I have a dare for you today! This is not just any old run-of-the-playground affair, however. It is a double-dog Vegan Enchiladas dare!
Let’s take a recipe that we know, love, and have had many a delicious moment enjoying on this website and at Mexican restaurants around the country—enchiladas—and give them an entirely fresh twist.
Where many enchilada recipes score their signature comfort factor from creamy filling and cheese (Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, I’m looking at you with love) and their fill-you-up factor from meat, I wanted to challenge myself to come up with a recipe for vegan enchiladas that, while unquestionably cozy and satisfying, didn’t rely on either.
I’d had success taking enchiladas meat-free with these tasty Vegetarian Enchiladas and these Butternut Squash Spinach Enchiladas, so the next step in my continuing enchilada education (a program that I take quite seriously) was to go vegan.
Results: OUTSTANDING! Even Ben, who was highly skeptical, went back for seconds and requested a repeat the next night.
Whether or not you follow a vegan diet (I don’t, but I love any food, vegan or no, when it is as fresh and flavorful as these enchiladas), I hope you give this recipe a chance. These Vegan Enchiladas are filling, healthy, and will add yummy variety to your dinner routine. This recipe will surprise you in a very very good way.
Vegan Enchiladas—Expect the Unexpected
Let’s get this out of the way right now: these Vegan Enchiladas contain tofu.
HOLD IT RIGHT THERE. Before you knock the ’fu, stay a few more minutes so I can tell you why tofu is such a great choice for an enchilada filling. You’ll wonder why you haven’t been making Vegan Enchiladas all along.
On its own, tofu is bland, which, when you are cooking with flavors as bold as the ones in these Vegan Enchiladas, is a good thing! (The same is true with tempeh, which I used in this Tempeh Tacos recipe.)
A blank canvas means that we can infuse the tofu with any flavors we like. In the case of this recipe, that means a kick of cayenne pepper and jalapeno, turmeric for color, and garlic.
Tofu’s texture is also flexible. While you might be most familiar with it as crispy cubes that are added to stir-fry (the technique I cover in this Crispy Tofu tutorial), it can also be cooked to a softer texture that resembles a scramble, which is exactly how I made it for these Vegan Enchiladas (and these Tofu Tacos!).
To the tofu, I added black beans, spinach, and red bell pepper. It’s similar to a tofu scramble, and I loved it so much, I ended up squirreling some away for lunch the next day.
For the Vegan Enchiladas sauce, I opted for my favorite homemade red enchilada sauce. It takes just 15 minutes to prepare, and its intense, smoky chipotle flavor is the perfect way to infuse these Vegan Enchiladas with restaurant flavor.
If you prefer to make Vegan Enchiladas verde, you can follow this same recipe. Simply use the same amount of green enchilada sauce in place of the red sauce.
I was worried I’d miss the cheese in this recipe and that, if I didn’t, Ben definitely would.
The truth? We didn’t even notice!
Instead of cheese, we layered on fresh avocado. Combined with the tofu filling, it gave the Vegan Enchiladas all the richness we needed.
How to Store and Freeze
- To Store. These enchiladas taste their best the day they are made, BUT you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- To Freeze. Place leftovers in an airtight freezer-safe storage container and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw in the refrigerator, then reheat in a 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes or until warmed through. You can also bake them directly from frozen. To bake from frozen, I’d estimate 45 minutes to 1 hour in a 350 degree oven. Start the pan covered for the first 30 minutes, then uncover and continue baking until hot.
- To Make Ahead and Freeze. If you want to freeze the entire meal at once, it’s probably easiest to keep them in one big pan like a vegan enchiladas casserole and freeze them that way. Alternatively, you can portion the enchiladas into into individual containers and thaw only a few at a time as you need them.
More Tasty Vegan Recipes
- 1 pound firm tofu - drained, patted dry, and cut into chunks
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 medium jalapeno peppers - seeds and membranes removed, finely chopped
- 1 medium red bell pepper - cored, seeded, and diced
- 1 small yellow onion - (or 1/2 large onion) finely diced
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast - optional
- 1 can black beans - (15 ounces) rinsed and drained
- 1 packet frozen spinach - (10 ounces) thawed and pressed dry
- 20 ounces red enchilada sauce - (2 1/2 cups) plus additional if you like your enchiladas really saucy*
- 18 small corn tortillas - for larger enchiladas, you can use larger tortillas and fill them more generously
- For serving: your favorite mix of fresh cilantro - avocado, diced green or red onion, lime wedges, radishes, etc.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a large casserole dish with nonstick spray. Set aside.
- Prepare the enchilada filling: Place the tofu in a food processor and puree for several minutes until smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. Sprinkle in the salt, turmeric, black pepper, and cayenne. Pulse a few more times to mix well.
- Heat the 2 tablespoons oil in a deep skillet over medium. Once hot and shimmering, add the jalapeno, bell pepper, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften and begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tofu and nutritional yeast, if using, and continue cooking and stirring until the tofu is heated through and dries somewhat (it should look similar to scrambled eggs), about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans and thawed, pressed spinach. Stir, breaking up the spinach as you go. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
- Spoon a thin layer of the enchilada sauce into the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Wrap the tortillas in damp paper or cloth towel and microwave for 30 seconds to make them more pliable. Scoop a 1/4-cup portion of filling into each tortilla (or whatever amount you desire), roll tightly, and place seam-side down in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Spoon the remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the enchiladas. Lightly coat any exposed tortillas with a little nonstick spray or brush with olive oil so that they crisp nicely in the oven.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until the sauce is hot and bubbly and the tortillas are golden. Serve with desired toppings.
- *You can swap the homemade red enchilada sauce for the same amount of storebought canned mild or spicy red enchilada sauce.
- Depending upon the size of your dish, you made need to divide the enchiladas between two pans if you'd like to bake them all at once. You can also freeze the filling for up to 3 months, then thaw it for enchiladas later on. I also love eating the filling topped with avocado and salsa for a quick, healthy lunch.
- These enchiladas taste their best the day they are made, BUT you can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Let thaw in the refrigerator, then reheat in a 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes or until warmed through. You can also bake them directly from frozen. To bake from frozen, I'd estimate 45 minutes to 1 hour in a 350 degree oven. Start the pan covered for the first 30 minutes, then uncover and continue baking until hot.
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