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These cheese enchiladas are an easy, cheesy Tex-Mex treasure. Roll up those sleeves and get ready to transform everyday tortillas and cheese into a hot, bubbly, gravy-drenched masterpiece!
This recipe for cheese enchiladas is yet another gem from the world of Tex Mex Cuisine. This culinary tradition, which is wildly popular in the United States today, has its original roots all the way back in the 1580s when Spanish colonists and indigenous Mexican cultures began to share recipes.
This cheese enchilada recipe is a prime example of how Tex Mex has evolved. Instead of traditional red or green sauce, these enchiladas are bathed in a silky, savory Mexican brown gravy. It’s like Thanksgiving dinner blended with Mexican night in the most mouthwatering way imaginable!
Table of Contents
- Mexican Brown Gravy – Bacon fat, flour, and beef broth team up with smoky cumin, spicy Chili Powder, Mexican oregano and other spices to transform average brown gravy into a saucy Tex Mex treat. This chili gravy takes the place of traditional enchilada sauce in this recipe.
- Vegetable Oil – Enhances flavors and helps keep the tortillas intact.
- Corn Tortillas – The traditional choice any cheese enchilada recipe, corn tortillas hold together better while infusing the dish with the sweet earthiness of corn.
- Onion – Helps balance some of the richness with a touch of sharp pungency and bit of texture.
- Cheese – I like to use Colby Jack for cheese enchiladas for its meltability and mildly sharp flavor.
- Pico de Gallo – Cuts through the heaviness with a varied texture and adds loads of bright, tangy, and zesty flavors. Make my homemade version or grab a batch at the supermarket.
- Mexican Pickled Carrots – Freshens up the recipe with a zingy, vinegary kick and a crunchy, crisp texture.
- Prepare the Oven. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Pour the vegetable oil into a baking dish or large ovenproof skillet and set aside.
- Start the Gravy. Place a separate skillet over medium-high heat. Heat the bacon fat, then whisk in the flour. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. You want the flour to be a light yellow or golden brown.
- Finish the Gravy. Stir the beef broth and spices into the mix, whisking until it is smooth and is beginning to thicken. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. You can add in more broth or a bit of water if the gravy needs to be thinner. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Warm the Tortillas. Using the vegetable oil in the baking pan, coat both sides of the tortillas and then arrange them in an overlapping circle. Place the pan in the oven, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes to get the tortillas soft and warm. Transfer the tortillas to a paper towel-lined plate, cover, and set aside.
- Start the Layers. Cover the bottom of the baking dish or skillet with ½ cup of gravy. Make sure you have a clean, flat surface for the next step.
- Make the Enchilada Rolls. Slightly overlap two tortillas at a time and add ¼ cup of shredded cheese and one tablespoon of diced onion to the center. Roll it and then transfer the roll, seam side down, to the baking dish. Repeat the process with the rest of the tortillas and fillings.
- Add Toppings & Bake. Cover the rolled enchiladas with the remainder of the gravy, plus the rest of the shredded cheese and onions. Place the uncovered dish in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. You want bubbly sauce and gooey, melted cheese.
- Garnish & Serve. Give the enchiladas a few minutes to rest and then serve warm with Pico de Gallo, Mexican Pickled Carrots, or any of your favorite condiments.
Bake or fry the tortillas
In this cheese enchilada recipe, we use the oven to gently warm the tortillas while other recipes may suggest frying them in oil. Both methods will set you up for easy, cheesy success.
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The secret to the best cheese enchiladas possible is all in the tortilla. The main problem people have is tortillas that are unpleasantly soggy and/or falling apart. Luckily, avoiding this problem is simple.
First of all, make sure that you are working with corn, not flour, tortillas. After that, the secret is to briefly cook the tortillas in hot oil before rolling them with fillings.
The oil helps create a barrier that prevents the tortillas from soaking up too much of the chili gravy and becoming soggy. At the same time, warming the tortillas will make them pliable and keep them from breaking apart while filling.
Serve them with any of your favorite Tex Mex or Mexican toppings like Pico de Gallo or side dishes. I recommend a lighter, fresh side dish like a Thunderbird Salad or this Cilantro Lime Slaw.
They also pair perfectly with classics like Arroz Rojo (Mexican Red Rice) and Refried Beans.
Yes, this dish can be made ahead of time and stored in either the refrigerator or fridge.
Uncooked cheese enchiladas can be assembled, covered, and stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. For the best texture, I recommend waiting until you are ready to bake to add the chili gravy and extra cheese.
Leftovers that are already cooked can be stored in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days.
Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas
Tex Mex Gravy
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Heat the bacon fat over medium-high heat, then whisk in the flour. Cook until it turns a light yellow to golden brown, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the spices, Mexican oregano and beef broth. Whisk until smooth and it starts to thicken. Turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Thin with more beef stock if needed for a gravy-like consistency. Set aside.
- Pour the vegetable oil into a baking dish or an oven proof skillet like a large cast-iron. Coat both sides of the tortillas in the baking dish with the oil and arrange overlapping in a circle. Transfer uncovered to the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. Tortillas should be soft and warm. Remove the tortillas from the baking dish, place on paper towel lined plate and cover.
- Pour 1/2 cup of chili gravy into the dish or skillet to cover bottom.
- Working in batches on a clean surface, slightly overlap 2 tortillas and place 1/4 cup of shredded cheese and 1 tablespoon of onion in the center, then roll it. Place the rolled tortilla seam side down in the baking dish and repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.
- Pour the remaining chili gravy on top of the rolled enchiladas. Sprinkle remaining cheese and onions on top and bake, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Sauce should be bubbly and cheese melted.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.