Mexican chilaquiles is a traditional dish made of tortilla chips or fried strips of tortilla that are simmered in either salsa roja or salsa verde. It’s an extremely popular dish in Mexico and is most commonly served for breakfast or brunch. After being plated, chilaquiles are generously topped with a variety of add-ons, including fried eggs, meat, crumbled cheese, refried beans, sour cream, sliced avocado, onion, cilantro, or olives.
Chilaquiles originated as a way to repurpose stale tortillas – as the tortillas would acquire a new dimension of deliciousness after being fried and tossed in salsa. Since then, this dish has become the ultimate late-night snack or morning-after remedy following a night of partying and drinking, and a brunch staple in the US Southwest.
Coat a large sauté pan with corn oil on medium-high to high heat. Add the tortillas and fry them until golden brown when the oil is hot.
Place the tortillas on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle a little salt on them.
Remove any browned tortilla bits from the pan.
Bring the pan back to high heat and add two tablespoons of oil. Add the salsa and let it cook for several minutes.
Add the fried tortilla quarters to the salsa. Gently turn over the tortilla pieces until they are all well coated with salsa. Cook for a few more minutes.
Remove from the heat and serve chilaquiles with toppings and garnishes.
Tips & tricks
For the best chilaquiles, grab some cheaper tortilla chips. Although the whole point of chilaquiles is to soften stale tortillas in warm salsa, too much softening leads to soggy tortillas. This usually happens because of the type of chips used – thin, premium tortilla chips are too delicate to withstand simmering. In place of these high-end chips, grab a bag of cheap supermarket tortilla chips, which tend to be thicker and crunchier and will better hold their texture when bathed in salsa.
History and origins
The Mexican word ‘chilaquiles’ derives from an ancient word in the Aztec Nahuatl language meaning 'chilis and greens'. Now known as a staple in Mexican cuisine, chilaquiles go all the way back to the Aztecs. Chilaquiles are said to have been first brought to the US in a cookbook by Encarnación Pinedo, 'The Spanish Cook,' in 1898.
Chilaquiles offer a fantastic opportunity to be creative with your cooking, allowing you to tailor the dish to your preferences. You can add whatever ingredients take your fancy, from beef to shredded chicken, queso fresco and roasted vegetables. To make the dish even more delicious, you can also add a dollop of sour cream or guacamole. The addition of specific ingredients and salsas is often unique to a particular region or family recipe.
Your location will significantly influence the type of chilaquiles you eat. In Mexico City, for example, they simmer tortillas in green tomatillo sauce, while in Central Mexico they prefer crispy tortilla chips (they don’t simmer the tortillas in salsa but instead pour the salsa over the chips right before they are eaten).
How to serve it
You can enjoy chilaquiles topped with scrambled or fried eggs, shredded chicken, pork, or beef and garnished with crumbled cheese such as cotija or queso fresco, pico de gallo, cilantro, onion, and sliced or chopped avocado. You can offer your guests bowls with various toppings so they can pick the ones they fancy. If you want some sides to go with your chilaquiles, make some refried beans, rice, or a salad.