feasting with friends

Enchilada Sauce & Chicken Enchiladas Stacks

chicken & black bean enchilada stacksI’ve made Chicken Enchiladas for years… and years. My original, go-to recipe was from a cookbook titled Best Recipes from the Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans & Jars (published 1989). It happens to be a very good recipe. But, (yes, there is a “but”) it utilizes canned enchilada sauce.

enchilada sauceFlash forward to the present day. In an effort to prepare meals with a lower sodium content and avoid preservatives of the “I can’t pronounce it” variety, I decided to make my own sauce. There are oodles and oodles of recipes out there on the internet. I found most of them contain chili powder. In certain recipes, chili powder leaves a funny taste in my mouth. (Not to mention the coagulation of powder that gathers on the side of the pot… What is that?) Anyways, chipotle peppers were the answer for me.

enchilada sauceMy other issue with the original recipe was the rolling of the enchiladas. The corn tortillas, no matter how careful I was, always tore. Maybe I attempted to stuff them too much or even made them too soft after a dip in the enchilada sauce. Whatever the reason, it became a frustrating meal to prepare. Until the enchilada stacks!

chicken & black bean enchilada stacksSo… so, so, so much easier to assemble. No frustration… no throwing down the tortillas in anger… no excess filling falling to the floor in assemble. Just the same great flavors, even if a slightly different presentation.

chicken & black bean enchilada stacksI’ve made these twice in the last month. My chicken filling was slightly different each time. However, both times I prepared them, I utilized leftover roasted chicken I had on hand. No leftover chicken? Try using a store-bought rotisserie chicken, or cook up your favorite chicken parts especially for these enchilada stacks.

chicken & black bean enchilada stacksServe the enchilada stacks with sides of refried beans and Mexican style rice (I used an excellent recipe from, Damn Delicious, though I did replace the peas with chopped green chilis.) for a complete meal. According to most members of my household, an offering of sour cream and diced avocados is essential!

This recipe is for my dear friend, Ms. DH (Happy Anniversary), who for years requested this meal when dining at our home. Enjoy!

Enchilada Sauce

  • Servings: about 4 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cup diced onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
28 ounce can whole tomatoes, undrained
2 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, roughly chopped (canned variety)
2 teaspoons adobe sauce (from the canned chipotle peppers)
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
pinch of sugar
1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
1½ cup chicken stock
8 ounce tomato sauce
salt and pepper to taste


Heat oil in a large (wide bottom) pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion; saute about 5-7 minutes or until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook about 1 minute more.

Add all of the other ingredients. Stir well to incorporate. Bring to a soft boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle.

Puree the sauce by either using an immersion blender (directly in the pot) or transfer the sauce to a blender (process in at least 2 batches to avoid overflow). Make sure the sauce is processed until smooth. Return to pot if blender is used. Continue to simmer for at least 10 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

If serving same day as prepared, keep warm on low heat for enchilada assembly and serving. Otherwise, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (It freezes well, too.)

The recipe you see below is for 3 triple decker enchilada stacks. They will feed 6 hungry people when offered with side dishes.

Chicken Enchilada Stacks

  • Servings: 3 triple-decker stacks
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

2 cups of enchilada sauce
9 corn tortillas (flour tortillas will turn to mush)
2 cups cooked, chopped chicken
2 cups shredded cheese, divided use (I use a 4-cheese Mexican blend)
1 cup canned beans (black or pinto both work great)
optional: chopped black olives, diced green chilis (use your imagination and palate as your guide!)


Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, 1½ cups of the cheese, beans and any other “fillers” you desire (olives, green chilis, etc.). Mix well.

Using a large baking sheet (with shallow sides), place three corn tortillas. Top each with a thin layer of enchilada sauce. Top the sauce with about 1 cup of the chicken filling. Drizzle with a bit more sauce. Repeat the whole process, ending with a corn tortilla drizzled with sauce. Any remaining sauce can be drizzled around or on the stacks or kept warm for serving.

Bake for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle the top of each stack with the reserved cheese and continue baking for 10 minutes. Garnish with sour cream, avocado, or as desired.


    • Glad to hear I’m not the only one to hang on to things for years, Liz! It’s a great book to reference and then figure out ways to make “homemade” versions of old favorites!

  1. This does sound really good, Nancy. I, too, have problems with corn tortillas falling apart whenever I come in contact with them, no matter the context. (I swear they start tearing when I enter that aisle at the grocer’s.) As many times as I’ve ordered enchiladas, I’ve never thought to make them at home. I didn’t realize how easy it was, till now. Stacking them is a brilliant solution to the corn tortilla problem, though I’d call them enchilada Napoleons rather than stacks. 🙂

    • LOVE that name… Enchilada Napoleons! Sounds much fancier than stacks! Ugh… that tearing is so frustrating. I’ve even ventured to the shops in the Mexicantown area of Detroit to buy the “good” tortillas and it still didn’t make a difference. From this day forward I shall never roll again. 🙂 Thanks so much, John!

    • Glad to hear the recipe appeals to you, Judi! If only you had posted that avocado sauce/dip recipe the day before I made these enchiladas instead of the day after… darn! Next time (yes, in January for me too) I’ll make the Nancy/Judi Mexican feast. 🙂

    • I hope you like the sauce, Tracey! You can adjust the heat easily with the number of peppers used or the amount of adobe sauce. My recipe is medium heat…appealing to everyone in the house. Once you try the stacked version, you’ll never roll again. 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to visit and comment!

    • After years spent of rolling and rolling enchiladas, I don’t think I’ll ever roll again! This was so much easier, without giving up any of the flavor. Thanks so much, Karen!

  2. I’ve always wanted to make enchiladas, but until now I don’t know what am I waiting for. Maybe too busy with baking. 😀 Enchiladas look perfect, Nancy. 🙂

  3. Great recipe Nancy, I too made my enchilada sauce with chipotle peppers in adobe sauce just recently. It gives a nice kick to the dish I must say. It is great to see a savory dish after all the holiday baking going on currently :). I hope you enjoy the holidays with your loved ones. :). Thanks for your words of wisdom earlier by the way.

    • Thank you, Loretta! I’m doing more than my fair share of baking, but a girl cannot live on cookies alone. 🙂 Happy holidays to you as well! I hope you get your WP issues worked out soon… real soon!

    • Awww, thanks Fae! 🙂 I actually made chili rellenos last summer with poblano peppers from my garden …. And failed miserably! That happens my “go-to” order from the local Mexican restaurant. Love them! I’ll give it another try… eventually!

    • Thanks, glad to provide a starting point, Sonal! I bet you could use the same filling from your caramelized onion quesadillas for an excellent vegetarian variation!

  4. I love this, enchiladas are pretty much my favorite Mexican food. I made them once and used store bought sauce. Going to try your recipe, now I really want enchiladas. The stacks are a stroke of genius, yes they break all the time.

    • The stacks are assembled so quickly. With the sauce on hand, I had dinner on the table in no time… Most welcomed after a day of holiday baking! Thank you, Suzanne. 🙂

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