Chicken Thigh Enchiladas

If you’re a frequent reader, you already know this, but I ate a lot of Mexican food when I was a kid.  I mean a lot. This was sort of weird in Ohio in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, but my Dad grew up in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona, so nearly every Friday night we had homemade refried beans, chimichangas, tacos, and enchiladas.  Once a year my grandparents would show up in Ohio with their golf bags packed full of Green Corn Tamales and paper thin Tucson style four tortillas. There was a chest freezer on the back porch half filled with good corn tortillas horded from the family’s last visit to a city large enough to have a decent tortillaria.   For white people from the Midwest, we took Mexican food pretty seriously.

This isn’t my mom’s enchilada recipe – though hers were delicious.  Over the years I’ve played around with all sorts of recipes piling ingredient on ingredient, flavor on flavor.   The thing is, enchiladas are a simple wonder, a dish made best by using really great, simple ingredients. This recipe uses a puree of dried, soaked chilies and the flavorful stock from poaching the chicken to build a rich, flavorful, but not particularly “spicy” sauce. Chili California the dried pods of fully ripe Anaheim chilis. They’re flavorful, but relatively mild, and widely available either in better stores, or online.

I make and use my own corn tortillas – something that’s a lot easier than you probably think- but any good quality corn tortilla works well. Don’t use flour tortillas, you’ll end up with a gloppy mess and … well, don’t use flour tortillas. If you are interested in making your own, a lot of major grocery stores carry masa harina or instant masa that can be used to make tortillas at home and there are a number of YouTube videos with clear instructions on how to shape and cook them. It’s a great project, and something I find to be almost meditative. Plus, fresh tortillas are amazing.

Chicken Thigh Enchiladas

Recipe by DrewCourse: Bone-In, Mexican, Stove TopCuisine: MexicanDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Cooking time



Classic chicken enchiladas in a mild red chili sauce.


  • Finish and Garnish
  • Corn Tortillas

  • White Cheese

  • Fresh Diced White Onion

  • Crema Mexicana or Sour Cream

  • Chicken
  • 4 bone in skin on chicken thighs

  • 1 medium carrot

  • 1 small onion

  • 1 stalk celery

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 whole jalapeño pepper

  • 1 small handful cilantro leaves and stems

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • 4 cups water or light chicken stock

  • Sauce
  • 4 dried chili California pods

  • 2 tbsp tomato paste

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 1 tsp kosher salt

  • 2 cups stock from poaching chicken


  • Poach the Chicken
  • Add all ingredients to a pot, and if needed, add additional liquid to cover the chicken thighs.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook until the meat is just falling from the bone 45-90 minutes depending on the size of the chicken thighs.
  • Remove the chicken from the stock and allow to cool until it is easy to handle.
  • Remove and discard the bones and skin.
  • Pull the chicken by hand into long strands.
  • Moisten the chicken with stock, check for seasoning and reseason if necessary, and keep warm until ready to fill the enchiladas.
  • Prepare the sauce
  • Remove the stem end from the chili pods and shake out the seeds.
  • Add the chilis to ½ cup of poaching stock and allow to soak for 15 minutes.
  • Process in a blender until very smooth, adding additional liquid if needed.
  • Peel, trim, and finely mince or microplane the garlic.
  • Add the garlic, cumin, salt, and tomato paste to the oil and cook 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  • Add 1 cup of poaching stock to the tomato mixture and stir to combine.
  • Add the pureed chili mixture. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Taste for seasoning. Occasionally, some dried chilis will impart an undesirable bitter flavor. This can be counteracted by adding 1 tsp of granulated sugar.
  • Finish
  • Quickly dip each tortilla into the sauce, shaking off excess.
  • Fry the tortilla in a non-stick pan for a few seconds on each side.
  • Fill with chicken and diced onion (opt) and roll up.
  • Keep warm
  • To serve, ladle with sauce, and top with crumbled cheese, diced onion, cilantro, and sour cream.


Be sure to check out my other food project, The Weekly Menu!

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