Today’s dish is special. Not over-the-top, zillion-ingredient, four-hours-of-prep special. Just yummy special. Chilaquiles are one of my FAVORITE Mexican dishes to order out, particularly for brunch. Particularly if I overdid it with the wine the night before. They are crunchy, creamy, spicy, cheesy, and….well, need I say more?
(Don’t worry, I will anyway. Hah.)
Chilaquiles, in case you aren’t familiar, are crispy (usually fried) tortillas tossed in a spicy sauce and loaded up with melted cheese and fresh veg. You can add meat, too, but I kept today’s version vegetarian. I bulked things up a bit with fried eggs, but even that addition is optional.
Chilaquiles are traditionally tossed in a red (rojo) or green (verde) sauce, and both are completely amazing. I actually couldn’t pick a favorite version. I chose rojo for today’s recipe, though, because my access to decent tomatillos (the key ingredient in a verde sauce) is pathetic. So rojo it is! I’m definitely OK with it.
Plus! The timing of Cinco de Mayo (next week!!!) makes these the perfect recipe to share with you guys. These work for all times of day. Breakfast or brunch (my preference), lunch, and dinner. Heck, these even work as a fun and festive appetizer to serve with margaritas at your Cinco de Mayo party. Or, if you overdo it, on the morning of Seis de Mayo….with coffee and Advil. Just sayin’.
Given my love for chilaquiles, you’d think that I would have made them a bunch of times at home. But nope. This was only my second time! The first time was testing this recipe out, and the second time was so I could share the awesomeness with you guys. Oh, and so Dan could serve as my hand model assistant for the day (no one sprinkles on cheese or gets that perfect gooey scoop out of a pan like my hubs).
I, as I often am when trying to recreate a restaurant fave, was surprised at how simply this came together. I decided to make things easy (and a bit lighter) by baking my tortillas rather than frying them, and the sauce comes together with ingredients I almost always have on hand. It was meant to be.
After much research, I learned that one of the keys to making successful chilaquiles is to work with somewhat stale tortillas. I don’t usually have extra tortillas lying around, so I purposefully bought some in advance of this recipe and let them hang out outside of the package for a few hours before I drenched them in the spicy tomato sauce. It worked like a charm. As previously mentioned, I chose to bake my tortillas rather than fry them, but that’s just my personal preference. Traditionally, they are fried. And fabulous. But I have to say, I try to avoid deep frying at home as much as possible, and you can really get away without it for certain recipes. This recipe happens to be one of them. I have sampled many a chilaquile at restaurants, all of which I’m sure were fried, and this at-home baked version was just as delicious. Pinky promise!
Part of the reason for that is the incredible smoky, slightly spicy tomato sauce that coats the crispy tortillas. Lordy, is it delicious! I love sauces like this because they are not complicated and come together quickly, yet taste like they’ve been slow simmered for hours. You can leave it chunky or puree it in a blender to get it super smooth (my preference). I think the smooth sauce coats things better, but I’ve had this dish both ways and am never disappointed. The flavors of the sauce are just….addictive. So, so good.
To ensure that everything goes down easy, I top the sauce-drenched chips in two kinds of cheese and then heat it until gooey and gorgeous. My favorite way to serve these is with fried, runny-yolked eggs on top and LOADS of fresh ingredients like tomatoes, avocado, red onion, scallions, herbs, and lime juice. Oh! And more cheese. Queso freso, to be exact. If you can’t find this traditional Mexican cheese, sub in some feta or ricotta salata. Queso fresco is very similar to those cheeses in texture and crumbliness, but it’s milder and a touch creamier. It is wonderful on top of the otherwise punchy flavors going on here. It mellows things out just a touch.
Another great thing about this recipe is that all the components can be made or prepped ahead of time. You obviously wouldn’t want to assemble ahead of time, though, unless you want the crispy texture of the tortillas to completely disappear. It’s best if they are tossed in the sauce and smothered in cheese just before you are ready to serve. For brunching purposes, though, both the sauce and crisped tortillas could be made ahead. Cheese could be grated ahead. Garnishes could be chopped ahead. Assembly can happen last minute AND quickly.
You and your guests will NOT be disappointed with these. They are brunch perfection. AND they are the perfect thing to wash down with that Cinco de Mayo margarita!
For the Sauce:
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 (15-oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 8 corn tortillas, slightly stale and cut into triangles
- Oil, for brushing on the tortillas
- 4 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 oz grated sharp Monterey Jack cheese
- Sliced avocado
- Heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
- Cilantro, chopped
- Red onion, finely diced
- Scallions, diced
- 3 oz queso fresco, crumbled
- Lime wedges
- Fried eggs, optional
For the Sauce:
- Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the garlic, shallot, and jalapeno pepper. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring frequently, and then add in the canned tomatoes, chipotle pepper, cumin, and sugar. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until reduced and thickened. If a smooth sauce is preferred, place the sauce in a blender and blend until smooth and then return it to the same pan.
- Keep warm over low heat until you are ready to assemble.
- While the sauce is cooking, preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.
- Spread the tortilla triangles out in an even layer on the tray and brush on both sides with the oil. Season with salt.
- Bake for 15 minutes, turning once or twice, or until they are golden and crispy.
- Grate your cheeses, prep your fresh ingredients, and cook your eggs.
- When the tortillas are ready, add them to the skillet with the warm sauce and toss to coat. Increase the heat under the pan to medium and cook for a couple minutes.
- Top the skillet off with the grated cheeses and then cover until it is melted and gooey.
- Top the chilaquiles with desired toppings and the eggs. I like sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, scallions, queso freso, an egg on each serving, and a spritz of lime juice. I also like to serve these right away, so that the tortillas maintain some of their crispy texture.