Where in my entire life have these crimson chilaquiles been? Tortilla chips cooked in sauce make up the traditional Mexican breakfast dish known as chilaquiles (pronounced chee-lah-key-less). Typically, they are cooked with red enchilada sauce or green salsa (salsa verde in Spanish, which results in chilaquiles verdes) (chilaquiles rojos).
I adore how the sauce seeps into the chips and makes them somewhat softer. This chip-based cuisine becomes more of a complete meal when fresh toppings like cilantro, radish or onion, crumbled cheese, and frequently fried eggs are added. Although I don’t think this straightforward recipe is really authentic, it should nonetheless sate your appetite for chilaquiles.
When it comes to chilaquiles, the sauce is everything. I’ve already perfected my chilaquiles verdes recipe with homemade salsa verde. I finally tried making chilaquiles with my favorite homemade enchilada sauce, and holy smokes, I’ve been missing out!
Chilaquiles are a fun weekend breakfast or brunch. They’re also a comforting and quick breakfast-f0r-dinner option, and a great way to use up a bag of leftover tortilla chips. Ready to learn how to make them?
Chilaquiles Rojos Ingredients
Let’s break this chilaquiles recipe down into three parts:
1) Enchilada sauce
Sauce forms the backbone
1) Enchilada sauce
of flavor in chilaquiles, so you need to use a great one. I’m a big believer in my go-to red enchilada sauce recipe, so I’ve incorporated it into the recipe below. My red sauce is full of rich, long-simmered, chili-pepper flavor, yet it’s so easy to make in a big skillet before adding the chips.
If you want to use your own red enchilada sauce recipe, or a store-bought option (Frontera brand is the only semi-decent option I’ve found), you’ll need 2 cups.
2) Tortilla chips
Authentic Mexican chilaquiles are made with fried tortilla chips. I’ve tried homemade chilaquiles with freshly baked tortilla chips and store-bought tortilla chips—more details on those options below.
Tangy crumbled cheese, crisp radish, fresh cilantro, and creamy avocado all offer welcome contrast to saucy chips. If you’re topping your chilaquiles with eggs, you’ll want to either prepare them in advance of making the sauce, or while your sauce is simmering (if you are great at multitasking).
How to Make Chilaquiles
Chilaquiles are easy to make—if you’re prepared! Chilaquiles come together quickly, so prep all of your ingredients before you get started. That includes garnishes, too.
Once your ingredients are ready to go, we will:
1) Make the enchilada sauce in a large skillet.
We’ll use the same skillet throughout the recipe. Once the enchilada sauce is good to go, we’ll reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting, then…
2) Add the tortilla chips and stir, stir, stir.
It might seem like your tortilla chips will never be fully coated, but they will eventually. If your chips haven’t softened up during the stirring process, cover up the skillet for a few minutes.
3) Add toppings and serve immediately.
Chilaquiles aren’t complete without a generous amount of fresh toppings. The chips can get soggy over time, so serve your chilaquiles right away.
Homemade Tortilla Chips vs. Store-Bought Tortilla Chips
Many chilaquiles recipes suggest frying your own tortilla chips. Big pots of oil scare me, so I don’t deep-fry at home.
Baked tortilla chips work great in chilaquiles, so that’s another great option. As a bonus, baked chips don’t require nearly as much oil. You’ll find instructions in the section below.
When I first experimented with chilaquiles, I was disappointed by the results with store-bought tortilla chips. Some brands taste oily or stale, and they impart those flavors to the chilaquiles.
How to Bake Crispy Tortilla Chips
You’ll need 16 thin corn tortillas, 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Here’s how:
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit with racks in the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper for easy clean-up. Brush both sides of each tortilla lightly with oil. Stack the tortillas, 4 at once, and slice them into 8 wedges. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Divide the wedges between the two baking sheets and arrange them evenly across the pans (it’s ok if the chips overlap; they’ll shrink significantly as they bake). Sprinkle half the salt over one pan and half over the other.
- Bake, swapping the pans on their racks every 5 minutes, until the chips are curling up at the edges and some are starting to turn golden on the edges. This could take as little as 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the top rack especially, as those tend to finish baking first. Once you see the chips on the top rack turn golden on the edges, remove that pan and move the pan on the lower rack up to the top. Bake until those chips start turning golden on the edges, then remove from the oven.
To Add Eggs, or Not to Add Eggs
That is the question. In Mexico, chilaquiles don’t automatically come with eggs. I ordered some epic green chilaquiles at Lardo in Mexico City, and I was surprised when they arrived without eggs—I was supposed to request them!
In the U.S., chilaquiles are almost always served with fried eggs on top—and they’re delicious. I love serving my homemade chilaquiles with olive oil fried eggs, which develop the most irresistible crispy edges.
I like adding eggs to my chilaquiles because they make them more substantial. Scrambled or poached eggs are great, too.
Want a hearty plant-based option? Serve your chilaquiles with a side of refried beans. These chilaquiles are easily made dairy free/vegan, by the way—see the recipe notes for details.
‘Also read: Pasta e Fagioli (Italian Pasta and Beans)
Red Sauce (yields 2 cups)
- 3 tablespoons flour (whole wheat, all-purpose, or gluten-free blend all work)
- 1 tablespoon ground chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt, to taste
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus additional for garnish
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
- 5 big handfuls (5 ounces) corn tortilla chips, or homemade crispy baked tortilla chips (see post)
- ⅓ cup crumbled Cotija, queso fresco or feta cheese
- 1 small handful (about 3 tablespoons) very thinly sliced radish, or chopped red or green onion
- 1 ripe avocado, thinly sliced, or guacamole
- Optional: 4 fried eggs or scrambled eggs or poached eggs
- To make the sauce: Measure the flour, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, salt and cinnamon into a small bowl. Place the bowl near the stove with the tomato paste and broth.
- In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil until it’s it’s hot enough that a light sprinkle of the flour/spice mixture sizzles on contact. This might take a couple of minutes. Keep an eye on it.
- Once it’s ready, pour in the flour and spice mixture. While whisking constantly, cook until fragrant and slightly deepened in color, about 1 minute. Whisk the tomato paste into the mixture, then slowly pour in the broth while whisking constantly to remove any lumps.
- Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, whisking often, for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit and your spoon encounters some resistance as you stir it.
- Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting. Whisk in the cilantro and vinegar and season to taste with additional salt, if necessary (I usually add another pinch or two).
- To make the chilaquiles: Add the tortilla chips to the skillet. Using a flexible spatula, gently toss until all of the chips are coated in sauce. It might seem like they never will be, but keep stirring!
- Once coated, remove the skillet from the heat. Test a chip to see if it has softened to your liking (this is really a matter of personal preference—I like my chips lightly tender). If the chips are not sufficiently softened, cover the skillet for 1 to 4 minutes, until you’re happy with their texture.
- Sprinkle the chilaquiles generously with crumbled cheese, radish and cilantro leaves. Scoop servings onto individual plates, add a few slices of avocado, a fried egg if desired, and a wedge of lime. The chips will continue softening with time, so chilaquiles are best served promptly (do not re-cover the pan to preserve heat; the chips will get far too soggy).