Main dish Tex-Mex

Enchiladas verdes recipe

enchiladas verdes DSC7396

When I used to go home to Houston, my first stop after I got off the plane was a restaurant called Amalia’s. It was a Tex-Mex joint and on the menu there was one of my favorite dishes—enchiladas verdes.

Amalia’s enchiladas verdes were the best in their class. The sauce wasn’t complex, as it was just a tomatillo, serrano, garlic and cilantro blend. And the meat wasn’t fussy, as it was just sweetly caramelized little bites of pork that were both crisp and juicy. But when you combined those two with homemade corn tortillas, melted cheese, onions, avocadoes and sour cream, you suddenly had a plate of food that felt like home.

Now, I realize this is a restaurant dish I’m talking about, and one thing I’ve learned through the years is that nothing beats home cooking. But there was something to these enchiladas—which I’d been eating since I was 10—that made me happy. Amalia’s was a family restaurant so I suspect some love was added to each plate.

But then late last year I received sad news. The owner’s daughter had read an article in which I expressed my admiration for the enchiladas verdes, and while she thanked me for the mention she informed me that her mother Amalia had decided to retire and close her eponymous restaurant.

Now, this might sound odd, but the news was devastating—it was almost as if a friend had died. For most of my life this had been my go-to restaurant, with the enchiladas verdes my first choice for a meal whenever I returned to Houston. Heck, one time my mom even got it as a to-go order for me since my flight arrived long past serving hours. She laughed as I came into her kitchen and stood at the counter eating my order of enchiladas straight from the container long past midnight. But if you have a favorite dish that you can’t find anywhere else then you completely understand.

Fortunately, the last time I ordered the enchiladas I took notes. “Tomatillo, serrano, cilantro and garlic,” was what I had written, which was a good place to start. There were also plenty of photos of the plate to guide me. It wasn’t much, but as it was all that I had, it would just have to work if I was going to make this dish at home.

Amalia’s salsa had a mellowness to it, which implied it was cooked as tomatillos are pretty tangy in the raw. To recreate it, at first I tried roasting the tomatillos and aromatics under the broiler, but the salsa was too strong and smoky. I then tried pureeing the vegetables with a long cooking time afterwards, but this version was still not quite right.

After a few more unsuccessful attempts, I read about a Hatch chile salsa that boiled everything before throwing the ingredients into the blender. I was a bit dubious, but I tried the method with my tomatillo and serrano salsa. Well, wouldn’t you know it—the boiling was the key and the result was a balanced salsa verde that was smooth enough to be eaten on its own but was also an excellent companion to the tortillas, cheese and pork.

While my favorite enchiladas verdes always had carnitas as the filling, you could just as easily use chicken, beans or cheese, too. Though I insist you top the enchiladas with slices of onion and avocado as these add yet another layer of flavor as you tuck into each bite.

Enchiladas verdes | Homesick Texan

As with all recreations, these enchiladas aren’t exactly like the ones I grew up eating, but they’re still very good. I’ll miss driving straight from the airport to get my plate, but fortunately there are still plenty of other dishes that also say, “Welcome!” You know how it is—that first taste of Texas that tells you that you’re home.

tomatillos DSC2804
5 from 8 votes

Enchiladas verdes recipe

Author Lisa Fain


Ingredients for the salsa verde:

  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled, cut into wedges
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 or 2 Serrano chiles, seeded and cut in half
  • 1 cup cilantro
  • Salt to taste

Ingredients for the enchiladas:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked carnitas or cooked shredded chicken
  • 2 cups 8 ounces shredded Muenster, Asadero or Monterey Jack cheese
  • Sour cream
  • 1/2 medium onion, peeled, cut into rings
  • 2 avocados, peeled, pitted, and cubed


  1. To make the salsa, place the tomatillos, onion, garlic, serrano chiles and cilantro in a large pot. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil on high. Continue to boil uncovered for 10 minutes or until the tomatillos go from a bright green to a light, muted green (If the water doesn’t cover them completely, don’t add more water just turn the tomatillos in the pot halfway through the cooking so all sides are exposed to the boiling water). Turn of the heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the pot contents to a blender and blend until smooth. (If you don’t let the vegetables cool, the steam will make the blender lid pop off, which makes for a bit of a mess.) Add salt to taste.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish and spread 1 cup of the salsa along the bottom. In a skillet, heat up the oil on medium-low heat. One at a time, heat up the tortillas in the oil, and then keep them wrapped in a cloth or tortilla warmer until all the tortillas are heated.

  3. To assemble the enchiladas, take a heated tortilla, place 1/4 cup of the cooked carnitas or chicken down the center, and then roll the tortilla. Place filled tortilla in the baking dish and repeat.

  4. Pour evenly over the rolled enchiladas the rest of the salsa. Top with the shredded cheese. Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and bubbling. Serve warm topped with sour cream, onion slices and avocadoes.

  1. Anonymous

    Finally!!!! Whenever I visit my friends in CA I always have chicken enchiladas with salsa verde. Yummy!! Puts a big smile on my face every time…for weeks :). But trying to find a recipe that works has been difficult. I will certainly give this one a try. Now, I live in a city in Canada and will probably not be able to find fresh tomatillos. So don't cringe… badly will the sauce be if I had to use canned (yikes) tomatillos?

  2. Maybe you can get in touch with Amalia and see if she would be willing to share her salsa recipe here.

  3. Lisa Fain

    Pat–It should be fine–I'd use two 11-ounce cans of tomatillos, drained.

    Janus–You know, I'd thought about asking the daughter for her recipes!

  4. Lisa Fain

    Class Factotum–Things have indeed changed a lot over the years! Though Ninfa's on Navigation is still as good as it always was. Next time you're there check out El Real–it's good stuff, too.

  5. I've felt that same way when a couple of my favorite restaurants have closed. But this recipe sounds like a great replacement.

  6. Lisa Fain

    Kalyn–It's hard, isn't it? But yes, these definitely hit the spot.

  7. My Mexican ex-SIL taught me to boil tomatoes or tomatillos and the jalapeño for salsa. It is so easy and makes the best salsa. If I'm forced to use canned tomatillos I just boil the pepper and use the tomatillos straight from the can.

  8. Hi, I love your site, used to live in Texas as a kid, but now living in the UK. As I can't get fresh tomatillos over here and just barely canned, I figured I'd use the canned as someone mentioned here above. Two questions: would you drain the tomatillos? and if so would you still add the 3 cups water to boil them in or would you adjust that at all?

  9. Kimberly

    Lisa…I've tried a couple of your recipes from your cookbook…they were wonderful. I can't wait to try these enchiladas…my hubby LOVES 'em.

  10. Lisa Fain

    Melissa–Doesn't it make the best salsa? I'm so happy I discovered this!

    Anna–Yes, I'd drain the tomatillos because the canning liquid is usually pretty salty. And I'd cut back on boiling the tomatillos since they're already cooked. Just boil the other ingredients in the water and then throw in the tomatillos after seven minutes or so.

  11. Lisa Fain

    Kimberly–Thank you! That makes my day to hear you're enjoying the cookbook.

  12. Anna Lee

    The best green enchiladas in Houston are at Sylvia's Enchilada Kitchen on Wooday and Voss or Westheimer and Dairy Ashford. Ask for the Hidalgo or the Mexico City enchiladas.

  13. Lisa, You always have such beautiful photos on your blog. Do you do all the styling and take the them yourself?

  14. Lisa Fain

    Anna Lee–Sylvia's is great!

    Rembret–Thank you! Yes, I do all the shooting and styling myself.

  15. Class factotum

    I wish I'd known about Amelia's. The last time we went to Houston, we plotted our eating very carefully. My husband's favorite CFS place, Dirty's, had closed, so we did some research and picked Hickory Hollow (amazing CFS photo at link), which was very good. We ate cajun at the Ragin' Cajun, which isn't as fun anymore now that it is fancy. We got Mexican at some dive that I don't even remember, but it is hard to go wrong with Mexican in Houston. Goode Company for BBQ, but that was because they did the catering before the football game.

    It was easier to plan our food on the trip to Memphis last spring because it had only been three years since I had moved. It's been more than 20 years since I've lived in Houston and things have changed a lot.

  16. some mexican friends of mine taught me how to make salsa like this too. You can boil tomatoes, jalapeno and garlic for a red salsa. Never tried simmering the cilantro thats new to me. Also a splash of cream is good for a creamy sauce and you can cook the peppers and such in chicken stock instead of water

  17. Lisa Fain

    Starre–Your variations sound fabulous–I can't wait to try them!

  18. Farmer Jen

    Yum! Just the thing to use up all of those tomatillos I grew in my garden last summer.

  19. Lisa, I love your book. I moved to Connecticut after a lifetime in Texas, and 30 of those years in Houston. I usually plan my meals in Houston days before I arrive. I'm trying to remember Amalias – where was it?

    Let me low if you figure out how to make Shipleys donuts!

  20. Anonymous

    Erika W,
    Your final recipe is the one I have been cooking for my Texan husband (and myself) for 25 years, except that I also add chopped white onion to the food processor mix before boiling. It is one of our top meals and the recipe came from a Tex-Mex friend in Austin. For some years I had to grow my own tomatilloes, here in Delaware, but now they are often available and I make and 2-3 containers of the salsa verde and freeze them. I do make my own tortillas as the bought ones are pathetic and usually stale. My MIL nicely brought me a tortilla press from El Paso.

    I enjoy your web site so much and you prevent home sickness in this family!

  21. Lisa. I was born and currently live in Houston, but have developed food allergies. Eating out, the local pastime, can be frustrating and dangerous for me. So, I use your recipes to make the food I love to eat out, here, at home. Thanks for all the deconstructing you do!

  22. jerrie lee

    my mouth started watering when i read the recipe which went well with my eyes tearing up when i read the story. thanks lisa…..

  23. Thank you for jogging my memory. This brought to mind a pico recipe I had forgotten about. At this time of the year the 1015's, or as my family calls them Aggie Onions, are in. My friend used to bring this to work. He would blanch the tomatoes and fresh jalapenos in boiling water for a bit before he chopped them up with the fresh onion and cilantro to make his pico. The tomato and jalapeno mellowed out against the sweet tang of the onion and cilantro.

  24. Lisa Fain

    Farmer Jen–It's a great way to use up your tomatillos!

    Kay–It was out in Cypress on Louetta.

    Erika–That's a great tip for making it in advance. And isn't it wonderful to have fresh tomatillos? I remember when I could only get canned ones, but now I can even get them at the farmers market in the summer.

    Mandy–You're very welcome. I'm glad you're able to still eat well at home.

    Jerrie Lee–You're very welcome.

  25. Babs George

    Hi Lisa, My husband loves most any type of spicy,Tex-Mex or Mexican concoctions. However, he is a cilantro hater. Any ideas for substitutions or ways to camouflage this typical Mex food ingredient? Your recipes are all so good. I usually just don't even try any with cilantro. Leaves a lot of good recipes on the wayside. Thanks!

  26. Do you add the vegetables and the water to the blender oe just the veggies and drain the water?

  27. Lisa Fain

    Babs George–There's no good substitution but it will be fine without the cilantro, so you can leave it out of the recipe.

    Bruce–Add the cooking water to the blender along with the vegetables.

  28. Ah, Lisa … does every out of state Texan run straight for Tex-Mex upon arrival in The Great State? Certainly my family and friends do.

    I don't know why, but this recipe reminded me of the chile relleno at Mattito's in Dallas. It's an Anaheim with very light breading – not eggy, spongy, or soggy – filled with beef, chicken, seafood, or veggies. It's topped with pecans and raisins and a bit of sour cream. Heaven.

    I've never been able to replicate it, but have had fun trying. If ever you eat at Mattito's, order this gem.

    Your cookbooks reside in our family kitchens – already splattered and dog-eared. Thank you for deconstructing these wonderful Texas foods for those of us who can't be home.


    p.s. So happy to be able to make Magnolia's gingerbread pancakes – they are a must have any time we're in Austin. Thanks again.

  29. AustinCFoster

    Made this sauce tonight and both my hubby and I thought it was awesomely good – even using canned tomatillas. I used 1.5 serranos, mild enough for him, and added a little hot sauce on my portion. I added just a dash of fat free half&half to give it a little creaminess, which i thought was good, but not necessary. used some leftover fajita chicken meat with the peppers and onions chopped up for the filling, then added a can of drained black beans around the filled tortillas. I only made 4 enchiladas, so with half the sauce, it was very well sauced! Used low fat Mexi-cheese blend and some regular pepper-Jack for topping it. Baked at 375 for 30 minutes, which was about right for the amount of sauce. Good one – rest of the sauce is waiting in the freezer 🙂

  30. Joy Tilton

    I miss Ninfa's Verde Enchiladas so much. We used to live in San Antonio, there's just no place here with the same kind of food. This recipe will make me happy… making it today! Thanks for sharing another great recipe and always love your thoughts!

  31. Chicken enchiladas verde are my go-to order for any Mexican restaurant. Of course, none of the so-called Mexican restaurants here in Iowa have them, so I've tried making them myself. (I can get tomatillos, etc., — but no one who owns a restaurant seems to know what to do with them!) My results have been okay, but I'll definitely be trying yours!

  32. I also meant to say — in response to Babs, whose husband is a cilantro hater — I don't like raw cilantro either (tastes like soap) but if it's cooked, I'm okay with it. Maybe the same is true with him? It took me years in San Antonio to figure that out — and to realized that I"m not alone in thinking it tastes like soap!

  33. Anonymous

    sounds about right. i'm from houston but don't know this amalias, but i have a recipe from a friend whose grandmother make an awesome tomatillo salsa and she basically boils everything (but hers includes regular tomatoes too) together then blends it up. it's amazing!

  34. looks super yummm & healthy
    new to your space
    awesome space you have
    interesting posts with nice presentation
    happy following you..;)
    do stop by mine sometime


    This recipe sounds similar to the one that was accredited to you in Country Living Magazine a couple of months ago. It used canned tomatillos instead of fresh. I made that recipe a week or two ago and it was phenomenal! Definitely a good option for those of us who have a harder time getting fresh tomatillos.

  36. Lisa Fain

    Susan–Every homesick Texan I know goes straight for the Tex-Mex, unless they hit the barbecue instead. Thank you for the kind words about my cookbook–I'm so pleased y'all are enjoying it!

    AustinCFoster–Glad y'all liked it!

    Joy–You're very welcome. Hope the recipe makes you feel closer to home.

    Janna–Good point!


    Anon–I like the addition of regular tomatoes! I'll have to try that sometime.

    Flowercityfoodie–The Country Living recipe had a sour cream sauce with some tomatillos thrown in for tang while this is just straight tomatillos–that's the difference. But both are wonderful!

  37. stephaniet

    Fantastic! Made these this weekend from whole frozen tomatillos from the garden and it worked great!(Poured the water over them while still frozen and hit the gas. I added a little lime juice and cumin before blending (I think the frozen added extra moisture) and it made more than I needed for the enchiladas….thank you! Love your recipes and stories! Do you think that beer would be a good substitute for water here?! 🙂

  38. We loved Amalia's! Amalia's was where my mother pointed out, when I was 11 years old, that I was officially too "developed" to reach across the table and help myself to food, because my boobs were getting in my enchiladas.

  39. SeattleDee

    I'm giving this recipe a whirl over the weekend! After reading through the comments & responses, I'm almost ready to give canned tomatillos a second chance – almost. It's challenging to find fresh produce when we travel north in the summer.

  40. Lisa Fain

    Stephaniet–So glad the recipe worked well with your frozen tomatillos. I've never frozen any, but will have to do that later this year when they're at the farmers market. And I think beer could be an interesting substitution for the water. A salsa verde borracha!

  41. Lisa Fain

    Joanna–What a memory!

  42. Lisa Fain

    SeattleDee–You can definitely use canned tomatillos. Just make the adjustment for cooking as they're already cooked. Enjoy!

  43. Rocky Mountain Woman

    I have a bunch of tomatillo plants going in next week…This looks wonderful. I love the idea of boiling and then blending. Typically I roast mine, but this looks easier and I bet the flavor is sharper…

  44. I am so grateful to you for your experimentation with this!! I'm a native southern New Mexican, transplanted to the east coast, and your practice of heading straight to your favorite restaurant immediately after arriving back home is a familiar one. These look perfect and absolutely authentic … I cannot wait to try them!! Thanks!

  45. Joy Tilton

    Thanks so sharing one of my favorites, I'll make this time and again! I felt the same way when Ninfa's closed at San Antonio, loved their food. It's hard to say goodbye to our favorite places, the recession took it's toll on some and just like Amalia's families don't always want the long hours of restaurant work forever. Love your recipes and they make me feel like I'm still in Texas!

  46. Anonymous

    I've been reading your blog for a while, but this is the first time I have commented. Made your carnitas yesterday, and used them in the enchiladas verdes tonight…was incredible. I'm a Wisconsin girl, but I think I have a little Texas in my soul….thank you for the fabulous recipes!

  47. fortworthtomemphis

    As a native Texan (Fort Worth area), I've been craving enchiladas verdes like the ones I used to get from a little restaurant my parents and I used to frequent. Within the past couple of weeks I've been SCOURING the interwebs for a recipe that reminds me of the enchiladas I used to love.

    I will definitely have to give this one a whirl and see if it hit's the spot.


    These sound amazing and I have really been craving enchiladas lately–will have to try them!

  49. I always broil my tomatillos, peppers, onion, and garlic. I get mixed results and I can only attribute that to the tomatillos themselves. If they are a bit too bitter, I find that the juice of a lime, then add sour cream a teaspoon at a time to cut the acidity. Too much sour cream and it's ruined though. It's a fine line.

  50. I'm going to give this a try. I've been using a recipe that calls for simmering the tomatillos till they soften, then throwing them (with some of the liquid), cilantro, onion, garlic, serranos into a blender. Then you pour the puree back into a hot saute pan and saute till reduced by 1/3. I've had great luck with this and people love it.
    But I'm always interested in different ways to make salsa verde and want to see if this will replace mine or just be a great alternative.
    Glad I found your blog – looking forward to trying many recipes.
    Even though I was originally from the East Coast, I lived decades in California (where I had my first enchilada!) and had many visits to Baja California. I'm back on the East Coast and decent ethnic restaurants are hard to come by in my area, so I have to make everything at home.

  51. the dated

    Made this for lunch…Yum!

  52. a second chance?

    I am a Mexican gal living in good 'ol Cali.
    I've read all the post regarding the enchiladas verdes and think that everyone has awesome tips.
    Homesick Texan, you may want to try something that I usually do when I make enchiladas rojas.
    After the salsa is done, drizzle some oil (or lard – usually, restaurants use this to fry), in a hot pan and once it's hot, dip the tortillas in the salsa and then into the oil (warning – a lot of hot oil will splatter), for just about a minute on each side. And then, continue as usual 🙂 I myself could never resist…once the contents are in the enchilada, I have to try the first one or three as I stand there doing the rest :p
    Anyway, this might be the one lil step that will be most reminiscent of Amalias???
    Btw, cumin is a staple for us when making this dish as well as not boiling down the cilantro, that really dissipates it's flavor, we always add it at the very last moment possible.

  53. a second chance?

    I apologize, I forgot to include my name….
    Kari 🙂

  54. Anonymous

    Do u add the water from the pot to the blender as well,or just the vegtables?

  55. Lisa Fain

    Anon–Yes, I add both the water and the vegetables to the blender.

  56. Shannon Mader

    Wow! Finally I made my favorite…Green Enchilada Sauce! I am a Cali. Mexican/Italian 49 yr. girl. all these years I thought it would be too hard! With your recipe…it was a breeze! Luv your story with this recipe…had to try it! It is awesome! Thank you so much for sharing. It will now be a family tradition at our table…woohooooo! XO

  57. Robin Cowley

    Cooked this for friends last night – it was a huge success. This is the third tasty recipe I have cooked from your blog, so thank-you so much for taking the time.

  58. MelissaM

    I made these and they tasted fantastic but the corn tortillas turned mushy and it ended up serving up more like a casserole since I couldn't get the enchiladas out of the pan without them falling apart. Any ideas of what I did wrong?

  59. Lisa Fain

    Melissa–Could be a number of things, such as the quality of the tortillas or how long you cooked the tortillas in the oil. Instead of frying them first, you could just dip the tortillas in the warm salsa to soften them before rolling.

  60. Lisa, I cant wait to try this. Our family gets tired of Turkey/Ham by Xmas time so we usually have a Tex-Mex Xmas dinner. My wife's family are all from New Orleans so I have somehow been nominated as the Tex-Mex Chef. Your book has saved me many times. Thanks again, Bill R. Houston,TX

  61. Made these tonight using chicken. Amazing depth of flavour. Not easy to get real Tex Mex up here in Canada.

    First time I made salsa verde from scratch and found the recipe easy to follow. Whole dish is definitely on the make again list. Thank you!

  62. InvestigatingGirl

    Hi anonymous in Canada! I saved seeds from a fresh tomatilla and grew some in a container in Ohio this summer. I'm thinking you can do it too. I guess order seeds. They need a cage or sticks to support the plant like tomatoes and as much sun as possible.

  63. Anonymous

    Oh Lisa! I'm not from Texas or anywhere near there but must be a reincarnated Texan bcuz I love Tex-Mex and your recipes are awesome awesome awesome! Thank you

  64. Adrienne Werwath

    5 stars
    Very nice recipe. I also detest cilantro. I substituted Italian parsley and basil from the garden. I was great!

    • Lisa Fain

      Adrienne–That’s excellent to know that Italian parsley and basil are good substitutions. You are not alone in your cilantro aversion!

  65. melissa w

    I know this is years later but I came across this and unnnnnnngh I loved Amalia’s. I also grew up on it – their cheese enchiladas were like nothing I’d had anywhere else, and I can still taste them if I think hard enough. That was an extended family hangout for many years – my grandma made friends with all the staff and if she was with us they’d bring us a big plate of their absolutely gorgeous sopapillas.

    • Lisa Fain

      Melissa–Thank you for sharing your Amalia’s memories! Our families must have been neighbors. I still miss it, too and like yourself, if I think hard enough I can recall how delicious the food was.

  66. Amalia moved back home to Greece, where she opened Amalia’s Kitchen – and is known for her “Texan” cooking. She still returns to Houston every year to visit her son, who still lives there.

  67. Terry Hoey

    I’ll have to give this salsa a try. Last time I made something with roasted Tomatillos, the wife didn’t like it. Too sour. Maybe this boiling it would help.

    • Lisa Fain

      Terry–Tomatillos can be sour but the boiling does help mitigate that.

  68. Nona Myers

    Perhaps you have touched on this already, but what makes it enchilada versus burrito versus smothered burrito ie encherito style? I see some recipes use flour tortillas smothered with various sauces and they are sometimes called enchiladas. Just recently I started exploring filled and sauced burritos. I like them better than regular burritos because I often find burritos dry and unwieldy.. But started remembering one of my favorite Taco Bell offering (encheritos named after enchilada and burrito) when I was younger. Since they discontinued it I went looking for something similar and found one that tastes better than Taco Bell encheritos of my memory. But, it is definitely smothered burrito but filled lighter than regular smothered burritos. It is also flatter being folded on both sides and placed seam down.

    • Lisa Fain

      Nona–The term “enchilada,” simply means that the tortilla has been smothered in a sauce made with chile peppers. While typically, enchiladas are made with corn tortillas and smothered burritos with flour tortillas, sometimes people use flour tortillas for their enchiladas, though this isn’t considered traditional. You also have entomatadas, which are stuffed and rolled corn tortillas smothered in a tomato sauce, enmoladas, which use a mole sauce, and enfrijoladas, which use a sauce made with beans.

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