vegetarian enchiladas

by Stacy

We didn’t eat much Mexican food growing up other than Midwesternized tacos from time to time, so my exposure is fairly limited. In contrast, my husband used to vacation in Mexico with family and friends and considers Mexican cuisine the most important staple of his diet after ketchup. I’m a fan as well, but as for making it myself, I’m still learning. When my husband requested enchiladas last year, I gamely looked up a recipe, bought a can of enchilada sauce, and gave it my best shot. The enchiladas themselves he deemed good, but the sauce wasn’t flavorful enough.

Determined to succeed, I arranged a meeting. In a parking lot not far from the river I waited in my car until another vehicle pulled up nearby. The driver got out, approached me, and handed me a plastic bag full of powder. After sliding the bag in my purse we walked together and entered a large medical facility.

The building was the Red Cross where we had appointments to donate blood, and the bag was full of chili powder. Sadly, my hemoglobin was just too low to donate and it took me over a year to use the chili powder for its intended use.

homemade enchilada sauce

The friend I met told me that she makes enchilada sauce almost weekly, gave me her recipe, and brought me about a cup of the chili powder she uses for me to try. This time (over a year later and half the country away), the husband heartily approved of my efforts.

The enchilada were filled with sauteed onions, mushrooms, garlic and oregano plus some black beans, diced green chile, and cheese.

sauteing onions and mushrooms making enchiladas

While corn may be traditional, I had a request for flour tortillas. I made a batch of whole wheat tortillas for this project. My intention was to add cilantro to the filling, but I forgot; it was still delicious sprinkled on top.

homemade whole wheat tortillas cilantro

If I had the tortillas and sauce made ahead this would have been a reasonably quick meal to throw together. Since I didn’t, it was more time-consuming than normal. I won’t judge anyone for taking shortcuts here, store-bought tortillas and sauce are just fine.

After a quick saute, the mushrooms, onions, beans, and cheese got rolled up in tortillas, nestled in a baking dish, and smothered generously with sauce. At this point you could cover and freeze the whole pan — just thaw before baking later.

vegetarian enchiladas vegetarian enchiladas

After fifteen minutes baking time I sprinkled the tops with a bit more cheese and gave them five more minutes.


vegetarian enchiladas

An unassuming pan of food!

Let’s work on that.

vegetarian enchiladas

Ahhh, garnish. Much better.

Vegetarian Enchilada Sauce

Adapted from Rancho de Chimayo restaurant via Reid’s blog
Makes about 5 cups

3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup diced onion
1/2-3/4 cups dried ground red chile, high quality, such as this type
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 cups vegetable broth

1.) Dissolve cornstarch in 3 tablespoons of cold water, whisk until smooth. Heat oil in a 3-quart (or larger) saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until starting to brown. Warm vegetable broth in another pan or the microwave.

2.) When onion is brown, add ground chile, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir. Gradually add warmed broth, stirring to break up any lumps.

3.) When all the broth is added, mix in cornstarch slurry. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sauce should coat the back of a spoon. Store any unused sauce tightly-covered in the refrigerator.

Vegetarian Enchiladas

Serves 3-4

8 flour tortillas
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced green chiles (I used canned, fresh would be great, too)
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/3 cups grated Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup enchilada sauce (see above)
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
sour cream and avocado for topping

1.) Preheat oven to 375F. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. When a drop of water flicked into the pan sizzles, add the oregano, mushrooms and onions. Saute until softened and mushrooms are deeper in color. Stir in garlic and stir briefly. Remove from heat.

2.) Spoon about 1/4 cup of mushrooms and onions, 3 tablespoons black beans, 1 teaspoon green chiles, and 1-2 tablespoons grated cheese into each tortilla. Roll the tortilla tightly and place seam-down in a 9×13 baking dish. Repeat for all 8 tortillas.

3.) Pour enchilada sauce over tortillas and spread evenly making sure to coat all the ends. Bake at 375F for 15 minutes, then sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake another 5 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve immediately topped with sour cream, avocado, and cilantro.

vegetarian enchiladas

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

tater1112 April 24, 2010 at 2:28 pm

You made me laugh aloud, and then read the story of the chili-powder hand-off to Reid, because he was giving me strange looks. :)


stacy April 24, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Between my axe murderer friends and my spice dealer it sounds like I lead an exciting life, doesn’t it? ^_~


Jennifer April 24, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Now… where does one go about finding high quality chile powder?


stacy April 24, 2010 at 3:24 pm

….Red Cross parking lots? ;p

I believe she gets hers from the local co-op in the bulk spice section.


tater1112 April 24, 2010 at 8:01 pm

I actually ordered it from NM.

I’m pretty sure I got it from here – the hot red chili powder near the top is what I used


Reid April 25, 2010 at 10:06 am

I must strenuously disagree with your assertion that store-bought enchilada sauce is OK. Marilyn’s recipe is far, far better and it’s easy – I’m sure Anderson could hack it if you don’t want regular red sauce duty, and it freezes well.

Store-bought tortillas are fine, though.

Bulk chile powder from the co-ops in the Twin Cities is much inferior to the Leona’s stuff. You might do better in San Diego, but northern New Mexico really is the chile capital of the world. Suck it up and order from Leona’s. They get excited when you buy five pounds. :)


stacy April 25, 2010 at 11:30 am

I said store-bought is “fine,” not “preferable” or “delicious.” And while my darling spouse is perfectly capable of cooking, he chooses not to. Also, I still have like 2 cups of leftover sauce in the fridge.

Apologies, I misremembered where you guys got the chile powder. It was a long time ago and I already had a bag of it in my cupboard! Once it’s gone I will scope out some local places to see how I fare. New Mexico is the best source of most chile, though, it is true.


Reid April 25, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Erin points out that I sound cranky above, so sorry about that. Not my intent. I think we just disagree on store-bought sauce being “fine” – personally, I’d pursue an entirely different direction if my wife’s red sauce was not available.

BTW, if you’re ever in northern New Mexico (ABQ, Santa Fe, etc.), let me know. I’ll get you a list of restaurants to die for.


stacy April 26, 2010 at 12:33 am

I like to provide an option for people who actually have to go to work on a regular basis or already have a can of sauce in the cupboard to use up. And for people who don’t yet know what they’re missing by making sauce or don’t yet have high-quality red chile powder, they can still have enchiladas. =)

Sadly I was really sick when we drove through Albuquerque and had a really terrible meal at the hotel there. I would be willing to try again, sans fever.


Reid April 25, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Oh, and 2 cups of sauce is good for about one burrito around here. :)


Amie April 26, 2010 at 11:28 am

These look great – I just may have to steal this recipe! It seems like an awesome fridge cleaner too.


stacy May 3, 2010 at 2:03 am

Thanks, I hope you do! I try not to offer overwhelming options for recipes, but it’s hard not to add stuff like, “You could also add peppers, carrots, squash, rice…..” So I agree that it would be a great fridge-buster.


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