Chilaquiles – An All Time Favourite

Chilaquiles were already being cooked in pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica; this dish was originally a way to use leftover dried-out tortillas, by cutting them into pieces and soaking them in spicy sauce to make them soft again.  The term comes directly from their Nahuatl description: chilli aquilli totopoch – chili added-to tortilla-chip, shortened to chilaquil, and then adapted to the Spanish plural form chilaquiles.  Throughout the times, additions of ingredients to the sauce, or as toppings, created family recipes and, because they are so delicious, chilaquiles became a favourite choice for a solid breakfast, a filling brunch, and even as a spicy and nourishing bite after a late night out.  Nowadays, pieces of day-old tortilla are fried to achieve crispiness, specifically for the dish, and not necessarily as a way to deal with leftovers, and then they are combined with piping hot sauce.  This basic duo may be served as a side, or as a complete meal with the addition of toppings such as crumbled cheese, onions, cooked chicken, or eggs.

There is much argument about the best, most traditional, or  – with some degree of bravado – even the right way to prepare the chips, cook the sauce and put the two together; in the end, as long as there are crisped tortillas and spicy sauce, each person may choose their preferred methods and textures.  Almost as a reflex, I usually add green sauce to my chilaquiles, but for this post, I will offer several versions, and mostly with red sauce since I still had some tomatoes, onions (and shallot), garlic and a couple of serrano peppers from my garden:

garden veggies

Red Chilaquiles – Chilaquiles rojos

Printable recipe: Red chilaquiles

Ingredients (two portions)

4-6 medium tomatoes
2 serrano peppers
1/2 medium onion (I had 2 small onions and 1 shallot)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
4 cups tortilla chips

Toppings, to taste:
Crumbled cheese (for example: Cotija, feta)
Sliced onions
Sour cream
Cooked chicken breast, shredded
Fried eggs

I washed the tomatoes and peppers and cooked them in boiling water for 5 minutes.  After draining the veggies, removing their stems, and peeling the tomatoes, I placed them all in the blender jar along with the onions and garlic, which I had peeled while the veggies were cooking. I processed for two minutes, and poured into a pot, bringing to a boil, then reducing the heat to let it simmer for about 10 minutes. I seasoned the sauce with salt, and kept it simmering:

I used homemade baked chips, cut into short strips and triangles but, since the chips get smothered in sauce, their shape and how they were crisped is not as critical as when served for dipping, so any day-old dried, baked or fried tortilla chips are good for chilaquiles. When pressed for time, or if corn tortillas are not available, good quality restaurant-style bagged tortilla chips will do in a pinch:

crisped tortilla chips different methods
Columns, left to right: homemade tortilla chips either sundried, baked, brushed with oil/baked, or fried; far right: store bought restaurant-style tortilla chips

Three examples of how to plate:

First, I made a platter with some chips arranged on the plate, sauce poured over, and served immediately – to keep them very crispy – with cooked chicken, crumbled Cotija cheese and sliced onions as toppings (photo at the top of the post).  This is the most popular option in recent years, commonly with triangular chips, especially at restaurants, where they would have the triangles already available for nacho plates.

A second platter was made with chips soaked in the sauce for 2 minutes, to achieve medium crispiness, and served with cheese, sour cream and onions on top.  This is my personal favourite, and I used the more old-fashioned tortilla strips:

medium crisp chilaquiles

Finally, a third plate was prepared with chips soaked in the sauce until very soft (about 5 minutes, and I used up both the strips and triangles I had left), garnished with cheese, onions and sour cream, and served with a fried egg on top:

chilaquiles with egg

Note: The second plate turned out a little pale, and the chips look fluffy because they absorbed most of the sauce very quickly, so it is something to keep in mind when soaking chips; reserving some extra sauce to add when serving might be useful.  This measure was applied to the third plate, with extra sauce added at serving time, and on top of the egg, as well.

These examples illustrate only a few of the endless combinations of sauce, chips, crispiness, and toppings for this dish.  One of the oldest recipes I know, calls for a handful of fiery chile de árbol peppers instead of serranos, for extreme, very spicy hot, chilaquiles (I have tried those only once; I do not know … maybe another day.)  The recipe in this post also works equally well using tomatillos instead of tomatoes, for a nice plate of green chilaquiles:

green chilaquiles with chicken
Crispy green chilaquiles with chicken, topped with crumbled cheese and onions

Buen provecho!

I am bringing this dish to Fiesta Friday #238 with Angie @ Fiesta Friday (this recipe is definitely not low-carb, but it is well known for treating after-party effects!), co-hosted by Mollie @ The Frugal Hausfrau (Gourmet food on a budget; she likes Mexican food, too!) and Mikaela @ Iris and Honey (Her recipes sound very healthy, and she favours local ingredients, yay!)

I am also joining  What’s for dinner? Sunday link up #163 hosted by Helen @ Lazy Gastronome (Enjoying good food with less work, now that is a great philosophy!)

17 thoughts on “Chilaquiles – An All Time Favourite

  1. Yes, I DO love Mexican food, and you know this is going on my list to make! I’m usually more of a green chili fan but you might very well win me over with this!! I like to dry my tortillas out over night and then fry them so I guess I use a combo method.

    Happy FF, Irene!!


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Mollie! I like the red and the green equally well; sometimes I prepare both sauces, and we have sort of a “chilaquiles bar”, with the toppings on the side as well, and everyone chooses the type of sauce, crunchiness, vegetarian or meat lover, etc. One of my daughters does not like them at all (oh, tragedy!) but she still gets to put the ingredients together as a nacho platter, so works for everyone.


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