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This Tex-Mex-inspired beef enchilada recipe is richly seasoned, easy to make, and always such a crowd fave!
One of my longtime favorite recipes to whip up for a big dinner party, wrap up in a casserole dish to bring to friends, or bake up on a regular old weeknight here with just the three of us — say hello to my favorite beef enchiladas! ♡
These delicious Tex-Mex-inspired enchiladas are loaded up with with tender ground beef (or we often make ours nowadays with plant-based meat), green chiles, onion, garlic, beans, cheese, your choice of tortillas, and my favorite red enchilada sauce. And when baked to warm and melty perfection, then served up with a few slices of avocado and perhaps a sprinkling of fresh cilantro and crumbled cotija, I can tell you — after a decade plus of serving these enchiladas to loved ones — that they are always, always such a hit.
They’re perfect for prepping ahead of time, making this recipe a great option for easy entertaining or popping in the oven after a long day of work. And they can also easily be made gluten-free with corn tortillas and my homemade sauce, if you’d like.
I’ve made this beef enchiladas recipe more times than I can count and know we’ll certainly be enjoying it in our house for many years to come. So if you have yet to give it a try, it’s time!
Beef Enchilada Ingredients
Detailed instructions for how to make beef enchiladas are included in the recipe box below. But before we get to the recipe, here are a few quick notes about the ingredients you will need…
- Beef: I typically use organic lean ground beef for this recipe. But if you happen to have leftover cooked diced or shredded beef on hand (such as shredded beef barbacoa), it will work well in this recipe too.
- Onion and garlic: We will sauté these until softened to help season the filling.
- Diced green chiles: I typically toss a small can of diced green chiles into the filling. But you could sauté a diced jalapeño with the onion if you would like to amp up the heat even more.
- Beans: I love adding beans to enchilada fillings for extra protein, and pinto beans or black beans are my preference with this recipe. But white beans, lentils or chickpeas would also work well here too.
- Tortillas: Corn tortillas are traditionally used in Mexican-style enchiladas, but I usually use flour tortillas in this recipe (which are more commonly used in Tex-Mex and American-style enchiladas) because they are much easier to roll. That said, any type of tortillas that you prefer can work in this recipe.
- Cheese: I most often use Pepper Jack or a Mexican-blend of shredded cheese for these enchiladas, but feel free to use whatever variety of cheese that you love best.
- Cumin, sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper: These will serve as our the basic seasonings for the beef filling, but the enchilada sauce will add much more flavor too.
- Toppings: When it comes to enchiladas, I vote the more toppings the merrier! Any combination of chopped fresh cilantro, sliced avocado, diced red onion (or quick pickled red onions), sliced radishes, fresh or pickled jalapeños, sour cream or Mexican crema, and/or extra cheese would be delicious here.
- Enchilada sauce: Finally, you can use any type of enchilada sauce that you prefer for this recipe, but I highly recommend using my favorite homemade enchilada sauce. It only takes a few extra minutes to prep and can simmer on the stovetop while you prepare the rest of the enchiladas. It’s made with basic pantry ingredients and tastes a million times better than the store-bought canned stuff.
This homemade beef enchiladas recipe is incredibly flexible, so please feel free to customize it to your liking! For example, feel free to…
- Use corn tortillas: To make Mexican-style enchiladas, use corn tortillas (homemade or store-bought) in place of flour tortillas. Since corn tortillas are typically smaller, you will likely need to use nearly double the quantity of tortillas. (Just arrange them in the pan however you’d like.) Then to bring out that toasty corn flavor and prevent the corn tortillas from tearing, I recommend either flash-frying the tortillas for about 10 seconds per side in a skillet that has been lightly drizzled with oil. Or alternately, you can just dip the tortillas briefly in the warm enchilada sauce before rolling them up.
- Use green enchilada sauce: Instead of red enchilada sauce, try making green beef enchiladas with my homemade green enchilada sauce recipe. It’s easy to make and adds the most delicious savory green chile flavor to this dish.
- Use different beans: As I mentioned above, white beans, lentils or chickpeas would also work well here in place of pinto or black beans.
- Make vegetarian enchiladas: To make these vegetarian enchiladas, simply use plant-based ground beef or sausage. (We usually make ours nowadays using Beyond beef.) Or alternately, you can replace it with extra veggies (such as roasted cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, etc), extra beans, or any other vegetarian fillings you prefer. To make vegan enchiladas, be sure to also use vegan cheese as well.
- Make gluten-free enchiladas: To make gluten-free enchiladas, use gluten-free corn or flour tortillas. And also be sure to use a 1-for-1 gluten-free flour blend (in place of all-purpose flour) in the homemade enchilada sauce recipe.
- Make dairy-free enchiladas: To make dairy-free enchiladas, just use your favorite variety of vegan cheese in the recipe.
Make-Ahead and Freezer Instructions
Make ahead instructions: If you would like to prep these enchiladas up ahead of time, go ahead and prep them through Step 4. Then cover the baking dish tightly and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. Bake as directed.
Freezer instructions: You can freeze enchiladas either before or after they have been cooked. For optimal texture, I recommend freezing enchiladas before hand, which will allow the tortillas to crisp up perfectly in the oven and avoid sogginess. But either option will work. Simply…
- Freezing uncooked enchiladas: Prep the enchiladas in a freezer-safe pan (foil pans work well) through Step 4. Cover the dish very tightly with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. (If you don’t have an extra pan, you can line a basic baking dish with parchment and freeze the enchiladas until firm. Then gently lift the frozen enchiladas up from the pan, quickly transfer to a large freezer bag, squeeze out any extra air, then seal and freeze.)
- Freezing cooked enchiladas: Prep the enchiladas through Step 5. Cover the pan very tightly with foil or transfer the enchiladas to a freezer bag and squeeze out any extra air. Freeze for up to 3 months.
How to reheat frozen enchiladas: If the uncooked enchiladas are completely frozen, bake covered at 350°F for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for an additional 10-20 minutes or until cooked through. If the uncooked enchiladas are thawed, bake as directed in the recipe below. Frozen cooked enchiladas can be baked uncovered at 350°F for 20-30 minutes until warmed through. You can also heat frozen cooked enchiladas in the microwave, but note that the tortillas may dry out and become rubbery.
This beef enchiladas recipe is made with a delicious (and easy!) homemade red enchilada sauce, and it’s guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser!
- Prepare the enchilada sauce. Prepare the enchilada sauce according to recipe instructions.
- Sauté the beef filling. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the ground beef and cumin and sauté for 5 minutes or until completely browned, crumbling the beef with a wooden spoon as it cooks. Stir in the beans and green chiles until combined. Season the mixture with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper, to taste.
- Prep oven and baking dish. Heat oven to 350°F (180°C). Spread 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce evenly along the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
- Assemble the enchiladas. To assemble the enchiladas, set up an assembly line including: tortillas, enchilada sauce, beef filling, and cheese. Lay out a tortilla, and spread two tablespoons of sauce over the surface of the tortilla. Add a generous spoonful of the beef filling in a line down the center of the tortilla, then sprinkle with 1/3 cup cheese. Roll up the tortilla and place it in the prepared baking dish. Assemble the remaining enchiladas. Spread any remaining sauce evenly over the top of the enchiladas, followed by any extra cheese.
- Bake. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the enchiladas are cooked through and the tortillas are slightly crispy on the outside. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack.
- Serve. Serve the enchiladas immediately while they’re nice and hot, garnished with lots of your favorite toppings. Enjoy!
Tortillas: See notes in the post above if you would like to substitute corn tortillas.