This has become a favorite vegetarian meal: bean and cheese enchiladas. It is a simple recipe with a modest ingredient list, and because of this, its success lies in the details:
- A super flavorful sauce: this fresh, red enchilada sauce, made with broiled vegetables, fresh lime juice, and a chipotle in adobo sauce comes together in no time and is the foundation of the dish: it smothers the stuffed, rolled tortillas on both sides, infusing them with heat and spice, smoke and char, sweetness and acidity.
- Good tortillas: Corn tortillas are more traditional for enchiladas, but I find the flavor of most store-bought tortillas, corn or flour, to be disappointing. The solution?:
- Order a few packs of Caramelo flour tortillas, which are exceptional. Read more about them here: Caramelo Flour Tortillas.
- Seek out corn-flour hybrid tortillas, which of the commercial varieties, I find to be the tastiest. La Tortilla Factory sells a variety, and both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s do as well.
- Highly seasoned beans: These slow-cooked black beans are seasoned with olive oil, salt, a bay leaf, onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. I have been cooking them by the pound and stashing them in the fridge. As they marinate in their cooking liquid, they become even more flavorful. They freeze well, too. See notes in the recipe for zhuzhing up canned beans.
- Lots of fresh herbs: Inspired by this enchilada casserole recipe, which calls for layering the tortillas, sauce, and cheese, with lots of fresh cilantro and sliced scallions, I’ve been sprinkling a heavy handful of both on top of the assembled and sauced enchiladas.
- Light on the cheese: When it comes to cheese with enchiladas, less is more. A light hand with the cheese, in the end, allows the other flavors to shine.
Note: This is not a traditional preparation of enchiladas, which calls for lightly frying each tortilla in oil, then dipping each in the enchilada sauce before stuffing and rolling. Here you spread the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish and on top of the rolled, stuffed tortillas, too.
I find this method to be a little simpler, a little less messy, and no less flavorful. Use this recipe as a guide, filling the tortillas with whatever you like — tinga, roasted vegetables, sautéed greens — and scale the the recipe up as needed.
Can you Freeze Enchiladas?
Yes! This is my favorite way to do it:
- Assemble the enchiladas stopping after you smother the rolled tortillas with sauce in the baking dish. Cover the dish tightly with a few layers of foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- To thaw and bake: uncover the foil and sprinkle the rolled tortillas with the scallions, herbs, and final layer of cheese. Return the foil.
- Bake covered at 375ºF for 20 minutes. Uncover. Increase the heat to 425ºF and bake until the cheese is beginning to blister, about 15 minutes.
Since learning how to make this enchilada sauce, I have been on a bit of an enchilada bender, rolling tortillas every other day with whatever I have on hand. It’s a great format for clearing out the fridge of any languishing vegetables or leftover cooked meats or, as here, a simple mix of bean and cheese.
Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your ingredients; then spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce across your baking dish.
Spread a few tablespoons of black beans and a light sprinkling of cheese across the center of a 6-inch tortilla.
Roll into a coil, and place in your baking dish seam side down.
Repeat until you have enough coils to fill your baking dish.
Smother the coils with more enchilada sauce.
Top with chopped scallions and cilantro.
Top with more grated cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is beginning to blister in spots.
A few notes:
- Scale this recipe up or down as needed. For a 10-inch square or round baking dish, these proportions are about right. Use more or less sauce if you are using a larger or smaller pan. I am using this tart pan here. For a 9×13-inch pan, I imagine using 1.5 times this recipe will be about right.
- I am partial to using flour tortillas, which is not traditional, but I find them to be more flavorful. When I have a stash of Caramelo tortillas on hand, that is my preference. When I don’t, I look for the tortillas made from a blend of flour and corn (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods) or I make them from scratch. If you are using Caramelo tortillas, char them on one side in a skillet. If you are using standard flour tortillas, warm them in a skillet before using — this makes them more pliable and therefore easier to roll.
- The success of this recipe relies on using super flavorful black beans. This is my favorite way to prepare black beans: Simplest Slow Cooker Black Beans. If you are using canned beans, consider draining and rinsing them, then placing them in a pot with enough water to cover, a healthy splash of olive oil, a bay leaf, some crushed red pepper flakes, a good pinch of salt, and a clover of garlic. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes or until the beans have taken on some flavors from the broth.
- See notes in the post above for freezing the unbaked enchiladas.
- Heat the oven to 425ºF.
- In a 10-inch baking dish (see notes above regarding other vessels), spread 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce.
- Place a tortilla on work surface. Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of beans across the center. Top with a light sprinkling of cheese. Fold the tortilla in half; then roll into a coil (see video for guidance with the rolling). Transfer to the sauced baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas until you have filled the dish.
- Spread another 1/2 cup enchilada sauce over top. Sprinkle the cilantro and scallions over top. Top with the remaining cheese. (At this point, you can cover the dish and place it in the fridge for up to 24 hours.)
- Transfer pan to the oven (uncover it if you stashed it in the fridge) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until some of the cheese is beginning to blister.
- Let cool briefly, then serve.
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Oven
- Cuisine: Mexican, American
Keywords: enchiladas, vegetarian, bean, cheese