Enchiladas Rojas, Zacatecan Style

by Leslie Hayertz
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This has become my favorite enchiladas sauce recipe. I learned the original from Lolis Diaz during my visit to Instituto Fénix  in Zacatecas, Zacatecas, Mexico, but over the years, I’ve tweaked it considerably.



  • 2 oz. pkg. dried, about 4 chiles (If you use California, New Mexican or Pasilla chiles—long, slender, smooth and red, your sauce will be spicier and redder. If you use Ancho or Ancho Pasilla chiles—short, wide, wrinkly and eggplant-colored, your sauce will be milder and darker colored.)
  • Approximately 1/8 oz. baking chocolate
  • 1 1/4 cup water water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon

To Prepare:

  1. Clean the chiles, removing the seeds.
  2. Heat the water in a saucepan.
  3. Put the chiles in the hot water until they soften a bit, about 15 minutes.
  4. Place ut the water and chiles in a blender or food processor.
  5. Put the blended chiles in a frying pan or sauce pan.
  6. Add the chocolate, salt and sugar.
  7. Let it boil for a few minutes.



  • 12 corn tortillas
  • cooking oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup crumbled Mexican Cotija cheese (or 2 cups grated Monterrey Jack or Colby Jack)

To Assemble:

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan.
  2. Pass each corn tortilla through the oil—long enough to soften it, not to brown it.
  3. Dip each tortilla in in the hot enchilada sauce.
  4. Place cheese and onion in the center of the tortilla and roll it up.
  5. Place the rolled enchiladas on a plate, pour a very little bit more sauce on top.
  6. Garnish with sour cream and/or cheese.
A cooking class at Insituto Fenix in Zacatecas, Mexico.

Lolis Diaz teaches a cooking class at Insituto Fenix in Zacatecas, Mexico. (Photo courtesy Beth Werber.)

Read Leslie Hayertz’ story on Spanish Language Schools and Homestays here.

-Recipe photo by Leslie Hayertz.

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