There’s not much better than an old school Chicken or Turkey Enchilada: the tortilla wrapped around a creamy filling, napped in an easy Ranchero Sauce. Finished with a sprinkle of cheese, these are truly delicious. The sauce, flavorful (but not hot) gives a sharp contrast to the enchilada, itself. It’s a beautiful thing.
There’s all kinds of enchiladas and all kinds of enchilada sauces to top off your enchiladas, but one of my family’s absolute faves are these fast and easy Turkey or Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce. And guess what? They’re even faster if you have cooked chicken or turkey leftover, so this is a perfect recipe for a planned leftover (just make extra chicken when you have it for dinner) or for your Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers.
About Turkey or Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce:
There are a few things about Turkey or Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce that I love, and I bet you’re gonna love, too. That is beside the fact that they are just creamy deliciousness!
While I can’t say The Turkey or Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce is any kind of a “diet” enchilada, It’s such a nice, vibrant, fresh change up from another standard Mexican/American favorite, those green chile/sour cream enchiladas, Enchiladas con Pollo. Those oh so delish enchiladas are another great leftover chicken or turkey idea too, but The Turkey or Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce is just as easy, if not easier. Plus it’s a great way to sneak a few veggies in the kids.
Purists (you know who I mean – the ones that order their chiles, and grind them up themselves, and I’ve been there myself) would argue for days over this ingredient or that in the sauce, perhaps, especially over the use of bell peppers and the chili powder…I’m going to answer ahead of time: It’s delicious, it’s fast and it’s easy. And I don’t care. *smiles and takes another bite…*
Making Turkey or Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce:
There’s not much to making Turkey or Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce. I like to use a flat, wide skillet for the sauce since the enchiladas have to be “dragged through” it before being rolled up. Then I just snug everything together, the skillet for the oil (more on that, below, the skillet with the sauce, a plate to land them on, then the casserole dish avoid a bit of a potential mess.
The most important thing for this or any enchilada recipe is to “condition” your tortillas. There are various ways to do this and I think I’ve seen them all, but there is only one way that’s going to give you the absolute best texture on your tortilla so it won’t get soggy or fall apart after it’s filled and baked. And it’s a bit of a pain but just takes minutes.
You’re going to heat each tortilla in a small bit of oil, just until the edges crisp up a bit but the tortilla is still flexible. Now you can try shortcutting by spritzing your tortillas with oil and baking them, just watch carefully, or just spritz with oil and use them as is. Results of the final enchiladas always vary with the last two methods.
Saving Money on Turkey or Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce:
This is a very cost effective meal, especially if you pick up your ingredients on sale, use leftover chicken or turkey and serve your Chicken or Turkey Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce with a budget sides like Mexican Rice or Refried Beans.
Grocery store cheese is the cheapest option but think about the fact that more flavorful Mexican cheeses will allow you more “bang for your buck,” a bit more flavor for a smidge more cost if budget allows.
Recipe originally priced November 2011 for $5.46, repriced March 2014 for $4.16 – the difference? I’ve gotten much better at recognizing and shopping good sales on cheese!
Turkey or Chicken Enchiladas with Ranchero Sauce
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (the other half goes inside the enchilada)
- 1 bell pepper, finely chopped, or use poblano, charred, skinned and chopped, or a small can of green chile peppers
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 1/2 to 1 tablespoon vinegar (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
In a large skillet, saute onion and bell peppers if using (no need to saute Poblanos or the canned chiles, just add them when the onions are done) in oil until softened. Slowly stir in the tomato sauce and stock along with chili & cumin.
Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring now and then. This sauce should still be quite loose because the tortillas will be dipped in them.
Add the sugar, vinegar if using and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer a minute or two longer to blend the flavors.
Note on Sauce: Many Ranchero sauces contain just a touch of vinegar which lends a slightly sweet/sour vibe. If you’d like, add about 1/2 teaspoon white or apple cider vinegar to the sauce. Increase sugar to 2 teaspoons.
- 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup of milk, half and half or cream
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened or a soft Mexican cheese such as a Queso Fresca
- 4 ounces jack or cheddar cheese, or a mix (Colby Jack is fine, just not as flavorful)
- 2 1/2 cups shredded turkey or chicken (about 15 ounces)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional depending on the saltiness of the broth and cheese)
Place all cheeses (room temperature if using cream cheese) in a bowl. Gradually add milk of your choice, blending. Add onion and stir in. Add shredded poultry and mix together well, breaking up the poultry as it is mixed. (If the poultry is warm, this may be easier.) Taste, add the salt if desired.
Note: The onions inside the enchilada are not cooked, so don’t go overboard on them; if there are too many, they will overwhelm the filling. Other than that, all these ingredients can be played around with a bit – add more cheese or not as you desire. Changing the volume may change the amount of filling in each enchilada.
- 12 corn tortillas
- 2 tablespoons (or so) of oil
- 1/2 cup (or more) shredded cheddar cheese, or cheese of your choice. Preferred would be a crumbled Queso Fresca, Cojita or a mild Feta.
Prepare a 9 x 13″ casserole by coating with cooking spray and cover the bottom with about 1/2 cup of sauce.
Heat about a quarter inch of oil over medium-high heat in a skillet just large enough to hold tortilla. Test for readiness by dipping an edge of the tortilla in the oil. If small bubbles form around the tortilla, the oil is hot enough. Lay out a large plate to place the tortillas on after their dipping and prior to being rolled. (hint: make this an “assembly line” of the oil, the sauce, the large plate and then the casserole.
(see photo, above in text of post, on color and texture of tortilla when it should be removed from oil)
Working with six tortillas at a time, and using tongs if possible, lightly fry each tortilla in a skillet with oil (about 1/4 inch deep) until it just begins to crisp and takes on a bit of a golden color, but doesn’t become totally crisp: place tortilla in oil, immediately turn it over and fry for a few seconds. When the edge begins to firm up and the tortilla shows a few bubbles, turn again and fry for a few seconds more. The tortilla, when finished, should only have a slight crispness and still be quite flexible.
Immediately lay the tortilla in the skillet with the sauce and turn over, making certain both sides are coated in sauce, without a lot of excess. Remove and lay the tortilla on a plate. Repeat with the next five tortillas, stacking each on top of the previous one. With tongs, gently turn the tortilla stack over. (You will repeat, shortly with the next six, after these are rolled.)
Place a scant 1/3 cup of filling on the top tortilla in the stack, roll, and place in the casserole, seam side down. Repeat with the next five tortillas. If tortilla begins to crack, try rolling from a different edge, keeping the crack to the inside of the roll. Repeat process with the next six tortillas.
There should be enough room in the casserole dish for a row of 10 and two tortillas in the space on the side. When pan is filled, cover with what sauce remains, making sure that the edges have a bit of sauce on them. (While a spoon works, it is often easier to resort to clean hands.)
Cover pan with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until hot and warmed through. Uncover, sprinkle with cheese and bake three to five minutes longer. If not using cheese, uncover and let tortillas crisp up a bit, about the same amount of time. Placing cheese in a strip down the middle always makes it seem like “more.”
Garnish as desired.
Per Serving: 271 Calories; 16g Fat (52.5% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 18g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 61mg Cholesterol; 950mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain (Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Non-Fat Milk; 2 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
When using cheese to top a casserole, use a better, stronger cheese. Then rather than sprinkling it over the top, try adding it judiciously. Here in this casserole, I left the edges “nude” and sprinkled all the cheese down the middle. That means a lot less cheese is used but there still is that melty, stringing cheese goodness we all love – only a lot less of it. The same amount would have been “lost” had it been evenly sprinkled over the top of the whole casserole.
This makes 12 enchiladas – if your family is smaller, you could certainly freeze and then reheat 1/2 of them – since they keep so well in the fridge, we generally have part in the beginning of the week, and the rest for a second meal later.
If you came to this recipe looking for a way to use leftover turkey or chicken, be sure to check out the link below for 12 Days of Turkey. You might want to see the sister post for 12 Days of Ham, too.