Green Chicken Enchiladas

It’s no secret: I LOVE green chili chicken enchiladas, thanks to Chuy’s. Of course, by developing that love over a series of delicious Friday nights in Texas with a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom special, I have ruined most places’ chances at satisfying my craving – who on earth can make a green chicken enchilada that could compare?

Well, I still haven’t found that place. And while I haven’t gotten close on my own (their sauce is more creamy than salsa-y), I have at least found a recipe for a green sauce that makes me happy enough. And since it takes some work, I figured I would make it a labor of love and invite over some friends for a fiesta.

The recipe for Green Chicken Enchiladas comes from Padma Lakshmi’s Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet cookbook. Yes, that’s Padma from Top Chef. And, yes, she writes cookbooks in addition to modeling and hosting and whatever else she does. The recipes I’ve tried tend to have good flavors, but there’s just something about how the instructions are written that just aren’t quite right. For example, this recipe is supposed to serve 4, but it calls for 5 corn tortillas. And it doesn’t tell you to bring water to a boil then turn it down to simmer for 20 minutes. Let’s just say it isn’t a cookbook for someone who insists on following recipes exactly.

This was my second try making this dish. The first time I was frustrated with the tortillas ripping as I rolled them (you have to heat them first). This time I tried preparing everything ahead of time to just pop them into the oven when everyone arrived (they really should be at room temperature first, I learned). My hope is that the third try will result in enchiladas that come out of the pan looking like enchiladas, and not just some cheese and chicken and green sauce slop. I can’t complain about the flavor, though. Maybe a Cinco de Mayo party is my chance? At least I scored points for making some cheese enchiladas, and for making a small pan without cilantro.

Green Chicken Enchiladas for 8 or more (adapted from Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet)

For the chicken filling:

Here is what you need to make your own shredded chicken (Bonus: strain and keep the stock! Use it or freeze it.), but I’m sure that a ready-made rotisserie chicken can be shredded if you just don’t wan to mess with it.

  • 4 lbs chicken breasts, bone-in & skin-on
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled & left whole
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 small yellow onion, halved
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • 1-2 tbsp salt (I just realized I totally forgot to add this – not sure the perfect amount!)

Throw it all in a pot with 16 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium low and simmer until cooked, about 25 minutes. Strain and save at least a cup of the stock; let the chicken cool. When you can handle the chicken, shred it with your hands, discarding the skin and bone.

Meanwhile…. here’s what it takes to make the sauce:

  • 4 lbs tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 10-14 green hot chilis (I used 13 serranos – jalapenos would work, too)
  • 1 small vidalia onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying
  • [chicken broth for thinning the sauce, if you didn’t make the chicken per above]

Place tomatillos, garlic and chilis in a pot and cover with enough water to cover tomatillos. Boil for 8 to 10 minutes, until tomatillos are cooked throughout and soft. Drain.

Heat oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add onion and saute until glassy, about 2-3 minutes. Add tomatillo mixture and season with salt. Stir and heat until soft and well-mixed, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place mixture into a blender – blend. Add chicken stock 1/2 cup at a time to thin out the sauce to your liking.  Pour back into a saucepan and simmer for 8-10 minutes.

And finally, putting it all together:

  • prepared chicken & sauce
  • 16 corn tortillas
  • 1 lb queso fresco (the recipe also suggests queso anejo or crumbled feta)
  • 1 c chopped fresh cilantro, stems removed

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat tortillas in microwave, about 30 seconds, between two damp paper towels. (This makes them easier to roll).

In a rectangular, broiler-safe baking dish or pan, lay a tortilla and fill with chicken. Add about 1 tbsp of green sauce. Roll and push to the edge of the pan (you can fit two rows of 5-6 if you squeeze them in with the open ends facing the short ends of the pan). Repeat, pushing them together to keep them closed. You will need a second dish or pan, not so big, for the rest.

Pour sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle with cilantro. Crumble cheese evenly over the tops. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 10-12 minutes, then broil for 3 to 4 minutes, until cheese is lightly brown. Serve immediately.


We served these with ranchero beans and a rice side dish that a friend brought. For dessert we served grilled pound cake with pineapple salsa and tequila scented whipped cream – YUM.


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