Chicken Enchiladas

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Brimming with smoky, tender chicken and gooey cheddar cheese, all smothered in a tangy tomatillo sauce, chicken enchiladas promise comfort in every bite.

chicken enchiladas in baking dish.

My whole family loves these chicken enchiladas. While they do require some time to prepare, you can make the sauce and filling in advance. This way, you can assemble and bake the enchiladas later for a quick and easy weeknight meal. The sauce is made from tomatillos—those small, green fruits nestled in a papery husk. Contrary to their appearance (and their nickname “Mexican green tomato”), tomatillos are not tomatoes at all. Their bright, tangy, and acidic taste is key to many Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes—they are the star ingredient in salsa verde.

It’s important to note that the chicken is cooked twice in this recipe: initially when preparing the filling and once more upon heating the assembled enchiladas. To ensure the chicken remains succulent through both cookings, I recommend using chicken tenderloins. They’re naturally tender and forgiving, even if slightly overcooked, plus they’re typically available in convenient one-pound packs—the exact amount you’ll need.

“These were amazing. My family wants me to make them again and my college son asked me to make and freeze some that he can take back to college.”

Steve

What You’ll Need To Make Chicken Enchiladas

chicken enchiladas ingredients.
  • Onion and Garlic: The foundational aromatics of the dish.
  • Tomatillos: These small, green fruits, encased in a papery husk, are the key ingredients for creating the sauce for the enchiladas. They lend a bright, tangy, and fresh flavor that contrasts beautifully with the richness of the filling.
  • Jalapeño Chiles: Add a spicy kick that complements the tanginess of the tomatillos.
  • Chicken: The protein base for the filling. Tenderloins are ideal for ensuring the filling is juicy and flavorful.
  • Cumin and Smoked Paprika: This spice duo adds depth and a smoky undertone to the enchiladas.
  • Sharp Cheddar Cheese: Adds rich, tangy flavor and a gooey, cheesy texture.
  • Corn Tortillas: The traditional choice for enchiladas, corn tortillas hold up well to the sauce and baking. They contribute a slight sweetness and subtle corn flavor.
  • Jump to the printable recipe for precise measurements

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Make the Sauce

Cook the onions and garlic in olive oil until soft (no need to chop them too finely since it all gets puréed in the end). Add the tomatillos, jalapeños, sugar, salt, cumin and 1/3 cup water.

tomatillos, jalapenos, onion, and garlic in pot

Simmer until the tomatillos are soft.

cooked tomatillos and vegetables in pot.

Then, transfer the mixture to a blender and purée until completely smooth. Set the sauce aside and start the filling.

blended tomatillo sauce in blender.

Step 2: Make the Filling

Season the chicken with the cumin, smoked paprika and salt.

seasoned chicken tenderloins in bowl.

Sauté the chicken in olive oil until just cooked through, about 2 minutes per side, then set aside to cool.

cooking chicken tenderloins in skillet.

Once cool, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Tenderloins all have a tough tendon running through them; just remove it.

shredded chicken in bowl.

In the same pan that you cooked the chicken in, cook the onions until soft.

cooked onions for filling.

Remove the pan from the heat, then add the shredded chicken along with the cilantro and shredded cheese.

filling mixture in skillet.

Step 3: Assemble the Enchiladas

Spread 3/4 cup of the tomatillo sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

layer of sauce in baking dish.

Next, brush each tortilla on both sides with oil. Stack them on a plate and microwave until hot and steamy, about 2 minutes. This makes them pliable; if you skip this step, they’ll shred to pieces when you roll them.

brushing tortillas with oil.

Spoon the filling down the middle of each tortilla. Then roll tightly with your hands. Place the enchiladas side by side, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Pour the remaining sauce over top.

rolled chicken enchiladas arranged in baking dish.

Spread the sauce evenly over the tortillas, then sprinkle with more grated cheese.

enchiladas covered with sauce and cheese in baking dish.

Bake until sauce is hot and bubbling and cheese is melted, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle the enchiladas with smoked paprika—it makes them look pretty but also adds more delicious smoky flavor—and cilantro, if you like.

serving the chicken enchiladas.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I make the enchiladas less spicy?

To reduce the spiciness of the enchiladas, there are several adjustments you can make. First, when preparing the tomatillo sauce, remove the seeds and veins from the jalapeño chiles, as this is where most of the heat resides. If you’re particularly sensitive to spice, you can reduce the number of jalapeños used in the recipe or substitute them with a milder green chile, such as poblanos. Additionally, the cooling effects of dairy can help balance spiciness, so serving your enchiladas with a dollop of sour cream can make them more palatable if you’re looking to tone down the heat.

Can I make chicken enchiladas ahead of time?

Yes, the enchiladas can be assembled up to one day ahead of time, tightly covered with foil, and refrigerated until ready to bake. Allow a few extra minutes in the oven if baking from cold.

Can chicken enchiladas be frozen?

Yes, the enchiladas can be frozen after baking for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, defrost them in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat, covered in foil, in a 325°F (165°C) oven until hot.

Video Tutorial

You May Also Like

Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

Brimming with smoky, tender chicken and gooey cheddar cheese, all smothered in a tangy tomatillo sauce, chicken enchiladas promise comfort in every bite.

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 40 Minutes
Cook Time: 40 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 20 Minutes

Ingredients

For The Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a chef's knife
  • ¾ pound tomatillos, husks and stems removed, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 jalapeño chiles, seeded and roughly chopped (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

For the Filling

  • 1 pound chicken tenderloins
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

For Assembling

  • 10 to 12 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 2½ tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces (¾ cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • Smoked paprika

For Serving (optional)

  • Cilantro leaves, sour cream, shredded lettuce, avocado, lime wedges

Instructions

For the Tomatillo Sauce

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatillos, jalapeños, sugar, salt, cumin and ⅓ cup water; bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until tomatillos are softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender and purée until completely smooth. Set aside.

For the Filling

  1. Place the chicken tenderloins in a medium bowl and sprinkle with the cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Toss with tongs until the chicken is evenly coated with the spice blend.
  2. Heat the oil in a large nonstick sauté pan until shimmering but not smoking. Add the chicken and cook until just done, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a plate to cool. Do not rinse the pan. Add the onions and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces. (All tenderloins have a tough tendon running through them; just remove it.) Add the shredded chicken to the pan with the onions, along with the chopped cilantro and shredded cheese.

To Assemble

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spread ¾ cup of the tomatillo sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
  3. Pour the oil into a small bowl or ramekin. Using a pastry brush (or your hands), brush both sides of each tortilla with oil, then stack them on a plate and microwave until hot and steamy, 1½ - 2 minutes. This makes them pliable.
  4. Spoon about ⅓ cup of the filling down the center of each tortilla. Roll each tortilla tightly and place side by side in the baking dish, seam side down.
  5. Pour the remaining chili sauce over the top, and use the back of a spoon to spread evenly over each tortilla. Sprinkle the cheese down the center of the enchiladas. Bake until hot and bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle the smoked paprika down the center of the enchiladas and serve immediately with sour cream, lettuce, avocado and lime wedges.
  6. Note: If you touch the seeds of the jalapeño pepper, avoid touching your eyes and wash your hands well afterward.
  7. Make-Ahead/Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The enchiladas can be assembled up to one day ahead of time, tightly covered with foil, and refrigerated until ready to bake. Allow a few extra minutes in the oven if baking from cold. The cooked enchiladas can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, defrost them in the refrigerator for 24 hours and then reheat, covered in foil, in a 325°F oven until hot.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 668
  • Fat: 44 g
  • Saturated fat: 14 g
  • Carbohydrates: 44 g
  • Sugar: 6 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Protein: 27 g
  • Sodium: 707 mg
  • Cholesterol: 82 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Comments

  • Why do you bake before freezing? Is it different if I freeze after assembling? Maybe the tortillas are different? My preference is to freeze after assembling unless quality would suffer. We love this recipe!
    Thanks!

    • — Judy on June 12, 2024
    • Reply
    • Ideally, I like the idea of baking the enchiladas before freezing b/c it will keep the tortillas from degrading, but think you can get away with assembling and freezing and them baking when you’re ready. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on June 13, 2024
      • Reply
  • Oh, my goodness! This has GOT to be the BEST chicken enchilada recipe in existence–AND I can NEVER purchase another jar of commercial tomatillo sauce, again! It’s a bit of work to make these but SOOO WORTH IT–I make a little more than double the tomatillo sauce while I’m at it–and freeze a full quart jar of this Mexican nectar for the next time I make these enchiladas. AND, I happened upon a quick trick this afternoon–I pulled out my spray oil and saved washing a dish and a brush (I point the spray into my sink), and perhaps saved a few (does it even matter!) fat calories in the process. Jenn–you’ve done it YET AGAIN! I’m forever in your debt–and am about as raving a fan as there can be!

    • — Nancy on May 2, 2024
    • Reply
    • ❣️

      • — Jenn on May 3, 2024
      • Reply
  • Just made these for the first time and oh my….I was so pleasantly surprised at how tasty they were. My husband and I ate almost the whole batch. First time cooking with Tomatillas and I can’t express how delicious the sauce was. Yes, it’s many steps but all very easy, just follow the recipe. I added less cheese to the chicken mixture and it was just as good. Definitely going into my line up!

    • — Sue L on April 30, 2024
    • Reply
  • I love these, but prefer flour tortillas. Any suggestions for keeping them from getting soggy? I’m thinking I’ll fry quickly in oil before baking. Making today.
    Julie

    • — Julie warshauer on April 14, 2024
    • Reply
    • Glad you like these! Frying them briefly in oil should definitely help but they still may be a bit soggy. I’d love to hear what you think if you try it!

      • — Jenn on April 16, 2024
      • Reply
  • These are not real enchiladas! I’m from Mexico and these look different, maybe it is Texas style or something else.

    For real enchiladas, boil the whole tomatillos, never cut it off before boiling it, because the sauce will be so acidic & good luck with the acid reflux hehe… We also boil the whole serrano peppers, not jalapenos, which are less spicy.

    Last, but not least, the chicken is just plain chicken, not spices, not paprika. Just boil the chicken with garlic, onion, and one bay leaf.

    • — Ale on March 4, 2024
    • Reply
    • You should create your own website and cookbook where you post recipes for “real” enchiladas. This isn’t the place.

      • — Kate on April 20, 2024
      • Reply
  • So so good! I’ve made this several times and it’s always worth the effort 🙂 Delicious!!!

    • — Jill on February 25, 2024
    • Reply
  • You’re close to making chicken enchiladas Suizas. I’d add a few things though and change a couple. Instead of salt in the sauce use Knorr’s Chicken Bullion powder, much richer flavor. Add some Crema or heavy cream or even sour cream to your sauce. Heat it blending in some melted butter (I use salted but unsalted works since you’re adding Knorr’s). Get some ancho chili powder powder or get dried ancho Chili’s and de-seed and run thru a spice/coffee blender and make your own to add to the chicken . Making fresh seasoning is always better. Also I’d add dry seasoning after cooking the chicken and stir it up. You also need to add garlic powder, and onion powder to the shredded chicken and cut the salt and add more Knorr’s in its place and stir. Taste as you go always. Doing this will develop more traditional Mexican and Tex Mex flavors that will blow the original recipe away because it’s pretty bland.

    • — A-A-Ron on February 9, 2024
    • Reply
  • I love this recipe. I made it twice, although the second time I made it like the Stacked Beef Enchiladas (Mexican Lasagna)…much easier for me to prep and just as tasty. Question though: Any recommendations for lessening the acidic flavor of the tomatillo? Sometimes that flavor is bothersome to me (reminds me of a sick stomach…sorry). Maybe cook down the sauce more? More sugar? Something else?

    • — Jennifer Oldham on January 24, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Jennifer, you could try adding a bit of cream to the mix to temper some of the acidity. Another alternative is using a traditional salsa as opposed to one with tomatillos. This one is really good and not overly acidic. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on January 26, 2024
      • Reply
  • Any thoughts on adapting this recipe for someone who doesn’t like cilantro?

    • — Lori on January 1, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Lori, you can either omit the cilantro or substitute flat-leaf parsley. 😊

      • — Jenn on January 2, 2024
      • Reply
  • Very delicious. A 10 out of 10.
    I am a great grandma and all 5 generations loved it.
    Easy to make.
    First time using tomatillos. Will continue to use.

    • — Bev Haddad Weaver on October 2, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I have made your yummy chicken enchiladas before for a group of 4, but am now going to make them for a party of 8. So (1) can I just double the recipe with no adjustments and (2) can I make the filling the day before?

    Thanks again for yet another fabulous recipe!

    • — Hannah on June 5, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Hannah, Yes and yes (and glad you like the recipes)! 🙂

      • — Jenn on June 5, 2023
      • Reply
  • Hi. Love the recipe and have made several times. Is it possible to prepare chicken in slow cooker? I use boneless/skinless chicken thighs for this recipe. Thanks.

    • — Nancy on May 28, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Nancy, so glad you like this! I do think you could get away with cooking the thighs in a slow cooker. I’d sauté the onions before adding them. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on May 30, 2023
      • Reply
  • Question about the salt content – The nutritional info says 2070 mg sodium per serving. This seems very high. Is this correct?

    I haven’t made these yet, I’m sure like all the recipes on this site they will be great, just wondering about the salt content.

    • — Sarah E. on April 24, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Sarah, I just plugged all of the numbers in again and interestingly, the sodium comes up lower at 1058 mg. Still high, but definitely lower than 2070 mg. I am not sure what accounts for the difference, but the software I use is constantly updating its information/algorithms. I’m going to update the information on the website. Hope you enjoy if you make this!

      • — Jenn on April 25, 2023
      • Reply
      • Thank you taking the trouble to check this. In the meantime, I made this dish and it is FANTASTIC! Well worth the time. Not hard to make, but a few steps. So I made the sauce and filling in the morning, then I reheated slightly and assembled everything to bake right before dinner. I actually left out the added salt (because my husband needs low sodium). We didn’t miss the salt. There are lots of delicious flavors from the spices without the salt. We had leftover and I reheated in the oven 325 degrees, covered with foil. Good leftovers.

        • — Sarah E. on April 27, 2023
        • Reply
        • So glad it came out nicely — thanks for taking the time to let me know!

          • — Jenn on April 27, 2023
          • Reply
  • I’m making the enchiladas this evening and I know I’ll have leftovers as there are only two people eating this. What would be the best way to heat the leftovers?

    • — Diane Butler on March 24, 2023
    • Reply
    • Hi Diane, I’d use the microwave, or you can heat them, covered, in the oven at 325 until warmed through. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on March 25, 2023
      • Reply
  • Ohhh, yet another marvelous recipe from our wonderful Jenn! Thank you so much, Jenn, for introducing me to tomatillos! I’d always wondered how they were used whenever I passed by them in the produce section. What a delight these unique small gems are–you make it so easy to make a wonderful hand-crafted sauce from them. I can never go back to store-bought again! . . .

    • — Nancy Scott on February 8, 2023
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I hosted my book club last night and delighted their taste buds with your Chicken Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce and the Beef Enchiladas with rice and a Baja Salad. The best compliment is when there is no food left at the end of the night! Thank you so much for these wonderful recipes. I followed the recipes exactly and the flavors were wonderful, spices balanced perfectly. Your recipe for Mexican Lime-Coconut Wedding Cookies were enjoyed by all as the end of dinner treat. Yum! I will need to double the recipe next time.

    I threw caution to the wind in making recipes I had not made before when hosting a large group, but all was wonderful!

    Thank you!
    Pam P

    • — Pam P on January 26, 2023
    • Reply
    • So glad everything turned out well!

      • — Jenn on January 26, 2023
      • Reply
  • Awful. Almost inedible. I ate it out of spite, but I would never make it again.

    • — Rob on January 16, 2023
    • Reply
    • Probably just user error. Not sure how you could mess them up🤔

      • — Teresa on February 25, 2023
      • Reply
  • Another delicious recipe. Thanks alot!

    • — Richard Peters on December 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • Jenn,

    Wow! So awesome – everyone loved these. Great tip on prepping the tortillas, they didn’t split open at all. Flavors were so well balanced: sweet, spicy, smoky, acidic. I was secretly hoping for leftovers but was ‘sadly’ disappointed! (Actually I was left with about 1 ½ C of filling left over; not sure how, I used 1/3C in each of 11 tortillas. Lunch bowl for tomorrow).

    Daryl

    • — Daryl on November 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • Fabulous recipe! I, like you, prefer chicken tenderloins in most chicken dishes, but removing the tendon is tedious and I usually destroy the tenderloin in the process. Found a great tip to remove ..Grab tip of tenderloin with needle-nosed pliers. Place tendon between a fork’s prongs and pull down. The tendon pulls right out, leaving the tenderloin basically untouched. Works wonders!

    • — Kristen Buchanan on October 23, 2022
    • Reply
    • Thanks!

      • — Richard Peters on December 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • Really delicious, I added a little bit of heavy cream and cooked the Salsa Verde a bit to make it a little more savory. I love how versatile this recipe is.

    • — Jacob on August 19, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi! I have shredded chicken thighs which I slow cooked into submission. Was wondering if I would use it here and what modifications you would recommend to make it work.

    Thank you!

    • — Shannon C on August 17, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Shannon, Yes, I think you could use that chicken if you toss it thoroughly with the cumin, smoked paprika, and salt called for in the recipe. I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on August 22, 2022
      • Reply
    • I also used this method and it turned out awesome.

      • — Richard Peters on December 9, 2022
      • Reply
  • Really enjoyed it, but we only had 1 jalapeño. Would have preferred a little spicier. We also added some leftover black beans, more for nutrition.

    • — Brent on August 17, 2022
    • Reply
  • I love your recipes as is, but for those in need of a time saver, a pouch of Frontera green enchilada sauce works in a pinch!

    • — Marissa on August 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • Cant wait to bake this dish! Never made tomatillo sauce. Could you please tell me the corn side dish next to the finished tortillas,looks so good.

    • Hi Chris, that’s not an actual recipe of mine — it’s just a combo of corn, red pepper, black beans, and cilantro. I have a black bean salad in my second cookbook that would go nicely with these. If you’d like the salad and don’t own the cookbook, let me know and I’ll email it to you. This would also pair well with the Mexican Rice. 🙂

      • Hi, I love your recipes! You said, “I have a black bean salad in my second cookbook that would go nicely with these,” but did you mean your first cookbook? Also, do you think your Black Bean Salad with Corn, Avocado & Lime Vinaigrette salad recipe from this blog would go nicely with these? And my last question… do you think I could sub pinto beans for the chicken in these enchiladas?

        • — Heather on August 17, 2023
        • Reply
        • Hi Heather, Yes that’s what I meant! The black bean salad on the site would work beautifully too. I’ve never tried making these vegetarian, but I think pinto beans would be a good substitute for the chicken.

          • — Jenn on August 19, 2023
          • Reply
          • Thank you ☺️

            • — Heather on August 19, 2023
  • Can I use store bought salsa verde ? First ingredient is tomatillos.

    • I think it would be better with the fresh, but you could probably get away with it.

      • UPDATE: used store bought – came out great. Though I am sure your fresh sauce is much better. I just don’t have access to tomatillos and don’t have time.

        • So glad it came out well with it — thanks for taking the time to follow up!

  • So good! Made it and took to my mom and sister’s. Well worth the steps. I’ll make again but use more jalapeños (I only used one because of their aversion to heat).

    • You lost me at microwave

      • — BD on June 28, 2022
      • Reply
  • Made this dish tonight, as a different take on the usual chicken enchiladas I usually make with red sauce. We loved the tomatillo sauce; just wished there was more!
    Thanks Jen, for another delicious meal. I NEVER worry about trying a new recipe of yours for company. ALWAYS a hit!

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