Homemade Enchilada Sauce and Chicken & Spinach Enchiladas

September 14, 2011 at 2:50 pm 2 comments

When I was still living in the U.S., enchilada sauce wasn’t one of those things I thought of making from scratch. I always bought the canned stuff, and didn’t think anything of it.

When I moved to Japan, however, I discovered that enchilada sauce is practically nonexistent here (note: since then it is now available in some import stores, but only one kind available and usually it’s expensive). So what was an Oklahoma girl seriously craving some enchiladas to do?

I decided to make my own enchilada sauce from scratch. I began researching enchilada sauce recipes all over the internet until I had a pretty good idea of what made a standard red enchilada sauce, and then I experimented with making my own only to discover that, oh, making enchilada sauce is actually easy!

Since then, I make enchiladas quite often, and my husband and I love them! I honestly don’t like the canned stuff anymore. It tastes horribly salty if I have it now. Homemade enchilada sauce is so much better than the canned stuff! And it’s much healthier for you.

Until now, I’d never measured things when I made my enchilada sauce, and instead simply went by taste when I made it. I decided I should probably get an actual written recipe though, so I measured everything out last night when I made enchiladas for dinner, and I now have an actual recipe for you!

Simply pour this sauce on your enchiladas before baking, and you’ll end up with awesome enchiladas! This sauce is also good for making enchilada or taco soup. Just mix the sauce with chicken broth (to taste) and add cooked chopped chicken, black beans, corn, diced carrot, etc. You can also freeze this sauce for later use.

To start, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Dice onion small onion (or half a large onion) and add it to the pan. Cook until onion turns translucent, about 3 – 4 minutes.

Add 3 cloves minced garlic and continue cooking for another minute.

Add 2 tsp. ground cumin, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. ground coriander, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, and a good dash of cinnamon powder, and cook for another minute. Do not fear the cinnamon. The cinnamon is your friend. Trust me.

Add 2 cups chicken broth and turn up the heat to medium-high.

Add two tablespoons of tomato paste and a bay leaf, and mix well. When it starts to boil, cover the pan and turn down the heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning to taste. If you want it spicier, you can add more cayenne at this point. Turn off the heat and let the sauce cool. When it’s no longer super hot, remove the bay leaf and then blend the sauce in the blender. Be careful when blending hot liquids in a blender! It will splatter out of the blender all over you and everything else if it’s too hot. I did this once, and I still have a couple burn scars where the hot liquid splattered on me. And I was holding down the lid. Not fun. Let the sauce cool a little before blending.

After blending the sauce, return it to the pan and heat it on med.-low until it’s heated through. At this point if you want the sauce to be thicker you can mix a little flour (a couple tablespoons should suffice) and water in a small dish and then drizzle it into the sauce while stirring constantly until it thickens. Corn starch or arrowroot powder and water will also work.

At this point your enchilada sauce is done, and ready to be used to make delicious enchiladas!

To make my chicken and spinach enchiladas (serves 2):

  1. Boil two chicken breasts, shred them, and mix them with a little of the enchilada sauce.
  2. Then saute a whole bag of fresh spinach in some butter and season it with salt and pepper.
  3. Once that’s done, add a little bit of the chicken, a little bit of spinach, and some shredded cheese to a tortilla, roll it up tightly, and place it in a baking pan.
  4. Keep doing that until the pan is full (I use a square baking pan, so I make about 6 – 8 enchiladas depending on if I’m using flour or corn tortillas), then simply pour on the enchilada sauce until the enchiladas are swimming in it, sprinkle some shredded cheese, and pop the pan in the oven for about 20 – 30 minutes at 375 degrees F (190 C).

I usually have some enchilada sauce left-over, but if you use a larger pan with more enchiladas, you probably won’t.

Mmmmm, now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Enchilada Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced (or half a large onion)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (chili pepper)
  • good dash of cinnamon powder
  • 3 c. chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 Tbsp. flour (or cornstarch or arrowroot powder) mixed with 2 1/2 Tbsp. cold water (optional)
  1. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 3 – 4 minutes until onion softens.
  2. Add garlic and continue cooking for 1 minute. Add cumin, oregano, coriander, cayenne, and cinnamon, and cook for another minute.
  3. Add chicken broth, tomato paste, and bay leaf and mix well. Turn up heat to medium-high. When it begins to boil, turn down the heat down to a simmer, cover the pan, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove bay leaf and adjust seasoning to taste (you can add more cayenne if you want it spicier at this point). Turn off heat and let cool until no longer scalding.
  5. Blend in blender, and return to pan. Turn on heat to medium-low and heat sauce through. To thicken sauce at this point, add flour dissolved in water slowly, stirring constantly until sauce thickens.
  6. Use immediately to make enchiladas, enchilada/tortilla soup, or freeze for later use.

Entry filed under: Baking, Chicken, Recipes, Tex-mex food. Tags: , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Student  |  September 18, 2011 at 4:17 am

    It is so hard to find good Tex-Mex outside the region–even here in the northeastern U.S. I’ve mostly given up on that idea. But you do get those cravings. I can’t imagine what it must be like in Japan. Your enchiladas look great!

    • 2. The Joyful Kitchen  |  September 21, 2011 at 12:08 pm

      Thanks! Living in Oklahoma most of my life, I pretty much grew up eating Tex-Mex, whether in restaurants or my mom’s food. Without it, my life would be pretty sad indeed. My husband also loves Tex-Mex food since he lived in Oklahoma for 4+ years.
      Surprisingly enough there are a few Mexican restaurants here in Japan (mainly big cities), but I’ve pretty much given up on them, because their food is so different from the Tex-Mex I’m used to, that it makes me depressed to eat there (no re-fried beans, rice, or queso, and usually no chips and salsa).
      But as they say, necessity (or in my case, desperation) is the mother of invention! I hope my enchilada recipe will help you out next time your stuck with a Tex-Mex craving!


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About Me

My name is Rachel. I'm a small-town girl born and raised in Oklahoma, currently living in Japan, who likes cooking, baking, reading, working out, and traveling. Join me in my culinary adventures, my domestic doings, and the story of my life, one day at a time.

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