Guest Recipe: Unprocessed Enchilada Casserole

5 Reviews / 4.4 Average
This recipe is a guest post by Andrew, our "Tech Guy" who also has a real food blog of his own called Eating Rules…to learn more about Andrew check out our team page!
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This recipe is a guest post by Andrew, our “Tech Guy” who also has a real food blog of his own called Eating Rules…to learn more about Andrew check out our team page!

Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole from 100 Days of Real Food

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Thank you Lisa for inviting me to share another guest post with your readers! We’re currently in the middle of the October Unprocessed challenge, and this is a perfect “unprocessed” recipe to make for your family – or for yourself, with plenty of leftovers!

Try these Gluten Free Enchiladas too!

I may not yet have kids of my own (I added that “yet” in there to give my mom hope), but I sure do know how to feed a crowd. Every year I throw a big New Year’s party in which we do a lot of cooking and eating together… oftentimes we’re making dinner for about 30 people.

So we’ve learned how to feed a hungry group quickly and efficiently. A few years back, my friend Dan made “Enchilada Casserole” for the crew, and it immediately became a part of our holiday dinner rotation. It’s easy to prepare, and barely any extra work to double or triple the recipe. You can also prepare the casserole in advance and just throw it in the oven an hour before dinnertime.

It’s easily adaptable to special diets, too.Already vegetarian (adding meat is so not necessary — it’s hearty enough!), we usually make one “regular” version and one vegan version (just skip the cheese), and most people have trouble deciding which they like more. If you use corn tortillas, it can be gluten-free, too. A couple of years ago, I started using 100% whole wheat tortillas instead of white flour tortillas, and people didn’t even notice.

It helps to think of this dish as sort of a “Mexican Lasagna.” You’re basically layering the bean mixture, tortillas, veggies, and cheese the same way you’d build a lasagna. As you layer things together, tear the tortillas in halves or quarters as necessary to create a single layer. I usually start with one whole tortilla in the middle, and then tear another in half to create flat edges, which go on the outside of the pan. I may tear a third one in quarters and use that to fill in the gaps. It’s good if they overlap a little. Like so:

Layering Tortillas for Enchilada Casserole from 100 Days of Real Food

Andrew Wilder from 100 Days of Real Food postAndrew Wilder is a self-proclaimed “Healthy Foodie,” and he writes about the confluence of healthy and delicious on his blog, Eating Rules. He also leads the October Unprocessed challenge each year, trying to get as many people as possible to eat no processed food whatsoever for the entire month. 6,000 people have taken the pledge so far, and it’s not too late for you to join in, too! You can also find Andrew on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

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72 thoughts on “Guest Recipe: Unprocessed Enchilada Casserole”

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  1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

    Hi there. Yes, corn tortillas do hold up better when making enchiladas. They just don’t absorb liquid like flour.

  2. Ok, did I do something wrong? I used flour tortillas b/c I’m not a fan of corn. The tortillas are mushy. Any suggestions? Thanks

  3. I’ve recently found your site and have become very interested in following the idea of making a lifestyle change! Eating less processed foods and more foods from scratch! Has anyone considered developing recipes for diabetics?
    Thank you very much
    Vincent Reagan

    1. Amy Taylor (comment moderator)

      Hi Vincent. Lisa typically designs her recipes for her family and then encourages people to adapt them to their own needs.

  4. I would definitely double the “sauce”. This barely made enough for two layers. In the oven now so hopefully it doesn’t dry out.

    1. Made this last night and it was very good, be careful if using double the sauce. It definitely needs more sauce but double was too much. Ours ended up more like an enchilada chili or stew rather than a lasagna. It was still delicious and we ate it over tortilla chips, but it wasn’t quite what it was supposed to be :)

  5. I am confused. Aren’t canned beans, canned enchilada sauce and shredded cheese all processed foods? Maybe I don’t understand what processed foods are? Someone please explain. Thanks!

  6. This is a great and versatile recipe. We subbed diced summer squash for potato (because the garden is running over) and leftover roasted chicken for the black beans. Using leftover crock pot pinto beans. Made homemade corn tortillas and enchilada sauce (made extra to freeze). I don’t really understand all the comments about this not being real food. Pretty much any recipe is as real as you want to make it. For me this is a Sunday dinner, not a quick weeknight meal. Will definitely make again! Thanks.

  7. This is so good!!!! Did a little variation though… I oven roasted yellow tomatoes and garlic then puréed the tomatoes with a quarter cup of fresh cooked back beans (thickener) and then when cooking in a pan, added fresh green chili, paprika, chili powder and cayenne. Then for filling, fresh spinach, fresh mushrooms & bell pepper, black beans and oven roasted chicken (about 1 cup chicken)… Delish!!!

  8. 5 stars
    This was delicious! We used Lisa’s beans and it had so much flavor to it (we added quite a few of the mix-ins.) Thank you both for posting recipes like this. For those of us who are still trying to convert to all whole foods all the time, I appreciate shortcuts (such as canned enchilada sauce, canned beans) once in awhile. We have made huge progress this past year but sometimes I feel like I can’t make one more thing from scratch in a week and taking a shortcut here & there is helpful. Next time I will try one of the gravy enchilada sauces from scratch that your readers linked to.

  9. Love your site! We have made the decision to not wait for Prop 37 to pass here in CA, and make changes now! I’m finding that if we cut the empty calories and processed junk, we can buy locally raised meat and organic/non-gmo products for the same amount we would typically spend each week! :)

  10. Made this last night. Cut the recipe in half and layered whole,round tortillas in round cake pan. Also, if you don’t want to use jarred enchilada sauce, Katie Riddle over at riddlelove has a great homemade enchilada sauce recipe that’s super easy.

  11. If you don’t like the recipe, move on. I used to like reading the comments to learn about new resources and techniques but lately so many blogs are littered with negative comments and opinions and corrections (telling the blogger they are wrong. So annoying. These bloggers do not claim to be doctors or nutritionists. These are suggestions and tips; if you don’t agree, don’t make the recipe. Go back to your kitchen and do your thing.

    1. I agree Cheryl! Thanks for a great blog Lisa. I am a big girl and can decide which suggestions work for me and my family. TOTALLY ACCEPTABLE lb!!!

  12. i am new to this site. i am so confused as to how this recipe can even be called “unprocessed”, as these items ARE processed: olive oil, (enchilada sauce) large can, one can black beans, can of diced green chiles, cup shredded cheese.
    also the ‘tagline’ of “1 family, 2 kids and 0 processed foods” is incorrect, as the author is touting store bought hummus, pitas, cheese, can foods etc. ALL of these items are processed! i’m not trying to give you a hard time, as i think that you are eating healthy in an unhealthy world (and helping others to do so as well), but using the word UNPROCESSED as you are using it, is well…UNACCEPTABLE.

    1. I agree. I was excited to see the recipe until I clicked on it. The first thing I thought was… this is about as processed as it gets. I can see how you could make it unprocessed but the recipe should have those. Canned food is so high in sodium.

    2. The word canned could be used for store bought cans OR for home canning so if you do home canning and make your own cheese then it is not store bought. In my opinion she listed some optional options for those that want things quickly. Also on one she even noted that the sodium content was high. Just my opinion.

  13. I made a double batch of this last night and the family LOVED it!! Thank you, Betsy, for the link to chili gravy! Very yummy :) We may not have a lot left to freeze…

    1. Funny, I don’t think I’ve ever actually frozen it, since it keeps in the fridge for about 7-10 days, and it’s usually been devoured by then. But I think it would freeze well. Cut it into squares (individual servings) before freezing, so you can thaw just the right amount. :)

  14. I ate at an authentic Mexican restaurant a few weeks ago and had the best dish – with potatoes in it! It think they are worth rethinking if you are skeptical of this optional ingredient. They were delicious and took on the flavors of the dish. Great idea!

  15. whoops! thought that said echidna casserole at first! do you have echidnas in the US, we didn’t in the UK but lots here in Aus?!!!(they’re like a hedgehog)

  16. And here is where I learned how to make my own, great-tasting tomato based enchilada sauce. It is step 2 in the recipes.

    I think providing a simple enchilada sauce recipe would have stopped some of the back-lash since the recipe does call for 2 cups of sauce OR one large can of sauce. His first suggestion is homemade and it is so simple, I can understand not adding a recipe.

  17. Great alternative to rolled enchiladas. And while I agree that this is not necessarily unprocessed, choosing organic cheese, the homemade tortillas, and making your own, simple enchilada sauce are all great ways to up the real food factor. And on the potatoes, they are a very common ingredient in home based, authentic mexican cooking. They are great mixed in with the meat to stretch things a bit farther. If you want a fail-proof recipe for enchilada chili gravy, here is the link to the best recipe I’ve found for it. Great photos too!

    1. I define “unprocessed” a little bit differently than you might expect. I call it the “kitchen test” and have written about it on my blog extensively. If you could make it at home — including all of the individual ingredients — then I personally think it’s okay. At the same time, I encourage people to define “unprocessed” however is appropriate for them. Everyone is starting from a different place, and there’s no one right answer.

      You can certainly make this recipe with no canned products at all. That’s the beauty of this dish – it’s very easily adaptable, particularly to the ingredients you have on hand.

      1. I didn’t realize that the definition of unprocessed was up for personal interpretation ;0

        Oh well…. just not the caliber of recipe I usually find here but to each their own I guess.

      2. Of course, the expression “unprocessed” is up for personal interpretation. IMHO, strictly speaking, unprocessed means raw – any kind of cooking and preparing is processing. Maybe unprocessed should be replaced by cooking from scratch with using as many ‘raw’ products as possible. And even then, it is up for interpretation. For me personally, using canned beans, frozen plain vegetables, canned peeled tomatoes (without the addition of CaCl2 and salt – hard to get in the US) falls under “cooking from scratch”, whereas using store-bought pasta does not qualify.

      3. I’m with you. As a cookbook collector, even before I started moving towards whole foods for health reasons, I highly esteemed real cook books over the recent phenomenon of cookbooks that include “recipes” on how to open up cans and jars and combine them. I can easily appreciate a person taking a recipe with all the proper instructions and substituting in some convenience items if that is where they are in their journey. Maybe they are not ready to do each step on their own and I love it that they are doing some of them. But as a recipe offering, I found it odd and off-putting to give the “can of this and jar of that” style recipe with no help for making the parts.

        I also finally got put off by other people’s negativity. lol… there are always a few who complain about something and I’m used to just scrolling on, but now I’ve seen (on her facebook page) people offer their view on this, which is a perfectly valid criticism and other people complain that there is no room for that viewpoint and claim they could never make any changes in their diet unless this recipe was specifically laid out like this so that you have to use processed ingredients or go out and search for the missing parts of the recipe to make it truly unprocessed. Ignoring negativity is one thing. But that got me quite exasperated that now people can’t ignore it but have to rebuke others in order to say that their way works and people who have different needs are dragging them down to failure. I actually did avoid the blog for a couple of weeks after this got posted and only happened back on by accident today.

  18. My parents opened a mexican restaurant here on the island of Hawaii back in 1984 (we are not mexican just love the food), everything was made from scratch. We traveled to Mexico to get authentic recipes, equipment etc. All food was made from scratch nothing canned. In our chimichanga the cooks added chopped up baked potatoes, it was my most favorite dish as a teen. Loved seeing your addition of bake potato in the extra goodies section. It really does add something to the dish.

  19. I’m not a big fan of enchiladas, but I’m going to try this casserole method for some of our other favorite Mexican foods. Thanks for the cool idea!

  20. Note to self: Don’t read Lisa’s blog when stomach is empty!!

    I think the potatoes in it sound yummy. But I’d stick potatoes in anything! I bet a chunk of this casserole would be an amazing weekend breakfast with some scrambled aggs!!

  21. This sounds great. Thanks for sharing. I’d like to make this recipe with homemade tomatillo sauce. My husband and I love the flavor and the tang of a salsa verde with our enchiladas.

  22. I also use fresh/local salsa in place of canned enchilada sauce and it does the trick! Salsa from Trader Joe’s also works nicely – the tomatillo salsa is a good option if you want something mild and not too clumpy. This is such a super easy recipe and you can load it up, as Gina says, with all kinds of seasonal vegetables in the middle!

  23. We love love love enchilada casserole! Like Jennifer, they’re my lazy approach or, deconstructed as my kids would say since we started tearing down dishes that could be complicated or take longer to make than we have time for.

    I’ve been making big batches of enchilada casserole for decades (eat some, freeze some), and just recently we successfully made them in the slow cooker (we’ll share the recipe at Feed Our Families soon). It’s pretty rare that I add meat, and instead use vegetables like spinach, sweet potatoes or squash, corn, zucchini, or really whatever is in season.

    I use a fresh salsa instead of enchilada sauce because we prefer the taste and using real tomatoes. I just use a slotted spoon to leave the unnecessary water out.

    Thanks for sharing!

  24. I’ve been making “lazy enchiladas” for years! I will also make “enchilada pie” by layering the filling and tortillas in a pie plate. Potatoes seem like an unusual addition but evidently they taste good in the dish or you wouldn’t have mentioned it! Thanks for sharing!

  25. I’m going to try this non-tomato enchilada sauce! I always make my own using tomato sauce. I don’t even have access to canned sauces (I live outside US) so its a necessity. But I’m going to try this other version!

  26. Potatoes sound a bit off…but other than that ….so yummy! I make a similar -ish casserole with chicken and no retried beans I bet they make it so much better!

    1. I know the potatoes sound a bid odd, but they totally work. Feel free to leave ’em out, though! That’s the thing I love about this dish – it’s really forgiving, and comes out a little different every time. :)

  27. Definitely make your own enchilada sauce! My MIL uses flour, chili powder, cumin, salt and water for her cheese enchiladas. So yummy!

  28. Sorry but this does not sound good :( I know, I know enchilada casserole is not authentic mexican food and therefore does not have to taste authentic. However, canned enchilada suace has yucky ingredients and doesn’t taste half as good as homemade which makes no sense to use it when authentic enchilada sauce is so easy to make. The enchilada sauce my grandmother, mother, me, and most Mexicans I know make does not have tomatoes either, just some dry new mexico chile peppers, garlic, salt, and water. Though you could probably add some fresh tomatoes to tone down the spicyness. Most Mexican food is actually “real food” but the versions of Mexican food that pepole in the U.S. are making these days are not.

    1. Agree with you, just by reading the recipe, it does not sound very good. But I have to admit, I am not a specialist in Mexican Food. Would you be willing to share your family’s recipe?

    2. I made my own for this recipe – it was quick, fast and delicious and I had all the ingredients on hand. As for its authenticity as it relates to Mexican food…well, I can’t really speak to that, but I did really like the sauce.

  29. For an easy and authentic alternative to canned enchilada sauce, here is my recipe for scratch made:
    4 Tablespoons oil of your choice or butter (don’t use coconut oil for this)
    3 Tablespoons Chili Powder
    8 Tablespoons Flour (you can use whole wheat, or if you need gluten free Masa corn flour (not starch) can be substituted.
    1 1/2 teaspoon ground Cumin
    2 cloves minced garlic
    1 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

    melt butter or heat oil, add other ingredients, whisk around for about a minute. then add 4 cups of warm water, whisk until thickness of slightly thin gravy.
    This freezes REALLY well and can be made several days ahead of time.

      1. No. This is an authentic gravy style enchilada sauce. The kind you would get if you went into a restaurant and ordered beef enchiladas.