Learn how to make chilaquiles! In my humble opinion, this traditional Mexican breakfast is the best breakfast ever. It is satisfying, easy to prepare, and made with pantry staples you likely have at home already. In this post, I break down a simple recipe that you can customize to make your own.
Some of my favorite things about this recipe are that it is prepared with ingredients I have in my pantry and that the cooking time is just 10 minutes. Many people turn to this meal to try and help cure a hangover. Sometimes parties in Mexico conclude by serving this meal.
What are Chilaquiles?
Chilaquiles is a Mexican meal made with fried wedges or strips of tortillas cooked in a tomato or tomatillo based salsa or sauce. Toppings like cheese, eggs, or shredded meat are usually added. The flavor profile has it all: salty tortillas, melty cheese, spicy salsa, and often the richness of a runny egg yolk. It is an incredibly satisfying meal.
The History of Chilaquiles
Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish that dates back to the Aztecs – the word “chilaquiles” is a combination of the words “chilies” and “greens” in Nahuatl, the Aztec language. The invention of chilaquiles predates the formation of Mexico. The word “chilaquiles” even appeared in a vocabulary book written by a Spanish priest in 1571. There is debate over where the dish originated, with thoughts that it was either Mexico City or Puebla.
The first written recipe for chilaquiles was published in Arte Nuevo de Cocina y Repostería Acomodado al Uso Mexicano in 1828. This version of the recipe included pork or chorizo and some sesame seeds. Three years later, in 1831, another cookbook El Cocinero Mexicano shared three recipes that are more similar to chilaquiles as we know them today. Several decades later, in 1898, three more recipes were included in the first Mexican-American cookbook published in the United States, which was titled El Cocinero Español. In 1925, a San Antonio mentioned a feast where chilaquiles and refried beans were served.
Similar to many regional Italian dishes, like Ribollita, chilaquiles was born out of the idea of turning leftovers into something new in order to reduce food waste and save money. While the origins of chilaquiles are humble, it has become a meal you can find at some fancy restaurants. In recent years, the dish has become more popular in Chicago. It is a staple on brunch menus throughout the city, including Cindy’s, Kanela Breakfast Club, Yolk, and Au Cheval. Sometimes it appears on menus as a late-night snack.
There are many different regional preparations of chilaquiles, along with some shortcuts that make preparing the meal faster and easier.
Chilaquiles verdes are prepared with green salsa or green enchilada sauce. Chilaquiles rojos are made with red salsa or red enchilada sauce. The salsa or enchilada sauce can either be homemade or store-bought.
You can use store-bought tortilla chips, leftover tortilla chips, homemade tortilla chips, leftover tortillas, or even stale tortillas.
One of the biggest differences in how people prepare chilaquiles is the texture of the tortillas. The tortillas can be crispy or soft and saturated in the sauce. Sometimes the tortillas are even broken down, giving the meal a texture similar to polenta.
This recipe is a great way to use leftovers. I always search my fridge and add in any leftover salsas. If we have any leftover shredded chicken, chorizo, ground beef, or steak, it can also be added to this meal.
Classic Chilaquiles Ingredients
While toppings, especially cheese, are standard in most recipes, chilaquiles in its simplest form is made with just two ingredients: tortillas (or tortilla chips) and sauce.
Corn Tortillas or Tortilla Chips- You can opt to slice corn tortillas and fry or bake them until crisp, or you can skip some steps and save some prep time by using tortilla chips. Make sure you use corn tortillas or corn tortilla chips.
Sauce – You can use red salsa, green salsa, green enchilada sauce, red enchilada sauce, or a homemade red sauce made with tomatoes and chiles can be used as well. You can learn how to make Chilaquiles Rojos with a homemade red sauce at Muy Delish.
You can add whatever you want! Mexican crema, Mexican cheese like queso fresco or cotija cheese, fresh cilantro, chopped red onion, sliced avocado, shredded meat, or fried eggs are all popular toppings. My favorite toppings are cheese, avocado, sour cream, and a fried egg. Sometimes I add scrambled eggs on top instead of a fried egg.
Traditionally, refried beans are served on the side.
Using Ingredients from a Taqueria
Want to know my favorite hack for making easy chilaquiles? Skip the grocery store and head to a local taqueria to buy ingredients. I am lucky to live in Chicago, a city with an abundance of authentic Mexican restaurants. Most restaurants will sell tortilla chips, homemade salsa, and even containers of carnitas. The best chilaquiles are made with authentic ingredients, and this is the easiest way to get them.
If you are also in Chicago, my go-to spot is Antique Taco which has locations in Wicker Park and Bridgeport. They aren’t open in the morning, so I make a point to get the ingredients the night before.
How to Make Chilaquiles with Corn Tortillas
To prepare chilaquiles with tortillas, you need to start by slicing them into strips or wedges. Then you need to crisp them up. This can be done by quickly frying in a skillet with hot oil. A slightly healthier option is to brush the tortilla wedges with canola oil or avocado oil, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and to bake until crisp. Let the crispy tortilla pieces rest on paper towels to soak up any excess oil before proceeding to the recipe below.
How to Make Chilaquiles with Corn Tortilla Chips
Using corn tortilla chips is a simple timesaving shortcut. I recommend against using Thin & Crispy Style Tortilla Chips. They tend to fall apart too quickly. It is best to use Homestyle (thicker) tortilla chips in this recipe. Some people recommend using stale tortilla chips since they can soak in the sauce without getting soggy.
My Easy Chilaquiles Recipe
Personally, I like to make this meal with tortilla chips. We order Mexican food often and tend to have leftover tortilla chips. I use store-bought red salsa or salsa from a local taco shop. You can follow the recipe below and substitute the red salsa for red chile sauce, enchilada sauce, or salsa verde.
The texture is up to you. The longer the chips simmer, the more sauce they absorb and the soggier they become. I like the contrast between crispy tortilla chips and wet tortilla chips that are totally saturated in the sauce. To achieve this, I stir in an extra handful of chips just prior to serving the meal so that some of the chips remain crunchy.
I like to add some extra ingredients to my chilaquiles, typically black beans, corn, and fresh tomatoes. This is totally optional. I serve with traditional toppings like fried sunny side up eggs, cheese, and slices of avocado. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make it your own. At the end of the day, you are the one eating the meal, and it is your opinion that matters.
- a touch of Oil or Butter for the eggs
- 4 Eggs
- 1 jar of your favorite Salsa (10 ounces)
- 1/2 cup Chicken Broth (optional)
- about 4 handfuls of Tortilla Chips
- 1/2 cup of Black Beans or any beans
- 1/4 cup Corn
- 1/2 cup Grape Tomatoes Sliced in half
- 1/2 cup Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese or your favorite cheese
- 1/2 of an Avocado sliced
- Freshly Ground Pepper
1. This meal comes together quickly, so have the ingredients ready before you start cooking. I like to get the eggs going first. I start by heating a skillet over high heat. Once the skillet is nice and hot, I add a drizzle of olive oil. I crack four eggs into the skillet and immediately cover the skillet. Then I reduce the heat to the lowest setting. The eggs will take about 4-5 minutes to become perfectly sunny side up.
2. To make the chilaquiles, mix the salsa and chicken broth together in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it begins to simmer, add the tortilla chips. The amount of tortilla chips is a matter of personal preference. Some people like their chilaquiles on the soupy side, while others prefer them to be drier and crispier. As soon as you have stirred in the chips, add the beans, corn, and tomatoes. The chilaquiles are ready as soon as the chips and soaked in salsa, and everything is hot. I like to add in a final handful of chips just before serving so that some chips are nice and crunchy.
3. Finish off the chilaquiles by adding the cheese, eggs, avocado, and a touch of black pepper on top.
The best thing about chilaquiles is that you might have all the ingredients in your kitchen. The essential ingredients are tortilla chips and salsa. Then you can add beans, tomatoes, corn, jalapeños, meat, cheese, eggs, and anything else you like. This is a meal that was invented to use leftovers, so search your fridge and see what you find. I like to add fresh tomatoes, corn, avocado, black beans, shredded cheese, and fried eggs on top of my chilaquiles. The tomatoes and corn are especially good because they add a fresh texture to the otherwise somewhat mushy meal.
How do I store leftovers?
Chilaquiles taste best fresh, but you can store them in the fridge for up to 3 days. Store in an airtight container. If serving chilaquiles with fried eggs, do not save the eggs. Only save the chilaquiles.
How do I reheat chilaquiles?
The easiest way is to reheat chilaquiles in the microwave. First, place a damp (squeezed-out) paper towel on top of the plate in the microwave when reheating chilaquiles. This stops any food from splattering in the microwave while also preventing the chilaquiles from drying out.
To reheat on the stovetop, I recommend adding some extra sauce. Heat about 1/4 cup of sauce in a skillet. Once hot, add the leftover chilaquiles and gently stir until heated through.
What sauces and salsas can I use?
You can use red salsa (salsa rojo), green salsa (salsa verde), red enchilada sauce, green enchilada sauce, or a homemade tomato chile sauce. Make sure that you choose a tomato or tomatillo based salsa. For example, don’t use Pineapple Mango Salsa.