Rustic Chicken & Chile Enchiladas w/Homemade Enchilada Sauce {Gluten-free}

I am a huge enchilada fan… have been since I was a kid.  There’s just something about them; it’s indescribable really.  Whether the gooey cheesy more “American” style version or the more rustic village style ones, they’re undeniably delicious.  The word “rustic” came to mind when making these… they reminded me of the enchiladas I loved when I’d spend winters in Mexico with my dad as a girl.  Of course they have a Natalie-flair… they’re an in-the-middle version somewhere between authentic Mexican and fusion American I suppose.  I’ve made notes in the directions about how to adjust the flavors to your liking…


The thing that really makes these rustic feeling to me is the sauce.  It’s a homemade red chile sauce using chile de arbol (arbol chiles) and dried ancho chiles.  With a little chipotle thrown in, as well, this pepper blend creates a smoky, spicy, savory blend classic of the Mexican flavor palate.  And then there’s the filling… moist shredded chicken, fresh-roasted chiles, and corn along with sauteed onion and garlic create a simple but very flavorful stuffing for these little guys.  Of course if preferred, you can adapt it and change things aroundsPaleo dieters don’t typically do corn, for example, so it could be easily omitted.  If easier, you can buy canned roasted chiles instead of roasting them at home.  Make this recipe work for you… it’s not meant to be a pain, just a tasty homemade version of chicken enchiladas!


The sauce, oh the sauce… it’s just enough for this recipe (sadly, sigh).  Of course if you’d prefer, you can pick up some pre-made sauce you like and call it good, but I sure did enjoy not only making this from scratch, but more importantly, eating it.  It’s definitely a keeper :)


Here are the chiles I used… arbol on the left, ancho on the right.  If you can’t find these, look for any dried Mexican pepper you like- New Mexican peppers will work, too.  Each pepper has a different heat level, so pay attention to that if the spice-level is important to you.  As mentioned in the directions, you can remove the seeds from the peppers to lessen their heat… it’s an easy solution for those looking for a not-so-spicy sauce.


Most enchilada sauce recipes call for flour… I didn’t want to use flour, so instead I ground up some pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and used them as the thickening agent.  Not only are they healthy, but doing so makes this a gluten-free dish for those who prefer. :)


Just before I began working on the enchiladas, I three some black beans into my Crock Pot as a side… man, what a great decision that was!  They are super simple to make (if you don’t have a Crock Pot, you can just toss them in a pot on the stove for an hour or so).  Green bell pepper, garlic, onion, and a couple of classic southwestern style spices make the beans the perfect addition to the enchiladas in my little opinion.  Check out the recipe HERE if you’d like… plus, they cook all on their own while the enchiladas are being made!


You can choose any toppings you like… I used pepitas, avocado, red onion, and shredded cabbage along with some Greek yogurt (or sour cream).  Some other tasty additions are radishes, green onions, and olives if you so desire… :)


Makes approx 12 enchiladas

{I froze half the batch for a mid-week ready-made meal!}



for the chicken…

1 lb chicken breasts, boneless/skinless

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp chili powder (see my homemade blend HERE)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup chicken broth (good quality, low-sodium)


for the stuffing…

2 large fresh green chiles of your choice (I used 1 Poblano and 1 Anaheim)

2 garlic cloves

1/2 yellow onion (1 cup diced)

1 cup corn kernels

1/4 tsp salt

grated cheese, Monterey Jack and/or Cheddar (approx 2-3 cups)

12 corn tortillas (homemade or store-bought, make sure they’re gluten-free!)


for topping…

fresh cilantro


shredded cabbage

sour cream or Greek yogurt

extra cheese


 for the sauce…

2 dried ancho chiles

5 dried arbol chiles

1/2 yellow onion (1 cup chopped)

4-5 ripe medium tomatoes

3 garlic cloves

1/4 tsp ground chili chipotle

1/2 tsp chili powder (make your own HERE)

1/4 tsp oregano (preferably Mexican)

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp honey (preferably raw)

1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup chicken broth (low-sodium)

*this is a somewhat spicy sauce… if you’d like it not spicy, 

remove the seeds from the chile peppers prior to cooking


**this recipe is made from scratch so takes some time, but you could easily

substitute in store-bought enchilada sauce and roasted chiles…

it will change the flavor, but for those on a time-crunch, they will work just fine!



Begin by making the sauce…

(if you’re using a pre-made sauce, skip this section and go right on to the enchiladas!)

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat

Add the ancho and arbol chiles


Add the chopped onion, garlic cloves, chipotle, chili powder, oregano, cumin, and salt to the pot


Saute for a couple of minutes, stirring every so often to prevent burning


Roughly chop the tomatoes


Add them to the pot and saute for a few more minutes

Important: if you don’t want it spicy, cut open the chiles first and empty out the seeds

(you can remove the stems now if you’d like or before it all goes into the blender once soft)


Add the chicken broth, making sure to cover the peppers completely


Let cook for about 15-20 minutes, until the chiles are fully rehydrated and soft


Remove stems from chiles if not already taken off

Add the ingredients to a blender or food processor (I usually use my immersion blender to make sauces,

but for this, I find the blender to be more efficient since there are so many chunks and seeds and such)


Blend  until smooth

Add honey


In a small food processor, grind the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) until powdery in texture


You want about 1/4 cup


Add it to the sauce…


Blend until smooth and creamy

Taste and adjust seasonings as desired you may also add more broth if you’d like it thinner

(I didn’t add anything more… for a rustic feel, I prefer a thick sauce, but for that

saucy more restaurant-style version, you may want it thinner and soupier- your call :) )


Okay, done with sauce!  Set aside and move on to making the enchiladas!

Roasting chiles is super easy- you can char them on a

gas stove top (which I sadly do not have) or broil them in your oven (the approach I use)

Preheat broiler

Place fresh cleaned chiles on a baking sheet (no oil or salt needed)


Broil them for a few minutes until charred

Then flip them over and char the other side


That’s it… easy, right?


Remove the stems and then dice the chiles

(If you want to lessen the spiciness of the dish, remove the seeds from the chiles..

these peppers aren’t very spicy by nature, but it will help decrease any heat that is there)


To cook the chicken, add the breasts, olive oil, chili powder, and salt to a pot over low-medium heat

(I use the same pot for everything in this dish-

I just give it a quick clean between to lessen the mess in the end!)


Stir it all together to smother the breasts in the seasoning


Add the chicken broth

Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until completely cooked

{Alternatively, you can pan-fry the breasts if you prefer; however I find that this method keeps it moist)


Once the chicken is done, let it rest a about five minutes, until cool enough to handle


(You can chop the pieces in half directly in the pot if you’d like to expedite the cooling process)


Lay chicken on a cutting board

Chop onion and bring the peppers back into the mix… it’s time to make the stuffing!


Shred the chicken with your fingers… it should make about 2 cups worth

the shreddier (nope I don’t think that’s a real word, but it works here) the better :)


In the pot (same one- just dump the liquid… the seasonings on the bottom can stay!),

add about 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat

Add roasted peppers, onions, corn, garlic, and salt


Stir together and saute it all for about five minutes, until onions are softened and fragrant


Add the shredded chicken to the mix

Stir it all together until well-mixed

That’s it… stuffing is done :)

(Taste and adjust seasonings if desired)

Now to assemble…

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Pour the enchilada sauce in a bowl large enough to dunk the tortillas in

Ladle some sauce onto the bottom of the baking dish (or dishes)

Grate cheese and organize an assembly area for everything

To make the tortillas soft and pliable, pile them onto a plate…

Dampen a paper towel with water and place it over the tortillas

Microwave the tortillas in 30 second periods, until they are very soft

(usually about 90 seconds total, but varies depending on the tortillas and the microwave)

If you don’t do this, then they are apt to crack during the rolling process…


To roll enchiladas, start by dousing one tortilla at a time in the enchilada sauce


Then top it with about 1/4 cup grated cheese and a hefty 1/4 cup of stuffing (use more or less as wanted)


Roll it as tightly as you can without breaking the tortilla- try to keep all of the stuffing in as best as you can

Place them in the baking dish snuggly

(I used two smaller dishes rather than one large one so that I could freeze half)

(If you’re wondering why there are on;y eight enchiladas it’s because

I ate some while cooking… oops.  Your batch should make about twelve 😉


Top the enchiladas off with all remaining sauce and then sprinkle cheese over the top

(I topped them with about 1 cup of cheese… if you want them really saucy and cheesy,

spread grated cheese all over the tops of the enchiladas.

Doing it the way I did will result in slightly crunchy tortillas the rustic approach;

melting cheese all over the top will result in softer gooier enchiladas- the more restaurant-style.

As mentioned about, thinning out the sauce will also make

them more saucy and moist, if that’s what you prefer)


Bake the enchiladas for about 30 minutes

For crunchy tortillas (the “rustic” vibe), do not cover them…

if you want them softer, cover them while baking

Meanwhile, prep the garnishes…

You can use a variety of goodies- radishes, black olives, and green onions are also good toppings


When the enchiladas are done, plate them, top with the garnishes, and dig in!

(Don’t forget sour cream or Greek yogurt if you want it!)


I served them with these delicious black beans HERE… the combo is highly recommended :)


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Hi, I'm Natalie! I like to cook, eat, and adventure. I live in a little home with an itty-bitty kitchen, a crazy feline, and a very hungry boyfriend. Lots of cooking and devouring goes down here. Farmer's markets inspire me, as do the seasons and travel. I create simple recipes using wholesome real food. Enjoy!
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