chicken enchiladas with spicy chimichurri sauce

Chicken Enchiladas with Spicy Chimichurri Sauce

A warm, delicious pan of homemade chicken enchiladas just hits the spot – no matter the season. Enchiladas are packed full of flavor, easy to assemble, and unless you’re serving a party, can keep well throughout the week.

These chicken enchiladas with black beans, onions, and bell peppers may seem like any other enchilada out there. But I promise: make these once, and you’ll never go back to store-bought Mexican food again.

What’s special about these babies? One answer: spicy chimichurri sauce.

Spicy Chimichurri Sauce

You’ve probably heard of chimichurri, but in case you haven’t, it’s basically South American pesto. Cilantro, parsley, and olive oil form the base, and each region adds their own spin on it. You can experiment with your own, or try this spicy version – exchange the olive oil for chili oil.

No – chili oil is not the same as siracha or hot sauce. And please don’t just add a few drops to olive oil and call it chili oil. Give it a different name, but that’s not the flavor we’re going for.

To make the chili oil, I follow Abra Beren’s recipe (she’s the author of Ruffage, Michigan farmer, and down-to-earth chef).

Follow the recipe link, or simply heat over the stove 1/2 cup olive oil for the chimichurri with 2 Tbs. of red pepper flakes. Before the flakes start to brown or burn, remove the oil from the heat. Congrats! You made chili oil. Look at you, you’re becoming a chef already.

chicken and black bean enchiladas in a pan with green sauce

Tips to Make the Chicken Enchiladas

You don’t want to spend 2-3 hours in the kitchen making this dish, do you? (Foodies like me might, but let’s be real: We’re all busy people. Sometimes we would rather do other things.)

To make this easier for yourself, do as much of the prep work in the morning. Start by cooking the chicken in the slow cooker (or instant pot, if you prefer). Make your enchilada sauce while you’ve got the chicken broth out – this literally takes 10 minutes. If you’re starting with dry beans, cook those suckers in the instant pot or quick-soak them in boiling water for an hour.

These 2 (3 including the beans) steps require minimal effort, cleaning, or experience. If you’re feeling extra productive, go ahead and chop the onions and peppers now, too, and store everything in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble your enchiladas.

When it’s time to fold your enchiladas, don’t overthink it. In my experience, it’s more about the size of the pan you use than how well you wrap it. Go for a pan that’s juuuuust wide enough, so that the edges of your shell fit snuggly against the walls.

Pro tip: Buy the largest flour tortilla shells you can find. This makes it easier, too.

close up of spicy chimichurri and chicken enchiladas

How is this a sustainable recipe when there’s chicken in it?

Reason 1) I buy local chicken whenever I cook with it.

Eating locally-sourced food is one of the best ways to lower your carbon footprint. If you buy Tyson chicken at your local Kroger – sorry, that’s not really sustainable. Check for local meat options at your grocery store – each package should have the location on it telling you where it came from.

Reason 2) Chicken is a great alternative to red meat if you’re trying to lower your food CO2 footprint.

Red meat (namely cows, sheep, and goats) are the biggest food culprit in terms of carbon emissions. If I can convince someone to eat these delicious chicken enchiladas instead of a steak fajita or ground meat taco, that’s still a win for the environment.

How much CO2 emissions come from your favorite foods? See the stats in the free ebook.

Reason 3) It’s about reducing our meat and dairy intake.

You can still make an impact on the environment, lower your carbon footprint, and still eat meat. I’m not here to tell you to go vegan, although if you can, that’s amazing. I’m telling you the experts who research topics around food systems and sustainability state that reducing our meat and dairy intake will reduce our overall carbon emissions.

Also, as you might have noticed, there’s no cheese in these enchiladas!

Maybe I’ve just been around too many friends who are lactose intolerant, or maybe I just keep forgetting to pick it up when I need it. Either way, I don’t add cheese to my chicken enchiladas unless I already have it in my fridge and need to use it ASAP.

If you love it, you can add it. But honestly: I don’t think these babies need it. The flavor, heat, and texture will more than make-up for it.

how to make shredded chicken enchiladas with chimichurri
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chicken enchiladas with spicy chimichurri sauce

Chicken Enchiladas with Spicy Chimichurri Sauce

  • Prep Time: 4 hrs. + 20 min.
  • Cook Time: 20 min.
  • Total Time: 4 hrs. + 40 min.
  • Category: dinner
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Description

A deliciously straight-forward enchilada recipe elevated with a spicy South American pesto. Made from 100% easy-to-find ingredients.


Scale

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 11.5 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, divided
  • 1 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

For the enchilada sauce

  • ½ can (4 oz.) crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

For the enchiladas

  • 56 flour tortillas
  • 1 Tbsp. canola oil
  • ½ large yellow onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • ½ green bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups cooked or 1 can (15 oz.) black beans, drained

For the chimichurri

  • ¾ cup parsley
  • ¾ cup cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded
  • 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ cup chili oil (or olive oil)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt

 


Instructions

Prep Ahead

  1. Place the chicken in the bottom of a crock pot. Add the chicken stock and spices, and cook on high for 3-4 hours depending on how thick the breasts are. Move to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. With two forks, shred the chicken. Store in the fridge until ready to use, or keep in a ziplock container in the freezer for up to 2 months.
  2. In a small saucepan over the stove, combine all the ingredients for the enchilada sauce. Stir and let cook over medium heat until it starts to simmer. Turn heat off and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
  3. In a food processor or powerful blender, chop the parlsey and cilantro as well as you can. Add the remaining chimichurri ingredients and blend until well combined. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

Making the enchiladas

  1. Thinly slice the onion and bell peppers then add them to a large, rimmed saucepan on the stove. Add Tbsp. of high-heat oil (like canola), and turn the heat to medium-high. Stir occassionally and cook until veggies are tender and have a slight char. Turn the heat off and add the garlic.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Pour half the enchilada sauce on the bottom of an 8×10 or similar pan. 
  3. In a large bowl, combine the chicken, black beans, veggies, and 1/3 of the chimichurri. Spoon roughly 3/4 cup of this filling onto a flour tortilla – off-center, but not too close to the edges. Roll the tortilla from the filling side toward the opposite end, tucking in the edges once you’ve past the tortilla’s diameter. Place the enchilada snuggly onto one side of the prepared pan, and repeat 4-5 more times. 
  4. Add remaining filling to the top of the enchilada, then pour the rest of the enchilada sauce on top. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges begin to crisp. Pour the rest of the spicy chimichurri on top. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 enchilada
  • Calories: 429
  • Sugar: 2.9
  • Sodium: 699
  • Fat: 26.4
  • Saturated Fat: 4.3
  • Unsaturated Fat: 0
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 23.3
  • Fiber: 5.5
  • Protein: 27.4
  • Cholesterol: 67
 

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