Cheesy, packed with flavor, and ready in under an hour—what could be better than that? The chicken enchilada bake is a Mexican style casserole that tastes like a meal which should require hours slaving in the kitchen, but in reality it won’t take you more than 15 minutes to prepare.
A Flavorful Adjustment to an Old Classic
Chicken enchilada bakes closely mirror their cousin, chicken enchiladas. The difference lies in the fact that instead of rolling the enchiladas, the ingredients are layered in a deconstructed fashion in a casserole dish. This allows you to use more chicken, tortillas, enchilada sauce, and sour cream to create a more flavorful dish, but it also minimizes the effort the dish requires. When prepared with even proportions, a chicken enchilada bake will have good structure to match its delicious taste.
The chicken enchilada bake has roots firmly planted in Mexican history. Corn tortillas were an item frequently used by Mayans, even in a dish quite similar to enchiladas as they’re known today. The simple tradition of rolling meat in a corn tortilla then smothering it with cheese and sauce was passed down through generations of Mexicans, recorded in a number of cookbooks. The leap to preparing chicken enchiladas as a bake was likely the result of large families for whom rolling individual tortillas was simply too time consuming.
Sometimes Less Is More
The beauty of a chicken enchilada bake truly lies in its simplicity. The only necessities for creating a stellar version of this dish are chicken, corn tortillas, enchilada sauce, cheese, and sour cream—just five ingredients for an entire home cooked meal. What’s more, additional toppings can easily be added without disrupting the overall flavor of the dish, so it’s easily customizable to fit any taste.
How to Prepare a Chicken Enchilada Bake
Making a standard chicken enchilada bake will just require a few simple steps:
- First, preheat the oven to around 400 degrees.
- Make sure you have at least 4 cups of shredded chicken (using a rotisserie chicken is the easiest option), about 10 corn tortillas cut into pieces, one can (or at least 10 ounces) of enchilada sauce, and as much sour cream and cheese as you feel you need.
- Begin layering the ingredients, starting with shredded chicken or tortillas until you’ve filled the casserole dish.
- Finally, cover the dish and bake it for around 45 minutes.
Once this is done, just allow the casserole to cool, cut it into pieces and serve. If you wish, you can even garnish with scallions or cilantro to give your time saving dish an elevated feel.
Make The Bake Your Own
The nature of chicken enchilada bake recipes leaves a wide berth of variation options. Some of the most common ones include:
- Adding salsa to the enchilada sauce layer
- Throwing jalapenos, tomatoes, or black olives into the mix
- Sprinkling diced onion, avocado, and tomato over the top
- Substituting plain greek yogurt for sour cream as a healthier option
Beyond these additions, you can play with the proportions of ingredients. If you prefer a sturdier chicken enchilada bake, you can cut down on the sauce and sour cream you include. If you are more concerned with bold flavor than neatness, amp up the sauce and cheese ratios in your casserole, and consider adding some hot peppers. Since this dish requires so few ingredients, you have a lot of room to experiment until you find a version that suits you best.
With time at a premium in this fast-moving world, any dish that maximizes flavor without requiring hours of work is a treasure, and a chicken enchilada bake offers just that.