Real Tex-Mex Cheese Enchiladas


If you’ve ever eaten at a hole-in-the-wall Mom and Pop Mexican restaurant in Texas, these are those cheese enchiladas. Simple corn tortillas rolled around a filling of cheese and chopped onions, swimming in that dark, flavorful sauce that you can’t find on any grocery store shelf. These aren’t what you’d call authentic Mexican enchiladas, usually made with a red or green chile sauce, among other things. These are, however, authentic Tex-Mex enchiladas, made with chili gravy, a cross between a flour-based brown gravy and a chile sauce. It is exactly that hole-in-the-wall Mom and Pop taste that you remember. And if you don’t remember it because you’ve never been in one of those restaurants, then you’ve been missing out! They are often tacky, sometimes dingy, but they’ve got the food.

And now you can have it, too!

I found this recipe for chili gravy here at Farm Bell Recipes, credited to Robb Walsh of The Tex-Mex Cookbook via Homesick Texan, and this recipe alone makes me want to get his cookbook to find out what other treasures he has in there. I am a West Virginian now, but I was born in Texas and lived half my life there, and I do sometimes get homesick for the food. This chili gravy is what makes these cheese enchiladas. (Where has this recipe been all my life?) Corn tortillas, chili gravy, cheese, and onions. This is the perfect Tex-Mex comfort dish.

You can buy the corn tortillas, of course, but tortillas are easy to make, so make them fresh! Lately I’ve been experimenting with corn tortillas and the recipe I used to make them for these enchiladas is a combination of all-purpose flour and masa harina (corn flour) instead of straight masa harina. I love this cross between the two which results in a tortilla that tastes like a corn tortilla but acts like a flour tortilla (meaning it’s softer, easier to roll without breaking, less dry).

See my regular corn tortillas recipe here and my regular flour tortillas recipe here.

Here is how I make my soft flour-corn tortillas. Note: I tried hand-rolling these, as I usually hand-roll flour tortillas, but I found these easier to do using my tortilla press. (You can see my step-by-step post on using a tortilla press here.)

You can also see this recipe at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.

Printer-Friendly Printer-Friendly
How to make Soft Flour-Corn Tortillas:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups masa harina
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening or lard
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water*

*The amount of water is approximate–judge by the feel of your dough. You will need about 1 1/2 cups, which is more than used in the flour tortillas recipe. The corn flour is more dry and sucks up water!

Mix the flours and salt in a medium-size bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry cutter. Stir water in (add a little at a time after the first cup) and mix the dough as much as possible with a spoon. Knead, adding water, until you have a pliable dough. (Not too wet! Be careful adding the water after the first cup.) Cover bowl and let rest for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle a bit of flour in the bowl and knead again briefly. Divide dough into 16 balls.

Place a cast iron skillet on high heat. (Cast iron works best–you need something that can take high heat with no oil.) Open the tortilla press and lay a piece of plastic wrap across the bottom of it. Sprinkle with a little bit of flour. Place a ball of dough toward the hinged end. (Not in the middle! I’ve found that placing it toward the hinge creates much nicer, rounder tortillas.)

Sprinkle a little flour on top of the ball. Place another piece of plastic on top and close the press, pushing down on it to flatten the ball. Peel off the plastic carefully.

Fry each side about one minute on high heat. I do the first side another 20-30 seconds after the second side. Keep the operation moving–as you’re frying one tortilla, press another. Move each tortilla as it’s finished onto a plate or into a tortilla keeper and cover to keep warm.

Note: An alternative method I’ve used in the press is to cut apart a plastic storage baggie and use that for the two pieces of plastic rather than the flimsier plastic wrap when pressing the tortillas. I find this much easier to work with for regular corn tortillas, though I have no trouble with plain plastic wrap with these soft flour-corn tortillas. It’s just an easier dough to work with. I love these soft flour-corn tortillas!

To prepare to assemble the enchiladas, get the chili gravy made–it is the secret to the flavor. Don’t make cheese enchiladas without it!

You can find the chili gravy recipe at Farm Bell Recipes here and save it to your recipe box. If you really like this recipe, you can make a bulk dry mix to make it quick. You can find the dry mix here.

You can make this vegetarian by using vegetable oil instead of lard and using either water or vegetable broth. I’ve tried this recipe using water and using chicken broth. I far prefer the chicken broth. When I tried it with water, it tasted too thin–and I don’t mean the consistency was thin, I mean the taste. For full-bodied, real hole-in-the-wall Mom and Pop flavor, I recommend the chicken broth (or vegetable broth would be good, too, I’m sure). I just don’t think water cuts it. And I don’t think that’s what Mom and Pop are using because it doesn’t taste right to me that way.

This recipe makes 2 cups.

Printer-Friendly Printer-Friendly
How to make Chili Gravy:

1/4 cup lard or vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you have it)
2 tablespoons homemade or dark chili powder*
2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water

*I used Mexican dark chili powder.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the flour and continue stirring for a few more minutes until you have a nice, light brown roux. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and continue to cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

Add broth (or water), stirring as sauce thickens. Turn heat to low and let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add water to adjust the thickness.

This chili gravy is a classic Tex-Mex treasure. I’ll never buy enchilada sauce again.

Now that you have your tortillas and chili gravy, you’re ready to assemble the enchiladas. You can also find this recipe for cheese enchiladas at Farm Bell Recipes and save it to your recipe box.

How to make Cheese Enchiladas:

8 corn tortillas*
3 cups shredded Cheddar
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chili gravy

*I made this recipe using 12 soft flour-corn tortillas. There was plenty of sauce to go around. I used a little extra cheese and onion for the extra tortillas and baked them in a 9 x 12 casserole pan.

Preheat oven to 450. Pour the oil in a small skillet, and fry tortillas briefly, one at a time. Keep them wrapped to stay warm as you assemble the dish. Pour 1/2 cup of chili gravy in the pan. (If using 8 tortillas, an 8 x 8 square pan holds 8 enchiladas perfectly.) Place about 1/4 cup of cheese and a tablespoon of diced onion in the center of each tortilla and roll up.

Place tortillas seam-side down in the baking dish. Continue with remaining tortillas. Pour remaining chili gravy over the top and sprinkle with leftover cheese and onion.

Bake for 10 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Try these and you are in for a treat!

See All My Recipes
Printer-Friendly Printer-Friendly


  1. SuzieQ says:

    It’s nearly 2 in the morning and I want some RIGHT NOW! My gosh, do they sound good. Will have to make these SOON!!. :dancingmonster: :dancingmonster:

  2. Nic, SD says:

    They do, indeed, sound QUITE awesome!

  3. Johanna says:

    Include some scrambled eggs in there with the cheese and onion and it’s BRUNCH! Nummy! Do it today!

  4. Miss Judy says:

    Wonderful! It looks like something you could make up before church and then pop them in the oven when you got home. It makes my mouth water to look at the picture!

  5. Shelly says:

    My favorite! :sheepjump: :sheepjump: :sheepjump: :sheepjump:

  6. Shelly says:

    My very favorite!

  7. lifeisgood/ Melinda says:

    I think you have invented smell-o-vision!!! I could smell them cooking! :happyflower:

  8. auntbear says:

    Great chili gravy..who knew?Found this on Farm Bell last week and made it.WOW! I’ll never buy the stuff in a can or package again.Made mine with chicken,green chilies and jack cheese with cheddar on top.Oh goodness,it was yummy 🙂

  9. Abiga/Karen says:

    I am drooling, yummy!

  10. EightPondFarm says:

    What a find! That IS the chile gravy!! And thanks for the half and half tortilla recipe. I avoid store bought corn tortillas since they are so hard to handle.

  11. Pete says:

    Thanks for the pic, Suzanne! Sounds like you are going to enjoy this sauce as much as we have. It is some very yummy stuff! :snoopy:

  12. Miss Becky says:

    oh these look yummy. Suzanne, do you have any recommendations for where I could purchase an inexpensive tortilla press? not necessarily too inexpensive, I want some quality. yours looks like a good one.

  13. sb158 says:

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I grew up in NJ, learned to cook mostly Italian. Not even remotely Tex-Mex. Then I married a Texan, but have never mastered Tex-Mex. This may help, considerably!

  14. lavenderblue says:

    I once heard a singer popular in the ’50’s (Bobby Darren, I almost think it was; whoever it was I did not know they were Mexican) tell a story about smuggling enchilada’s in glass canning jars into the movie theaters to eat as snacks. His mom made them for he and his friends. I remember thinking how very cool that was, but I could not figure why anyone would want to ruin a good enchilada by pouring manky old gravy over it. (He told how good the gravy was that they were packed in and how he loved dipping.} I think I get it now.

  15. Sharon says:

    I know this is going to be a cheat, but my mother in law taught me this recioe, but instead of the homemade chili gravy she uses a can of Wolf’s brand chili with no beans……. Great for when you are in a pinch and have a 2 1/2 and 4 year old wanting dinner NOW!!!

  16. hollygee says:

    I made ’em tonight. Now I’m born and raised Californian and I would call these starter enchiladas. The smell was like frozen enchilada dinners [in a good way] and it was very nostalgic. I’m glad I only made two for each of us, because I would have not been able to keep myself from eating more.

    Thanks Suzanne and Pete.

  17. Tina says:

    so how do you make the shells without a press? Or am I just gonna have to try to find one and fit it in my kitchen too? lol..looks so yummy!

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Tina, you can roll tortillas by hand, but I find it difficult to do with any tortillas that has masa harina (corn flour) in it. But you can! Some people also make homemade presses out of all sorts of things including two iron skillets! Or you can just make regular flour tortillas, which roll by hand easily.

  18. Senta Sandberg says:

    This was dinner tonight YUMMMMY! (I added shredded pork though.)

  19. Gini says:

    Oh man, I’m going to have to make this this week! This minute!

    Suzanne, I used your VERY useful corn-tortilla-making instructions on Saturday to enter an Iron Chef birthday competition. Everyone was raving over them (although we didn’t win, which is A-OK)– thanks for helping me see how easy and accessible they are! My husband and I will likely never buy them again.

  20. TXLady says:

    Here in our area…Texas …Everyone uses homemade tortillas also for soft shell tacos. When you have homemade corn tortillas….deep fat fry one just until it puffs up and is slightly crisp…not crisp fried. The soft shells make wonderful tasting taco’s…….and a nice change from the crispy shells.

  21. Rhonda says:

    No wonder I like you, a fellow Texan. Nothing better than hole-in-the-wall Tex Mex or homemade tortillas.

  22. monica says:

    We are going to try these tonight! I am adding black olives, refried beans and sour cream (on the side). I might even be able to put a FRESH tomato on the top as garnish. I think I have some green onion to put on top too.

    I do have a question. . .I have oregano, but I don’t think it is Mexican. I think it is Greek or Italian. Should I just stick with the dried variety which is from who knows what variety? The label just says “oregano”.

    Thanks again for a terrific dinner idea!!!!! :hungry:

  23. judyann says:

    ok, made the enchilladas… They were fantastic but my gravy came out a lot darker than yours. your gravy picture looks golden, I followed your recipe exactly, the only thing different I used low sodium chicken broth (Kitchen Basics). what do you think?
    BTW, one of your little farm dogs needs a grooming, maybe you can shear him (her) with the sheep.

  24. lauren says:

    MY new love…. homemade tortillas!!!! made these tonight and they are wonderful!

  25. mary kellogg says:

    Oh Suzanne! I just made these this evening, using store-bought tortillas. OH MY they were great.

    I’m from Texas (Fort Worth) and know my Tex-Mex. BEST recipe I’ve made in a long time.

    I’m stuffed!

  26. monica says:

    These got the highest rating possible from Little N.: Two thumbs up and a drippy chin. OMG! I made your recipe for corn (pudding–I can’t remember the actual name. . .it had peppers, onions corn and cornmeal mix, bake with butter on the top). He is a hard to please little stinker! :hungry: :eating: YUM

  27. aquaria says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    This is the exact flavor I’ve been looking for! It was so easy to make, and so quick.

    I live in San Antonio, the Tex-Mex capitol of the world, so I know Tex-Mex, and I know enchiladas. These are the real deal. They’re so good that I’m actually going to turn on my oven in the summer to make them.

    Anybody who’s lived in Texas knows that THAT is the ultimate compliment you can give an enchilada recipe.

  28. aquaria says:

    Oh, and when I was eating these, I was literally crying. I was 11 again, visiting San Antonio for the first time, and my first taste of real enchiladas, not the crap they tried to foist on us in East Texas.

    It reminded me of how I fell in love at first sight with the city I now call home.

    Can you tell that I love San Antonio?

  29. mmartin91 says:

    this looks amazing! I am a native Texan and just had some cheese enchiladas today for lunch. I am thinking of making your recipe this weekend. I am going to add ground beef, how would you recommend doing that?

Add Your Thoughts