Enchiladas Rojas en Mi Cocina Pequeña

Enchiladas Rojas — Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce

Some dishes are more challenging to make en mi cocina pequeña, in my tiny kitchen. Enchiladas Rojas is one of those dishes where organization and preparation — referred to as mise en place in France are key. As each ingredient is prepped, the counter space is cleaned before I move on to the next one. With a counter that is only 14.5″ (37 cm.) deep, I don’t have room to make a mess. Not that I don’t. On a not so good day, my kitchen can look like it just exploded and I know I will never see my spatula again. Today was a good day.

A bad day is when I bend over to open the oven, and my rear end knocks something off of the shelf behind me. Or there is not a single bit of clean counter space, and I still have more preparation. Then I have to call time out and clean up to start all over again. The floor area is only 31″ (79 cm.) wide. When Russ is cooking with me, our movements are almost choreographed; neither can turn around with a knife in hand or holding a drippy spoon without being aware of where the other is working.

Enchiladas Rojas were inspired by the recipe of the same name in From My Mexican Kitchen, Techniques and Ingredients by Diana Kennedy. A vegan friend was coming for dinner, so his serving was changed: no cheese, but with a filling of vegetables that Mrs. Kennedy used as a topping. Plus, I added mushrooms and chayote for a heartier vegetable mix. Russ and I had a generous amount of queso fresco that was made right in our town of La Cruz.

Can you guess what is in the photo, below right? I’m not offering a give-away prize, just my felicidades if you know. Hint: it is part of the preparations. The extra large garlic clove (1.5″ long)  is included to give a sense of scale. (Answer: veins from dry chiles, which are used in Mexico as a garnish.)

Enchiladas Rojas makes 12 enchiladas

  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced (medium dice for all 4 vegetables)
  • 3 medium waxy potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 small chayote, peeled and diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 medium mushrooms,  diced
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 9 guajillo chiles, flattened
  • about 1 1/2 cups (375 ml.) water
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 peppercorns, crushed
  • 2 whole cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • about 1/3 cup (80 ml.) vegetable oil for frying
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 8 oz. (225 grams) queso fresco for filling, plus 4 oz.(115 grams)  for garnish
  • 2/3 cup (165 ml.) white onion, finely chopped
  • jalapeños en escabeche (pickled jalapeños)
  • 1 1/2 cups (375 ml.) lettuce or cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml.) white onion, finely chopped
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  1. Add carrots, potatoes, chayote and salt to a small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 10  minutes or until just tender. Drain.
  2. Heat oil in small skillet and cook mushroom until tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a glass bowl, barely cover vegetables with cold water, add vinegar and stir gently. Set aside.
  4. To make the guajillo salsa, heat griddle or skillet and toast chiles on both sides 10 seconds per side. Do not burn.
  5. When cool enough to handle, cut chiles lengthwise and remove seeds and stems. You may need to pull out the veins and strip them of seeds if the seeds cling tenaciously to the veins, but be sure to use them (the veins, not the seeds).
  6. Put chiles in small pot, cover with water and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to soak 10  minutes.
  7. Strain chiles, discard water, and tear chiles into 6 or 8 pieces.
  8. In blender jar, put 1/2 cup (120 ml.) water, chile pieces, garlic, crushed peppercorns and cloves, and zizz 1 minute.
  9. Add remaining water and blend until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  10. Pour into a sieve and press to extract pieces of tough skin. (This step is not necessary if you have an efficient blender that purees the skin or you don’t mind the little pieces of skin.)
  11. Add oregano and salt and pour into a shallow bowl. Set aside.
  12. Drain vegetables, stir in mushrooms.
  13. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg. F. (180 C.)
  14. Heat 1 tablespoon (20 ml.) of oil in a small skillet.
  15. Dip tortillas in sauce to lightly coat both sides, and fry one at a time, about 8 seconds per side. Do not overcook.
  16. As each tortilla is cooked, spread a small amount of  cheese and onion across the center. Fold or roll.
  17. Keep enchiladas warm in oven until all are filled.
  18. Pour remaining guajillo chile sauce into skillet and add vegetables. Cook until heated through.
  19. Divide enchiladas among 4-6 plates, spoon vegetables on top, garnish with cheese, cabbage and radish slices and serve with pickled jalapeños. Serve hot. Enchiladas Rojas can also be served in a casserole dish.
  20. Vegan version: omit cheese and generously fill fried tortillas with vegetables and onion. Garnish.


This method of  making enchiladas by dipping tortillas in sauce and then frying may seem unusual to you, but it is a common kitchen practice in Mexico.

The guajillo chile, a dry chile with deep orange-red hues, is very common all over Mexico. I always get a kick out of Mark Miller’s descriptive tastes from The Great Chile Book. He describes guajillo as having “a green tea and stemmy flavor with berry tones”.  Also “a little piney and tannic with a sweet heat.” I wish I had his finely tuned palate. I can’t detect these individual tastes, but this flame colored salsa made with guajillos is a favorite on our table.

Leftover enchiladas are great for breakfast with a fried egg.

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28 thoughts on “Enchiladas Rojas en Mi Cocina Pequeña

  1. Pingback: 25 Of The Most AMAZING Enchilada Rojas Recipes - Eat Wine Blog

  2. howard richardson

    I tried the recipe and it lacked much flavor except for straight guajillo flavor and it was very hot and spicy for enchilada sauce. I was hoping since it was from Diane Kennedy it would be more representative of a mexican sauce.

    1. Sorry this didn’t work for you. I recently made a salsa with ancho and guajillo chiles. It had such a flat taste, with no heat. Yet the comments that accompanied the online recipe raved about it. It got me wondering if some chiles are old or just vary from one crop to another, resulting in flavors that are lacking. Hope you find a recipe you like. Thanks for your comment.

  3. Pingback: Corn tortillas, old world and new « Cooking in Mexico

  4. Pingback: Featured Food Blog: Cooking in Mexico | Yummly

    1. I think the dipping, then frying, is a Mexican technique. I have not encountered it in New Mexico or Texas, USA.
      Thank you. Taking better photos is my new undertaking. My early photos now embarrass me.

  5. Nothing like a good enchilada, and these look outstanding. I think it’s the corn tortillas that we enjoy, just the smell when you are frying them….yum! Love your photos. I have a small kitchen too so I can totally relate! Mine is definitely a one person kitchen, but somebody forgot to tell my dog that (always under foot).

  6. Hello,

    I was searching online for resources/fellow gringos in Mexico that buy raw milk. Your site came up (a post about fish tacos) but I have yet to find anything about raw milk. In any case, I saw that you used to work at a nursing home in Mt. Angel Oregon and I just had to try to say hello. My grandma and my sister both worked at the Benedictine nursing home for quite a while. My husband and i (with our five children) just moved down to Guadalajara Jalisco from Mt. Angel last August. We lived right across the street from the Benedictine Sisters. I miss Mt. Angel a lot, especially the abundant farm fresh food and the raw milk we used to buy from a lady just outside of Scotts Mills. Anyway, if you have any tips on the best way to go about buying raw milk I’d appreciate them, even though you may not be in my area. I am happy to find your blog and will be a regular reader now!

    1. Yes, I worked at the Benedictine nursing home for several years in the mid to late 1970s. It was good work for me, and certainly a very nice nursing home. I made friends with some of the patients. One very elderly man would hold my cold hand and say, “Cold hands, warm heart”. He always warmed my heart.
      I’m not sure I can help you with buying raw milk. Where I live, it is sold by several families who have cows on the outskirts of town. I like to buy directly from one of these families, who sell it out of their house. By buying from their home, I can asses the general cleanliness of their kitchen areas, though that alone is not enough to ensure safe milk. I use the milk to make yogurt and butter. The milk for yogurt is brought up to a temperature high enough to pasteurize it, but the cream for butter is not cooked first, so it remains raw.
      I also use the cream to make ice cream. I use a cooked custard recipe, so this is essentially pasteurized also. I love the fresh raw cream in my coffee in the morning, but we don’t drink raw milk, as all the milk is used for yogurt. We also buy locally made queso fresco, which is made from raw milk. Mexicans routinely use raw milk, without concern. If you find raw milk and are concerned about it, I would suggest you use it in cooked products, as I do, or pasteurize it yourself for drinking.
      My yogurt recipe is on another blog I have. It is not open to the public or available to search engines. I use it for testing blog features before they are added to this blog. But you are welcome to read my yogurt making method there. You can use the search function on this blog to look up my ice cream recipes, though I imagine you are having a chilly winter in Guadalajara and not in the mood for ice cream now.
      I hope you can find raw milk in your area. Start by asking at a store that sells queso fresco. The cheese source may also sell milk or know of someone who does. Keep asking the shopkeepers. If it is available, someone will know about it.
      Thanks for dropping by and saying hello. I have good memories from our years in Oregon — it was nice to be reminded of them.

  7. Also, guajillos have become my favorite chile. We use them to flavor frijoles, soups, mole, posole, etc. A cook in our kitchen has recently started to make a salsa with mostly guajillos, and maybe a couple of arbols for kick. Amazing flavor. Yum! Do you have a favorite chile?

  8. Yum! Great entry and awesome photos. I keep wondering if I can make a healthy version of enchiladas without frying them, but it just wouldn’t be the same…

  9. Darlene

    We have some vegans coming over for dinner in a month and these are on the menu now.
    Enchiladas are my favorites. If you can accomplish all the FABULOUS cooking and baking that you do now in your kitchen, what would you do differently in a larger kitchen?

  10. Wow, these look fabulous. I love the idea of spooning the vegetables on top. Did they have that kind of pickled, escabeche-kind of taste, after sitting in the vinegar? I don’t make enchiladas very often, but maybe I’ll try it on top of a taco sometime. :-)

    Also, huzzah for tiny kitchens. I was going crazy in mine with only one small counter to chop things. Then I rolled in a kitchen cart and life was so much easier. The cart takes up nearly half the space, and I’m constantly having to move it to open my cabinets, but I don’t care.

    1. Hi Leslie,
      The vegetables had a very subtle vinegar flavor that added a different dimension to the tastes of chile and tortillas. The taste was not strong enough to be called escabeche, but very pleasant nonetheless.
      I don’t even have room for a kitchen cart, but there is a tempered glass top on my cookstove that lowers to give more working space, provided I’m not cooking. Tiny kitchens make us work efficiently, though I dream of having a large kitchen some day.

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