloves with the skin on. Broil until the onions and chilies are charred and the tomatillos are tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  3. Allow the garlic to cool and slide the cloves from their shells. Transfer the charred vegetables and garlic to a blender or food processor with the lime juice, 2 tablespoons cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Pulse until you have the consistency of a semi-chunky salsa.
  4. In a medium skillet over high heat, add the salsa. Whisk vigorously while the salsa simmers and cook until it thickens, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in 2 tablespoons cilantro, and set aside.
  5. Mince the remaining 2 cloves of garlic. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When butter begins to foam and sizzle, add the minced garlic and green onions. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin, and saute until the scallions begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle flour over the scallion mixture and whisk to incorporate. Continue stirring until the flour is no longer raw, about 1 minute, and then slowly pour in the stock and the half-and-half, whisking as you pour. Continue stirring until the liquid thickens, about 1 minute, and then remove from heat.
  7. Whisk in 1/4 cup tomatillo sauce, and fold in the shredded chicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the bottom of a large baking dish with a few tablespoons of tomatillo sauce.
  9. Place a scoop of the creamy chicken mixture in a tortilla and sprinkle with cheese. Fold the tortilla over the filling and tightly roll it closed. Transfer to the baking dish, and repeat with the remaining tortillas.
  10. Pour the remaining tomatillo sauce over the dish and top with the remaining shredded cheese. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and lightly golden on top, about 30 minutes.
  11. Garnish with the remaining cilantro and serve with chopped tomatoes and lime wedges.

  • Category: Enchiladas
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Tex-Mex

Keywords: enchiladas, chicken enchiladas, casserole, chicken, tomatillo

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop Vegetables and Measure Ingredients

Adjust your oven rack to a position about 4 inches below the broiler, and turn the broiler on high.

Peel away the husks from the tomatillos, then rinse them well under cool running water and rub them gently to remove any sticky residue.

Vertical image of a pile of green tomatillos on a white dish towel, on a kitchen countertop.

Slice the tomatillos, onions, and serranos in half, and remove the seeds and ribs from the chilies.

Step 2 – Broil the Vegetables

Horizontal image of a baking sheet covered with foil and topped with halved tomatillos, serrano peppers, and a red onion arranged in rows, alongside two whole cloves of garlic, on a kitchen countertop.

On a large baking sheet lined with foil, arrange the tomatillos cut side down with the onion, chilies, and 2 of the garlic cloves, with their skins on. Broil until everything is lightly charred.

Charred tomatillos, red onion, and garlic, on a foil-covered pan.

Allow the garlic to cool, and then slide the cloves from their shells.

Step 3 – Make the Salsa

Combine the roasted garlic and broiled vegetables in a blender or food processor with the lime juice, 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Horizontal overhead image of roasted onion, tomatillos, garlic, and peppers, plus fresh cilantro, in a food processor.

Pulse until the mixture reaches the consistency of a semi-chunky salsa, scraping down the sides with a spatula if you need to.

Horizontal overhead closely cropped image of a food processor filled with cooked tomatillo sauce.

If you wanted to stop right here and use this as a chip dip, you would be good to go. And if you’re in a rush, you could plunk down a jar of premade salsa right here instead, or a homemade batch that you already had on hand, and proceed with the recipe.

Step 4 – Reduce

Add the salsa to a medium skillet over high heat. Whisk vigorously while the salsa simmers, and cook until it thickens slightly.

Horizontal overhead image of a frying pan filled with a smooth cooked tomatillo sauce, on a beige speckled countertop.

Remove the reduced sauce from heat, stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro, and set aside.

Step 5 – Make the Cream Sauce

Mince the remaining 2 cloves of garlic, with a sharp knife or your garlic press.

Vertical closeup image of melting and foamy butter in a large frying pan.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter begins to foam and sizzle, add the minced garlic and green onions. Save the green tops for another use, or use them as garnish before serving.

Season with salt, pepper, and cumin, and saute until the onions begin to soften.

Vertical closeup image of a wire whisk stirring a mixture of melted butter, scallions, and flour in a large frying pan.

To make a roux, sprinkle the flour over the garlic and onions and whisk to incorporate.

Continue stirring until the flour is no longer raw, and then slowly pour in the chicken stock and the half-and-half, whisking as you pour to make sure there are no lumps.

Horizontal image of a wire whisk stirring a creamy bechamel sauce in a large frying pan, on a beige speckled surface.

Continue stirring until the liquid has thickened. Remove the pan from the heat.

Step 6 – Combine Ingredients

Whisk 1/4 cup of the tomatillo salsa into the cream sauce, and fold in the shredded chicken.

Closeup horizontal image of shredded chicken in a creamy sauce in a large frying pan, being stirred with an orange spatula.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Step 7 – Assemble

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Spread the bottom of a large baking dish with a few tablespoons of the tomatillo sauce.

Oblique overhead vertical image of a flour tortilla on a wood surface, spread with a creamy chicken filling with shredded cheese on top.

Place a scoop of the creamy chicken mixture in a tortilla and sprinkle it with cheese. Fold the tortilla over the filling and tightly roll it to enclose everything inside.

Horizontal image of a rolled flour tortilla positioned against the left wall of a metal baking pan with salsa spread in the bottom, on a brown surface.

Add the enchilada to the baking dish, and repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Horizontal image of rolled flour tortillas arranged in a metal baking pan, on a beige speckled countertop.

Pour the remaining tomatillo sauce over the stuffed enchiladas and top with the rest of the shredded cheese.

Horizontal image of a metal baking pan filled with rolled tortillas filled with chicken, topped with salsa, with shredded cheese sprinkled on top, on a speckled gray countertop.

Bake until the cheese is bubbly and lightly golden on top. You can also use the broiler to brown the cheese even further, just keep an eye on it as the top will burn quickly.

Step 8 – Prep Garnish and Serve

Dice the tomatoes, and cut one or two limes into wedges. Divide the enchiladas among plates and garnish with the remaining cilantro, tomatoes, and lime wedges.

Stuff, Roll, Eat, Repeat

What’s more comforting than nesting creamy chicken and cheese in a soft tortilla?

How about smothering it in a tart, smoky homemade salsa and baking it to perfection?

These bold enchiladas are ideal to prep ahead of time, and can be tailored with all kinds of items from your produce drawer. Fold in fresh spinach for an extra boost of green, or toss some caramelized onions into the mix to make your salivary glands go wild.

Horizontal overhead image of chicken enchiladas on a white plate with a sprig of cilantro, a few slices of tomato, and a wedge of lime.

Forget the takeout. Test out these other zesty Mexican-inspired recipes instead:

Some like it hot. Some, not so much. Are you all about spiking your dishes with a hit of spice? How do you get your sizzle on? Hot sauce, crushed red pepper flakes, fresh chilies?

Share your favorite fiery ingredients in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on November 6, 2011. Last updated: July 17, 2019 at 9:37 am.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

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