These chard enchiladas are not what you expect. They’re filled with leafy greens and tender chard stems, herby cilantro, and the crumbly salty cheese. Plus meaty black olives and mild green onions for texture and a bit of crunch. Roll ‘em up and sauce ‘em. Really, you will be blown away with deliciousness.
Most of us gringos are familiar with Tex-Mex enchiladas, filled with chicken, or beef, or sometimes pork, gooey melty cheese inside and all over the top. Meatless enchiladas in a restaurant? You can plan on beans and cheese inside. But you know what, enchiladas are nothing more than rolled up and sauced tortillas, and can be filled with anything you damn well please.
“Enchilada” literally translates to “seasoned with chile sauce.” Inside the variations are just about endless. For meatless, make these chard and olive ones. Or how about veggie enchiladas filled with potatoes and arugula and carrots? Or spinach and black beans?
The chile sauce can be purchased or homemade, or red or green, or mole. These chard rollups get finished with dark red earthy homemade sauce, an easy authentic recipe to add to your sauce repertoire.
Mrs. Morales, who owned a Mexican grocery store in Santa Ana CA, where I was born and raised, taught my Mom to make enchiladas filled with black olives, green onions and melty cheese. Like Mrs. Morales, Mom softened her corn tortillas by frying them in hot oil before dipping them in enchilada sauce.
No oil frying for me. Not my enchilada. Or yours. Mist the tortillas with cooking spray instead, and soften them in the oven. Don’t dip the tortillas in the sauce before filling either, because without the oil-fry, the tortillas absorb more (too much) sauce.
I served chard enchiladas to friends the other night. One guy, who I know frequents a Mexican restaurant near his house, gushed, “They’re so light. And really good. What’s in these?” Like I said, delicious. Not what you expect.
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Chard Enchiladas recipe notes:
- I like cotija cheese, or feta, and how the salty flavor balances the green chard. If you prefer melt-y cheese, try cheddar, or Monterey jack. You could also use pepper jack cheese. The heat quotient in these chard enchiladas is low; with spicy cheese they’ll be more incendiary. Vegan cooks can skip the cheese altogether.
- Fresh jalapeño chiles, especially with the seeds removed, are quite mild, the picante heat hardly detectable. If you want more heat, mince the jalapeño without removing the seeds.
- Be cautious not to overfill your enchiladas, you want to be able to easily roll the tortillas around whatever you put inside.
- If you switch in flour tortillas for the corn ones you can call them enchurritos, since flour tortillas make them more like burritos.
- This is an update of a recipe I posted in July 2012, with just one crummy photo. I bought beautiful garden chard and cilantro at the community market here in Baja, to make these enchiladas this week. I took new, better photos. You can still see my sad old photo of filled tortillas, in assembly line, waiting to be rolled; I moved it to the very, very bottom, below the recipe, above the comments.
Filled with vegetables and just the right amount of salty cheese, they are a lighter, healthier alternative to the gooey greasy enchiladas of Tex-mex restaurants. Roll 'em, sauce 'em and blow everyone away with deliciousness. Not what you would expect!
- 1 bunch chard, about 1 pound
- 2 tablespoons olive, canola or grapeseed oil
- 1 medium onion, cut in ¼-inch dice
- 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeño chile, seeds removed, minced (see note)
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried or 2 tablespoons fresh minced oregano
- 1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, as needed
- 12 to 14 corn tortillas
- Oil mist, from purchased cooking spray, or from a refillable pump oil sprayer
- 1 bunch green onions, cut in ¼-inch dice
- ½ cup sliced black olives
- 8 ounces Cotija or feta cheese, crumbled (see note)
- 2 cups enchilada sauce, purchased or homemade
- Wash the chard well. Trim the leaves away from the ribs. Cut the ribs in ¼-inch pieces and set aside, and then chop the leaves in 1-inch strips.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir the onion, chard ribs, garlic and chile for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent and the chard ribs are soft. Add the chard leaves, the cilantro and the oregano and continue to cook and stir until the chard leaves have wilted and shrunk in volume. Sprinkle with the vinegar and season to taste with salt.
- Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Lightly coat a 9 x 13-inch baking dish with oil and spread about ¼ cup of the enchilada sauce around the oiled dish. Set aside.
- Place tortillas on a baking sheet, 4 to 6 to a pan, depending on the size of your pan. Lightly mist both sides of the tortillas with cooking spray. Heat in the oven 3 to 5 minutes, until the tortillas are soft and pliable, no more.
- With your fingers, spread a heaping tablespoon of the chard filling down the middle of each tortilla. Follow with a sprinkling of the green onions and olives, and finally with about a tablespoon of the cheese. Roll the tortillas around the filling and place them seam side down in the dish. Mist, heat and fill the rest of the tortillas. (see note)
- Ladle the enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas, making a point to cover the ends first and spreading lightly over the middle. You want to be sparing vs. generous with the sauce, even if there are thumbnail patches of tortillas showing. Sprinkle with cheese, olives and green onions, for optional eye appeal.
- Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.
- Fresh jalapeño chiles, especially with the seeds removed, are quite mild. If you want more “picante” heat, mince the jalapeño with seeds.
- Cotija cheese, which is akin to Greek feta, is the classic enchilada cheese. If you like your cheese melt-y, try cheddar or Monterey jack instead. Or since these enchiladas are fairly mild in their heat quotient, make them more incendiary with pepper jack cheese.
- Instead of filling and rolling the warm tortillas one at a time, make a small assembly line. Spread fillings down the middle of all the warm tortillas on the baking sheet. When they all have a row of filling, roll them and transfer to the baking dish.
- You can cover the pan of filled but not sauced enchiladas and refrigerate overnight.