… Let the Cinco de Mayo Feast Begin!
Here’s another favorite traditional recipe to help celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but we don’t necessarily always wait for a celebration to enjoy this great Mexican dish. We’ve taken the classic enchilada, unrolled it, and stacked it into layer upon layer of enchilada goodness. This gluten-free, dairy-free Layered Enchilada Casserole embraces the flavors of Mexican cuisine with the smokiness of cumin, the bold heat of chili powder, a slight kick of cayenne, and a smooth subtleness of cocoa and coffee, bringing it all together in a velvety sauce. The sauce infuses throughout the casserole as it cooks, creating the perfect blend of smooth and “picante” flavors. When it’s time to serve, drizzle on a little more sauce, add a squeeze of fresh lime, a healthy sprinkling of cilantro, and a dollop of “sour cream” for the finishing flavors to mark the exclamation point at the end of the “Olé”.
Prep time: about 30 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Rest time: about 5 minutes
Oven temp: 375ºF
Ingredients for enchilada sauce:
3 cups water
12 ounces tomato paste*
2 teaspoons corn starch*
2 teaspoons water
2 Tablespoons chili powder*
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin*
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper*
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder*
3 teaspoons onion powder*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder*
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 Tablespoon Hot water
1/4 teaspoon instant decaf coffee
Ingredients for casserole:
10 yellow corn tortillas (thick tortillas work best for this recipe)
1/4 – 1/2 cup cooking oil (one that can handle high heat)
3 cups cooked chicken (no skin or bones), chopped or shredded
2 1/4 cups cooked brown rice
1 can (15 oz.) black beans*, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 oz.) corn*, drained and rinsed, OR 1 1/2 cups frozen (and thawed) or fresh corn
1/2 cup + 1/4 cup pepper jack cheese, divided – I use Daiya dairy-free cheese
1 red, green, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
juice from 1 lime, divided in half
1 bunch cilantro, washed and dried, de-stemmed, the leaves coarsely chopped
dairy-free sour cream, if desired for topping
Directions for sauce:
In a medium size sauce pan over low heat, combine the 3 cups water and tomato paste. Stir with a whisk. In a tiny bowl, combine corn starch and 2 teaspoons water. Stir until smooth, then whisk into tomato sauce. Whisk until smooth. Add chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. Stir and add in cocoa powder. Whisk in oil. In a tiny bowl, combine the hot water and instant coffee. Pour into sauce and stir until all ingredients are well combined. Allow to slowly heat for about 10 minutes. This sauce doesn’t really need to simmer. Stir once in awhile to prevent sauce from sticking to bottom of pan.
Directions for assembling casserole:
Pre-heat oven to 375ºF. Place a layer of two or three paper towels on a large plate. Have two or three more paper towels ready for blotting excess oil from cooked tortillas. In a large fry pan, heat oil to hot but not to smoke point. One by one, cook the tortillas, frying on one side then the other. Remove each tortilla to the plate and blot the excess oil, then move to another plate until ready to use. The tortillas should be crisp but not to the point of cracking.
In a large bowl, combine chicken, brown rice, black beans, corn, 1/2 cup cheese and bell pepper. Stir. In a small bowl, combine onion powder, garlic powder, salt and cumin. Stir together, then sprinkle over the chicken mixture. Stir well to season everything. Sprinkle half of the lime juice over the mixture and stir again. Take 1/2 cup enchilada sauce and pour over the chicken mixture. Stir well to season all ingredients. Set aside.
To begin the layering process of the casserole, set up your workstation as an assembly line. Spray or lightly oil a glass casserole dish and spread about a tablespoon of sauce on the bottom of the dish. Set aside. Into a pie plate or flat, sided dish, pour about 1/2 of the remaining sauce. (Reserve the rest of the sauce for garnish when serving the cooked casserole). Dip a cooked tortilla in the sauce on one side to coat, then flip to coat, then place the tortilla in the dish. Scoop about 1 cup of mixture onto the tortilla. Don’t worry if some of the mixture falls off to the sides. Place another coated tortilla on top of the chicken mixture. Press down slightly on the tortilla. Continue the layering process until all tortillas are used. END with the tortilla on top. (The casserole will not be too saucy because too much sauce causes the layers of tortillas to breakdown.)
Cover with a lightly oiled lid or piece of foil. Place casserole on middle rack of pre-heated oven and bake approximately 30 minutes, or until center of casserole is hot. You can check this easily by sticking a knife into the center. If the knife comes out hot, the casserole is thoroughly heated. Remove from oven and let rest about 5 minutes.
To serve, slice the casserole as you would a cake, using a very sharp knife. Garnish each serving with a fresh pour of enchilada sauce, a dusting of cilantro, a sprinkling of lime juice, and a dollop of sour cream. Let the Cinco de Mayo celebration begin.
P.S. Fresh, ripe avocado would also make an excellent garnished if chopped and tossed over the top of each serving. Yum!
If you’re serving a large crowd, be sure to include our Cinco de Mayo Tacos to your feast! They’re easy and fun!
*You can find the gluten-free brands I use on my Getting Started Pantry Guide
Safe food is a journey … Thrive!