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.
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.
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 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 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 enchiladas.
If you need more guidance, watch the video below to see how truly easy this favorite enchilada recipe is.
Frequently Asked Questions
How should I serve stacked enchiladas rojas?
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.
Can I make these enchiladas rojas ahead of time?
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.
Can stacked enchiladas be made with any other 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)
- Carne Asada Enchiladas Suizas
- Chicken Mole Enchiladas
- Pulled Pork Enchiladas in Salsa Verde
- Enchiladas Verdes con Pavo (Green Chile Turkey Enchiladas)
If you tried this easy recipe for Stacked Enchiladas Rojas, let me know how they turned out! I love hearing from you in the comments below.
Stacked Red Enchiladas (Enchiladas Rojas Montadas)
Red Chile Sauce:
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