Shredded beef enchiladas are an incredibly flavorful way to make dinner exciting again. Chuck roast gets the full treatment, complete with a lush sauce, corn tortillas, and cheese–so much cheese–that you might even start celebrating enchilada Tuesday instead.
The first time I had shredded beef enchiladas, I was surprised. I was very young, and the shredded beef tucked into the corn tortillas was a shock to me. Until then, the only beef enchiladas I’d seen were stuffed with ground beef. The long strands of beef in this particular plate of enchiladas presented itself as a challenge, as the meat definitely had more chew than pebbly ground beef. Yet it was still tender, and because the beef had more body, it carried more flavor. While at first I was wary, as I ate my enchiladas, I decided that these were beef enchiladas for grown-ups. Since I was eight years old at the time, it made me feel more grown-up, too.–Lisa Fain
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CAN I MAKE BEEF ENCHILADAS AHEAD OF TIME?
Enchiladas are a great make-ahead dish. Braise the beef and make the sauce on one day, then assemble and bake the next day as our testers did. You could even assemble the enchiladas ahead of time and bake them straight from the fridge. Add 10-15 more minutes to the baking time and start the dish covered with foil if the ingredients are cold.
Shredded Beef Enchiladas
For the shredded beef
- 2 pounds well-marbled chuck roast cut into 2 equal pieces
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon bacon drippings, lard, or vegetable oil
- 1 largish yellow onion chopped (about 2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1/2 cup brewed coffee
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup water
For the sauce
- 1 cup cold water
- 2 dried pasilla chiles rehydrated, drained, stemmed, and seeded
- 2 dried ancho chiles rehydrated, drained, stemmed, and seeded
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons masa harina (or substitute all-purpose flour)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch ground allspice
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the enchiladas
- Unsalted butter for the pan
- 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil (optional)
- 12 corn tortillas (about 5 inches or 13 cm)
- 2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
- 1/4 yellow onion diced (about 1/2 cup)
Make the shredded beef
- Preheat the oven to 275°F (135°C).
- Sprinkle the roast with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat the bacon drippings, lard, or vegetable oil over medium heat, add the meat, and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes per side.
- Transfer the roast to a plate and keep the pot over medium-low heat. Toss the onion in the pot and cook, occasionally stirring, until the onion begins to brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Return the roast to the pot along with the coffee, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, chipotle chiles, cumin, cinnamon, and water. (The meat won’t be completely covered, but don’t worry; the roast will produce plenty of liquid as it cooks.)
- Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and place it in the oven. Cook the roast, covered, for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, or until the roast practically falls apart when you prod it with a fork. (Be careful of escaping steam when removing the lid.)
- Remove the roast beef from the pot, leaving the cooking liquid in the pot to cool, and plonk it on a cutting board. Using 2 forks, shred the meat into long strands. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Make the sauce
- Pour the cooking liquid and the onions, garlic, and chipotle chiles in the pot into a blender or food processor. Add the water and the rehydrated pasilla and ancho chiles and blend until smooth, about 1 minute.
- In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the masa harina or flour, whisking constantly, until it’s well incorporated and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour the mixture from the blender into the pot, stirring until it’s well combined. Stir in the cumin, oregano, and allspice, and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is smooth and the flavors are balanced. Taste and adjust the seasonings if desired.
Make the enchiladas
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Lightly butter a large baking dish (a 9-by-13-inch baking dish works well).
- Heat a medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add the lard or oil, if desired. One at a time, heat the tortillas, flipping once, until soft and pliant. Keep the tortillas wrapped in a clean cloth until all the tortillas are heated.
- Toss the shredded beef with 2 tablespoons sauce. Place a tortilla on a plate and add about 1/4 cup shredded beef. Roll the tortilla and place in the buttered baking dish, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and shredded beef. (You may have some shredded beef left over. It’s ridiculously awesome with eggs in the morning.)
- Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and top with the grated cheese and diced onion. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned and bubbling. Dig in immediately.
LC’s “Good for Kids, Too” noteBased on what author—and Homesick Texan—Lisa Fain said, we’re thinking this shredded beef enchiladas recipe isn’t only for grown-ups. So while there’s nothing at all wrong with ground beef tacos, there’s also nothing wrong with expecting your kids to ask for seconds of these shredded beef enchiladas. Because when it comes to kids and food, we subscribe to a nondiscriminatory approach in terms of age appeal. It’ll do you—as well as any kids at the table—well. Who knows? You may surprise one another.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
While these shredded beef enchiladas aren’t a quick meal to put together, it’s worth the time. I prepared this recipe over the course of 2 days.
The first day I cooked the meat. Thinking I should go all out for this recipe, I cooked up a couple of slices of bacon and browned the beef in the drippings. Measuring out my chopped onion came to 1 3/4 cups. Cooking the onions over medium heat in the same pan the beef was seared in resulted in tender onions, browned by what was left in the pan. The cooking time of 3 1/2 hours was perfect. The meat was fork-tender and pulled apart quickly and with ease. Because I did this portion of the recipe the day before, I could place the cooking liquid in the refrigerator overnight, which allowed the fat to solidify, which made for easy fat removal. The sauce comes together quite well. I used all-purpose flour in place of masa harina. The blender method is a great way to get a fully mixed sauce. It took about 20 minutes total from start to finish.
For the enchiladas, I began by adding one tablespoon of the oil to a pan. Once warmed, I placed a tortilla in the hot oil. The tortilla soaked up all the oil and was super greasy, and not useful. I decided to disregard trying to do all 12 tortillas in one tablespoon of oil. Instead, I sprayed each side of a tortilla with oil and warmed them on each side for about 20 to 30 seconds per side. The tortillas were warm, pliable, and absolutely no problem to fill and roll.
There was about 1 cup of meat leftover, and I’m thinking about making a breakfast scramble with it. Baking the constructed enchiladas took 20 minutes. They were delicious. The flavor of the pepper came through but wasn’t overwhelming. I completely forgot the onions on top, but the dish was still beautiful and tasted fantastic. Next time, I think I’ll add the cumin, oregano, and allspice for the sauce with the rest of the ingredients before I blend it. Adding them separately seemed like a waste of time.
This shredded beef enchiladas recipe is time-consuming and requires lots of ingredients, but it’s worth it! The making of it could be broken up into 2 days, I think, which would make it easier.
I used bacon drippings to brown the meat. I had about 1 cup of onions and would probably double that next time. 3 hours gave me perfectly cooked beef that was falling apart. For the sauce, the chiles were reluctant to soften—one of each kind remained pretty firm, even after 3 hours! I used masa harina in the sauce and didn’t find the sauce gritty at all.
My tortillas were about 5 inches in diameter. I used oil to soften them and needed quite a bit more. I lined them up on a paper towel-covered baking sheet, which gave me an assembly line of sorts when I filled and rolled them. I had about 1/2 cup shredded beef leftover and added that to the sauce. The amount of sauce was generous, and I used all of it.
I did bake the enchiladas longer than the recipe instructed—20 minutes covered and 20 minutes uncovered—until the cheese was melted with tiny flecks of brown. Perfect! 2 enchiladas per person was a perfect portion size. We were afraid this might be too spicy for one of us, but the verdict was that it was a little spicy, but we loved it!
I just knew I had to make this beef enchiladas recipe when I saw it. All of the components looked so richly flavored that I knew it would be worth the effort. The braising liquid from the beef puréed into a gorgeous silky, spicy sauce, the color of which is amazing—like ruby and cocoa at the same time. The addition of the other 2 chiles just increased the depth of the overall dish.
The shredded braised beef definitely upped the ante and made this an extravagant meal. Due to its richness, I think one could get about 6 servings out of this with sides. Because I happened to have it on hand and never have an excuse to use it, I used lard to cook the onion and garlic for the braise. Over medium-low heat, the onion picked up all of the wonderful bits from the seared beef and browned a little over the course of 15 minutes.
Prior to the braise, I increased the heat on my stove to medium-high in order to get a really good sear on all sides of the roast. I wanted tons of color to flavor the braise, and it took upwards of 20 minutes total to get the amount of sear needed. I used all-purpose flour to thicken the sauce, as I didn’t want to buy an ingredient for 2 tablespoons, although the masa harina would have made the sauce a bit more authentic.
I was surprised at how well the sauce thickened into this amazingly smoky, rich sauce after only 5 minutes. The chipotles gave it heat and the ancho and pasillas provided depth. My corn tortillas were the typically small size (roughly 5 1/2 inches in diameter). I had to use 13 tortillas to use up all the beef and fill the whole 9-by-13-inch pan. I opted not to fry the tortillas in grease to soften them as the sauce looked greasy enough, I simply softened them over the open flame of my stove until they were pliable and it worked perfectly. I used sharp white Cheddar for the top of the enchiladas.
The enchiladas were in the oven for about 25 to 30 minutes before the cheese started to color a bit and everything looked done. I found that when serving these, the addition of something cooling (Greek yogurt, sour cream, crème fraîche, crema, etc.) helped to balance some of the smoke and spice of the sauce.
I wish that I had mixed a bit more of the sauce in with the beef prior to assembling the enchiladas because I felt like the flavor of the beef fell a little flat next to the sauce. Maybe I would toss a bit of the braising liquid with the beef before adding the rest to the blender next time. I finished this with some cilantro for color and freshness. What a delightful dish. It is so exciting to produce something with SO much flavor.
In the end, we were pleasantly surprised with the results of these shredded beef enchiladas. I used bacon drippings to brown my meat. I questioned adding the whole cup of water to the sauce mixture before the roast went into the oven, as I didn’t want the sauce to get too diluted. After 3 hours of cooking, the meat was very tender and shredded easily. On its own, the meat didn’t have as much flavor as I would have liked.
When making the sauce, I tested the mixture in the blender before I added any additional liquid to it. I also tasted the liquid that the chiles had soaked in. That “chile water” wasn’t at all bitter. I added 1/2 cup of that to the blender and tasted it again. I liked what I tasted and left it at that. We were very pleased with the flavor components of that sauce. It was complex, with almost a mole character to it.
I had to go to 3 different stores to find both types of dried chiles, but they’re an important component of this dish, and I suggest that you seek them out. I used a package of a dozen 6-inch corn tortillas to make the enchiladas. If you can get someone to give you a hand, you can put this dish together easily with an assembly-line setup. My “sous chef” put the tortillas into the hot oil for me. When they came out, I blotted each one with paper towels, put on 1/4 cup meat, rolled it up, and put it seam side down in a Pyrex dish. By that point, the next tortilla was ready for me.
I did spoon some sauce onto some of the tortillas before adding the meat. I’m not sure if that made a difference in the finished product since you get a forkful of everything into your mouth. I did have some meat leftover after assembling all 12 enchiladas, and I tucked that around the enchiladas before topping them with the sauce and cheese.
I gave the enchiladas an extra 5 minutes in the oven, keeping the casserole dish in there for a total of 20 minutes to achieve lightly browned and bubbling cheese. I served this with green rice and a hearty aged Zinfandel. I made some refried black beans to go with the leftovers. We ended up enjoying this dish quite a bit, and I can see making it again, perhaps seasoning the meat itself a bit more the next time.
Originally published October 13, 2014