Food On The Hill: Sauced Burritos

A pan of sauced burritos after baking. Photo by Felicia Orth

Sauced Burritos

This is another of my “best intentions” recipes; I set out to make chicken enchiladas and wound up with chicken and vegetable burritos drenched in enchilada sauce. The homemade red chile (chile colorado) sauce is the only critical element of the dish; everything else can be changed or made simpler by shortcut. Do not be tempted to save time by using canned enchilada sauce; this homemade sauce can be made quickly with items typically found in a New Mexican pantry and it is well worth the effort. If you have the sauce already made, and the chicken already cooked, the burritos can be assembled and baked in less than 30 minutes.

My first New Mexico Cookbook. Photo by Felicia Orth

The sauce is a variation on an adaptable red chile sauce from “The Feast of Santa Fe,” by Huntley Dent. Law school friend Martha Brown, who had moved to New Mexico three years before we did, made a present of the book shortly after we arrived in Santa Fe in 1986. It is one of the most educational and lyrically written cookbooks I own, nearly equal parts Southwestern history and thoughtfully presented recipes.

As part of the section on tortillas, for example, he explains why flour tortillas (tortillas de harina) are so common in New Mexico, notwithstanding the Native American’s historical reliance on cornmeal:  from the northern Mexico state of Sonora, wheat flour tortillas migrated north throughout the American Southwest. “By the middle of the 1800s, wheat from the Taos area was abundant and cheap enough so that wheat-based whiskey and flour tortillas, to name two high-demand commodities, were common around Santa Fe, and within a few decades the Pueblos were eschewing corn tortillas as a matter of course.”

The burritos are good with a simple green salad. I also set out bowls of pico de gallo, sliced avocado and extra cheese for those who wish it.

Chile bean mushroom filling. Photo by Felicia Orth

Enchilada Sauce

Pantry items needed:  oil, flour, chile powder, spices, stock

Heat 4 tablespoons vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 4 tablespoons flour (all-purpose, whole wheat or gluten-free) and stir with a whisk for one minute. Add 8 tablespoons New Mexican chile powder (not cayenne), and a teaspoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, ground cumin, dried oregano and salt. Whisking constantly, add 4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock, pouring slowly to avoid lumps. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce is quite fragrant and naps a spoon heavily. Allow to cool if using immediately, or refrigerate for later use.

Makes approximately 4 cups. Keeps well in a closed container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Burritos for Eight

Enchilada sauce. Photo by Felicia Orth

A batch of enchilada sauce

  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 12 ounces green chile, chopped
  • 15 ounce can of beans (white, black or pinto)
  • 2 pounds chicken, either already cooked and shredded, or raw and cut into very small pieces
  • 8 tortillas (I use the whole grain tortillas)
  • 1-2 cups shredded cheese (I use cheddar, Colby, or parmesan)

In a large saucepan, sauté the onion over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant. If using raw chicken add it and sauté for 8-10 minutes, until thoroughly cooked. Add the mushrooms, chile and beans, and continue sautéing a few minutes more until the mushrooms are no longer raw and the mixture is warm. If using chicken that is already cooked, add it with the mushrooms, chile and beans.

Arrange the enchilada sauce, tortillas, chicken and vegetable mixture and cheese near a large baking pan, 9 x 13. Working reasonably quickly to avoid having the tortillas fall apart (and because this part is messy), dip a tortilla in the enchilada sauce (or use a ladle) so that the tortilla has been fully covered, and lay it in the pan. 

Spoon 1/8 of the chicken and vegetable mixture down the middle, add a bit of cheese, and roll up the burrito, leaving it seam-side down in the pan. Repeat for each burrito. Spoon extra sauce on top of the burritos to assure that no part of the tortilla is exposed, and sprinkle more cheese on top of the sauce. Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling around the edges of the pan. Garnish with cilantro or parsley; serve with pico de gallo and sliced avocado.

Felicia Orth is a local home cook. She can be reached at