Chilaquiles might be one of my favorite Mexican dishes. They are lightly fried tortillas that are bathed in salsa (usually red or green) and served with any variety of toppings such as chicken, steak, eggs, or beans. They are almost always accompanied with a sprinkle of queso (cheese), a drizzle of crema mexicana (Mexican version of sour cream), and few slices of onion. The flavor of the crispy tortillas blends so nicely with the salsa and is rounded out by the cheese and cream. Yum!
Some people like their chilaquiles crunchy while others like them somewhat soft. I kind of fall right in the middle. They should have a sufficient amount of salsa on them for flavor, but they still should retain a slight bit of crunch. If you travel throughout Mexico, you will find that there are many versions of chilaquiles. Recipes also vary from cook to cook. I personally like my chilaquiles with red salsa that has a little bit of kick to it from the chiles. However, feel free to adapt as you would like.
This dish is often served as a breakfast because it is a way to use up leftover tortillas. I like to cut my tortillas into wedges the day before and leave them out to dry overnight. This way the chips don’t soak up as much oil when they are fried. Although they are a breakfast/brunch item, I often make them for dinner. Who said there were rules, right? This is an everyday food and really once you’ve made the salsa, you’ve done half of the work. Let’s get started!
Click here for printable recipe.
Salsa Roja (Makes about 3 cups of sauce)
5 plum tomatoes
2 chiles serranos (You can use one if you don’t want the sauce to be as spicy)
1 chile guajillo (cut off top, take out seeds, devein)
1 clove of garlic
¼ of a white onion (or less)
1 cup chicken broth
1 TBSP olive oil
Salt to taste
→Turn the broiler on. Place washed tomatoes on a foil-lined baking pan. Put under the broiler. Roast the tomatoes until slightly blackened on all sides. This takes about 10-15 minutes. You will have to turn them at least once so that they are nicely roasted all the way around.
→While the tomatoes are cooking, roast the serranos on a hot comal/skillet until slightly charred on all sides. Then roast the garlic clove and the guajillo chile. The guajillo will only roast for about 1-2 minutes. Otherwise, it will become bitter.
→After the guajillo has been roasted, place it in a small pot with enough water to cover it. Bring to a boil to soften the guajillo and then shut off the flame. Leave the guajillo sit for another 5 minutes to soften.
→Cut off the tops of the roasted serranos and place them in the blender. Cut off the tops of the roasted tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes in half and place them in the blender. (You do NOT need to remove the charred tomato peel.) Add the roasted garlic clove (take off its paper), softened guajillo chile, and onion. Finally add the chicken broth. Blend until the mixture is completely smooth. This takes about 1-2 minutes. You can pulse the blender a couple of times to get the sauce nice and smooth.
→In a medium skillet, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil. Make sure it is nice and hot. Then, add the tomato mixture. (In Spanish, this step is referred to as “sazonar” because you are adding another dimension of flavor to the sauce by cooking it to meld the flavors together.) Add salt to taste. You will want to add a little more salt than usual because the tortilla chips will NOT be salted. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes to bring out the flavor. You can use the sauce immediately or set it aside. The sauce should be somewhat liquidy in order to coat the tortilla chips later on.
Chilaquiles (Serves 2-3 people)
12 corn tortillas, cut into sixths and laid on a pan to dry out overnight or during the day
Oil to fry (I used canola.)
Queso fresco, crumbed
→Fill a medium skillet with about 1” of oil. Heat over a medium-low flame. I test to see if the oil is ready by dipping part of a cut tortilla in the oil. If there are little bubbles around the chip, the oil is ready.
→Fry the tortillas until they are golden-colored and crisp. Line a colander with paper towels and put it on a plate to catch the excess oil. Drain the tortillas in the colander. (You could also complete this entire step by using a deep fryer. It is completely up to you.)
→Once the tortillas are fried and drained, add them to the warm red salsa. Stir to coat all of the chips. Serve the chilaquiles on a plate and top with crema Mexicana and crumbed queso fresco. I also like to serve black beans on the side.
- Crema Mexicana is the Mexican version of sour cream. However, while sour cream is somewhat thick and tart, crema is only slightly tangy and is oh so subtle and flowy (yes, I made that word up). I buy mine at a store that carries Latin American products. I often use the brand Lala. If you can’t find it, you could 1) Make your own…lots of recipes out there. 2) Use the thicker sour cream. 3) Use the thinner crème fraîche.
- Queso fresco translates to fresh cheese in English. It is often sold as a rectangular or circular block and you can crumble it with a fork or your fingers. It resembles feta cheese when crumbled. However, its flavor is very mild and slightly salty. It is somewhat soft and moist, but at the same time has a dry quality. A substitute for this cheese would be queso cotija
Recipe Source: Adapted from “La Receta de la Abuelita” YouTube channel