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Healthy Chicken Enchiladas

Healthy chicken enchiladas and brown rice, with not-so-healthy refried beans

I’m not a huge fan of taking otherwise unhealthy recipes and trying to “healthify” them because generally you end up with an inferior dish that leaves you hankering for the real thing. In some cases, though, the original just lends itself very easily to a light-but-delicious version, like this chicken enchilada recipe. The few sub ingredients perform admirably: high-fiber, low-carb whole wheat tortillas; low-fat cheese; unsalted or low-sodium chicken stock.  And before anyone goes apeshit over the unhealthy byproducts of processing cheese to make it low-fat, please know that I agree. If I were you I would eat everything full-fat, but in moderation. I opted for low-fat cheese in this recipe because at the time I first converted it to “healthy” I was doing P90X and was allowed almost zero fat in my diet. Your call what kind of cheese you want to use.

You’ll find the Mexican spice rub gives the chicken a lot of flavorful punch. Many enchiladas rely on only the sauce, cheese and (in some cases) sour cream to create the flavor. I want to bite into something that has layers of taste all the way down to the chicken inside. Incidentally, if you just want to make some Mexican rubbed chicken to eat with rice you can do that as well. Season some chicken liberally with the rub, then cover with plastic wrap overnight in the fridge. The next day, grill it or brown both sides in an oven-safe pan over medium-high, then finish in a preheated 350F oven for about 12 minutes (until inside temperature registers 165). Let rest five minutes before serving.

Healthy Chicken Enchilada Recipe
Servings: 4

Mexican Spice Rub

 3/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp dried crushed thyme leaves
1/8 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Mexican or Spanish Paprika

Mix all ingredients in a metal bowl and combine well. Preferably, pulverize the combined mixture in a spice mill as it will make the rub perfectly consistent.

Chile Verde Sauce

12 fluid oz. (1 lb. weight) can tomatillos
2 fresh jalapenos, cored, seeded and chopped
1/2 white onion, chopped semi-fine
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
Juice of 1 large lime

Pulverize jalapenos and tomatillos in a food processor or blender, then combine with remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Preferably, refrigerate overnight before using. The verde sauce will be less bitter and a little sweeter the next day. If you are feeling really ambitious, make the verde sauce per my chile verde recipe, which uses fresh, roasted tomatillos.


6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat removed
8 medium sized tortillas (I use La Tortilla Factory Smart & Delicious Whole Wheat Low Carb, High Fiber)
3/4 cup low-fat shredded Mexican Cheese Mix
1 cup (or more) low sodium or salt-free chicken stock
Mexican Spice Rub
Chile Verde Sauce

Putting it all together

Browned, Braised and Broken Apart: delicious chicken enchilada filling

Season chicken thighs liberally with spice rub on both sides and let rest for at least fifteen minutes. Preheat oven to 300F. In a medium size dutch oven over medium-high, brown the chicken in a little olive oil, about four minutes on first side, then two minutes on other. Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth and transfer dutch oven to the oven, uncovered. After half an hour, gently flip the chicken over. Let cook for another half hour, then remove from oven and gently transfer chicken to a plate. Place dutch oven on stove at medium high until boiling, scraping bottom with a wooden spoon. Continue simmering until the liquid has reduced to only a couple tablespoons, about 5 minutes. Turn off heat.

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a casserole with olive oil. With forks or your hands (it may be hot!) shred the chicken well, then add back to dutch oven and toss well. Stuff tortillas with chicken (a little off-center) and roll into enchiladas. Place enchiladas in casserole so that the seam of each is on the bottom. Spoon about a cup of chile verde sauce evenly across enchiladas so that they are all covered, then cover casserole tightly with foil. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle cheese over enchiladas, then bake until cheese is completely melted, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes before serving. Best served with Uncle Cam’s Refried Beans and rice.

Rolled up, covered in sauce and ready for the oven


About Huy-zer

Jack of all trades, master of none. Do not approach unless you're prepared for a blizzard of useless facts and 80's music trivia.


One thought on “Healthy Chicken Enchiladas

  1. This dish is full of flavors that it does trick the brain into thinking that you’re eating something naughty. This dish is a good winter comfort food! If you’re a saucy girl like myself, put a little extra Chili Verde Sauce on top of enchiladas and rice. So good!

    Posted by 1milagritos | February 15, 2012, 12:26 pm

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