Making Chicken Enchiladas with Sylvia Casares

The owner of the eponymous Mexican chain shares the recipe that started it all.

Photography by Todd Spoth By Sarah Rufca Nielsen May 31, 2015 Published in the June 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Sylvia Casares, founder of Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen

Image: Todd Spoth

Sylvia Casares, she of the eponymous Mexican chain, describes the smooth, vermillion sauce she makes from guajillo chiles and chiles de árbol as her “mother sauce.” It can be used in tamales and carne guisada, and even adapted into a serviceable salsa roja. More to the point, it’s the first of several flavor infusions that distinguish the chicken verde enchiladas at Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen from all the rest. The recipe takes a bit of time, but note that the salsa verde, pollo guisado and the all-important chile sauce can all be prepared in advance. Do that, and a crowd-pleasing enchilada dinner can be as easy as assembling and baking.


Sylvia’s Chicken Enchiladas

Yield: two dozen enchiladas, or 12 servings

For the salsa verde:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. tomatillos
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper (with seeds)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into quarters
  • 2 1/2 c. water
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro 

For the pollo guisado: 

  • 1 fresh whole chicken (approx. 3 lbs.) cut in 8–10 pieces 
  • 3 1/2 t. salt, divided 
  • 3 c. water 
  • 1 1/2 t. salt 
  • 1 t. whole cumin, ground 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced  
  • 1 t. freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 medium onion, diced 
  • 1 large tomato, diced 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1/2 c. tomato sauce

For the chile sauce: 

  • 8 chiles guajillo (stems and seeds removed)
  • 3 chiles de árbol (stems removed)
  • 2 c. water 
  • 24 corn tortillas 
  • 1 c. vegetable oil


  1. Make the salsa verde by placing tomatillos, onion, jalapeño, tomato and water in a medium stockpot. Heat on high until boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20–25 minutes.
  2. While tomatillos are simmering, cut stems off cilantro. Place the leaves and the garlic in a food processor or blender and blend until pureed, about 15 seconds.
  3. Add tomatillos and process or blend on high until sauce is smooth, about 1 minute.
  4. Set sauce aside to cool. 
  5. For pollo guisado, place chicken pieces, water and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 35 minutes. Remove the chicken and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Pour broth into a heatproof container and reserve. 
  6. De-bone chicken and shred or chop pieces until they are bite-size or smaller. Return chicken to saucepan.
  7. Add 1 1/2 c. reserved chicken broth, 1 1/2 t. salt, cumin, garlic, pepper, onion, tomato, bay leaf and tomato sauce. Turn heat to low and cook for 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.  
  8. For the chile sauce, combine chiles and water in a small saucepan.
  9. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for an additional 5 minutes. 
  10. Using a blender or food processor, blend chiles until liquified. Strain to remove any remaining solids.  Let cool for 30 minutes. 
  11. To assemble enchiladas: Working two at a time, dip tortillas in chile sauce, remove, and then squeeze each between the palms of your hands to drain off excess sauce. Repeat until all tortillas are sauced. Cover and set aside to allow sauce to flavor the tortillas while oil is heating. 
  12. Heat oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Working one at a time, fry tortillas in the hot oil for no longer than 30 seconds (otherwise they will get crispy), turning once. Remove from oil and set aside. 
  13. Place about 2 T. of pollo guisado in the center of each tortilla, then fold sides over to create the enchilada roll. Place on a baking pan with seam side down. Repeat until all tortillas are filled and rolled.
  14. Pour salsa verde over enchiladas and bake at 375 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes or until sauce bubbles slightly.
  15. Garnish with queso fresco and/or diced onions, and serve.


Filed under
Show Comments