Start your day with Chilaquiles Verdes, a classic Mexican breakfast featuring corn tortilla chips smothered in homemade salsa verde (tomatillo sauce) and other ingredientes deliciosos.
Forget dry toast or bowls of cereal, let’s start the day with some flavour! Check out these fabulous Grilled Steak and Egg Tacos with a zesty Aji Verde or these bright and cheery Cuban style Huevos Habaneros for your next breakfast or brunch.
There is nothing easier than a bowl of warm chilaquiles with tomatillo sauce aka salsa verde for breakfast or brunch. This dish is the perfect way to make use of yesterday’s tortillas and leftover salsa. You know how much I love repurposing leftovers!
This chilaquiles verdes recipe features a simple 15 minute tomatillo salsa, or salsa verde and traditional toppings that make this dish sing. We love digging into a bowl of warm saucy tortilla chips; it’s a spicy beginning to the day!
Additionally, it’s so easy to adjust the spice level to your own personal preference. Simply decrease the amount of serrano peppers you use or switch to a less spicy pepper variety such as jalapeno.
What are Chilaquiles?
Chilaquiles is a popular Mexican breakfast or brunch dish of day old corn tortillas/tortilla chips mixed with either salsa verde or salsa roja. Topping and styles vary according to region and personal preference.
Historically this dish arose in the Mexican region hundreds of years ago in the maize based Mesoamerican Aztec culture. In fact ‘chilaquiles’ comes from the Nahuatl language (spoken by the Aztecs) and translates as ‘chilis and greens’.
It’s highly likely that chilaquiles verdes is closest to the original Aztec version, though more native herbs such as epazote are likely to have been used.
Today Mexican cuisine still contains Mesoamerican ingredient staples with roots extending to Aztec culture. Chocolate, tomato, chili, avocado, tamile, taco, pupusa, chipotle, pozole, and atole are all Nahuatl words for food currently enjoyed in Mexico and around the world.
- serrano peppers
- salt and pepper
- vegetable or olive oil
- corn tortillas or tortilla chips
- sour cream, crème fraîche, or crema Mexicana
- cotija cheese or queso fresco
- purple onions
Tomatillos (also called Mexican Husk Tomatoes) look like little green tomatoes all wrapped up in a papery jacket or husk. They are quite tart and fresh in flavour with a little bit of citrus thrown in.
Tomatillos can be eaten raw but are most often eaten cooked or even charred like in this Grilled Salsa Verde Guacamole.
Serrano Peppers pack a fair amount of heat, in fact they can be 5-9 times hotter than a jalapeno and it’s not always easy to tell them apart. Usually the only visible difference is that Serrano peppers are smaller in size (only 1-2 inches).
Both peppers are sold as green peppers, though serranos can also be yellow, orange, red, and even brown depending on ripeness. Green jalapenos (not red) could be substituted for the serranos in this recipe.
Use leftover (dried) corn tortillas, homemade, or crispy store bought tortilla chips. It really is up to you and what texture your prefer.
What you choose to top your chilaquiles with is up to you. Use the suggested toppings of sour cream, cotija cheese, purple onions, cilantro, and avocado as a baseline and build from there.
How to Make Salsa Verde for Chilaquiles
The first step to making great chilaquiles verde is nailing the salsa verde. This simple recipe consists of fresh whole tomatillos, serrano peppers, salt and pepper. That’s it. Plus, it only takes 15 minutes.
Place the peeled whole tomatillos and de-stemmed serrano peppers in a saucepan. Cover them with water and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat and simmer them for ten minutes.
Remove the tomatillos and peppers from the liquid using a slotted spoon. Reserve the liquid. Place tomatillos, peppers, garlic, diced onions, chopped cilantro (stems included) in a blender pitcher. Add two cups of the reserved liquid and process the sauce until it is a smooth purée.
The garlic and onions are still quite raw so the fresh salsa verde needs to be reduced in a pan. Add 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, then pour in the sauce. Cook the salsa verde on medium heat for five minutes.
This is a recipe that needs tasting and seasoning according to your own preference. If you prefer more citrus, add lime juice. More acid…add a splash of white vinegar. Finally, season it with salt and pepper. Their flavours are universal.
I was pretty surprised it was that easy. My cousin is married to a Mexican and learned many recipes from his Abuela. I’m thrilled she is willing to share some of these precious recipes with me. I’m even more excited to share she is opening a taco stand this summer!
Assembling the Chilaquiles Verdes
Now that the lovely warm salsa verde is ready we can assemble a bowl of chilaquiles verdes. Arrange the tortilla chips in a bowl and pour the salsa verde. The trick is to add just enough liquid to soften the tortilla chips, but not enough so that they are soggy and limp.
NOTE: Using crispy fried tortillas is a personal preference. There are some recipes that call for dried soft tortillas and result in a dish that is softer in texture.
Next, sprinkle the toppings over the entire bowl, adding as many or as little as you like. Finish the dish with a squirt of fresh lime juice and enjoy!
Add Some Extra Toppings
This is a very basic version of this much loved dish and there are so many ways to change it up!
- make it vegan – skip the sour cream/crema and cotija cheese and add stewed frijoles negros (black beans) and avocado.
- Add an egg and/or black beans and sliced avocado for a vegetarian version.
- using corn tortilla chips makes this dish gluten free.
- up the protein by adding cooked chicken (con pollo), thinly grilled steak, pulled meat, shrimp, or pork adobado.
- change the sauce and make it chilaquiles rojos.
- if you can find it, garnish with a bit of chopped epazote (green herb similar in taste to mild anise) for a more authentic flavour.
Chilaquiles variations occur between regions of Mexico. For example, the crispy tortilla version I have shared today can be found mostly in central Mexico. A softer version, simmered in cazuelas until it resembles polenta, is served in the Guadalajara region while cream is used in addition to the salsa in Sinaloa. (amigofoods.com)
The Mexican tradition of repurposing leftovers into chilaquiles results in varied flavour combinations which reflect regional Mexican cuisine. There are so many tasty options.
- pollo – with chicken either shredded or tinga style.
- huevo – with a fried egg, not scrambled as it is in Migas
- nopales – with cooked prickly pear cactus stems
- carne – with meat
- carne asada – with leftover carne asada, similar to con bistec
- cameron – with shrimp
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