Freezer Chicken Enchiladas

(from jerseyjenny’s recipe box)

Freezer Chicken Enchiladas

Preparing enchiladas can be a multi-hour, labor-intensive endeavor. There’s the sauce to prep and the filling to cook, and finally, all the rolling. We wanted to find a way to streamline chicken enchiladas and make them freezable so that they could be prepared well ahead of time and stored at the ready. Here’s what we discovered:

Test Kitchen Discoveries

  • Freeze the rolled enchiladas and sauce separately; otherwise they will turn into a mushy mess.
  • Spray the tortillas with vegetable oil cooking spray and briefly heat them in the oven to make them pliant enough to roll easily.
  • Bake the enchiladas while still frozen. We found that defrosting them actually leads to a dried-out texture once baked.
  • Partially bake the enchiladas “naked,” or without sauce. A light coat of vegetable oil spray will keep the tortillas from drying out too much.
  • For authentic flavor, puree and “fry” the sauce until the flavor and color has intensified. Most Mexican sauces are prepared in this fashion.
  • Smoky chipotle chiles add both heat and a rich flavor to the sauce. These chiles, which are smoked jalapeños, come packed in a tomato-based adobo sauce. They are found in the Mexican foods section of most supermarkets.

Use leftover cooked chicken or a store-bought rotisserie chicken in this recipe. Note that you won’t need 1 1/2 cups of the cheese until you bake the enchiladas. Serve with avocado, pickled jalapeños, shredded lettuce, and/or sour cream.

Source: Cook's Illustrated May 2007

Prep time: 60 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Serves 4 people

Categories: Cook's Illustrated, chicken, dinner, freezer, mexican


  • 1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 medium onion , chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic , minced
  • 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons minced canned pickled jalapeños
  • 10 (6-inch) corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray


  1. To make ahead: Blend tomato sauce, onion, garlic, chipotle, cumin, coriander, salt, and broth in blender until smooth. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add tomato mixture, bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until mixture is reduced to 3 1/2 cups, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to bowl and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.

  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Toss 3/4 cup sauce with chicken, 1 cup cheese, cilantro, and jalepeños.

  3. Place 5 tortillas on baking sheet and lightly coat both sides with cooking spray. Bake tortillas until just pliable, about 2 minutes. Working quickly, transfer one tortilla at a time to work surface, fill with 1/3 cup chicken mixture, and roll tightly. Transfer, seam side down, to large plate. Repeat warming and rolling process with remaining 5 tortillas. Place plate in freezer until enchiladas are frozen, at least 1 hour.

  4. Place remaining sauce in freezersafe container and press 2 layers of plastic wrap directly onto surface of sauce. Tightly wrap enchiladas in bundles of 5, first in plastic and then in foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.

  5. When ready to serve: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Defrost enchilada sauce in microwave on defrost setting, about 12 minutes.

  6. Coat 13 by 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Arrange frozen enchiladas in single layer in baking dish and coat tops with cooking spray. Bake until tops of tortillas are just beginning to flake, about 20 minutes. Remove dish from oven, top enchiladas with 1 1/2 cups sauce, and bake 10 minutes longer. Sprinkle enchiladas with remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese and bake until cheese melts and center of casserole is hot and bubbling, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve, passing remaining sauce and garnishes (see note above) at table.

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