Growing up in the Southwest, we ate enchiladas for dinner at least every other week.
And while there are many recipes for making enchiladas, in our household, there were usually two options: beef with red sauce (from a can), or chicken with green sauce (also from a can) mixed with sour cream.
Both recipes were very straightforward: combine the shredded chicken or beef with a little shredded cheese, sour cream, and canned sauce, spoon into large flour tortillas, roll and place in a baking tray. Next, pour the remaining sauce from the can over the top, sprinkle (aka completely cover with) more shredded cheese, and bake.
While I was happy eating either version, I was always a little bit more excited when it was chicken enchilada night, as I loved the creaminess of the sour cream in the sauce.
Looking back, the dietitian in me cringes at the lack of vegetables when it was enchilada night at my house. However, the foodie part of me is salivating just thinking about how each bite would just ooze with cheese and sauce.
But why not have both?
This, my friends, is the recipe for those of you who want your vegetables, but want them delivered smothered in a smoky, creamy poblano sauce.
Not a fan of spicy foods? While the word “chili” might be concerning then to you, poblano chili peppers are actually very mild, and have a more smoky than hot flavor.
New to buying poblano peppers? Look for them near the other hot chili peppers. Unlike jalapenos, which are small and have that distinctive chili pepper look to them, poblano peppers stand out from the other chilies as they’re much larger, and resemble a slightly smushed dark green bell pepper.
While the label “poblano peppers” is helpful when buying them, I found that my grocery store actually mislabeled them as ancho peppers, which is the dried version of poblanos.
So, if you see a long, wide, green chili pepper, but it’s labeled “ancho,” as long as it isn’t dried, go ahead and pick it up. Chances are, your store is just confused like mine was.
Wondering if you can just skip this whole pepper business and make the sauce without them, or even worse, go with canned green chilies instead? You could, but it’d take away the whole point of this recipe.
I’m not a big pepper person, but I promise you that the poblano cream sauce is the best part of this recipe. Yes, the roasted cauliflower cuts like butter in your mouth and the cheese is so cool and tangy, but the magical liquid served with it is what makes these enchiladas special.
Plus, in addition to providing a smokiness to the dish, peppers also add a healthy dose of antioxidants and capsaicin.
While I won’t list them all here, chili peppers contain a wide range of antioxidants that can help with everything from protection against chronic disease to improved eye health.
Capsaicin in particular is one of the most studied plant compounds in chili peppers. While poblano peppers aren’t that spicy, they still contain a good amount of capsaicin, which is being studied for its potential role in reducing the growth of cancer cells, improving symptoms of psoriasis, and controlling appetite.
Smoky, nutritious, and creamy, there’s really no excuse not to make this poblano cream magic.
You can thank me later, when you realize you now have a go-to recipe to impress vegetarian and meat-eating guests alike!Print
These vegetarian roasted cauliflower enchiladas smothered in a smoky poblano cream sauce will quickly become a family favorite.
- 1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
- 2 fresh poblano chilies
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons coconut oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 small onion, diced
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 12 ounces crumbled queso fresco, divided
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 16 small tortillas, corn or flour
- Preheat oven to 400°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Brush poblano chili peppers with some of the oil to coat and place on prepared baking sheet.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss cauliflower florets with remaining melted coconut oil, salt, and pepper. Transfer to baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.
- Roast peppers for 12-15 minutes, or until blistered. Transfer peppers to a bowl and cover with a clean towel to cool. Continue to roast cauliflower for another 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.
- While the vegetables are roasting, place the remaining 2 teaspoons of coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 30-40 minutes, or until caramelized.
- On another burner, place vegetable broth in a small pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer to keep warm until ready to use.
- Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add flour and whisk until light brown to create a roux, about 5 minutes.
- Whisk in 1 cup of warm broth. Once combined, whisk in remaining broth and cook until thick and bubbly, about 3-5 minutes.
- Turn heat down to low, and whisk in yogurt. Keep sauce on low heat while you prep the peppers.
- Once roasted chili peppers are cool enough to touch, gently rub the skins off under running water. Using your fingers, tear off the stems and rinse out the seeds.
- Place peppers on a cutting board and dice, and then add to sauce mixture.
- Carefully transfer sauce to a high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine roasted cauliflower, caramelized onion, cumin, coriander, ⅔ of the crumbled cheese, ½ of the parsley or cilantro, and 1 cup of the poblano chile sauce. Set aside.
- Pour about ½ cup of sauce into each of two 9-by-13-inch baking pans, or enough to cover the bottom of each pan.
- Place a few spoonfuls of the cauliflower filling in the center of a tortilla, roll it up, and place seam-side down in prepared baking pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas, or until filling is used up.
- Place assembled enchiladas in the oven for 10 minutes, or until slightly crispy. Pour remaining sauce over enchiladas and top with remaining cheese. Bake another 15-20 minutes, or until cheese has melted and sauce is bubbling.
- Remove from oven and garnish with remaining parsley or cilantro. Enjoy immediately.
- Category: Casserole
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Mexican
Keywords: enchilada, vegetarian, cauliflower, poblano sauce
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Preheat Oven, Chop Vegetables, and Measure Ingredients
Step 2 – Roast Cauliflower and Chili Peppers
Melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and brush the poblano chile peppers to lightly cover with oil. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with the remaining melted coconut oil, and salt and pepper. Add to the baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.
Place the baking sheet in the oven. Flip peppers after 6 minutes, and continue cooking another 6-7 minutes or until blistered. Remove peppers and continue cooking cauliflower for another 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.
While cauliflower finishes roasting, place peppers in a medium-sized bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Set aside until cooled.
Step 3 – Caramelize Onion
After you put the peppers and cauliflower in the oven, begin caramelizing the onion.
Place 2 teaspoons of coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 30-40 minutes or until caramelized, stirring occasionally to keep the onion from burning.
Step 4 – Make Sauce
For the sauce, place the vegetable broth in a small pot and bring to a low boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a gentle simmer and keep warm until ready to use.
Meanwhile, make a roux by placing the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Once it’s melted, add the flour and cook until light brown while whisking constantly, about 5 minutes.
Whisk in 1 cup of warm broth to the roux. Once combined, whisk in the remaining broth and cook until thick and bubbly.
Turn the heat down to low, and whisk in the yogurt. Keep the sauce on low heat while you prep the peppers.
Step 5 – Peel, Seed, and Chop Peppers
Once the peppers are cool enough to touch, rub the skins off under running water. Using your fingers, tear off the stems and rinse out the seeds.
Place the peppers on a cutting board and dice, and then them to the sauce mixture.
Step 6 – Blend
Step 7 – Make Filling
In a large mixing bowl, combine the roasted cauliflower, caramelized onion, cumin, coriander, 2/3 of the crumbled cheese, 1/2 of the parsley or cilantro, and 1 cup of the poblano chili sauce. Set aside.
Step 8 – Assemble Enchiladas
Pour about ½ cup of sauce into two 9-by-13-inch baking pans, or enough to cover the bottom of each pan.
Place a few spoonfuls of the cauliflower filling in the center of a tortilla, roll it up, and place it seam-side down in the prepared baking pan. Repeat with all of the remaining tortillas, or until all of the filling is used up.
If you’re using corn tortillas, you may need to warm them up slightly in the microwave if they’re too stiff to roll.
Step 9 – Bake and Serve
Place both pans in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, or until slightly crispy.
Pour the remaining sauce over enchiladas and top with the remaining cheese. Bake another 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling.
Remove from oven the and garnish with the leftover parsley or cilantro. Enjoy immediately.
You can keep leftovers in the fridge for 3-5 days, just note that they may get slightly soggy after a day or two.
Are We Making a Sauce or a Gravy?
While it only happened once, I remember visiting family in North Dakota and having a waitress ask if I wanted red or green gravy on my enchiladas. I wanted to say neither, since to me, gravy is brown and thick and something you serve over mashed potatoes, not Mexican food.
I took a chance, and luckily my plate came out with red enchilada sauce on it – no “gravy” to be seen.
Whatever you call it, I think we can all agree that homemade is the way to go. Check out more of our enchilada recipes with from-scratch sauces:
Want another vegetarian dish with Tex-Mex flavors? Ditch the rolls, and go for our spicy sweet potato quesadillas instead!
Let us know how this recipe turns out for you in the comments below, and give it a rating after you’ve tried it!
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published by Shanna Mallon on March 12, 2013. Last updated: January 22, 2020 at 12:37 pm.
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.
The written contents of this article have been reviewed and verified by a registered dietitian for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as personalized or professional medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Kelli McGrane, MS, RD
Kelli McGrane is a Denver-based registered dietitian with a lifelong love of food. She holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in nutrition science from Boston University. As a registered dietitian, she believes in the importance of food to nourish not only your body, but your soul as well. Nutrition is very personal, and you won’t find any food rules here, other than to simply enjoy what you eat.