Someone emailed me recently and said that they use white beans in place of chicken in recipes and I was like, “Wait, whoa, why haven’t I done that?” I use black beans and lentils in place of beef all the time, but for some reason it never occurred to me to use white beans in place of chicken. Well, today I tried it with these Spinach White Bean Enchiladas and it was AWESOME. (And yes, you can totally replace the white beans with about 1.5 cups of cooked chopped chicken for a meat version, if you prefer).
What Kind of Tortillas Should I Use?
Corn tortillas are best for enchiladas because they have a great toasty corn flavor, and hold up well to the sauce. To get the most flavor out of your corn tortillas, don’t forget to toast them first! This enhances the flavor and makes them a little stronger. You can toast the tortillas over an open flame, or in a dry skillet (see the step by step photos below the recipe).
The Enchilada Filling
The filling for these enchiladas is super simple, with just some chopped spinach, white beans, creamy pepper jack, salt, pepper, and cumin. But thanks to all those colorful flecks of crushed peppers in the pepper jack, they’re not lacking in flavor. If you prefer, you can add some chopped chicken to or in place of the white beans in this recipe.
The Enchilada Sauce
Just to make sure these enchiladas were top notch, I drenched the them in a super rich pepper jack sauce. The sauce is creamy, cheesy, a little tangy, a little spicy, and a LOT delicious. I’m absolutely loving these creamy white enchiladas!
I topped my enchiladas with a handful of chopped cilantro, but if you don’t like cilantro, green onions also go well. If you happen to find avocados on sale, I think adding a few slices to the top of these enchiladas would be amazing.
What to Serve with Enchiladas
Spinach White Bean Enchiladas
PEPPER JACK SAUCE
- 1 Tbsp butter ($0.14)
- 1 clove garlic, minced ($0.08)
- 4 oz cream cheese ($1.00)
- 3/4 cup whole milk ($0.29)
- 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
- 4 oz pepper jack cheese ($1.00)
- Toast the tortillas on each side in a dry skillet over medium-low heat until they are a slightly stiff and have browned just a bit on the edges. Stack them on a plate until ready to use. Toasting the tortillas increases the flavor and helps prevent them from cracking. Shred an 8oz. block of pepper jack cheese. Half will be used for the enchilada filling and half will be used for the sauce.
- Defrost the frozen spinach in a microwave or take it out of the freezer before beginning to allow it time to defrost naturally. Squeeze as much moisture out of the thawed spinach as possible. Place the spinach in a large bowl. Rinse and drain the white beans, then add them to the bowl with the spinach. Also add 4oz. of the shredded cheese, garlic powder, cumin, salt, and a little freshly cracked pepper. Stir until the mixture is evenly combined.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Begin preparing the pepper jack sauce by adding the butter and minced garlic to a small sauce pot. Sauté the garlic in the butter for one minute over medium heat. Add the milk and cream cheese to the pot. Stir and heat until the cream cheese has fully melted into the milk and the mixture has thickened slightly. Season with salt. Begin adding the remaining shredded pepper jack, a handful at a time, and stirring it in until fully melted before adding more. Once all the cheese has been melted into the sauce, turn the heat off and allow it to cool slightly.
- Coat the inside of a casserole dish with non-stick spray. Begin filling the toasted tortillas with the spinach and white bean mixture and rolling them closed. Line up the filled tortillas in the casserole dish, seam sides facing down. Choose a casserole dish that fits 12 of the rolled enchiladas snugly to help keep them from unrolling.
- Once the tortillas are filled and in the casserole dish, pour the pepper jack sauce over top. Bake the enchiladas in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the edges of the tortillas are brown and the pepper jack sauce is thick and browned on the edges. Sprinkle chopped cilantro over top, if desired.
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!
How to Make White Bean Enchiladas – Step by Step Photos
Begin by slightly toasting 12 6-inch corn tortillas in a dry skillet over medium-low heat. Toasting gives them a nuttier flavor and helps strengthen them a bit so they aren’t as likely to crack when rolled. You want to toast them just until they’re a little more stiff, but still pliable enough to roll. Stack them on a plate as they come out of the skillet and set them aside.
Shred an entire 8oz. block of pepper jack cheese. Half will be used in the filling of the enchiladas and half will be used for the sauce.
Thaw 1/2 lb. of frozen spinach (microwave or let sit at room temperature). I suggest getting “cut spinach” or “chopped spinach” so that you don’t have long strings of spinach leaves in your enchiladas. Once thawed, squeeze out as much water as possible from the spinach and place it in a large bowl. Rinse and drain one 15oz. can white beans and add them to the bowl along with 4oz. of the shredded cheese, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp salt, and some freshly cracked pepper.
Stir the mixture until everything is evenly mixed. Set the mixture aside.
Begin preheating the oven to 350ºF. To start the pepper jack sauce, add 1 Tbsp butter and one minced clove of garlic to a small sauce pot. Sauté the garlic in the butter over medium heat for one minute to soften it up.
Add 3/4 cup whole milk and 4oz. cream cheese to the pot. Stir or whisk until the cream cheese melts into the milk and thickens it slightly. Stir in 1/4 tsp salt.
Once the cream cheese has melted in, begin adding the remaining 4oz. of shredded pepper jack, one handful at a time. Whisk in each handful until it is fully melted before adding more. Once all the cheese has been incorporated into the sauce, turn the heat off and let the sauce cool slightly while you assemble the enchiladas.
Begin filling the tortillas with the spinach and white bean mixture, rolling them up, and then placing them in a casserole dish coated with non-stick spray. I had enough filling for 12 enchiladas, but I chose a dish that was slightly too small, so I only made 10 (if you have leftover filling, you can make quick quesadillas with it in a skillet!). Make sure your enchiladas are in the dish with the seams facing down and that they fit snuggly together.
Pour the pepper jack sauce over the enchiladas. I like to pour it down the center and let some of the tortillas stay exposed on the sides. This gets them extra toasty and delicious.
Finally, bake the enchiladas in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the tortillas are brown and crispy on the edges and the pepper jack sauce has thickened and browned around the edges. Top the enchiladas with chopped cilantro for garnish, if desired.