Stacked Red Enchiladas (Enchiladas Rojas)
These Stacked Enchiladas Rojas (also known as Enchiladas Norteñas) are a nostalgic treat that always remind me of my Grandma. Lightly fried corn tortillas are layered with homemade red chile sauce, fresh chopped onions, and shredded cheese for a delicious and traditional dish from Northern Mexico.
Short on time doesn’t mean short on flavor! You can get these red enchiladas on the dinner table in 30-minutes—perfect for a busy weeknight.
I am often asked, “What is your favorite dish?” And my answer is always enchiladas. Not restaurant enchiladas, but the homemade roasted green chile enchiladas my mom makes, or these flat red cheese enchiladas that my Grandma Jesusita was famous for.
This special recipe for red enchiladas is a major story in the Muy Bueno cookbook. And today, I’m sharing this very special recipe here on the blog.
The Tradition of Enchilada Fridays
Grandma always had red cheese enchiladas on Fridays. I think Enchilada Fridays started during Lent, a Catholic observance that partially focuses on charity and doing without luxuries. As a part of this, no meat is consumed on Fridays from Ash Wednesday until Easter.
I’m so glad this Lenten tradition lived year-round in our home. I loved the intoxicating aroma coming from Grandma’s house next door when she made the red chile sauce. As soon as she started frying the sauce I knew it was almost time to eat. If I was in the kitchen, she’d let me help by grating the cheese to go with the enchiladas.
Family and friends would always come over on Fridays to have Grandma’s red enchiladas. Cousins, aunts, uncles, second cousins, you name it, they came over. Grandma always made one large black cast iron pot of red chile sauce and it would feed everyone who showed up.
I remember staring into the pot after a group of aunts or cousins would leave, dumbfounded by the fact that the pot was still filled with sauce. It’s not easy to whip up another batch of red enchilada sauce from scratch, so I knew Grandma didn’t do that. It was as though her pot runneth over!
I never saw Grandma refill it, so I decided early on that it was a magical pot. Her pot would refill itself just because she loved everyone enough to feed the masses. The next group of hungry family members would walk through her doors and eat a stack of red enchiladas, leaving just in time to give Grandma a short break before the next group arrived.
These memories of love, of family and friends, and of the abundance of my Grandma’s generosity are what stick with me each time I make these stacked enchiladas. They are my ultimate comfort food. I hope that you, too, find the tradition of Enchilada Fridays comforting during these strange times.
Why Stacked Enchiladas Are The Best
The enchiladas I grew up eating were not rolled and filled with meat or cheese inside. They were better—stacked like pancakes. Each tortilla was lightly fried in hot oil, then dipped into warm red sauce, placed flat on a plate and then sprinkled with shredded cheese and finely chopped onions.
Traditional in both Northern Mexico and in New Mexico, stacked enchiladas are the dish you need to try. Not only do I absolutely love eating a short stack of enchiladas, as the primary cook in my household I also love that I don’t have to deal with the fuss of rolling or baking them!
This yummy and meat-free meal is never more than 15 minutes from your table if you have homemade red chile sauce in the fridge or freezer.
As a practicing Catholic, I also love that these yummy enchiladas rojas are perfectly acceptable for eating during Lent. Free from meat and very inexpensive to make, they embody the sentiment of doing without luxuries while still nourishing the body and soul.
If my Grandma is any proof, even those of you on a tight budget will have enough to share with neighbors in need.
How to Make Enchiladas Norteñas
Enchilada sauce. As long as you have a batch of homemade red chile sauce at the ready, this recipe for stacked enchiladas comes together in no time at all. Remember that red chile sauce can be made and frozen for up to six months. You have no reason not to make a Jesusita-sized batch to keep your family fed for many meals!
Shred cheese: I love the combination of red chile sauce with colby, muenster, or asadero cheese. Feel free to use pre-shredded “Mexican-style” cheese for convenience.
Dice onions: The crunch in these enchiladas comes from chopped white onions. If you aren’t a fan of onions, feel free to omit.
Fry corn tortillas. I prefer white corn tortillas, but feel free to use yellow corn. In a frying pan heat canola oil. Drop one tortilla at a time into the hot oil and fry until softened, turning once during frying. Drain on paper towels.
Assemble enchiladas. Place lightly fried tortillas into the skillet of warm red sauce, one at a time. Coat the tortillas with the red enchilada sauce and place coated tortillas on a plate with a large slotted spoon.
Layer a chile-coated tortilla with some shredded cheese and chopped onion. Put another coated tortilla on top and repeat the layers until you have a stack of three to four tortillas.
Enchiladas montadas. To make these into red enchiladas montadas, heat a small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Fry the eggs over-easy and place one on each stack of enchiladas. While this is an optional step, I promise it is worth a try! Not only does it add a bit of extra protein, but the runny egg yolk adds a delicious dimension of flavor to these stacked enchiladas.
If you need more guidance, watch the video below to see how truly easy this favorite red enchilada recipe is.
Frequently Asked Questions
When I was young, I would watch my uncle Carlos eat his stacked enchiladas Norteñas with an over-easy egg. I finally had the courage to ask him if I could have a taste. It was love at first bite. The luscious yolk running down the stack of enchiladas gives this dish a unique flavor (and the name “enchiladas montadas“).
With or without a fried egg, you’ll find yourself making this recipe time and time again. If I’m being honest, there’s really no wrong way to serve these. You can obviously garnish your stacked enchiladas with shredded chicken, sour cream, or any other topping that makes your heart sing.
A serving for me nowadays is about three to four stacked enchiladas montadas (with an egg) along with a side of frijoles de la olla and arroz Mexicano.
I recommend that you assemble stacked enchiladas right when you’re ready to eat them. That said, feel free to make the red chile sauce ahead of time. If you do, this recipe will take just 15 minutes to get on the table.
Yes! This recipe can also be made with salsa verde, mole sauce, or roasted green enchilada sauce.
Need more Lenten inspiration?
Check out these other meat-free meals for Friday supper:
- Tortitas de Camarón con Nopales
- Lentil Soup
- Caldo de Pescado y Camaron (Fish and Shrimp Soup)
- Beer Battered Baja Fish Tacos
- Grilled Veggie Burrito Bowls with Hatch Green Chile Rice
More Enchilada Recipes
- Easy Chicken Enchiladas
- Shrimp Enchiladas with Salsa Verde
- Black Bean & Rice Enchiladas
- Enchiladas Divorciadas de Camarón (Divorced Shrimp Enchiladas)
If you tried this easy recipe for Stacked Red Enchiladas, let me know how they turned out! I love hearing from you in the comments below.
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Stacked Red Enchiladas (Enchiladas Rojas)
Red Chile Sauce:
- 8 ounces California or New Mexico red chile pods
- 6 cups water
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cups Red Chile Sauce
- salt to taste
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce (optional)
- 1/2 cup canola oil , for frying tortillas
- 24 to 32 corn tortillas, preferably white corn
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese, (recommend colby or muenster)
- 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
- 8 eggs, optional
Red Chile Sauce:
- Remove stems, seeds, and veins from the chile pods. Place in a colander and rinse well with cool water.
- Add the chiles to a large pot and add enough water so they are just covered. Bring water to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes turn the chiles over with tongs to make sure the chiles soften evenly. Drain cooked pods and allow time to cool down before blending. Discard water.
- Fill blender with 3 cups of water, half of the cooled chile pods, 3 tablespoons flour, 2 cloves garlic, and half of the salt. Blend until smooth. Strain sauce through a fine sieve to remove skins and seeds; discard skins and seeds. Repeat blending and straining process with remaining water, pods, flour, garlic, and salt. If necessary, season with more salt.
- This sauce can be made in advance and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Red chile sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to six months.
- Heat olive oil in large skillet. Pour 4 cups chile sauce into skillet and stir. Taste and season with salt if needed. If the sauce is too spicy, add a small can of tomato sauce and stir. If the sauce is too thick, add water until desired consistency is reached, making sure to add more salt if necessary.
- In a non-stick frying pan heat canola oil. Drop 1 tortilla at a time into the hot oil and fry until softened, turning once during frying. Drain on paper towels.
- Place lightly fried tortillas into the skillet of warm red sauce, one at a time. Coat the tortillas with the red enchilada sauce and place coated tortillas on a plate with a large slotted spoon.
- Layer a chile-coated tortilla with some shredded cheese and chopped onion. Put another coated tortilla on top and repeat the layers until you have a stack of 3 to 4 tortillas. Continue to make stacks of tortillas until all ingredients are used.
- Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Fry the eggs over-easy and place one on each stack of enchiladas—optional, but oh so worth the try.
- This recipe can also be made with salsa verde, mole sauce, or roasted green enchilada sauce.
- The enchiladas sauce can be made in advance and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Red chile sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to six months.
Originally published: March 2017. This recipe is also published in the Muy Bueno cookbook.
Photography by Jenna Sparks
16 Comments on “Stacked Red Enchiladas (Enchiladas Rojas)”
Yummy My Mom made them this way. Now,I carry the tradition.
I’m also from South West Texas but living in California now.
Thank you for sharing. ⚘️
simple yet soo good. I made the mistake of buying chili de arbol instead of the larger chili cascaval. I added the tomato sauce to cool it off and it did help. I will never go back to rolled enchiladas again. Thank you
Great recipe. All your recipes remind me of the time I lived in Las Vegas. NM. Trips to Chamayo and Tao’s.
I’m 82 years old. Love authentic enchiladas made with New Mexican hot Chile. Have relatives throughout the state. I’ve been reading recipes that are mostly modified or “anglocized”. I’ll stop here. THESE are authentic New Mexican with the procedure & ingredients for making them. The sauce makes them and this is where they can vary in taste! Follow this recipe any deviation makes the DEVIATES!!!!!
thank you so much for the recipes. I sure hope it taste like my moms. Even if its close I will be a happy camper. again thanks very much John Gonzale
This is perfect!! My mom is turning 91 this week and we are gathering(small) for her special day. I wanted her to teach my hubby & daughter how to prepare these, from my childhood as well. My mom was born in El Paso and grandma used to make these for family dinners. I didn’t realize about the no meat, until you explained about Lent. I’ll see if mom remembers that part. So nice we share a family tradition! Awesome that I found you!!
This is the only way my grandma taught me to make enchiladas. I make for my Mom on special occasions.
My abuelita (from Chihuahua) was also named Jesusita (Maria de Jesus). I was almost named after her. Red enchiladas are the bomb and I prefer mine to those in restaurants.
My parents are from New Mexico. Mother always used the New Mexico chile pods. I don’t remember her using flour in the sauce so I never do; I might have to give it a try. But she did make them “flat” with the egg on top. Miss her! Thank you for your recipe.
My grandma used to toast the flour in a pot/pan and then add the sauce to thicken and cook. My mom on the other hand blends the flour in the blender to prevent clumping. Feel free to omit the flour if you’d like, but the flour does thicken the sauce.
We always put out enchiladas in the oven, covered with foil, for about 30 minutes!
orale! t’s about time someone shows the real way to make red enchiladas! Lol, I’m from La Mesilla just a few miles north of Chuco. Your recipe is a little different from my grandmother’s and southern NM style but still close. Regional differences. We don’t use flour or tomatoes. We still use lard or bacon grease and sharp cheddar cheese. We use Barker extra hot or a hot Sandia or Joe Parker. We don’t use Colby, sharp cheddar instead. And gotta have the egg. I don’t eat red enchiladas in a restaurant only at home. They just don’t taste the same. Friday night was always red enchilada night growing up as well. My very favorite dish. My grandmother was born in 1892 and I remember her making her own corn tortillas. Wow you brought back some memories.
These are my favorite enchiladas, especially with eggs!
If I have time, I make enchiladas Sonorense. I use Masa Harina & mix the grated cheese in to the masa.
My mom always used a small cast iron skillet to press them thinner(but not as thin as corn tortillas), then fried as your recipe calls for. Cover with the salsa roja, another sprinkling of cheese, then top with shredded lettuce & chopped black olives. Yummm!
Thanks for letting me relive a wonderful childhood memory!
So very delicious!!! Thank you for sharing this recipe!! I will most definitely be making this again!!!
Crying. My grandma also had a magical pot that never emptied. The enchiladas were stacked and Oman’s egg went on top. Oh the memories. Thank you for sharing this recipe.
I’ve been eating red enchiladas every week since Lent started, never get tired of them. Yes mom’s red enchiladas were very popular, every Friday, it didn’t have to be lent. We looked forward for Fri. and seeing everybody come into Grammas kitchen, porque estan Muy Buenas.