Enchiladas are known in my family to be the ultimate comfort food. I grew up all my life eating them in a variety of different ways: red sauce, green chile, a tomatillo salsa version, avocado and even sour cream. In my opinion, all enchiladas are worthy of eating.
The first time I made these refried bean chicken enchiladas, one of my besties and fellow food bloggers, Sarah, and I devoured them after a long day of photography and recipes. Our minds were teetering on the verge of delusional and delirious, but our bellies were happier than ever.
Back when Tony was playing baseball I would make him turkey meatballs, healthy chicken parm, pepper jack and chicken pasta, and of course, these beautiful enchiladas when he’d come home from traveling. Because he was an athlete I made sure that my recipes were both satisfying, filling and tasty. Fast-forward. many years and I’m still whipping up nourishing, delicious eats for him and our two kiddos!
These chicken enchiladas are seriously the perfect comfort food to feed the whole family or a group of friends. They’re freezer-friendly, too, so whip up a batch and enjoy any time.
Ingredients in these healthy chicken enchiladas
These delicious chicken enchiladas are easy to customize and are the perfect way to use up leftover chicken. Here’s everything you’ll need to make them:
- Homemade enchilada sauce: this is the most exciting part of the recipe. Making your own enchilada sauce is easier than you can imagine. Just tomato sauce, tomato paste, garlic, onion, chicken broth (or vegetarian broth), apple cider vinegar, and a few spices. You are going to be making it again and again! And best yet, you can make it while you’re cooking your chicken (if need be) so you get two things done at once.
- Chicken: you’ll add cooked, shredded chicken straight to the enchiladas, so this is the perfect way to use up any leftovers! Get all of our tips for cooking perfect chicken here, and shredding it here. You can also use a rotisserie chicken if you’d like.
- Refried beans: I love, love, love using refried beans in my enchilada recipes because of the added nutrition, fiber and protein. Plus it makes the enchiladas literally melt in your mouth. Black bean refried beans are a favorite.
- Cheese: I didn’t go crazy with the amount of cheese in this recipe. Frankly, it isn’t necessary thanks to the wonderful creamy beans and flavorful enchilada sauce.
- Tortillas: I love to use soft corn tortillas, but feel free to use any tortillas you’d like!
- To garnish: add some avocado, fresh cilantro and diced onion on top for the perfect bite every time.
Simple ingredient swaps
Because these chicken enchiladas use plenty of simple ingredients, they’re also easy to customize!
- Go vegetarian: feel free to leave out the chicken and add a can of black beans or even some roasted veggies. You’ll want to check and make sure your refried beans are also vegetarian.
- Add veggies: I recommend adding the following: zucchini, bell pepper, corn, onion, cooked sweet potato or butternut squash. I would refrain from adding more than 1 cup of veggies so that you avoid overstuffing the enchiladas.
- Make them dairy free: use your favorite dairy free/vegan shredded cheese.
- Keep them gluten free: be sure to use gluten free corn tortillas, or a different gluten free tortilla (see a note on tortillas below).
- Choose your sauce: for ease, you can also use a 28 ounce can of your favorite enchilada sauce instead of making it yourself.
Choose the right tortillas
As I mentioned, I like to use corn tortillas for the flavor and easy rolling capability. If you want to use a different type of tortillas, keep these notes in mind:
- For flour tortillas: you may need to use 8-10 instead of 12 and will need to slightly increase filling, cheese & sauce in each tortilla.
- For grain free tortillas: be careful with these as they may be harder to roll depending on the brand and what they are made of.
Tips for assembling perfect chicken enchiladas
Homemade enchiladas can seem a bit intimidating with the filling, rolling, etc. But they’re SO easy and delicious with a few simple tips:
- Warm your tortillas. You can do this in the microwave for about 20 seconds so they are easier to roll. You can splash a little water on them before microwaving to make them more pliable.
- Don’t overfill. Fill them with just about 1/4 cup of the refried bean & chicken mixture so that they stay together and don’t burst at the seams.
- Lay them correctly. Remember to place them seam-side down so that the filling stays inside, and arrange them tightly next to each other in your pan to help them stay together.
Can I make them ahead of time?
Absolutely! I’ve included instructions for how to freeze chicken enchiladas below, but you can also assemble the enchiladas one day ahead of time and store them covered in the refrigerator. Bake them for about 10-15 minutes longer once you’re ready to cook them, and then serve!
How to make the best chicken enchiladas
- Make your sauce. In a medium pot sauté your onion and garlic, stir in the spices, then add the tomato sauce, paste, and broth. Bring it all to a boil then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes to thicken up. Once it’s ready stir in the apple cider vinegar and add salt & pepper to taste.
- Prep your pan. Grease a 9×13 inch pan with a little oil, then spread 3/4 cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of the pan.
- Assemble enchiladas. Warm your corn tortillas, then add refried beans, shredded chicken, cheese and enchilada sauce to each one. Roll them up and place them seam-side down in the pan. Repeat for all of the tortillas.
- Top & bake. Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the tortillas, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and bake.
- Garnish & serve. Top the enchiladas with fresh avocado, cilantro & onion if you’d like, and add my famous spicy cilantro jalapeño yogurt sauce to take them to the next level!
Two ways to freeze chicken enchiladas
These easy chicken enchiladas can be frozen two different ways for the perfect meal prep dinner! They’re the perfect meal to prepare for new parents or anyone that could use a home cooked meal. Here’s how to freeze them:
- Bake first, then freeze. You can either bake them first, then cool to room temperature, divide them in freezer safe containers and then freeze. Or you can bake them, bring them to room temp, and then freeze the entire pan. Just make sure you double wrap the pan so the enchiladas do not dry out. This is assuming you are freezing the entire pan. Once ready to reheat, thaw it out. Then bake, covered at 350 degrees F for 30-45 minutes or until heated through.
- Freeze before baking: To freeze before baking, simply assemble the enchiladas as written in the instructions, then double wrap with plastic wrap and foil and freeze for up to 3 months. Once ready to bake, thaw out then bake according to instructions.
More tacos & enchiladas
Get all of our taco & enchilada recipes here!
I hope you love these dreamy refried bean chicken enchiladas! If you make them be sure to leave a comment and a rating so I know how you liked them. Enjoy, xo!
Dreamy Refried Bean Chicken Enchiladas with Homemade Enchilada Sauce
Amazing chicken enchiladas with creamy refried beans, protein-packed chicken, and a homemade enchilada sauce. This delicious, easy chicken enchilada recipe is freezer-friendly and a crowd-pleasing dinner staple!
- For the enchilada sauce:
small white onion, very finely minced or grated
can tomato sauce
apple cider vinegar
- Salt, to taste
- For the enchiladas:
cooked shredded chicken (breast or thighs work great!)
can refried beans (I like to use refried black beans for best flavor)
shredded colby jack or Mexican cheese, divided
shredded pepper jack cheese
soft corn tortillas
- To garnish:
avocado, sliced or diced
cup fresh chopped cilantro
chopped red onion or diced green onion
Prepare the enchilada sauce by heating oil in a medium pot over medium high heat. Add in garlic and onions and sauté for 5 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add in chili powder, cumin, oregano and cayenne pepper and stir for 30 seconds to allow the spices to cook a bit. Stir in tomato sauce, broth, tomato paste then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a medium low and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Lastly stir in apple cider vinegar, then add salt and pepper to taste. **NOTE: if you don’t want to use homemade enchilada sauce, feel free to use 1 (28 ounce) can of red enchilada sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan with a little olive oil or avocado oil.
Begin by spreading ¾ cup of enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan.
Next, warm up your tortillas so they are easier to roll and to avoid them breaking: I like to microwave mine for 15 seconds on a plate then cover them with a warm towel so they stay warm. Please note it is important to use soft corn tortillas, these are the ones that do not easily break!
Assemble enchiladas: place 2 tablespoons of refried beans in a corn tortilla, then top with a few tablespoons of shredded chicken, 1 heaping tablespoon of colby jack cheese and 1 tablespoon of enchilada sauce. Roll tortillas up and place seam side down in pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas.
Next pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the tortillas and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of shredded colby jack and 1/2 cup of shredded pepper jack cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
Garnish with avocado, cilantro, red or green onion, if desired. Makes 5 servings, 2 enchiladas each. I also love serving this with my spicy cilantro jalapeno yogurt sauce and it makes the recipe extra pretty, too! Just a little drizzle on top really take it to the next level, but it’s up to you.
If you don’t want to make your own enchilada sauce, feel free to use 1 (28 ounce) can of red enchilada sauce.
See the full post for easy ways to customize your enchiladas, plus two ways to freeze them for later!
Servings: 5 servings
Serving size: 2 enchiladas
This post was originally published on September 23rd, 2015, and republished on February 20th, 2022.