Picture lightly fried tortilla chips tossed in red salsa and served with delicious garnishes like cotija cheese and Mexican crema. This chilaquiles rojos recipe is a Mexican breakfast that will blow you away!
Do yourself a favor and make a batch right now!
It's quick and easy to make, but you will not believe how delicious chilaquiles rojos are.
The word chilaquiles (chee-lah-kee-lays) comes from the Aztec Nahuatl language meaning “chiles and greens.”
Dating back to the early Aztecs, chilaquiles have been around for hundreds of years. The first recorded recipe is from 1898 when the Mexican-American chef, Encarnación Pinedo, published “El Cocinera Español.”
Whatever the details are, it's safe to say chilaquiles are a staple in Mexican culture.
You'll find different variations in each region, which makes it a unique and fun breakfast to experience as you travel around the country.
When it comes to modern-day chilaquiles, anything goes! You'll see recipes utilizing many non-traditional flavors, but the fun is in the customizations.
What are they?
Simply put, chilaquiles consist of crunchy tortilla chips (or strips) which are lightly fried and covered in salsa.
You have two main choices: chilaquiles rojos (red) and chilaquiles verdes (green) — the difference being your choice of salsa.
Today we're making a chilaquiles rojos recipe (in case you couldn't tell from the red salsa in our photos).
Although the main ingredients are minimal, the idea of using leftover tortillas and salsas to extend more expensive foods is something to be appreciated within Mexican culture.
Our favorite part of making chilaquiles is the options for customization. You can make a completely different meal just by using new toppings, chiles, or veggies. We encourage you to get creative!
They may not seem like a typical breakfast, but chilaquiles are usually served as the first meal of the day in Mexico. We know, we know, your mornings just got a lot tastier!
Many people serve this dish with a side of refried beans, meat, or eggs, but we're keepin' it plant-based.
We've actually found our jackfruit carnitas go really well on chilaquiles. If you're looking for a heartier breakfast, try it out!
As always, this dish is 100% vegan and gluten-free. We've done our best to keep this chilaquiles rojos recipe as authentic as possible, using only necessary ingredients and toppings commonly found across Mexico.
That said, let's do this!
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Taste: there's nothing like the fresh, authentic taste of homemade corn tortillas. With a slightly sweet and nutty flavor, what's not to love? You know you're in for a treat once they're lightly fried to form golden triangles of perfection.
Health: you can definitely use store-bought, but the benefit of making corn tortillas from scratch is the minimal amount of ingredients needed. Comparing corn to flour, we give the edge to corn since it's gluten-free and contains more fiber.
Taste: the star of this dish, and the reason for its name! There's a lot of variety in salsas rojos, but we think ours contains just the right balance of spicy and sweet. The serrano and arbol chiles provide a delicious heat, while you can thank the tomatoes and guajillo chiles for lending some sweetness.
Health: using only fresh vegetables, we take pride in our salsa being sugar-free and getting its complex flavors from our stovetop roasting method. In Mexican cooking, it's best to keep things simple.
What is it: as a native ingredient to Central America, epazote has been used in cooking and medicine for generations. The plant itself is a leafy annual, which can grow as tall as 4 feet. It has long, thin, and jagged green leaves.
Taste: chilaquiles are traditionally finished off with this unique herb. Epazote has an interesting flavor profile that is somewhat hard to describe. It has notes of anise, citrus, mint, and oregano that really give chilaquiles a unique taste. If you can find some, don't skip epazote!
Health: In addition to regulating digestion and helping with stomach cramps, epazote has long been used to treat parasitic worms in humans.
Where to buy: you will most likely find this herb at a Mexican grocery store or in the Hispanic foods section at larger supermarkets.
If you have questions about his recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: remove the stems and seeds from the guajillo and arbol chiles. Toast them in a skillet over medium-low for a few minutes. Make sure to turn your chiles frequently to prevent burning.
Step 2: cover the chiles and 2 of the garlic cloves with water and bring to a low boil. Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the peppers are softened.
Step 3: preheat a seasoned cast-iron skillet to just over medium. If your pan isn't well seasoned, rub it with a little olive oil before heating it up.
Step 4: pan roast the whole tomatoes, onion quarters, and serrano chile for 5 minutes on the first side. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the skins are blackened and the insides are soft.
Note: if you don't have a cast-iron skillet, add all the veggies (including the dry chiles) to a large pot with enough water to cover them. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 15 minutes.
Step 5: de-stem the serrano if you’re using one and add all the drained veggies plus the last clove of garlic to a food processor or blender. Blend until the salsa is to your preferred texture.
Step 6: heat a few inches of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high (the oil should be at 350-375°F).
Step 7: cut your corn tortillas into quarters and fry in batches until they turn golden brown. Transfer the cooked tortilla chips to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Continue this process until all the tortillas are fried.
Step 8: heat a little olive oil in a large pot over medium. Slowly pour the salsa in and add the epazote. Simmer together for 10-12 minutes. Once your sauce is done reducing, season with salt and mix in the tortilla chips.
Once mixed together, this dish is best eaten immediately. But, occasionally we have leftovers, so we'll show you the best way to store them!
We recommend keeping the chips and salsa separate to avoid excess sogginess. If you do end up storing them together, they'll still be delicious (we do it all the time). If stored separately, the salsa will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge and the tortilla chips for up to 4-5 days.
Transfer the salsa to a freezer-safe container for up to 6 months. Ensure you leave a bit of room at the top of the container for expansion.
You can also freeze the corn tortillas before frying them for up to 6-8 months. When you need tortillas, thaw the amount you want in your fridge overnight and they'll be soft in the morning!
Heat the salsa in a pot over medium-low, then add the tortilla chips in at the end again. Serve with all the same garnishes.
💭 Pro tips
Time to share our tips and tricks we learned while perfecting this chilaquiles rojos recipe for you:
- Use homemade tortillas. Trust us, it makes a world of a difference in the overall flavor.
- Use old stale tortillas. It's a great way to save money on food you might otherwise throw out!
- Watch your oil temperature. Invest in a deep-fry thermometer if this is something you do often. It's worth its weight in gold!
- Toast your chiles. You'll be able to achieve a richer, more complex flavor in your salsa.
- Adjust the spice level. We like our chilaquiles extra spicy, so we always add in an extra serrano pepper or two.
- Decide your texture level. If you want crispier chips, add them to the sauce for a quick toss. If you want softer chilaquiles, add the chips in earlier.
🍴 Tasting notes
We love these chilaquiles rojos for breakfast, and we know you will too. They're:
If you try this recipe, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Chilaquiles Rojos Recipe
- Chef knife and cutting board
- Large pot
- 16 corn tortillas ($0.25)
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 6 medium Roma tomatoes ($0.96)
- ½ medium white onion ($0.12)
- 3 cloves garlic ($0.12)
- 4-5 dry arbol chiles ($0.08)
- 3 dry guajillo chiles ($0.12)
- 1 serrano chile optional
- 1 tbsp olive oil ($0.12)
- 1-2 epazote sprigs ($0.02)
- Salt to taste ($0.01)
- Remove the stems and seeds from the guajillo and arbol chiles. Toast them in a skillet over medium-low for 3-5 minutes. Make sure to turn your chiles frequently to prevent burning.
- Then, cover them and 2 of the garlic cloves with water and bring to a low boil. Once the water is boiling, lower the heat to simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the peppers are softened.
- Next, preheat a seasoned cast-iron skillet to just over medium. If your pan isn't well seasoned, rub it with a little olive oil before heating up.
- Once hot, pan roast the whole tomatoes, onion quarters, and serrano chile for 5 minutes on the first side. Flip and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the skins are blackened and the insides are soft.
- If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, add all veggies (including the dry chiles) to a large pot with enough water to cover them. Bring everything to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for 15 minutes.
- When they are done boiling, drain the water, but save it in case your salsa needs more liquid.
- De-stem the serrano if you’re using one and add all the drained veggies plus the last clove of garlic to a food processor or blender. Blend until the salsa is to your preferred texture, approximately 30-60 seconds. Set aside.
- Heat about 2-3 inches of vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high (the oil should be at 350-375°F).
- Cut your corn tortillas into quarters and fry in batches until golden brown on each side. Transfer the cooked tortilla chips to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Continue this process until all the tortillas are fried.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium. Slowly pour the salsa in with 1-2 sprigs of epazote. Simmer together for 10-12 minutes.
- Once your sauce is done reducing, season with salt and mix in the tortilla chips.
- If you don’t like the pungent flavor of garlic, boil all 3 cloves before blending.
- If you're short on time, you can use store-bought tortilla chips in your chilaquiles recipe.
- We did not include the oil for frying in the total cost of this recipe since we reuse the oil in our deep-fryer.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more tasty Mexican recipes, check out our:
- Spanish omelette for a perfectly seasoned savoury breakfast.
- Empanadas to learn to make this traditional antojito with corn dough.
- Crispy black bean tacos for a simple, customizable, weeknight dinner that makes great leftovers.
- Bean and cheese sopes for delicious toppings all loaded onto a thick corn cake.
- Sweet potato quesadillas if you want an authentic corn-style snack you can make for any occasion.
With the addition of the serrano pepper, this dish is a 7-8/10. Leaving this chile out makes the recipe about a 5/10 on the spice scale.
You can definitely bake corn tortillas instead of frying them. Refer to our guacamole post for instructions.
If you can't find dried chiles, add in serrano peppers or jalapeños. We'd also recommend adding in chipotle chile powder.
If you can't find epazote, you can use equal parts papalo. If you still can't find what you're looking for, leave it out completely.
You can use dry epazote instead of fresh. For this recipe, use 1-2 tsp of dried epazote.