Chipotle Turkey Enchiladas

enchilada casserole

For at least the past dozen years, we’ve made Chipotle Turkey Enchiladas on Thanksgiving weekend, usually for our Saturday night dinner which is just about when we need a change from mellow to spicy!

Back in the beginning, making the enchiladas was super simple, sped along by a ready-made jarred chipotle enchilada sauce. All I had to do was load the corn tortillas with turkey, cheese, cilantro and sour cream, smother them in the sauce, and bake.

Then, the unthinkable happened – the sauce was no longer available. It should have been easy enough to make my own – throwing a canned chipotle in a simple enchilada sauce. I had, however, developed “convictions”, avoiding food in cans lined with the toxin BPA. Unlike the FDA which has “allowable” levels of toxins, if I know they’re in there, I don’t want make any allowances. Going without these enchiladas wasn’t an option, either, so what to do? The enchiladas inspired us to make some major changes.

chipotle peppers on grill Over the next few years, in an effort to keep all-things-processed and toxic out of our diet, we joined a CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) farm that organically raises most of our produce. We also bought a Traeger Big Smoky wood pellet grill which behaves more like a convection oven, than it does a grill – smoking our own chipotle peppers (and lots of great roasts & steaks). I also purchased three 9-tray Excalibur deydrators to preserve our food, which included organic tomatoes so that we could have our own supply, without the issues of cans or canning.

I also did a lot of experimenting with the chipotle enchiladas, using variations of fresh Roma tomatoes, canned, organic, BPA-free Roma tomatoes, and a blend of fresh and canned. Finally, I experimented with my dehydrated tomatoes, finding I preferred their flavor which was more intense and tasted fresher, even more than the fresh Roma tomatoes. With chipotle, you can’t go wrong whether you use canned, fresh or dehydrated, because it really is such a great flavor to use!

grinding dehydrated tomatoes

Leftover chicken or pork are other meat options for non-turkey times of the year. Because I dehydrate for our food storage, and don’t use commercially canned foods, this recipe makes use of my own dehydrated organic tomatoes, as well as smoked and dehydrated chipotle peppers. I’ve reconstructed the rich adobo BBQ sauce in this recipe – apple cider vinegar, cumin, oregano, and tomatoes using a little bit of ketchup for a hint of sweetness to mellow the bitter edge.

Adding smoke flavors to food is a fun project. Stove-top smoker units work well for small batches of red, ripened jalapeno peppers, turning them into flavorful chipotles, if you aren’t set up with your a system like a Traeger Big Smoky wood pellet grill. Also, spice bulk section of a local “health food” store which may offer whole, dehydrated, smoked chipotles which can be powdered using a blender or food processor. Let the dust settle, before removing the cover. This dish is a great make-ahead – up to 1-day, rolling, covering and refrigerating until ready to bake.

Chipotle Turkey Enchiladas

6 servings

  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/2-cup vegetable oil (I use red palm oil)
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions, divided 1 1/2 abd 1/2
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can or 2 cups dehydrated tomatoes plus 2 cups warm water (rehydrated and then chopped using a stick blender or a small food processor)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup organic tomato ketchup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons finely chopped rehydrated chipotle chiles
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
  • 3 cups coarsely shredded cooked turkey
  • 3 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces), divided
  • 1 cup sour cream
    12 5- to 6-inch-diameter corn tortillas

Enchilada Sauce Instructions

  1. 3 tablespoons oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Sauté 1 1/2 cups onions until tender, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic clove and gently sauté 1 minute more.
  3. Add tomatoes, vegetable stock, tomato ketchup, apple cider vinegar, chili powder, chipotle, oregano, cumin and salt.
  4. Cover; simmer 30 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat. Stir in 1/2 cup cilantro.

Filling Instructions

  1. Stir by hand, turkey, 1-1/2 cups cheese, 1 cup sour cream, remaining 1/2 cup onions, and 1 cup cilantro in large bowl to blend.
  2. Season filling to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. PREHEAT oven to 350°F.

Assembly Instructions

  1. Spread 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of 13×9×2-inch glass baking dish.
  2. Soften tortilla (see Tip at bottom of article)
  3. Place softened tortilla on a plate, fill with 1/4-cup turkey filling, roll and place seam side down in prepared baking dish.
  4. Repeat softening, filling and rolling remaining 11 tortillas.
  5. Spoon chipotle-tomato sauce on rolled tortillas, spreading gently over the top.
  6. Spread remaining 1 1/2 cups cheese over enchiladas, spreading evenly.
  7. Bake enchiladas until heated through, 25-30 minutes.
  8. Serve with favorite toppings including sour cream, gaucamole, extra chipped cilantro and lime wedges.

Tortillla Softening Tip

tortilla technique

Corn tortillas are not pliable and crack easily when used for making enchiladas, so they need to be “softened” before filling and rolling. Common techniques including lightly frying in hot oil, or dipping each tortilla in hot water for 10-15 seconds.

Instead of doing either of those, I prefer to dip individual tortillas in my pan of freshly made enchilada sauce, 10-15 seconds, lightly shaking or brushing any excess sauce off, then filling and rolling each before dipping the next tortilla. I love the way this technique not only softens tortillas, but infuses them with flavor. The remaining enchilada sauce is poured over the rolled, stuffed enchiladas.