These are The Best Cheese Enchiladas ever! Most specifically, I love soft, spicy, cheese enchiladas. My first recollection of having enchiladas at all was when I was a kid and my mom had me grate what seemed like way too much cheese (little did I know that cheese was the best part, but tell that to my grated thumb). We stirred that cheese into a big bowl filled with a warm, meat concoction laden with sliced olives, a little red sauce and green onions. I remember eating that soft, meaty, mixture right off the spoon and wondering why we even needed to put it into a corn tortilla (again, what did I know!?).
The Best Cheese Enchiladas are a Family Affair
As a family, we would occasionally go out to a Mexican restaurant and I would ALWAYS order “two cheese enchiladas, no onion.” This came with a side of rice and beans, but I didn’t care about that, just those soft, cheesy enchiladas. I never asked to have them at home, I actually never thought about it. You know in your little kid mind, some things are just “special” and saved for a restaurant? Well, those were cheese enchiladas for me.
When I got older and had a hankering for enchiladas, I would make up a batch of my mom’s beef enchiladas, the familiar ones I knew and loved (oh she branched out to an amazing chicken enchilada too, but I’ll save that for another post). Not to date myself, but we didn’t have internet to do a recipe search and unless you made it to the library to look up a recipe book, you either had to already have the recipe in your arsenal or you knew someone that did. So, I made what I knew.
It is no joke when I say these are The Best Cheese Enchiladas!!!
In my early 20’s, I happened to attend a potluck and saw a HUGE pan of what I thought were cheese enchiladas at the end of the table. They were sitting just beyond a tray of anemic looking sliced ham and I made a beeline to that big glass dish! When I say beeline, I mean, I gasped out loud and lost a shoe in my haste to make sure what I was seeing was real, not some sort of potluck mirage that turned out to be a noodle casserole. NOPE! It was the real deal! I immediately spooned up a helping far too big for potluck etiquette, but I figured I’d walk away quickly and eat as I left to find my seat and nobody would be the wiser. I headed for the far side of the room, took a seat on a short metal stool, hunched over that paper plate and had a “moment” as I chewed. In hindsight, I’m sure I resembled Smeagol from the Lord of the Rings with my “precious” plate of The Best Cheese Enchiladas EVER. I tell you this, not just to let you in on my absurdity, but to let you know the depth of my love for CHEESE ENCHILADAS! They are almost as good as my Santa Fe Chicken and Rice Casserole!
After I regained my composure, I sought out the culinary artist who brought this pan of loveliness and laid on the praise. It happened to be my instructor Mrs. Meyers. She was sweet enough to offer me the recipe, which I accepted greedily, and have kept it safe in my recipe box since. It is now a weathered and stained recipe card, one I have used often and is still the original cheese enchilada I tasted 30 years ago.
Typically I make these when we have company, so nothing normally less than a 9 x 13 Pyrex type glass dish. When it is just Opa and I, I often make them in my smaller iron skillet and since I made the full batch of sauce, I just freeze the remaining sauce in a separate container for another night.
- 1 cup Butter
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 cans 29 oz each Tom Sauce
- 3-4 cans 7-3/4 oz each El Pato Hot Tomato Sauce (Salsa de Chile Fresco) 3 cans is very kid friendly, 4 cans is spicier
- 1/2 tsp ground oregano
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2-4 pounds grated, cheddar cheese (amount varies depending on personal tastes)
- 2-4 dozen corn tortillas (varies on how many layers you make)
- In a deep pot, slowly melt butter, add onions and cook until soft and translucent.
- Add remaining ingredients to the pot and simmer on low/med until hot all the way through and then add 2 cups grated cheese and stir until thoroughly melted.
- Spray a 9 x1 3 glass dish with Pam (or grease as you would normally, to prevent sticking).
- Ladle sauce into prepared dish to coat entire bottom. Start first layer of tortillas on top of sauce, overlapping the tortillas slightly to cover the entire bottom of dish, then cover tortillas with grated cheddar cheese (be generous), then another layer of sauce, then another layer tortillas and repeat process until you reach the top of your dish. Make cheese the top layer.
- Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until bubbly
This recipe calls for corn tortillas and you can use either white or yellow. This is also a recipe you can adjust to your specific taste. If you like more cheese, pile it on or if you want more onion or sauce go crazy. The number of corn tortillas and quantity of cheese you will need depends on how many layers you can make in your baking dish, so I have given you a standard range for my 12 inch iron skillet (you will need more for a 9 x 13 dish). Typically 3 cans of the El Pato Spicy Tomato Sauce is a heat level that all kids will enjoy, so I usually add a 4th can to make it hotter for just us. I normally serve these with a side of refried beans, rice, avocado and sour cream. I hope you enjoy!
If you love Mexican food in simple, easy recipes, you will want to give my Creamy Leftover Turkey Enchiladas a try or my Simple Skillet Tamales. These are quick and easy to make, perfect for a weeknight meal!!
Does your family have a recipe that you consider to be The Best Cheese Enchiladas?