Do you love enchiladas, burritos, nachos and tacos? Then you absolutely have to try chilaquiles. Chilaquiles are what you get when you cook crispy tortilla chips in flavorful salsa and top it all off with an assortment of delicious garnishes.
I love absolutely everything about chilaquiles – they are easy to make, highly customizable, and always delicious! In this recipe I make chilaquiles rojos, which are chilaquiles that are cooked in a red tomato based salsa. All of the ingredients in this recipe are gluten free, vegetarian, egg free, and nut free.
What are chilaquiles served with?
Chilaquiles are served with a large assortment of tasty toppings. Mexican crema, queso fresco, avocado, white onions, green onions, refried beans, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, and pulled chicken are a few examples of toppings that are commonly found on chilaquiles. It is easy to pick and choose your favorite toppings to customize your chilaquiles to your liking.
When are chilaquiles served?
In Mexico chilaquiles are traditionally served for breakfast or brunch. I can’t think of a better way to start off my day than with some cheesy tortillas and a bite of fresh salsa.
Of course chilaquiles can be eaten at any time of the day and I will admit that I often serve them for dinner. They are just such an easy meal to whip up at the end of a busy day. But hey, who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner?
Chilaquiles rojos and chilaquiles verdes
If you will look at different recipes for chilaquiles, you will see a variety of ingredients used in the salsas. There are two different kinds of chilaquiles that are made with different ingredients – chilaquiles rojos and chilaquiles verdes. Chilaquiles verdes are cooked in salsa verde which is a more tangy salsa made of ingredients like green tomatillos, cilantro, onions, and green chiles. Chilaquiles rojos are generally made with red tomatoes, onions, garlic, and red chilis. Chilaquiles rojos tend to be sweeter due to their use of red tomatoes and red chilis.
Choosing tortilla chips for chilaquiles
I recommend making your own tortilla chips to use in your chilaquiles if you have the time. Homemade tortilla chips have two things going for them – they are generally thicker than store-bought tortilla chips and you can cook them a little extra to dry them out. You want to use thick and dry tortilla chips for chilaquiles because they will be more resilient and soak up more liquid from the salsa.
If you do want to make your own tortilla chips, I would recommend quartering some corn tortillas, brushing them in vegetable oil, and baking them in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 450 degrees. You should take them out of the oven and flip them about half way through. You can also fry tortilla chips on the stove over medium high heat until they turn a nice golden brown. I prefer to bake chips for my chilaquiles as baked chips require less active time.
Of course, if you do not have the time to make your own tortilla chips, you can always use store bought chips for your chilaquiles. You should look for chips that are on the thicker side as store bought tortilla chips tend to be thinner than homemade tortilla chips. I would recommend using slightly stale tortilla chips to make chilaquiles. Stale tortilla chips tend to hold up better when cooked in the salsa. Making chilaquiles is a great way to use up old tortilla chips that would otherwise go to waste!
Modifying the texture of your chilaquiles
You can easily modify the texture of your chilaquiles by adjusting how long the tortilla chips are cooked in the salsa. It is common for people in different regions of Mexico to serve chilaquiles with different textures.
If you cook your tortilla chips in the salsa for a long time, they will start to disintegrate and develop a texture that is more similar to polenta. If you only cook your tortilla chips in the salsa for a few minutes, the tortilla chips will soak up liquid and become tender without losing their structure. If you prefer to keep your tortilla chips on the crispy side you can also refrain from cooking your chips in your salsa entirely. You can just plate your chips and pour the warm salsa over them. The amount of time you cook your tortilla chips in salsa is a matter of personal preference. Try your chilaquiles a few different ways and see which you like best!
- 6 oz tortilla chips (see section above on choosing tortilla chips)
- 4 large tomatoes
- 1 white onion
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tsp vegetable oil (or any light cooking oil)
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 3 stalks green onion (for garnish)
- 1 avocado (for garnish)
- 2 tbsp Mexican crema (for garnish)
- 2 tbsp crumbled queso fresco (for garnish)
- Chop the onions, tomatoes, jalapenos, garlic, and green onion into small pieces
- Warm the vegetable oil over medium high heat and cook the onions for 5 minutes
- Add garlic and jalapenos and cook for 5 minutes
- Add the tomatoes, cumin, smoked paprika, and broth and cook for 10 minutes
- Add the chips to the pan and stir so that all chips get coated in the salsa. Let the chips cook for 1-3 minutes.
- Top with Mexican crema, queso fresco, green onion, and avocado
- If you do not have Mexican crema on hand, you can substitute a 50/50 mixture of heavy cream and sour cream. Sometimes I add a dash of lime juice or lime zest.
- I use jalapeños in this recipe since they are pretty broadly accessible in American grocery stores. If your grocery store carries guajillo chilis or ancho chilis (dried poblanos), I would recommend using these rather than jalapeños at some point. Note that if you use dried chilies, you will need to set aside a little extra time for rehydrating the chilies.
If you are looking to add a little extra flavor to your salsa, try adding chipotle chilies in adobo to your salsa. I generally add 2 chilies and an additional 1/2 tbsp of the adobo sauce when I add the broth and dried spices to my pan.
Blending your salsa
Many recipes will instruct you to blend your salsa either before or after cooking the vegetables. I generally blend my salsa if I am using dried chilies like ancho chilies, but not if I am using fresh chilies. In my experience, blending the salsa does not make as much of a difference in terms of flavor as it does in terms of presentation. If you blend your salsa, your chilaquiles will have a deeper red color because the tomato and pepper skins will be thoroughly incorporated into the liquid.
Other recipes you might like
If you like our chilaquiles, you might also be interested in our cheesy pineapple quesadillas. These cheesy quesadillas are loaded with sweet pineapple, caramelized onions, and black beans.
If you want to make chilaquiles verdes you should check out our salsa verde recipe! Simply cook your tortilla chips in the salsa verde for 1-3 minutes then top with your favorite toppings!