The Mexican dish chilaquiles (pronounced chee-luh-KEE-less) is a quick, satisfying breakfast made from leftover tortillas. Every cook makes chilaquiles differently.

Sometimes it’s lightly fried strips of day-old tortilla, mixed with a spicy tomato salsa and served as an accompaniment to fried eggs. Other versions are long simmered and quite saucy, and some add meat, usually shredded chicken. My go-to variation is more like a cross between a stir-fry and scrambled eggs.–David Tanis

Chilaquiles FAQs

Where did chilaquiles come from?

Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican dish originating in Aztec culture centuries ago. The name is derived from an Aztec Nahuatl word that meant “chilis and greens.”

Chilaquiles are a very common meal for Mexican families to this day and are said to have been first brought to America in 1898 in a cookbook titled “The Spanish Cook”. This was the first cookbook in the United States to have been written by a Hispanic person. The book also contains the first recorded recipes of ‘Californio food’, which was Mexican cuisine made by the Spanish-speaking peoples born in California, and a peek into the daily lives of a long-ago culture that still has a very significant influence on our food today.

What if I don’t have tortillas?

No problem. A handful of store bought tortilla chips will work just as well.

What’s the difference between chilaquiles rojos and chilaquiles verdes?

The main difference is the type of sauce or salsa used. Chilaquiles rojos uses a red salsa or enchilada sauce, while chilaquiles verdes is made with a green tomatillo salsa.

A cast-iron skillet filled with chilaquiles on a wooden cutting board with a block of queso fresco and half a jalapeno beside it.

Chilaquiles

5 / 4 votes
These chilaquiles are a quick, authentic, and very satisfying Mexican breakfast, made with day-old tortillas, eggs, and cheese.
David Leite
CourseBreakfast
CuisineMexican
Servings1 servings
Calories451 kcal
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time25 minutes

Ingredients 

  • Mild vegetable oil or lard
  • 4 day-old corn tortillas, cut into strips
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 big handful of chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped, or more, to taste
  • Red or green salsa, if desired
  • 2 large eggs
  • A little crumbled queso fresco

Instructions 

  • Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add enough vegetable oil or lard to generously coat the bottom of the skillet.
  • Add the tortilla strips and an ample pinch of salt, and stir to coat. The tortilla strips will first wilt, then crisp, which is exactly what you want. Taste one and, if desired, add more salt.
  • Throw in a big handful of cilantro, scallions, and chopped jalapeños, and stir them around. Add a spoonful of red or green salsa if you like. Now add the beaten eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper. Mix and stir the eggs with the tortillas until the eggs are set.
  • Sprinkle the chilaquiles with a little crumbled queso fresco. Serve straight from the skillet, if desired.
Heart of the Artichoke

Adapted From

Heart of the Artichoke

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 451 kcalCarbohydrates: 50 gProtein: 23 gFat: 18 gSaturated Fat: 7 gMonounsaturated Fat: 6 gTrans Fat: 0.2 gCholesterol: 389 mgSodium: 376 mgFiber: 7 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe © 2010 David Tanis. Photo © 2010 Christopher Hirsheimer. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Sometimes breakfast just tastes better at dinner. This is one of those recipes, although it’s really not a recipe, as it is a matter of improv steps.

I used corn tortilla chips and tossed them with the vegetable oil till they were crisp. The rest of the ingredients go in easily and the whole dish comes together fast. I did use a spoonful of red salsa. I also topped the eggs with extra chopped cilantro and avocado.

Chilaquiles, where have you been all my life? What an easy and satisfying dish! It’s almost like the Mexican version of fried rice, and it’s easy to see how each cook has their own version.

Even this recipe allows a lot of room for interpretation. For example, is it just two tortillas? What size? How thick do I cut the strips? I used two taco-sized corn tortillas cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. That worked perfectly for me.

The salsa made the strips get soggy after I had worked so hard to crisp them up, so in the future I will find another way to incorporate the salsa.

This is my favorite kind of recipe, more of a gentle reminder that the ingredients you already have in your refrigerator and pantry might taste well together. And they did! The eggs were a perfect backdrop for the crispy, chewy tortillas, the bite of jalapeños, and the tang of cheese (I used feta because it’s what I had–not sure if it was a suitable substitute, but it tasted great).

The only real change I made was to use only one six-inch corn tortilla for 2 eggs, instead of the 4 called for in the recipe. This was the perfect ratio of tortilla to eggs, in my opinion, and an appropriate serving size for one person, especially if that person doesn’t want to use up her RDA of carbs for the day in one sitting. Also, I have an adventurous stomach and a willing palate, but this was a bit much for breakfast at 7 a.m. Next time, I’ll save this dish for brunch, lunch, or even a light supper.

What a wonderful use for those corn tortillas I always seem to have left over in the fridge. I have David Tanis’ wonderful book, Heart of An Artichoke, and had made this one before. At the time I didn’t have queso fresco, so I used a Mexican cheese blend. It was very good that way but even better this time since I had the queso fresco. I made it once with cilantro and once without. I like it both ways; hubby doesn’t like his with since he has that gene that makes cilantro taste soapy. Delicious!

Using “chips” for breakfast certainly gets the kids interested and turns out a pretty tasty dish that takes about 4 minutes to cook. I would definitely suggest the use of salsa; without it, the chilaquiles are a little dry. It is a great starter recipe that has little chance of failure.

It’s a great starter recipe that has little chance of failure. It turns out a pretty tasty dish that takes about 4 minutes to cook.

This was a great savory way to start the weekend. I liked it so much I made another one the next day.

I had some corn tortillas hanging out in the fridge (not quite 4 days old) that I cut into strips. I also had a couple of Mexican chorizo sausages left over. I took the casing off one of the sausages and cooked it in the oil until almost done. Then I added the onion and cooked it until the onion was soft. And I added the tortilla strips and waited to see what would happen. I was amazed to see the strips wilt and then miraculously crisp up, just as written. I then lightly scrambled the eggs and added them and the chopped cilantro to the pan. When the eggs were almost set, I spooned the salsa over top and crumbled a little cheese over top.

It was a taste delight with crunch from the tortilla strips and spiciness from the salsa and sausage. I would highly recommend this for a weekend breakfast or weeknight dinner.

The only hesitation I had in awarding this recipe a TC designation, is that it’s hardly a recipe at all, but rather more of a general description of how the dish should be thrown together. Folks who like highly detailed recipes may balk at this one, but I found the author’s description of the dish and cooking method perfectly adequate. I urge you all to throw off the shackles and not worry about teaspoons of this or tablespoons of that. No worries here about a chop, dice, or mince…prep as you like, chuck it all in a pan, and let it rip!

I made a double batch to feed 2 for dinner and included 4 eggs, 5 sprigs of cilantro, 2 chopped scallions, 1 diced shallot, 1 diced jalapeño, 4 corn tortillas, 2 spoonfuls of red salsa, and about 1/4 cup queso fresco. I’ll be honest, this is not the prettiest dish you’ll ever eat. In fact, you’ve heard the phrase “a face only a mother could love”? I think it may have been coined to describe this dish. The salsa in particular renders the eggs a rather unnatural and unappealing color. But the flavor? It’s addictive.

I’m glad I only cooked 4 eggs for the 2 of us because had I cooked 6, we would have eaten them. The varied textures and flavors of the crispy tortilla strips, the slightly crunchy onions and pepper, and the softly curdled egg were perfection. The finish of a sprinkling of queso and a few fresh cilantro leaves made this a dish that we devoured in record time. I’ll never look at leftover tortillas the same way again. Bravo!

I used corn tortillas rather than chips. It did not take that much longer to make. I put out several types of salsa on the table so that everyone could choose what they liked. Overall the dish was very good. It needed the salsa to ease the dryness and add a little oomph.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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30 Comments

  1. I lived in Mexico for a number of years, married to a Mexican. We would make these with left over tortillas. There we would spread out the tortillas till they were dry: here I would bake them. They are amazing to use up left overs or vegetables. In reality they are like natchos baked, or like enchiladas:not rolled. When using tortillas for enchiladas or for chilaquiles, you need to lightly fry the tortillas or they will become like porridge when the salsa is put on top and then baked. For additions try black olives, corn nibblets, chicken, fish etc. The version with eggs it more like Huevos Rancheros. I cut the tortillas in rectangles, in otherwords, break the tortillas diagonally several times.

    1. Caty, such great ideas to change up this dish. Thanks for all the tips.

  2. I did not know this was actually a “real” dish with a name: chilaquiles. My husband introduced this dish to me over 25 years ago. He is a 3rd generation farmer (another story) and his employees would cook the tortillas and eggs on their shovels out in the fields. We make this dish often in a regular frying pan, crisping up the (fresh or days old) corn tortillas first, throwing in whatever meat we have leftover, mixing in the eggs, spices/seasonings, and always using one or two types of cheese (cheddar, Pepper Jack, etc.) at the end. And we don’t just make this dish for breakfast — this is our quick go-to meal when we want something fast, easy and simple (with an emphasis on simple). Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome, Evelyn. I have images of chilaquiles on shovels. So not the way I grew up in Iowa! (If only…) And we concur, it’s a lovely little something for whenever the situation demands, and not just the a.m.

  3. I have been making a version of this for years with leftover chips, eggs, salsa, etc., and didn’t have a name for it. It is a good meal to use leftovers.

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Lynda! I find it’s a particularly inspired use for the tortilla chip crumbs left at the bottom of the bag…