Recipe: Chipotle Chilaquiles

You’ll need some food to go with those Margaritas as you raise a glass to Cinco de Mayo, and this recipe for chilaquiles (pronounced chee-lah-KEE-lehs) couldn’t be easier.

Originally intended to use leftovers, chilaquiles consists of corn tortilla strips sautéed with other foods such as chilies, tomatoes, or green salsa, and topped with cheese and shredded chicken or beef; some variations may also be layered like lasagna and baked.

Tortilla chips (either store-bought or homemade) are the main challenge to perfect chilaquiles, since they need to be thick enough to absorb just the right amount of sauce without falling apart, notes chef, TV personality, and cookbook author Rick Bayless, who contributed this recipe to Real Food. Otherwise, the basic approach to making chilaquiles, like most simple pasta dishes, welcomes flights of imagination, traditional or not.

Chipotle Chilaquiles

Serves 4 as a main dish

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
2 to 3 canned chipotle chilies en adobo
1½ tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
1 large white onion, sliced ¼-inch thick, divided
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2½ c. chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water, plus a little extra if needed
2 c. sliced red chard leaves (optional)
12 corn tortillas, cut into sixths and fried or baked to make chips,
     or 8 ounces thick, homemade-style tortilla chips
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 /3  c. crème fraîche or sour cream thinned with a little milk
1½ c. coarsely shredded grilled or roasted chicken (optional)
¼ c. finely crumbled Mexican queso añejo or other dry grating cheese such as Romano or Parmesan

Place tomatoes and chipotles in a blender jar. Blend to a purée that still retains a little texture.

Heat oil in a medium-large pot or Dutch oven or a deep, large skillet on medium heat. Add half of the onion slices and cook, stirring regularly, until golden, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for another minute, then raise heat to medium-high. Add tomato purée and cook, stirring, until mixture begins to thicken, 4 or 5 minutes. Stir in broth or water and season to taste with salt (use less if using salted chips). Bring to a boil. Stir in chard (if using) and tortilla chips. Return to a rolling boil, cover, and turn off heat. Let stand 5 minutes (no longer).

Remove cover and carefully stir to coat chips evenly with sauce and to check that chips have softened nicely—they should be a little chewy, not mushy. (If too chewy, stir in a few tablespoons more broth, cover, and set over medium heat for a couple minutes more.) Sprinkle with cilantro.

Spoon tortilla chip mixture onto warm plates. Drizzle with the crème fraîche or milk-thinned sour cream, strew with the remaining sliced onion and the shredded chicken (if using), and dust generously with cheese.


Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.