These poblano chicken enchiladas are all about the creamy poblano sauce. The combination of the rich white sauce flavored with warm poblano peppers and fresh cilantro is so delicious. A store-bought rotisserie chicken makes these enchiladas so easy to make.
In August, I made two batches of chicken enchiladas for a birthday dinner: one batch had cheddar cheese and a basic red enchilada sauce and the other was a little fancier with a creamy poblano sauce and cheese. The poblano version was a recipe I found by Rick Bayless, famed Chicago chef who owns Frontera a restaurant specializing in Mexican cuisine.
I thought the poblano chicken enchiladas sounded delicious – I imagined the rich white sauce and the warm flavor from the peppers would be a wonderful combination – but I was worried. First, it was a new-to-me recipe which is always a risky proposition when you’re entertaining. Second, of the six people attending dinner, four were teenage boys whose idea of Mexican food is Taco Bell. I figured, better safe than sorry and, hence, the two types of enchiladas.
The worry was for nothing, though, because the Rick Bayless enchiladas were a hit and we were still talking about them days later. The red enchiladas were a hit, too (teenage boys are eating machines) but it was the creamy “green ones”, as they were called by my dinner companions, that really captured attention.
At the time, I followed the recipe as written except I substituted fresh cilantro for spinach because it’s what I had on hand. I also noticed the recipe made a lot of sauce (too much, in my opinion) and it was lacking a bit in acid, so since then I’ve been playing around with it (no offense to Mr. Bayless, of course).
So, today I’m sharing my take on Rick Bayless’ Enchiladas Especiales Tacuba Style, which I like to call creamy poblano chicken enchiladas
Make the Poblano Sauce
This recipe is really all about the sauce. It’s basically a white sauce, or bechamel, that’s flavored with poblano peppers and fresh cilantro. The original recipe recommends roasting the peppers, but I find it’s easier and just as delicious to saute them. Here’s what you need to make the sauce:
- unsalted butter
- poblano peppers
- all-purpose flour
- chicken broth
- whole milk
- fresh cilantro
If you’ve never cooked with poblano peppers, they are a mild chile pepper that is available at most grocery stores. If you’ve ever had chile rellenos, a stuffed pepper dish, you’ve had a poblano pepper. If you can’t find poblano peppers the best substitute is anaheim peppers, which are a little spicier.
- Start by sauteeing the peppers and garlic in a tablespoon of butter until they’re softened.
- Add two more tablespoons of butter and, once it’s melted, sprinkle flour over the top of the peppers.
- Stir until the flour and butter create a paste that coats the peppers.
- Add the chicken broth and stir until the flour and butter paste melts into the liquid.
- At this point, puree the sauce. I use an immersion blender (one of my favorite kitchen tools), which is a hand-held blender. Or, you can puree the sauce in a stand blender, just be sure to vent the heat while it blends.
- Once blended, add the milk and cilantro. Bring the sauce to a low simmer (don’t boil it) and cook it for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the sauce is thickened. You know it’s thick enough when you can run your spatula across the pan and catch a glimpse of the bottom of the pan before the sauce runs back over it.
- Add the salt and give the sauce a taste. If it needs more seasoning, add a few more pinches.
Assemble the Chicken Enchiladas
For the rest of the dish, you only need corn tortillas, shredded cooked chicken and shredded pepper jack cheese.
- Warm the tortillas: You want to warm the tortillas so they are pliable and roll up without cracking. I like to pop them in a warm oven (about 200°F for 10 minutes) to warm them up. You can also warm them in a skillet with some oil, which will crisp them up and give them toasty golden spots, but this is a little too high-maintenance for me.
- Cooked chicken: I used a store-bought rotisserie chicken for this recipe, which makes it really easy. You can also use leftover grilled chicken or plain baked chicken. Since the rotisserie chicken is already seasoned you don’t have to do anything but shred it.
- Cheese: I used pepper jack cheese but you can also use cheddar cheese, Monterey jack cheese or a combination of any of these.
- Spread some of the poblano sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Place some of the shredded chicken in a tortilla, roll it up and place it in the dish. Repeat with the rest of the chicken and tortillas.
- Pour the sauce over the top of the tortillas and sprinkle the cheese in an even layer.
Bake the chicken enchiladas, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes at 375°F. The enchiladas are ready when the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling hot.
The last step is to squeeze fresh lime juice over the top of the hot enchilaladas followed by a sprinkling of chop cilantro. It adds a bright and acidic pop of flavor that contrasts nicely with the rich sauce.
Are you ready for a comforting fall dinner? These poblano chicken enchiladas are perfect for a cool fall night – bonus points if you make a batch of margarita wine spritzers to go with them.
More Enchilada Recipes
Looking for more enchiladas recipes? Here are a few of my favorite recipes you might like, too…
- Easy Enchiladas with Black Beans and Spinach
- Chicken Enchiladas with Slow Cooker Salsa Verde
- Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas
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Chicken rolled up in corn tortillas and topped with a creamy poblano-cilantro sauce. The richness of the sauce is balanced by the fresh herbs and squeeze of lime juice just before serving. A store-bought rotisserie chicken makes these easy to make.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 poblano peppers, seeds and stems removed and chopped
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
- 12 corn tortillas, warmed (see note)
- 8 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, for garnish
- In a large pan, melt one tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and peppers and cook them in the butter until they’ve softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add 2 tablespoons of butter and, once it’s melted, sprinkle the flour over the top of the peppers and garlic. Stir and cook the flour for a minute or so. It will create a thick paste that coats the veggies.
- Add chicken broth and stir until there are no clumps of flour. Using an immersion blender (see note), puree the mixture until smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the milk and stir. Keep the sauce at a low simmer (don’t let it boil) and stir until it’s thickened. You know it’s ready when you can run the spatula or spoon across the bottom of the pan and catch a glimpse of the pan before the sauce runs back over it. Add the chopped cilantro and salt, stir, and turn off the burner.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. While the oven is preheating, assemble the enchiladas. Coat the bottom of a 9×13″ baking dish with a light layer of sauce. Place some shredded chicken on a tortilla, roll it up and place it in the baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the tortillas and chicken.
- Pour the sauce over the top of the tortillas in the baking dish. Sprinkle the shredded cheese in an even layer on top.
- Bake the enchiladas, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the sauce is bubbling. Squeeze lime juice over the top of the enchiladas and garnish with cilantro before serving.
To warm the tortillas, I like to spread them out on a baking sheet and warm them in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes or until they’ve warmed through.
To blend the sauce, I like to use an immersion blender. You can also transfer the sauce to a food processor or stand blender, but be sure to vent the heat while you blend it.
Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Serving Size: 3 enchiladas
- Calories: 788
- Sugar: 6.9g
- Fat: 22.9g
- Carbohydrates: 47.2g
- Fiber: 6.3g
- Protein: 57.8g
Keywords: chicken enchiladas, poblano sauce