Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chilaquiles Rojas

As a breakfast, chilaquiles are famed as a reliable hangover cure and reputedly the hotter the better. Loosely described as a quick simmered tortilla casserole, they can involve a number of peripheral ingredients such as chicken, chorizo or egg, but always have fried tortilla chips and a spiced sauce in which to bathe them.

By definition they should always have at least chiles and herbs since the word chilaquiles comes to us from the Aztec tongue of Nahuatl, meaning, chiles and herbs. It would be hard to be more specific in naming the current array of sauces in which the tortilla chips are bathed in. In the north they are dressed in a white sauce, Mexico City boasts a hefty amount of epazote with a red tomato sauce, Oaxaca tends toward the green tomatillo variety and Veracruz does a lurid orange coloured version, born of green tomato and red chile.

At any rate, it's pretty hard to get a bad plate of chilaquiles. They remind me of french toast; made with yesterdays starchy staple, fried and soaked in flavour or vice versa. I might add that although debates rage about whether they must be made with stale tortillas or not, I believe it has much more to do with the integrity of the tortilla itself (the Maseca or dehydrated corn based ones tend to fall apart). The ones I used to make the following had good integrity, more than I can say for the PRI Gubernatorial candidate whose "vote for me" message adorns the packaging.

Chilaquiles Rojas | serves 4

500g day-old tortillas, cut into triangles
1 cup vegetable oil, for frying
6 tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1 medium white onion
4-6 chipotle chiles in adobo
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
1/2 cup chopped parsley
100g queso fresco or similar
finely sliced onion, to serve
  1. In a deep pan, heat the oil to around 180 degrees Celsius (or until an introduced tortilla strip fries rapidly). Add about a fifth of the cut tortillas and cook till crisp, repeat with the other 4 batches. Drain well.
  2. Place the tomatoes in a small sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Drain the water out, then puree the tomato, onion, garlic, chipotle, bay and oregano together.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a wide saucepan, and carefully add the pureed mixture. Add some salt, then fry for 5-8 minutes or until the colour of the sauce starts to darken.
  4. Add the corn chips (you will need quite a large pan to stir the sauce through thoroughly) and mix gently, trying not to break up the chips too much.
  5. When the chips are slightly softened they are ready to serve, topped with parsley, cheese and onion. A fried egg on the side makes quite the breakfast.
Trav Harvey is a chef and cooking instructor at the De La Tierra Cooking School. This is his first Mexican Food Blog.


  1. Chilaquiles are a great leftover dish! I usually use old totopos. And yep, they DO cure hangovers!

  2. I have to agree with you. Chilaquiles are great for hangover. It's really effective especially when you down to much tequila. Your recipe looks delicious. I'll try doing your recipe and I'll mix it with some canning salsa recipes.

  3. Classic.. Will have to get onto this pronto amigo

  4. Very good recipe.
    Only one thing, the correct name is Chilaquiles Rojos no Rojas ya que rojo is a color, red, and Rojas is a surname. They are red chilaquiles and green chilaquiles depending on the color of the salsa
    By the way I am Mexican.