These Colorado Enchiladas are quickly heading towards the top of my list. Ancho and New Mexican dried chilis combine with a bit of sweetness to create an unbelievably satisfying sauce that you won't find anywhere else in town. Pin it here to save for later!
And no, they're not from Denver. Taken from Spanish, colorado roughly translates as reddish in color. These days, Colorado Sauce has come to signify a wide range of sauces that are, you guessed it, red.
Many taste buds out there, including mine, shy away from the earthy, slightly bitter flavor you'll get from a sauce that relies solely on dried chilis for flavor. In the past, we've used roasted tomatoes to balance the dried chilis in our Ancho Enchiladas.
But this version omits the tomatoes and uses the sweetness of adobo sauce and chocolate to complement the dried chiles. The result is a rich, rustic flavor that's made this Colorado sauce one of my new favorites.
Colorado Enchiladas Recipe and Instructions
Keep an eye out in your neighborhood for dried chilis that are pliable, like big raisins. If they are hard and brittle they will have lost some of their flavor. We're using 4 New Mexican chilis and 3 small Ancho chilis.
Cut off the stems and discard the seeds and veins. Tear them into smaller chunks, and if any of the pieces have dusty crevasses you can wipe them off with a wet paper towel.
Meanwhile, roughly chop half an onion and peel 3 garlic cloves. Saute the onion and whole garlic cloves in a dollop of oil over medium heat.
Once the onion starts to brown, 5-7 minutes, add the dried chilis along with 3 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon oregano (Mexican if you have it), 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground pepper.
Note that I am combining a few steps here not because this is the ONLY way to make this sauce, but because I am out of stock 🙂
So we'll cook the chicken in this mixture to add just enough stock undertone to our sauce. The chicken cooking time, 10-15 minutes, will also be enough time to reconstitute the dried chilis.
Bring this mixture to a boil and add a chicken breast that's been sliced in half lengthwise.
Reduce heat to a simmer (mediumish) and partially cover. Depending on the width of the saucepan, you may need to add additional water to submerge the chicken.
10-15 minutes later, the chicken will be cooked through. Remove the chicken and cover with some foil to keep it moist.
Add the rest of the mixture to a blender and combine well.
And now the most important part. Take a taste!
What's your first impression? Bitter?
It depends a little on your palate. To me it always tastes a little bitter. If it doesn't to you then consider the further additions to the sauce optional.
First though give the sauce a strain, this will leave behind seeds and skin that we don't need in the final product.
Push hard to force the sauce through the strainer. You'll end up with 1/2 cup of skin remnants that can be discarded.
Add the strained sauce back to the original saucepan on medium heat. Depending on how much water you added during the chicken simmer, you'll need about 15-30 minutes to reduce the sauce down to a thicker consistency.
To complement the earthiness of the dried chilis, I've been adding one tablespoon of adobo sauce.
And a corner of dark chocolate. (Or you can use Mexican chocolate.)
This creates an incredibly rich flavor without any bitter undertones.
The adobo sauce is from a can of chipotles in adobo. You can usually find these in the Latin goods section of most markets. Remember though we are just using the sweet, tangy sauce that's in the can and not the actual pepper. If you don't have chipotles on hand try adding the chocolate and maybe an additional sweetener.
Stir regularly. 15-30 minutes later the sauce will reduce to a thicker consistency, to the point where it will cling to a spatula.
Give a final taste for salt and make an agreement with yourself not to eat it all before you make the enchiladas.
The sweetness complements the Ancho and New Mexican chiles perfectly, and you're left with a rich, otherworldly sauce that is a total keeper once you calibrate it to your taste buds.
I usually shred the chicken using two forks and then combine in a bowl with a pinch of salt, some finely chopped onion, and a couple spoonfuls of the Colorado sauce.
This batch is enough for two people, so you'll need about 8-10 corn tortillas. I warm them up in the oven for a couple minutes to make them easier to roll.
Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce to a plate. Dredge a tortilla in the sauce and flip it over, filling with chicken, cheese and some finely chopped onion.
Roll tight and add to a baking dish. You can add a few spoonfuls of sauce to the baking dish to prevent sticking.
Keep going until the chicken mixture is gone. Add the remaining sauce to the enchiladas.
Don't eat them yet!
Bake in the oven at 400F for 8-10 minutes, just enough time to bring everything to a uniform temp and melt the cheese.
Garnishes are optional but of course a little Crema and Cotija cheese never hurts.
Okay, now you can eat them.
Serve immediately as is or with a side of Arroz Rojo.
Don't forget that the most important step to this dish is taking a taste after blending the sauce. Everyone's taste buds will have different sweetening requirements. Once you've got the balance right though you've got an unbelievably satisfying sauce that will be always be a mere 30 minutes away. So good!
- 2 Ancho dried chiles
- 4 New Mexican dried chiles
- 1/2 onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
- sliver of dark chocolate
- 1 chicken breast
- 3-4 cups water
- 8-10 corn tortillas
- Monterey Jack cheese
- 3-4 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- Mexican Crema (optional)
- Cotija cheese (optional)
- Roughly chop 1/2 an onion and peel 3 garlic cloves. Add the onion and garlic to a dollop of oil in a saucepan and saute on medium heat for 5-8 minutes.
- Remove the stems and de-seed the dried chiles. Wipe off any dusty crevasses and tear the chiles into smaller pieces.
- Add the chiles to the onion mixture along with 3 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Slice a chicken breast in half lengthwise and add it to the mixture. If the chicken isn't fully submerged add a bit more water. Reduce heat to a simmer and partially cover.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Set chicken aside, covering in foil to retain moisture.
- Add the remaining sauce mixture to a blender and combine well. (Always use caution when blending warm ingredients.)
- And now take a taste of the sauce. If it tastes bitter to you then you're a candidate for some sauce sweetening.
- Strain the sauce, pushing the mixture through a sieve using a spoon.
- Return the strained sauce to the saucepan and simmer over medium heat. Add 1 Tablespoon of adobo sauce and a sliver of chocolate (both are optional).
- Let simmer until reduced to a thicker consistency, approximately 15-30 minutes
- Take a final taste for salt.
- Shred the chicken using two forks and combine in a bowl along with a pinch of salt, some finely chopped onion, and a few spoonfuls of the sauce.
- Warm up 8-10 corn tortillas in the oven for a couple minutes. (Or cover them with damp paper towels and nuke them for 60 seconds.)
- Add a few spoonfuls of the sauce to a plate. Dredge a tortilla in the sauce and then flip it over, filling it with the chicken mixture and cheese.
- Roll tight and add to a baking dish seam side down. You can line the baking dish with sauce to prevent sticking.
- Continue rolling until all the chicken is gone. Add the remaining sauce to the top of the enchiladas.
- Bake at 400F for 8-10 minutes. Serve immediately. Optional garnishes include Crema and Cotija cheese.
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One of my favorite sauces. Would we sub the water for stock and cook the chicken elsewhere if we have stock on hand? Would it change the rest of the recipe at all?
Hi Nathan, thanks for stopping by!
If you're not cooking the chicken in the sauce, I would probably make the Colorado sauce similar to how it's made in the Colorado Tacos recipe:
Basically you are reconstituting the chiles separately and not with the onion mixture. Then after sauteing the onions, you can add stock along with the drained, reconstituted chiles and blend together. You are using the same ingredient quantities but with a slightly different assembly order. It's worth taking a look at the recipe I linked to above. By coincidence I posted it today and it directly addresses your question.
Feel free to get in touch if you have any other questions. Hope the sauce treats you well. Cheers 🙂
You are my new favorite Mexican Chef, love everything I've made. Keep it coming.
Cheers Karla! Thanks much for the feedback, I appreciate it 🙂
I agree. Loving his recipes. Haven't done this one, but I will. Sounds like the ones I had in New Mexico. The flavor of their Mexican food is different than what we have here in California. I'm not complaining about our cuisine, but I do fondly recall those enchiladas in Santa Fe several years ago.