Why am I calling these enchiladas Weeknight Bean and Cheese Enchiladas? Because they’re basic. Nothing frilly or fancy, just simple, basic enchiladas. But there are three things that, IMHO, turned these very basic enchiladas into something quite extraordinary. Read on to see the secret to making your enchiladas next level.
How to Make Good Enchiladas
There are three simple things that make a really good enchilada, IMHO:
- Toasted corn tortillas
- Enchilada sauce that doesn’t come from a can
- Insanely good refried beans
Numbers one and two only a few minutes to complete, and make a huge difference in the end flavor and quality of the enchiladas. Number three might take a little longer, but it can be done ahead of time so that there’s no extra work on your weeknight. And if there is one of the three that I had to compromise on, it would be number three.
What Kind of Tortillas to Use for Enchiladas
Corn tortillas are best for making enchiladas. They hold up better to enchilada sauce and give a great toasty corn flavor, as long as you take the extra step to toast them. Toasting the tortillas in a dry skillet before assembling the enchiladas gives them a nice nutty flavor, makes them stronger, and prevents them from cracking open in the oven.
What Kind of Enchilada Sauce?
My Easy Red Enchilada Sauce only takes about 5 minutes to make, but makes a world of difference compared to canned sauce. Sure, it’s not full-fledged, grind-your-own-dry-peppers, from-scratch sauce, but we’re going for the best “weeknight” version here. This sauce still has an intense flavor that drenches the enchiladas and really takes the dish to the next level.
Refried beans are best for enchiladas. I made my (not) Refried Beans, from scratch, in the slow cooker the day before, but this can be done anytime ahead and the beans kept ready and waiting in the freezer.
If you don’t want to make your own beans from scratch, you can still doctor up two cans of beans. I suggest mincing a clove of garlic, finely dicing a jalapeño, sautéing both in a splash of oil until soft, then adding the beans, some cumin, and maybe even a splash of your favorite hot sauce (Cholula would be nice).
Cotija is really great for topping enchiladas. If you can’t find Cotija, or it’s too expensive, you can go with my second favorite option: pepper jack. The creamy melty texture of pepper jack is also awesome with enchiladas.
Toppings for Enchiladas
I like to add a bit of chopped cilantro to the top of my bean and cheese enchiladas after baking, for a little punch of freshness. If you’re not into cilantro, sliced green onion also goes well with these flavors and also provides a little fresh green flavor. I also doubled down on creaminess and added sliced fresh avocado (again, after baking).
- 16 small corn tortillas ($0.93)
- 4 cups refried beans ($1.60)
- 8 oz. Pepper Jack, shredded (2 cups) ($2.29)
- 1/2 large avocado, sliced thin ($0.75)
- 1/4 bunch cilantro (or green onions), roughly chopped ($0.25)
- Begin by making the sauce. In a small sauce pot, combine the chili powder, flour, and oil. Heat over a medium flame, while stirring, for one to two minutes to toast the spices and flour. Whisk in the water, tomato paste, cumin, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, at which point it will thicken. Once thick enough to coat a spoon, taste and add salt as needed (1/2 to 3/4 tsp). Set the sauce aside.
- Toast the tortillas in a dry skillet over medium flame until they are just flecked with brown on each side. The tortillas should be slightly more firm, but still pliable enough to roll. Stack the tortillas on a clean plate as they come out of the skillet.
- Prepare a casserole dish by coating with non-stick spray, then spread a layer of enchilada sauce over the bottom (1/2 to 1 cup). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Add about 1/4 cup of refried beans to each tortilla, plus a small pinch of shredded cheese. Roll the tortilla tightly around the beans and cheese, then place seam side down in the casserole dish. Continue until all of the tortillas are filled. Pour another 1/2 to 1 cup enchilada sauce over the rolled enchiladas in the dish, leaving some of the edges exposed so they can become brown and crispy. Top with the remaining shredded cheese.
- Bake the casserole in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the sauce is thick and bubbly around the edges and the center is heated through. Top with thin slices of avocado and chopped cilantro leaves (or sliced green onions).
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Scroll down for the step by step photos!
How to Make Enchiladas – Step by Step Photos
Note: I only baked a half batch for the photos because I lost my large casserole dish. Oops!
Combine 2 Tbsp chili powder (mild, salt-free blend), 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour, and 2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil in a small sauce pot.
Let those three ingredients simmer together (stir frequently) for about two minutes. This toasts the spices and flour and creates a roux that will thicken the sauce.
Whisk in 2 cups water, 3oz. tomato paste (half of a 6oz. can or about 4 Tbsp), 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper. Allow the pot to come to a simmer, at which point it will thicken. When it’s thick enough to coat a spoon, turn the heat off and add the salt (1/2-3/4 tsp). Set the sauce aside.
Toast 16 small corn tortillas in a dry skillet over medium heat until there’s just a hint of brown on each side. This strengthens the tortillas so they don’t fall apart, and also gives them a nice nutty flavor. Just stack them on a clean plate as they come out of the skillet. (I usually do two in a skillet at a time).
Shred 8oz. of pepper jack (2 cups). Begin to preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Coat a casserole dish with non-stick spray, then pour a layer of enchilada sauce in the bottom (use about half, leaving half to pour over top). Spread about 1/4 cup refried beans down the center of each tortilla and top with a pinch of shredded cheese (make sure to save about half of the cheese to top the casserole). Roll the tortillas up tightly, then line them up all snug in the casserole dish.
Pour the remaining enchilada sauce over top of the rolled enchiladas.
I like to leave the edges of my tortillas “unsauced” so they get nice and crispy and lightly browned. More texture and more flavor!
Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top…
Bake the casserole in the preheated 350ºF oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the enchilada sauce is super thick and bubbly, and the edges of your tortillas are nice and golden brown.
Top with thin slices of avocado and chopped cilantro (or green onions).
Seriously, these Bean and Cheese Enchiladas make me want every day to be a weekday. SO GOOD.
Who says basic equals boring?