Enchiladas Suisas al Pollo

This recipe is updated to reflect how I make enchiladas.

The word enchilada is composed of en (in) plus chili (chili pepper). It basically means imbuing a (corn) tortilla with a chili sauce. Apparently, this can be done before or after cooking the tortilla. I prefer to do it after because it makes a lot less mess.

Chili sauce is easily purchased—at least it suits me. To make it requires something like firing and roasting chilis, then grinding them into a paste and adding water or some other liquid.

In Mexican restaurants in the United States, enchiladas are served in the style of enchiladas suizas which means “Swiss-style.” Historically, it may have nothing to do with Swiss immigrants to Mexico.

One story goes that a couple of guys from San Francisco bought an old pharmacy in Mexico City near the turn of the XXth century to turn it into a restaurant. They (or their cook) began to smother an enchilada in a béchamel and cheese sauce. The dish became wildly popular particularly among tourists who imported it to the United States where the smothering in cheese is expected even if the sauce isn’t always a proper béchamel.

The enchilada appeared in the first Mexican cookbook, published in 1831, El cocinero mexicano.

I tend to favor red sauce on beef and cheese enchiladas and green sauce on chicken, pork and cheese enchiladas. And lots of cheese. And lots of guacamole. And lots of sour cream.


8-12 people, 2 enchiladas each. Figure 1 oz. enchilada sauce for each enchilada you make. This includes the dipping and having some for it to soak in afterward.


8 thighs chicken (or breast meat totalling 3-3½ lbs)
1 tsp ground cumin (optional)
salt, pepper
1 can chicken stock (14 oz)
1 tiny can canned, green chilis or jalapeños
jack cheese, grated
1 large can enchilada sauce (green)
16-24 corn tortillas
pico de gallo (optional)
sour cream
guacamole (optional)


1. If using chicken breast, brine for 30 minutes, then brown and chop or dice.

If using dark chicken or pork, leave on bone if not boneless, season with salt, pepper and ground cumin, brown well in (just a bit of) oil, then place in a crock pot with the chicken stock and green chilis. Cook for about 4 hours at 300° until tender (on high to start, then on low if your crock pot has only those settings). This will soften the dark meat and make the collagen come out, just as for pulled chicken. Pull the meat as you would for pulled chicken. The only waste will be the skin you pull off, the bone and a little piece of cartiledge at one end.

Note: Toast the cumin in a sauté pan over a hot flame until it begins to turn brown. Cool and grind. Add to crock pot.

2. Coat the bottoms of three 13×9 Pyrex baking dishes with enchilada sauce.

3. Fry tortillas in enough oil to cover them until nearly crisp. Dip them immediately (before they harden) into enchilada sauce, fill with a little meat and cheese, then roll with the ends open (so, NOT like a burrito) and place in the baking dish with liberal additions of echilada sauce. Frying the tortillas is what prevents all of them from becoming one solid mass while waiting to be served (on counter, in oven, etc.).

You can also set the tortillas aside for a few minutes or longer: if they are too hard, the sauce will soften them (works to a point anyway).

4. Place the baking dish (containing enchiladas) with a little grated cheese on top in a 350° oven for 10 minutes. Serve hot with additional cheese sprinkled over.

Additional notes...

I used to lightly warm my tortillas in a few drops of oil, but they always stuck together. I asked a Mexican friend, Veronica, about this one day and she told me about frying them completely (just as for crisp-shell tacos) which keeps them safe from sticking together in the oven later.

If serving small crowd, plate the enchilada after removing from the oven along with a chili relleno, some Mexican rice and frijoles refritos (beans). Place place briefly in oven to melt cheese over the top, then garnish with pico de gallo, sour cream, guacamole and lettuce.