We LOVE these white chicken enchiladas! If you haven't tried them, white chicken enchiladas are a pretty popular Mexican American dish made with tortillas, cooked chicken, and a creamy white sauce.
The tortillas (homemade if you'd like!) are typically filled with shredded or diced chicken (precooked or leftover to make it easier), rolled up and placed in a baking dish, then topped with a delicious white sauce made with cream cheese, heavy cream, and spices like paprika.
The dish is then baked until the tortillas are crispy and the sauce is bubbly and golden brown. White chicken enchiladas can be customized with a variety of toppings, such as shredded cheese, chopped cilantro, diced tomatoes, or hot sauce, to suit your taste preferences.
It's a hearty and satisfying dish that's perfect for a cozy night in or for feeding a hungry crowd.
Read on to learn about the ingredients, how to make them, common questions, recommended sides dishes and so much more.
Chicken breasts: The main protein source for the dish. Make sure to choose fresh, boneless, skinless chicken breasts for the recipe. You can use pre-cooked shredded chicken to save time, but using uncooked chicken will give you more flavor and moistness.
Canola oil or olive oil: Used to sauté the onion, garlic, and jalapeno for the filling. Either oil works, but olive oil has a stronger flavor and canola oil has a neutral taste.
Corn (or flour) tortillas (taco sized): The base for the enchiladas. Make sure to choose fresh tortillas that are pliable and not dried out or cracked. Corn are traditional but flour works well too.
Onion, garlic, and jalapeno: The aromatics that give flavor to the filling. Choose fresh onions and jalapenos and use fresh garlic cloves for the best flavor.
Cream cheese: Adds richness and creaminess to the filling. Make sure to soften the cream cheese before mixing it with the other ingredients.
Heavy cream: Used to make the filling and the sauce. Choose high-quality heavy cream for the best taste and texture.
Paprika: Adds a smoky flavor and a hint of spice to the filling.
Butter and flour: Used to make the roux for the sauce. Make sure to use unsalted butter and all-purpose flour.
Chicken broth: Used to make the sauce. Choose low-sodium chicken broth, if possible, to control the amount of salt in the recipe.
Mexican cheese blend: Used in both the filling and the sauce. Choose a blend of shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, and/or other Mexican cheeses for the best flavor.
Salt and black pepper: Used to season the filling and the sauce. Use kosher salt or sea salt for the best flavor.
Method (How to Make)
Prepare The Filling and Pan for Baking:
Preheat your oven to 350°F and set out a 9x13 casserole dish.
For the filling, heat garlic in a large saute pan with 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Then, add jalapeno peppers and garlic and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
Stir in cream cheese until softened and combined. Pour in ½ cup of heavy cream and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Add paprika and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed. Remove from heat and mix in shredded chicken.
That's it! Now you're ready to assemble your enchiladas and bake them in the oven.
Assemble the Enchiladas and Make the Sauce for Topping:
To assemble the enchiladas, spoon the chicken mixture evenly along the center of each corn (or flour) tortilla and top with a bit of shredded Mexican cheese blend before rolling.
After rolling, place the enchiladas seam side down into a prepared baking casserole.
Make sauce: melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons of flour to make a roux; heat and stir until the roux is just slightly golden.
Gradually whisk in 2 cups of chicken broth (stirring very well as you pour) followed by ½ cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of shredded Mexican cheese blend (keep heat on low-medium until the cheese is melted.)
Test/adjust seasoning to taste (salt, pepper).
Pour sauce over enchiladas and top with additional shredded cheese if desired.
To Bake and Serve the Enchiladas:
Bake the enchiladas in the preheated oven at 350°F for about 30 minutes, or until heated through and bubbly.
Top with chopped fresh cilantro and serve with picante sauce on the side. Enjoy!
Use fresh, high-quality ingredients: This is key for any recipe, but especially for enchiladas where the flavors of the ingredients are front and center. Choose fresh chicken, tortillas, and vegetables, and use high-quality dairy products and spices.
Season well: Be sure to season both the filling and the sauce well with salt, black pepper, and any other seasonings you like. Don't be afraid to taste and adjust as you go.
Don't overfill the tortillas: It can be tempting to overstuff the tortillas, but this can make them difficult to roll and can result in a messy final product. Aim for a moderate amount of filling in each tortilla.
Warm the tortillas: Corn tortillas can be difficult to roll when they're cold and stiff, so warm them up first to make them more pliable. You can do this by heating them briefly in a dry skillet or wrapping them in a damp paper towel and microwaving them for a few seconds or place them in the oven for about 5 minutes at 350F.
Don't skip the cream cheese: Cream cheese is a key ingredient in white chicken enchiladas, providing richness and creaminess to the filling. Be sure to soften it before mixing it with the other ingredients to ensure it blends smoothly.
Make Em Healthier
Use whole wheat or corn tortillas instead of white flour tortillas to increase fiber and nutrients.
Use reduced-fat cream cheese and heavy cream or substitute with Greek yogurt to decrease the fat content.
Use a lean protein such as chicken breast and avoid using too much cheese in the filling and sauce.
Use low-sodium chicken broth or make your own broth with less salt to reduce sodium intake.
Add more vegetables to the filling such as bell peppers, zucchini, or spinach for extra nutrients and fiber.
Serve with a side of fresh salad or roasted vegetables instead of rice or other heavy carbs.
Suggested Side Dishes
Spanish rice: A classic side dish for any Mexican-inspired meal, and a great way to use up any leftover sauce.
Refried beans: Another classic Mexican side dish that pairs well with enchiladas.
Guacamole and chips: A refreshing and light option that provides a contrast to the rich and creamy enchiladas.
Salad: A simple salad with lettuce, tomato, and avocado is a great way to add some freshness and balance to the meal.
Roasted vegetables: Roasted zucchini, peppers, and onions would make a great side dish to complement the enchiladas.
Corn on the cob: A classic side dish that pairs well with Mexican flavors. Try grilling or roasting the corn for extra flavor.
Mexican street corn: If you're looking for something a little more indulgent, try making Mexican street corn to serve alongside the enchiladas.
Fruit salad: A light and refreshing option to balance out the richness of the enchiladas.
Green Chile White Chicken Enchiladas: add some diced green chiles to the filling and the sauce for a tangy and slightly spicy twist.
Spinach and Artichoke White Chicken Enchiladas: mix some spinach and artichoke into the filling for a veggie-packed version of this classic dish (use less chicken if doing this or else you’ll have too much filling).
Buffalo Chicken White Enchiladas: toss shredded chicken in buffalo sauce before filling the tortillas and use a spicy blue cheese sauce instead of the traditional white sauce.
Black Bean and Corn White Chicken Enchiladas: add some black beans and corn to the filling for a hearty and flavorful variation (use less chicken).
BBQ Chicken White Enchiladas: mix shredded chicken with barbecue sauce and top with crispy fried onions for a fun and delicious twist on traditional white chicken enchiladas.
Chicken: You can use other meats like pork, beef, or shrimp, or swap it out for tofu or a vegetarian meat substitute for a vegetarian version.
Canola or olive oil: Other neutral-tasting oils like vegetable or grapeseed oil can be used, or you can use butter for a richer flavor.
Corn tortillas: Flour tortillas can be used instead for a softer texture, or you can use gluten-free tortillas if needed.
Onion, garlic, and jalapeno: You can use different types of onions like white or red onions, and different types of peppers like bell peppers or poblano peppers depending on your preference.
Cream cheese: Sour cream, ricotta cheese, or cottage cheese can be used instead for a similar creamy texture.
Heavy cream: Half-and-half, whole milk, or coconut milk can be used instead for a lighter or dairy-free version.
Paprika: Chili powder or cayenne pepper can be used instead for a similar smoky and spicy flavor.
Butter and flour: You can use a gluten-free flour or a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce if needed or use a dairy-free butter for a vegan version.
Storage and Make Ahead
If you have leftover white chicken enchiladas, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. To reheat, place the enchiladas on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until heated through.
You can assemble the enchiladas up to a day ahead of time and keep them covered in the refrigerator until ready to bake. You may want to hold off on adding the sauce until you're ready to bake, as the tortillas may become soggy if they sit in the sauce for too long.
When you're ready to bake, add the sauce and bake as directed. Alternatively, you can bake the enchiladas ahead of time and then reheat them in the oven before serving. Just cover the baking dish with foil and bake at 350°F for 15-20 minutes or until heated through.
To freeze, place the enchiladas in an airtight container or a freezer-safe zip-top bag and store in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. When you're ready to eat them, thaw the enchiladas in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat them in the oven or microwave.
Note that the texture of the enchiladas may be slightly different after freezing, as the tortillas may become slightly soggy. However, they should still be delicious!
More Ideas for Mexican Night at Home
Creamy White Chicken Enchiladas
For the Filling
- 1.25 pounds chicken breasts precooked and shredded (see notes for tips)
- 2 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
- 1 small onion finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic smashed and finely diced
- 1 small jalapeno finely diced (ribs and seeds removed)
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
For the Topping (White Sauce)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup Mexican cheese blend
- ½ teaspoon salt
For the Assembly and Serving
- 12 corn tortillas or flour tortillas (may need more than 12 depending on how much filling you have)
- 1 ½ cups Mexican cheese blend
- Cilantro chopped (optional for topping)
- Picante or hot sauce (optional for serving
To Prepare the Tortillas
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray or a small amount of oil just before you are about to begin preparing the filling.
- If using corn tortillas, be sure to warm them up so they are pliable and don't break when you roll them. See NOTE 1 for methods to warm corn tortillas.
To Prepare the Filling
- For the filling, using a large saute pan, heat the onion in canola oil on medium heat until fragrant and translucent, about 3 or 4 minutes
- Add the diced jalapeno peppers and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 more minutes.
- Add the cream cheese, press down to combine, and continue cooking and stirring until the cheese is softened and incorporated into the vegetable mixture.
- Add the ½ cup of the heavy cream to mixture and continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes
- Season the mixture with paprika, salt, and pepper.
- Remove the cream cheese/vegetable mixture from the stove and fold it into the shredded chicken. Check seasoning (salt and pepper). To read about how to make shredded chicken see NOTE 2.
To Assemble the Enchiladas and Make the Sauce
- Spoon the chicken mixture evenly along the center of each of the corn tortillas and top with some shredded Mexican cheese blend prior to rolling (about ½ cup for all)
- Roll each enchilada, and place them seam side down into a prepared baking casserole.
- To make the sauce, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan and add 2 tablespoons of flour to make a roux and cook until the roux is very light tan.
- Add 2 cups of chicken broth gradually while whisking very well to break up lumps and make it smooth.
- Add ½ cup of heavy cream followed by 1 cup of shredded Mexican cheese blend and continue heating on low to medium until the cheese is melted.
- Check salt and pepper and adjust if necessary.
- Pour the sauce mixture over the enchiladas and top with more cheese.
To Bake and Serve the Enchiladas
- Bake in the center of the oven until heated through and bubbly at 350 degrees, about 30 minutes.
- Top with chopped fresh cilantro and serve with picante or hot sauce
- Microwave: Wrap a stack of tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute until warm.
- Oven: Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Wrap the tortillas in foil and place them in the oven for 10-15 minutes until warm.
- Stovetop: Heat a dry skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Add the tortillas, one at a time, and cook for about 30 seconds on each side until they are warm and pliable.
- Grill: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Place the tortillas on the grill and cook for about 30 seconds on each side until they are warm and slightly charred.