Cooking Together

Cooking Together: Chilaquiles

Chilaquiles (Mexican casserole with tortillas, tomato sauce and other ingredients)

By Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Chilaquiles is a Mexican dish that can use dry, old tortillas and other available ingredients. The entrée can take a number of forms, such as a soup with tortillas floating or a hearty casserole dish. The sauce used in this recipe can be made with tomatoes or tomatillos (green Mexican tomatoes with husk). In addition to tortilla strips, the sauce and cheese, the casserole can be layered with beans or tofu and/or rice. It is a humble dish with modest ingredients which can make a substantial part of a meal for a large group. Ideal for a pot luck or a picnic!

4 cups tomatoes. cut into chunks after boiling and removing skin as directed below (or 4 cups of canned tomatoes) 

2 tablespoons oil: corn, sunflower seed or olive oil

½ cup finely chopped onion

1 to 2 minced jalapeno peppers, after removing seeds and inner veins

3 tablespoons chopped cilantro

3 to 4 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon salt 

A few tablespoons of any type of cooking oil 

1 dozen corn tortillas (dry, not so fresh tortillas are the best)

1½ cups of crumbled firm tofu

2 cups plus a few tablespoons shredded Monterey Jack cheese, Mexican queso fresco or a vegan cheese substitute

Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish 

First, make the Mexican tomato sauce or Salsa Rosa. If using fresh tomatoes, place them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until their skins start to split. Then transfer them to a bowl of cold water and wait until they are cool enough to handle. Then, peel the tomatoes, cut them into small chunks and set them aside. (If using canned tomatoes,  you do not have to boil or skin them.)  Heat 2 tablespoon of oil in a pot and add onions and peppers. Stir fry them for 5 minutes and then add the tomatoes, water, cilantro and salt. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes breaking the lumps of tomatoes and adding a few more spoonsful of water to form them into a pourable sauce. Set the sauce aside.

Next, set the oven at 350 degrees to preheat.  

Spread a teaspoon of oil in a frying pan and lightly fry the tortillas, one at a time, turning them to soften on both sides. Do not allow the tortillas to become crispy. Add more oil as needed, but just enough to moisten the pan in order to cook the tortilla lightly. Remove to paper towels to drain any excess oil. Cut the tortillas into 1/2” wide strips and set them aside. 

Lightly oil the bottom of a 9×14-inch casserole pan. Line the bottom of the casserole with ½ cup of the tomato sauce. Cover the sauce with a layer of tortilla strips, reserving half of them. Cover the tortilla strips with ¾ cup of tofu crumbs and then sprinkle a cup of cheese (or the vegan cheese substitute) on top, spreading evenly. Then repeat the process with spreading a cup of sauce, rest of the tortilla strips, tofu and cheese.  Lastly, distribute more sauce on top and to cover the edges and any dry spots.  Sprinkle few tablespoons of cheese on top of the casserole. 

Cover chilaquiles casserole with a lid or an aluminum foil and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the casserole has solidified. Uncover and bake the chilaquiles for a few minutes more until the top is light golden brown, but do not overcook.  Cool for a few minutes, cut into squares, garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, and serve. 

Makes eight to ten servings.


© Recipe adopted from Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff’s “Cooking Together: A Vegetarian Co-op Cookbook”, Nimbarka Press, 2017.  Shanta is a Sunset District resident and the author of the cookbooks  “Cooking Together and “Flavors of India”, both available at Other Avenues Food Co-op on 3930 Judah Street in the Outer Sunset, at Green Apple Book Store in the Richmond District and Rainbow Grocery Co-op in the Mission.  Shanta creates and writes recipes and articles on food and nutrition.  She teaches vegetarian and vegan cooking classes.  Shanta also shares her recipes via videos on YouTube.  You can find these videos  by googling Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff’s YouTube videos. 

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