If you’re looking for a hearty, filling, super satisfying breakfast or brunch, chilaquiles is the answer.
It’s true Mexican comfort food, the kind that will fill your belly and your heart. They can be for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anytime in between. Chilaquiles make an excellent brunch dish and an all around comforting meal. I love them so, so much!
What are chilaquiles?
Like so many amazing foods – french toast, fried rice, croquettes – chilaquiles came about as way to use up leftover food, in this case, stale tortillas. Corn tortillas from last night’s taco feast find new life when fried into chips and coated with warm salsa until slightly soft on the outside with a bit of a bite on inside. At their simplest, chilaquiles are tortilla chips in sauce. Corn tortillas, cut into quarters and fried in oil become corn chips, which are then tossed in red or green salsa and simmered until the chips become slightly tender. Generally, chilaquiles come with diced onions, cilantro, cream, queso fresco or cojita, avocado, and sometimes eggs or protein on top.
How do you say chilaquiles?
It’s “chee-lah-key-lees” The word comes from the word “chilaquilli” which means something covered in chili and greens.
What do chilaquiles taste like?
Truly, they taste amazing. Crispy, crunchy, tender fried corn tortillas tossed in warm super savory salsa topped off with bright and refreshing herbs. They are a combination of rich flavors and contrasting textures making them a pleasure to eat. If you haven’t had them before, you might think: aren’t these just soggy, sad nachos? The answer is no! They are the best – comforting carbs that are a perfect contrast of tender and crisp in a smoky, savory sauce.
Are chilaquiles crunchy or soft?
They are both! There are people who like their chilaquiles soft and there are people who like their chilaquiles crispy. If you’re a crisp lover, gently toss with sauce and serve immediately. If you’re a soft fan, let the chips simmer in the salsa for couple minutes longer, until they collapse into a tender pile of deliciousness.
How to make chilaquiles
Chilaquiles can be as simple or as convoluted as you like. For the super simple, all you need is store bought chips and enchilada sauce. For a bit more of a satisfying meal, fry up your own tortilla chips and make your own roja salsa.
- Fry the tortillas. Cut up old tortillas into wedges and fry them up in oil so they become chips. Alternately, you can use store bought tortilla chips, but look for the hearty kind.
- Make the sauce. Simmer together blended tomatoes, onion, garlic, chipotle in adobe, and Mexican oregano until thick and aromatic.
- Sauce the tortillas. Add the chips to the sauce, stirring to coat every chips.
- Top the tortillas. Plate the chips, topping with cilantro, onions, and fried eggs.
- Enjoy! That’s it!
- tortillas/tortilla chips – old corn tortillas fry up into the best chips, more on that below.
- salsa – salsa, or sauce, is what really makes chilaquiles shine. Everyone makes their chilaquiles sauce differently, but generally, the sauce is either tomatoes and seasonings or tomatillos and seasonings. More on chilaquiles sauce below.
- toppings – here’s where you can have fun customizing! Fried eggs, cilantro, onions, jalapeños, sliced radishes, carnitas, tinga, avocado, crema, cheese, it’s really up to you!
Store bought or homemade chips?
Homemade all the way! But if you must, you can definitely do store bought. The difference is that store bought tortilla chips are light and crispy – they don’t hold up as well when drenched and cooked in salsa. If you like your chilaquiles on the tender side, store bought chips might be for you.
If you want a true chilaquiles experience, you must make your own chips. It’s really not that hard, you don’t even need to deep fry! The heft, heartiness, and crunch you get from a homemade fried tortilla chip is exactly what you need for chilaquiles. Old corn tortillas that are a bit dry fry up best and absorb less oil.
How to make homemade tortilla chips
- Cut tortillas in to quarters and let them dry out slightly while you heat up your oil.
- In a pan, heat up 1/2 inch of neutral oil until hot and shimmery.
- Add the chips and fry, in batches, flipping, until lightly golden.
- Remove from the oil (they will continue to brown after removed) and lightly salt and drain on paper towels or a wire rack.
More about homemade tortilla chips here.
How to bake homemade tortilla chips
Preheat the oven to 400°F and brush your tortillas with oil on both sides. Cut the tortillas into quarters and lay them out evenly on a pan and bake, flipping the tortillas and rotating the pan as needed, until golden and crispy, about 5-10 minutes. Let cool completely so they harden up.
How to make air fry tortilla chips
- Brush the tortillas with neutral oil on both sides (or lightly spray with cooking spray) and cut into quarters.
- Lay the tortillas in the basket of the air fryer and cook at 350°F for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for another 2-3 or until crisp and brown.
- Remove, lightly salt, and let cool.
To be honest, everyone makes their chilaquiles sauce differently. Some people even go the store bought route. Really, chilaquiles are a no-fuss sort of meal so no one will judge you if you buy enchilada sauce and call it a day. Just make sure the sauce/salsa you’re using to coat your chips is one you love.
Our chilaquiles salsa is super simple mix of fire roasted tomatoes, chipotle in adobo, onions, garlic, and Mexican oregano. Everything blends up and cooks down until it becomes rich and thick. You can thin it out with chicken stock if you like, but this way is the simplest red salsa ever. Sometimes I’ll pop in a dried red chili (after rehydrating it) to add an extra layer of smoke and spice.
Red vs green chilaquiles
If you’ve eating in restaurants in the Southwest, you’ve most definitely heard them ask: red or green? Roja or verde sauce are the two main types of salsas/sauces. Sometimes you can even get Christmas or divorciados – chilaquiles with both types of sauce.
- Chilaquiles verdes have a salsa consisting of tomatillos, onions, jalapeños, and cilantro.
- Chilaquiles rojos have a salsa consisting of tomatoes, onions, jalapeños, and garlic. Think of red enchilada sauce as opposed to a tomato salsa/pico de gallo situation.
- eggs – this is one of the most common toppings and I hardly ever see chilaquiles served without. Sunny side up eggs are the default, but don’t sleep on soft scrambled eggs on top, the creaminess matches perfectly with the salsa covered chips.
- protein – you can go for shredded chicken, pork, or beef or eve use any leftover taco meats you have hanging out. Think: chicken tinga chilaquiles, barbacoa chilaquiles, carnitas chilaquiles, al pastor chilaquiles, or green chile pork chilaquiles
- pico de gallo – chop up 1 tomato, 1/2 small onion, and 1 jalapeño. Mix with freshly chopped cilantro, the juice of 1/2 a lime, and salt to taste. Let the flavors melt for 15 minutes before enjoying.
- avocado or guacamole – use your favorite guacamole recipe or simply top with sliced or diced avocado
- crema or sour cream – a little bit of crema or sour cream adds a rich tang and a cold contrast.
- cheese – cotija or queso fresco is best! I love the soft mildness of queso fresco or the salty bite of cotija.
- cilantro and onions – no Mexican dish is complete without fresh onions and cilantro for bite and herbaceousness.
If you haven’t had chilaquiles before, I beg you, give this recipe a try! It’s seriously so good 🤤
Chilaquiles are a hearty, filling, super satisfying Mexican comfort food.
- 1/4 cup high heat oil for frying
- 12 corn tortillas quartered
- 15 oz fire roasted tomatoes diced, ~1 can
- 1/2 onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 jalapeño chopped, see notes
- 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
- 2 eggs sunny side up
- 1 avocado sliced
- 1 oz cotija cheese crumbled, or more or less as desired
- fresh cilantro chopped
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until shimmery. Add the tortilla wedges in batches and cook, flipping as needed, until golden. Remove, drain, and lightly salt.
Place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, chipotle or jalapeño, and oregano in a blender and blend until smooth.
Pour the sauce into a large skillet and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly thick 5-10 minutes. Taste and season with salt.
Add the chips to the sauce and stir carefully, coating all the chips, until the chips are slightly soft and heated through, 1-5 minutes depending on how crunchy you want your chips.
Top with fried eggs, avocado, cheese, and cilantro and enjoy immediately.
It’s not really recommended to use store-bought chips instead of making your own, but if you need to, go for the thickest chips you can find.
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 239
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 5.6g35%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.