Main dish Tex-Mex

Beef enchiladas with chipotle-pasilla chili gravy

Beef enchiladas with chipotle pasilla chili gravy DSC6359

For Lent, I gave up beef. Now, I wouldn’t say that I necessarily have a beef-eating problem, but there was a period right before Ash Wednesday when I found myself eating beef at least twice a day. My body urged me to take a break, and so I did.

Actually, after a while I didn’t miss it that much—there are plenty of other satisfying foods to eat in the world. That said, a reader over on my Facebook page asked for a beef enchilada recipe. Her request took root and grew throughout my abstention, and as soon as Easter arrived I decided to make beef enchiladas my first order of business.

I have to admit that I seldom order beef enchiladas when I eat Tex-Mex. Nope, I’m more a cheese enchilada or sour-cream enchilada gal. I was trying to remember the last time I even ate beef enchiladas, and the best I could deduce was that it was several years ago when a couple was added to a combination platter.

Beef enchiladas with chipotle-pasilla chili gravy | Homesick Texan

In my recollection, however, it was a fine specimen of the enchilada genre. The tortillas were drowning in a soulful and smooth chili gravy, while the ground beef filling was peppery and bright. I mixed each bite with some beans and rice, and the iceberg lettuce garnish added a cooling contrast to the richness of the beef. Yep, it was an excellent Tex-Mex meal.

My aim was to try and recreate this experience in my own kitchen. While ancho chiles are normally the base of Tex-Mex sauces, I decided to use pasilla chiles, which are similar in flavor but with more of a bittersweet tone. I also added chipotle chiles, for their smoky heat.

For the filling, I opted to go with ground beef. Now, there are some who prefer shredded beef as a filling, but when I was young I suffered through a plate of enchiladas with shreds so tough they made my mouth sore. I’ve avoided this type of enchilada ever since. I kept my filling simple by flavoring the ground beef with only onion, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. A spoonful of the chili gravy stirred into the meat made it complete.

The enchiladas came together in no time, and were extremely satisfying. And yes, these beef enchiladas were not only a welcome return to eating beef, but I’m certain they’ll be a welcome part of my Tex-Mex cooking rotation, as well. They made me smile and hopefully they’ll make you smile, too.

Beef enchiladas with chipotle pasilla chili gravy DSC6359
5 from 3 votes

Beef enchiladas with chipotle-pasilla chili gravy

Servings 4
Author Lisa Fain


For the pasilla-chipotle chili gravy:

  • 1 or 2 dried chipotle chiles, depending on how hot you want it, seeded
  • 4 dried pasilla chiles, depending on how hot you want it, seeded and stemmed
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the enchiladas:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced and divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese


  1. In a dry skillet heated on high, toast the pasilla and chipotle chiles on each side for about 10 seconds or just until they start to puff. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover chiles. Leave the heat on until water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak until soft, about 30 minutes. Once hydrated, discard the soaking water and rinse the chiles. Place in a blender.

  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, in heat up the vegetable oil and while occasionally stirring cook the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Place cooked onion and garlic into the blender, along with the cumin, oregano, allspice and the broth. Blend until smooth.

  3. In a pot, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil on low heat, whisking in the flour until well incorporated. Pour in the sauce and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and black pepper to taste and adjust other seasonings as needed.

  4. Meanwhile, in a skillet on medium heat (I use the same one that I used for the onions and garlic) add the ground beef, half of the diced onions and garlic. While stirring occasionally, cook the meat until browned, about 10 minutes. (If you like, you can drain the extra fat once the meet is browned.) Stir in the cumin and cook for 2 more minutes. Taste and add salt and black pepper to taste and adjust seasonings. Stir into the meat 1/4 cup of the chili gravy.

  5. To make the enchiladas, first preheat the oven to 350° F and grease a large baking dish. In a skillet, heat up the lard or oil on medium-low heat. One at a time, heat up the tortillas in the hot oil until soft and pliant. Lay each tortilla on a plate or clean cooking surface and add about 2 tablespoons of beef and some of the cheese. Roll the tortilla and place in greased baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Pour sauce over enchiladas and top with remaining grated cheese and diced onions. Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling.

  1. Michelle Stiles

    Ground beef seems like a wonderful enchilada filler. Sometimes I get a good beef craving and I could imagine these enchiladas smothered in warm gravy to satisfy even the deepest hungers.

  2. -Bethany-

    When we make enchiladas, my dad insists that we dip the tortillas in simmering broth to soften them up enough for rolling. He always says if it doesn't hurt, the broth isn't hot enough. It's nice to see a recipe that looks relatively painless, literally.

  3. Romancisor

    I love beef enchiladas. While cheese enchiladas certainly have their place– their glorious place — I like to eat something a bit more sustaining sometimes. I recently made some beef enchiladas in almost exactly this manner, but with premade chile powder (I know, I know). I thought they came out great, but they were missing something. A more complex chili sauce might just have been that something. Thank you again, Ms. Fain, for your culinary inspiration.

  4. Love your pictures! My favorites are chicken enchiladas in the plain red sauce. No cheese. Yeah, I'm picky. 🙂

  5. Russell at Chasing Delicious

    Gorgeous shots! This recipe looks fantastic. Those pasilla chiles look perfect.

    I always found my body liking when I gave up beef. I try not to eat it too often. I will definitely have to try this recipe though.

  6. That chili gravy looks great and would be perfect on cheese enchiladas, too.

  7. Anonymous

    The recipe doesn't mention oregano or allspice but the method does.

    Looks and sounds delicious.

  8. maewestern

    I can't wait to try this recipe … just reading it makes my mouth water! My mother makes my very favorite beef enchiladas, but I've found that the beef enchiladas at Alicia's in Alpine are the next-best thing.

  9. Lisa Fain

    Michelle–They do indeed satisfy!

    Bethany–That's a good trick!

    Romancisor–There's nothing wrong with chili powder, I do that too sometimes. I just prefer using fresh chiles.

    Rashda–It's okay to be picky!

  10. Lisa Fain

    Russell–You do feel better, that's for sure.

    Bill–It would be wonderful on cheese enchiladas.

    Anon–Fixed. Thanks for letting me know!

  11. Muffin Tin

    I'm wondering what you think about *not* dipping the tortillas in oil before filling. (I occasionally stray into thoughts about fat and calories.) Is the dip in warm oil to add flavor or to make the enchilada more flexible for rolling? I sometimes make an enchilada casserole by layering (cold) tortillas with filling.

    An excellent post as always.

  12. Lisa Fain

    Maewesern–I'll have to order them next time I'm in Alpine. I'm a big fan of their Frito pie!

  13. Lisa Fain

    Muffin Tin–The oil both softens the tortillas and keeps them from getting too soggy under the sauce. But I often just wrap them in foil and bake them for 15 minutes or until they're soft (you can do this in a microwave, too, but with paper towels and in less time, obviously). No fat that way!

  14. Rocky Mountain Woman

    These look absolutely wonderful! I have some shredded beef from a brisket I did last week and I'm thinking enchiladas are on the menu!

  15. Anonymous

    Had an interesting variation of beef enchiladas last week in downtown Houston…Hacienda Guadalajara I think…the beef enchiladas were covered in a creamy jalapeno sauce. I'd never seen that before and they were easily some of the best beef enchiladas I've ever had.

  16. Lisa Fain

    Rocky Mountain Woman–They'd be terrific with shredded brisket!

    Anon–Now that sounds amazing! I love creamy jalapeño sauces!

  17. How hot are chipotle peppers, Lisa? I've never done anything with them.

  18. Lisa Fain

    Janus–Heat is subjective. Try one and then you'll know.

  19. Lisa, this is very much like the beef enchilada recipe that I use. It is one of the few things I cook that makes everybody happy. That and buttermilk pie and buttermilk pound cake.

  20. I have about 10 – 12 different dried chilies in my cupboard, but I've not seen any dried chipotle chilies in my market. Can you substitute a couple of canned chipotles in Adobo sauce?

  21. That is plate of pure heaven!

  22. Chipotle peppers are smoked and dried jalepeño peppers.

    I'd say they weren't hot, but that's just me.

  23. Elizabeth

    This looks fantastic – I have a bunch of dried chiles in my cupboard that have been looking for a recipe. And you really can't beat an enchilada.

  24. Maris (In Good Taste)

    Funny I just had thei the other night out and yours looks so much better. I may actually try to make them from your recipe myself!

  25. Lisa Fain

    Brenda–Those three things definitely make me happy!



    Randian–See, sometimes I don't think they're all that hot, then I bite into one that sears my mouth. Chipotles can be tricky!

    Elizabeth–I could eat enchiladas every day.

    Maris–You should try–it's not difficult!

  26. I made these tonight–my first time with home made sauce and they were absolutely delicious—-my husband pronounced them authentic restaurant quality–thanks!

  27. I made these tonight for dinner, delicious and super quick. Thanks for the great recipe

  28. Lisa Fain

    Deb–That's high praise! I'm so pleased that y'all enjoyed them!

    Amy–Thank you–glad y'all like the enchiladas!

  29. Shannon

    Looks delicious! I add a step which "I" feel is necessary, but obviously YMMV – I heat the tortillas in oil as you do, stacking them as I go. Then I dip each into the enchilada sauce before filling and rolling. IMO it keeps the tortillas from drying out and adds extra flavor through the whole dish. It also makes for a complete "up to your wrists" mess – but that's part of the fun.

  30. Lisa Fain

    Shannon–That's a great step, and I often do it, as well.

  31. Awesome recipe! This is by far the best Chili Gravy recipe I've ever found. I subbed this chili gravy for the one in your cheese enchiladas. It made restaurant quality cheese enchiladas! I couldn't find dried pasilla peppers, so I used 2 chipotle peppers and 4 ancho peppers. Amazing! Thank you so much for sharing!

  32. Anonymous

    My husband just made these the other night and they were the best I've ever eaten! We are native texans and found your blog through the top 50 list on timesonline.

  33. Anonymous

    As a native houstonian who now lives in the midwest, I can vouch that these are delicioso! Thanks for helping me bring some authentic mexican up to these parts of the country.

  34. Made these today with a slight variation because of what I had on hand: -Used fresh pasilla peppers, fresh oregano and canned chipotles -Used tapioca flour rather than regular flour (because I was out) -Made my own tortillas (because I only had 5 tortillas on hand so I had to make the rest) -Ground my own chuck roast because I didn't have preground beef already. These turned out fabulous! For somebody who doesn't like beef much, these were great!

  35. javed vardi

    What a dish, chili is awesome.My brother loves it very much. in other words he is mad for it.i will surely prepare i for him.

  36. zestybeandog

    It does look great!

  37. Carolyne

    Your enchiladas look amazing! Do you bake them on the plates? I love the way they look so natural on the plate, like they weren't disturbed at all going from the casserole to the plate. So authentic.

    Do you add the beans and rice after the enchiladas have baked or do you bake the entire dish all together?

  38. Lisa Fain

    Carolyne–Thanks! I add them to the plate after.

  39. These look delicious, I really want to make them for my in-laws (who are French) who dont yet know tex-mex, but I don't have a blender. Is it still possible to make and use the gravy without running it through the blender ?

  40. Lisa Fain

    Kelsy–You'll need a blender or a food processor to puree the chiles for the salsa.

  41. We are Texans and love Tex Mex. I live out in the country far away from any restaurants, so I needed to learn how to cook Tex Mex myself. these were DELICIOUS. My husband said they were the best enchiladas he ever tasted!

  42. Anonymous

    I'm a long way from Texas. England to be exact. I was missing the food I had there and tried this recipe. Much better than the store bought 'kits' here 😉

    Many thanks!

  43. I have lived in Tex-Mex heaven ever since I first discovered your blog and the original chili gravy recipe. I am never without some in the fridge! I will certainly add this recipe to my growing collection, because I love chipotle anything.

    For we die-hard fans of chili gravy, I have to know: can it be canned safely? I know most canners say not to can anything with oil in it, but I have asked this question on a canner's website and never gotten an answer, although she mentioned that some people ARE canning chili gravy. She made no further mention of it, and she hasn't canned any. I am just too afraid to try it without an expert's opinion. I'd love to be able to can this in appropriate sized jars for Hubs and me, and to sometimes, uh, occasionally, er, rarely….give one away. 🙂

  44. Lisa, I have a blend of chili powder that I prepared myself from dried roasted chilis. How much should I use as a substitution for the fresh chilis? Thanks–I really want to try this.

  45. Lisa Fain

    Pennzer–I'd use about 1/4 cup and then add more to taste.

  46. Lisa, thanks for the prompt answer!

  47. Slice of Southern

    This chipotle-pasilla chili gravy looks awesome! This takes it from typical to WOW! Thanks for a super recipe.

  48. Being a native Texan, Cheese enchiladas (lots of raw onion in the filling) slathered with chili gravy are a true comfort food. I altered your dish slightly, adding a 1/2 pound of browned ground beef to the gravy and substituting the beef filling with cheese and onions. It was wonderful! Thanks.

  49. Is the sauce something you can make the night before and reheat?

  50. Lisa Fain

    Unknown–Yes, it can keep in the refrigerator for a week.

  51. Just made the gravy and it is wonderful! I am happily keeping it until tomorrow to make the rest of the enchiladas.
    Thanks for the fabulous recipe!

  52. Karina Kelley

    This sauce is amazing! First time making chili sauce, or enchiladas for that matter. A friend of mine, born and raised in Texas, insisted I use this recipe. I am a wuss when it comes to hot spice and I found this dish perfect and such perfect flavor! Thank you, and the proportions were perfect, though I only made 8 enchiladas, as I bought a 10-pack of tortillas and in learning how to soak/roll for the first time, I broke two 🙂 Got the hang of it eventually – a learning experience for those of us who don't use corn tortillas often!

  53. I have made this sauce 4 times now. It is one of my boyfriend's favorite things that I make. However, each time I make it, I notice a bitter taste. To avoid it, I have: tried both pasillas and anchos and not found a difference; experimented with the time I toast the chilis (was worried I was burning them) and went from rinsing them briefly to really, really rinsing each one inside and out. I'm using good quality chilis, too. Can you think of what the problem is? The way I've been making it, the sauce is good, not great. I end up doubling the spices and adding the zest and juice of 2 limes to mask the bitterness. Usually, the next day it is pretty good.

  54. Lisa Fain

    Kelly–The only thing I can think that would be causing the bitterness is the chiles. Perhaps try adding a pinch of sugar to balance out the flavor.

  55. calicocat2

    In the old days, enchiladas were topped with real chili, but most Mexican restaurants have stopped offering Chili, and have moved on to the chili gravy. I find that using Masa instead of flour cuts down on the bitter after taste of some of the chiles

  56. For those wanting to skip beef-I just made these with ground turkey and with chicken broth in the sauce and they were fantastic. They actually tasted a lot like beef enchiladas still.

  57. You can use powdered pure chiles to skip needing a blender or food processor in recipes that call for whole dried chilies. Such as 100% chipotle powder, 100% pasilla powder, and so on. There are two types of chipotles – morita and tipico. Morita is generally easier to find. From what I’ve pulled from the internet for general rules of thumb 1 tablespoon pasilla negro powder = 1 dried pasilla negro pod; 1 teaspoon chipotle morita powder = 5 dried chipotle morita dried chile pods

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