Chicken Enchiladas Rojas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce

chicken enchiladas with homemade enchilada sauce | pamela salzman

This recipe is “the whole enchilada,” so to speak.  I’m giving you a method for poaching the chicken, making the enchilada sauce from scratch, and assembling the actual enchiladas.  The only thing we’re not covering today is how to make corn tortillas, and I am sure homemade corn tortillas are the only thing that would make these enchiladas better.  If you buy cooked chicken and canned enchilada sauce, you don’t really need a recipe to make enchiladas.  Not judging of course, because we’ve all been there and shortcuts have their time and place.  But if you can plan ahead, these are amazing.  My entire family loves these and let me tell you, they’re a tough crowd.

poaching chicken | pamela salzman

I grew up on Long Island and didn’t even taste Mexican food until I moved to Los Angeles after college.  My kids have grown up in LA and they are Mexican food experts, sometimes having lengthy discussions about which local taco joint has the best this or that.  So when I make something Mexican that gets the thumbs-up, I am relieved and proud at the same time.  Ironically, these are not my personal favorite enchiladas.  I am more of a green (tomatillo) sauce person, so I am obsessed with the enchiladas verdes here.  But my family digs these.  I’ve been making enchiladas rojas for years and my son (Mr. Picky) used to call these “chicken tacos with Mexican tomato sauce.”

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Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos Recipe

sweet potato and black bean tacos | pamela salzman

Serious question:  Is anything considered a taco if it all goes into a corn tortilla?  Because if that’s the case, I have eaten A LOT of tacos, some typical and others not so obvious.  And my son, even more than I have.  Have I ever told you my idea for a book about feeding picky children?  I would title it, “Finding Your Child’s Corn Tortilla.”  This is because my son, aka Mr. Picky, loves corn tortillas and is much more likely to eat something if it’s in or with a corn tortilla.  Eggs, steak, roasted carrots, whatever.  The kid is probably the foremost expert on cutting edge taco combinations.

sweet potato and black bean tacos | pamela salzman

I, on the other hand, love corn tortillas for the same reason I love food in bowls — I love bringing all my foods together in one complete bite.  I have been buying sprouted worn tortillas by Food For Life for many years.  Sprouted grains are more digestible and the nutrients more assimilable than non-sprouted.  The texture isn’t exactly like standard corn tortillas, but I prefer the cornier flavor.  But if I’m feeling like I need to eat a little more lightly, I will use a big lettuce leaf instead.  Although with this recipe, I have a hard time getting the sweet potatoes from the pan to my plate since I have been known to devour them straight from the baking sheet.  You can even roast these as written for a simple side dish with roasted chicken or fish or put an egg on top.

sweet potato and black bean tacos | pamela salzman

Sweet potatoes are loaded with caretenoids, fiber and Vitamin C.   I think they could be classified as a super food.  They’re much more nutrient-dense than regular potatoes.  And they pair swimmingly with protein-rich legumes, whether it’s black beans or lentils.  Here I just doctored up some cooked black beans with some tasty spices and lime juice to boost the flavor of the beans, but still kept everything quick and easy.  I personally love to add hot sauce and cilantro to this mixture and my husband likes to add cheese of some sort.  Avocado and/or radishes would also be great here.

sprouted corn tortillas

I originally taught this recipe a few years ago in my breakfast class as an alternative to typical breakfast fare.  In a few classes, I served it with scrambled eggs and lots of hot sauce.  A lot of my students have been telling me that they’ve been making breakfast for dinner lately and their kids love it.  Great idea!  In the same vein, why not make less complicated savory dishes for breakfast?

sweet potato and black bean tacos | pamela salzman

I still don’t have my super bowl menu planned out, but if I do a taco bar, I will for sure have a platter with these sweet potatoes and black beans side by side for a vegetarian option.  And I’ll stash away a little bit so I have some leftovers for a breakfast taco the next morning!

sweet potato and black bean tacos | pamela salzman

5.0 from 4 reviews
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos
Serves: 6
  • 2 large sweet potatoes or 2 large russet potatoes (1 ½ - 2 lbs), peeled (if desired) and cubed
  • ¼ cup unrefined coconut oil (if using sweet potatoes) or unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil (if using russet potatoes)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground chipotle powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • 3 ½ cups of cooked black beans, or 2 14.5 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 sprouted corn tortillas or tortillas of your choice
  • accompaniments: sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, hot sauce or salsa, shredded Monerey Jack or crumbled Cotija, fried egg, julienned radishes
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Scrub, peel, and cube the potatoes into 1-inch cubes.
  3. If using sweet potatoes, melt coconut oil and combine with salt, chipotle powder, garlic powder, paprika, and chili powder. If using russet potatoes, combine olive oil with same spices.
  4. Toss the potatoes with oil-spice mixture.
  5. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes, until tender and crispy.
  6. Meanwhile, place drained black beans into a saucepan. Combine with cumin, salt, and lime juice. Heat through.
  7. Warm tortillas on both sides on a griddle or skillet over medium heat, until pliable, about 1 minute total. Keep warmed tortillas in a thin kitchen towel.
  8. Serve potatoes and black beans with warmed tortillas and desired accompaniments.


Grilled Fish Tacos Recipe

© RB Photography
© RB Photography

I think you should have a Cinco de Mayo party!  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Even if you’re not up for hosting a bunch of people next Saturday night, you at least need to prepare some delicious Mexican-inspired food for your family.  Who needs to go to the local overcrowded Mexican restaurant and eat greasy, over-sauced, heavy food in the presence of too many inebriated partyers?  Not me, friends!  Although I don’t need it to be Cinco de Mayo to make Mexican food.  My family requests Mexican about as much as anything else and I am happy to oblige with fresh, healthful and easy-to-prepare recipes.

The Mexican dishes I like to make and eat are perfect for busy weeknights, but even better for entertaining because they’re always crowd pleasers and often it’s all about the toppings and allowing everyone to make their own.  I love this for many reasons — it gives kids more control in what they’re eating and really encourages them to try new things, it’s less work for me, and it’s fun!

One of my favorite Mexican dishes is fish tacos.  Not only do I make them all the time at home, but I find myself ordering them whenever I can especially on vacation (what vacation?).  I’ve been known to eat fish tacos every single day for a week and not tire of them.  I love changing the toppings each time to keep it different.  Sometimes I’ll even use a Savoy cabbage leaf instead of a corn tortilla.  In my house we’re split down the middle as to the preferred fish preparation, so in my classes this month and on my blog post, I decided to demonstrate two delicious methods.  I prefer a lime juice-based marinade and my husband likes the dry rub better, but you can’t go wrong with either.  Where you can go wrong is not putting together a great assortment of condiments, because this is the KEY to building a perfect fish taco.

Grilled Fish Tacos|Pamela Salzman

I went on a reconnaissance mission to Wahoo’s Fish Tacos in Manhattan Beach to see what a restaurant with the words “fish tacos” in its name does with fish tacos.  Wow.  Major disappointment.  A piece of grilled fish in a soft corn tortilla with a pinch of thinly sliced cabbage.   Ok so far.  Plus shredded cheddar cheese.  Huh?  Fish and cheese?  No.  And then a tiny scoop of pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa) on the side.  People, we can do so much better!  A delicious and satisfying fish taco has a balance of different tastes and textures (and no cheese!)  Here’s what you need:

  • creamy:  I personally can’t even eat a fish taco without the white sauce I’ve shown here and/or some sliced avocado or guacamole.
  • crunchy:  thinly sliced cabbage or a firm lettuce, even a good slaw like this Cilantro-Lime Slaw.
  • spicy:  even just a little kick makes it better.  Try adding a little heat to your sauce, slaw, dry rub or salsa.
  • tangy:  a tart, acidic flavor helps keep everything fresh and balanced.  You can squeeze fresh lime over everything or incorporate it in a marinade, slaw or salsa.


© RB Photography
© RB Photography

Grilled Fish Tacos|Pamela Salzman

© RB Photography
© RB Photography

I am excited to share a few more great Mexican-inspired recipes next week in hopes to inspire you to enjoy your own fiesta at home!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Grilled Fish Tacos
Serves: 4
  • White sauce:
  • 6 Tablespoons mayonnaise (I like soy-free Vegenaise)
  • 6 Tablespoons whole unsweetened yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce or ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle powder (optional) (taco on the left has sauce with chipotle powder, taco on the right has sauce without)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Marinade:
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons unrefined olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • OR
  • Dry Rub
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pound firm white fish, such as halibut or mahi mahi
  • Oil (for brushing grill)
  • 8 6-inch corn tortillas, warmed either on grill or heated griddle pan until pliable
  • Suggested Accompaniments:
  • Sliced avocado, guacamole, pickled red onion or radishes, shredded napa, savoy or green cabbage or slaw,
  • fresh pico de gallo (salsa), fresh lime cut into wedges
  1. Whisk together ingredients for white sauce and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Combine lime juice, oil and cumin in a shallow nonreactive dish small enough to just hold the fish. Add fish and turn to coat in the marinade. Season with salt and pepper and marinate fish at room temperature for 30 minutes. OR mix dry rub spices together and sprinkle on both sides of fish.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-hot. Brush grill grate with oil. Grill fish until just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes per side. Break fish into large pieces.
  4. Fill tortilla with fish and desired accompaniments. Drizzle with white sauce and squeeze fresh lime wedges over tacos.

Cornbread (with quinoa!) Recipe

Let me just start out with a disclaimer — I am not from the South.  I am a Yankee, which means I like my cornbread with half cornmeal and half flour and a drop of sweet and that’s that.  If you are a true Southerner and wouldn’t dream of adding honey or sugar or maple syrup to your cornbread, I hope we can still be friends.  I didn’t grow up eating it and I have no recipe that was passed down from my grandmother.  But my husband and my kids love cornbread, especially at certain times of the year and I love preparing them good food that makes them happy.

After I posted my Thanksgiving menu a few months ago, I had many inquiries about my cornbread recipe, so I figured I would share it just before the Super Bowl when you might be whipping up a big pot of chili.  Even if you’re not eating something that goes well with cornbread, you will be delighted with this quick bread just by itself.  My husband loves to split a wedge of the bread, toast it and slather it with a little more butter or honey or strawberry preserves for a nice treat.  I typically like a barely sweet cornbread, which this is if you use 4 Tablespoons of honey.  You can adjust the sweetness level according to your preference, but the best part about this bread is how moist and corny it is (even after several days.)     I’m not sure anyone in my family knows that I add cooked quinoa to the batter.  And it’s not because I’m the kind of person that sneaks healthful food into recipes and doesn’t say anything.  I’m not clever enough for that.  But I do try to use food efficiently and one day I had a bit of quinoa left in the fridge and since quinoa and corn go really well together, I decided to add it to the corn bread batter.  You don’t notice it at all, except that I think the quinoa adds a nice moistness to the bread and a great boost of protein.

I’ve made this cornbread so many times with different combinations of ingredients based on whom I am feeding or what is available to me in the pantry and it has never disappointed.  Although I’ve learned something about how certain foods affect the end result.  Dairy, such as milk and butter, result in a slightly more golden color to the finished bread.  Coconut oil leaves a slightly sweet, subtly tropical aftertaste.  The whole spelt flour is slightly coarser than whole wheat pastry, and made the bread feel a little more “whole grain.”  If you use olive oil, you can taste it if the bread is still warm, but not after it has cooled a bit, but that will also depend on the kind of olive oil you use.  Take this as a foundation recipe and have fun with it.  Drop the honey and add diced cooked bacon, finely chopped jalapenos, or shredded cheese.  Or prepare as is with some vanilla extract and blueberries or raspberries for a sweet treat.

Are you entertaining for the Super Bowl?  I would love to hear what you’re making.  I am making guacamole and baked chips, but I’ll also serve it with jicama.  I’ll make a giant pot of Vegetable Chili tomorrow and reheat on Sunday.  I am also doing a Baked Potato Bar with lots of toppings (what in the world is easier to make than a baked potato?)  I actually love a baked potato topped with chili!  A big chopped salad and cornbread for sure!  Daughter #1 told me she’s in charge of desserts.  I’m nervous.  Other fun foods for the big game can be Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Enchiladas (especially the casserole version), a Taco or Fajita bar, Cilantro-Lime Slaw or a make-your-own sandwich bar with grilled chicken.  I know my family in NY will be making some form of baked pasta, meatballs, sausage and peppers.  Know your audience, I guess!

If you have leftover guacamole and/or salsa after the game, save it for a great soup recipe on Monday.   Have fun!

5.0 from 2 reviews
Cornbread (with quinoa!)
Serves: makes 1 8x8-inch pan or 12 muffins
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour or whole spelt flour or your favorite GF baking mix
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground*
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon aluminum-free baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk**
  • ½ cup melted unsalted butter (1 stick) or coconut oil or olive oil
  • 2 large eggs***
  • 4-6 Tablespoons honey or Grade A maple syrup (I use 4 Tbs.)
  • 1 cup COOKED quinoa (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners or grease an 8 x 8-inch baking dish (I usually dip a pastry brush in the melted butter I’m using in the recipe and grease the pan that way.)
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl or a blender, combine buttermilk, melted butter, eggs and honey until well blended. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in the corn kernels. Using an ice cream scooper, divide the batter into the muffin pan or pour it into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the muffins for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Or bake the cornbread in the 8 x 8 pan for 30-35 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before removing muffins from the pan.
*If you like a more tender, less grainy cornbread, increase flour by ½ cup and decrease cornmeal by ½ cup.

**Or ½ cup whole unsweetened yogurt + ½ cup milk of choice. Or 1 cup dairy-free milk + 1 Tablespoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

***Or 2 Tablespoons ground flax meal mixed with 6 Tablespoons warm water. Allow to sit 10-15 minutes. And then allow batter to sit 5-10 minutes before baking.

****To cook quinoa: Rinse quinoa and then cook 1 cup quinoa in 1 ¾ cups boiling water covered for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes, covered. Makes about 3 cups cooked quinoa.

Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Enchiladas Verdes (and a casserole version!)

A few weeks ago, six other families and mine planned to get together for a pot luck at my friend Lana’s house.  One of the families keeps kosher, so we decided to go with a fish and dairy meal.  I thought these vegetable enchiladas verdes would be a great vegetarian option.  At least it seemed like a good idea at the time, but that’s because I wasn’t remembering Mr. Picky’s haircut after school that day and his basketball practice from 4-5.  I think I was just craving enchiladas on the day I volunteered and not thinking it was a bonehead move to offer to make them for 35 people.

Beautiful veggies ready to roast

Homemade enchiladas are one of my absolute favorite things to eat.  But I’m not talking about the overly cheesy and soggy kind.  I love a good (GMO-free) corn tortilla wrapped around either some poached chicken or vegetables and beans and then smothered in fresh tomatillo sauce.  You can even hold the cheese.  We ski a few times each year in Deer Valley, Utah, which is known not only for its great ski runs, but for pretty good lunch on the mountain.  Once in a blue moon they serve the most divine roasted vegetable enchiladas, which is how this recipe was inspired.  I actually prefer vegetable enchiladas over ones with chicken and my husband says he doesn’t miss the meat at all.

Roasted Vegetables

I also prefer the “green” version over the red and I love making tomatillo sauce from scratch.  Have you ever seen one of these cuties?  One of my students thought the supermarket prewraps each tomatillo in these paper husks, but in fact, they grow that way.  Tomatillos are related to tomatoes, but they have a tangy, puckery, sourness that Mr. Picky doesn’t care for, so his enchiladas are made with no sauce for now.  You know what I say?  More for me!  If you eat dairy, that tanginess does go particularly well with cheese or sour cream.  Just saying.  I tried several methods for making tomatillo sauce and broiling them on a sheet pan was not only easy, but that little bit of char on the tomatillos added tons of flavor to the sauce.  You can also boil them, but boiling vegetables, especially ones high in Vitamin C, isn’t usually my first choice.


I’m sure you can see from my pictures that dicing up 3 sheet pans of vegetables was a bit of work.  When I do this for my family, it’s no big deal.  But besides the vegetable prep, there is also the task of rolling each tortilla around a small amount of filling and nestling them side by side in a baking dish.  So the first pan started that way until I started cursing myself for not having volunteered a lasagne, the perfect potluck dish to feed a crowd.  LIGHTBULB!  Enchilada Lasagne!  At the rate I was going, there was no way we would make it to dinner even fashionably late.  So I took 6 corn tortillas and made one layer on the bottom of the baking dish, dumped half of the remaining filling on top plus a few sprinkles of cheese, put down another 6 tortillas in one layer and covered the whole thing with tomatillo sauce and a bit more cheese.  2 minutes. Done.  Am I a genius or an idiot?  Toss-up.

Tomatillos Ready to be Broiled

Charred tomatillos and jalapenos

There are so many delicious vegetables you can use, or use up if you have a bunch of random odds and ends in the fridge.  This time around I used butternut squash, sweet bell pepper, shiitake mushrooms, asparagus and red onions, but I have also added sweet potatoes, zucchini, and carrots.  I’ve never used sauteed or blanched greens, such as spinach or Swiss chard, but I think I will the next time around.  I was going to post this recipe next month, but it occurred to me that you all may be entertaining for the Super Bowl this weekend and my new discovery of the Enchilada Casserole would be the perfect thing to serve a crowd.  Here are a few ways to make this even easier for you:

  • Use pre-made enchilada sauce — but only if you have access to a good one or if you can’t find fresh tomatillos.
  • Make your own sauce, but do it the day before.
  • Dice and roast your vegetables the day before or first thing in the morning.  Keep them in a covered container in the fridge until you are ready to assemble your enchiladas.
  • Make the casserole version.  It will take sooooo much less time, especially if you are making more than one pan of it.
  • Assemble it in the morning.  That will give you time to clean up the family room and whip up some guacamole before your guests arrive.
  • Freeze it.  Thaw it out and bake for a delicious dinner another busy night.
Tomatillo sauce ingredients in the blender
About to roll

Are you planning on having people over for Super Bowl Sunday?  Other great options can be Vegetable Chili served over brown rice, quinoa or millet; a Taco bar; a Fajita bar; a Baked Potato bar; and of course, Guacamole and Baked Tortilla Chips.  As you can see, I am happy to cook before the opening kick-off, but then everybody needs to fend for themselves so I can concentrate on the game.  Go Giants!  By special request, my famous cornbread recipe coming up on Friday!

 enchilada casserole | pamela salzman


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5.0 from 4 reviews
Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Enchiladas Verdes (and a casserole version!)
Serves: 6
  • 5-6 cups mixed vegetables, such as butternut squash, zucchini, sweet bell pepper, red onion, mushrooms, apsaragus, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • Olive oil for drizzling
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups cooked black beans or 1 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed
  • Sauce:
  • 20 medium tomatillos, about 2 ¼ pounds, husked and washed
  • 1 jalapeno, stem removed (will make the sauce a 5 on a heat scale of 1 to 10)
  • ½ small onion, peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 10 sprigs cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon sea salt
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • grated cheese, (such as Monterey Jack) if desired or crumbled queso fresco
  1. To roast vegetables: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the vegetables on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tender, but not over-cooked, about 25 minutes. Add the black beans to the vegetables and mix together or put everything into a bowl to combine.
  2. Place all the tomatillos and the jalapeno on a baking sheet. No need to line with parchment paper. Change the oven to broil. Place under the broiler for about 10 minutes, turning over after 5 minutes until tomatillos are lighter in color and contain a few brown spots. Change oven to 350 degrees if baking the enchiladas right away.
  3. Transfer the tomatillos to a blender or a food processor with the jalapeno, 3 garlic cloves, ½ onion, cilantro and sea salt. Process until smooth. You should have 4 cups of sauce.
  4. Heat a skillet over medium heat and warm the olive oil. Add the tomatillo sauce and simmer 5 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, warm the tortillas on a griddle or skillet on both sides until softened.
  6. Pour 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of a 13x9-inch baking dish. Place about ⅓ cup of vegetables down the middle of a tortilla and roll tightly. Place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with each tortilla. Cover all the rolled tortillas with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with grated cheese, if desired. Bake until heated through and cheese is melted, about 10-12 minutes. Serve immediately.
  7. Casserole version: Pour 1 cup of sauce on the bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish. Place 6 corn tortillas in one layer on top of the sauce. Spread all of the vegetables and beans on top of the tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Arrange another 6 corn tortillas over the vegetable mixture in one layer. Pour enough sauce to cover well and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired. Bake until heated through and cheese is melted.
Leftovers? Chop up the enchiladas and add to a pot of chicken broth. Heat and serve. Enchilada Soup!





Roasted Vegetable and Black Bean Enchiladas Verdes | Pamela Salzman