So. My mom is of Mexican heritage. I grew up eating what we considered authentic Mexican food. My mom's specialties were homemade tortillas that she fried up into taco shells that we filled with seasoned ground beef, cheese, lettuce and homemade salsa. She served these with what she called sopa, which was simply thin flat pasta noodles simmered with stewed tomatoes and spices and homemade refried beans. I loved the stuff. Sometimes she’d do a big meal for extended family and she’d also make chicken in mole sauce. And enchiladas.
Mmmm...hot, saucy, cheesey enchiladas filled with beef, chicken, beans. Just so good.
As I got older and started dining out with friends and dates, I started to realize that “authentic” is not black and white. Different areas of any country have slightly different cuisine based on what crops and livestock are available and the economy of each area. My mom's parents and her family were poor. They had to learn to stretch their food dollars and the food knowledge was based on what they could afford.
The first time I saw an entree on a menu of tortillas filled with grilled shrimp and fish my thought was “this isn’t Mexican food!”
I am sooo glad I was wrong! Duh, in coastal regions, of course fresh seafood is used. Veggies in an enchilada?? You bet! I’ve even got an idea for a dessert enchilada...but I digress... maybe a breakfast enchilada with tofu and spinach...sorry...
So being plant-based (mostly), I’ve made a lot of meat-free enchiladas. But these are so far beyond any of those. Or any I’ve ever eaten. Ever.
Loaded with fresh veggies, black beans sweet corn and a crazy-good creamy cashew and sweet potato sauce on the inside and topped with a smoky, slightly spicy homemade enchilada sauce and served with some cilantro tomato rice, who needs a restaurant??? I will confess I did decide to add some shredded cheese on top because I just don't consider them enchiladas without it and vegan cheese is pretty awful in my opinion. You can certainly use whatever cheese substitute you might like or skip it, whatever you feel good about!
This recipe is a bit labor-intensive, a bit time consuming, bordering on fussy. But the result is absolutely worth every second!
Best Ever Veggie Enchiladas (Prep Time: 1 hour Cook time: 35-40 minutes Yield: 16 Enchiladas plus about 1/2 cups extra filling*)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 roasted red pepper, from a jar
2 cans tomato sauce (8 ounces each)*
2-3 Tbs. chili powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. coriander
3/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Cashew-Sweet Potato Sauce:
1 cup cashews (soaked at least two hours, drained and rinsed)
1 medium sweet potato, finely chopped and cooked until tender
1 can mild green chiles (7 ounces)*
1 loosely packed cup fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. coriander
3/4 tsp. fine grain sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper to taste
1 medium zucchini, coursely chopped and processed into small crumb
3 heaping cups torn kale leaves (or spinach), processed to small crumb
2 cups cooked black beans
1/2 cup frozen sweet corn kernels, defrosted
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)*
2 Tbs. ground flax seed (optional, helps keep the filling thick)
3/4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Dash of coriander
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper to taste
Whole Wheat tortillas (or your favorite tortilla**)
Shredded Cheese (optional)
Optional toppings: Diced fresh tomato, cilantro, salsa, avacado
1. First, make the enchilada sauce. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion for 2-3 minutes then add the garlic and saute an additional 4-5 minutes until the onion is translucent and very soft. Use 3 Tbs. of the onion mixture for sauce and put the rest into the veggie filling.
2. Put the 3 Tbs. of onion mixture along with the rest of the enchilada sauce ingredients into a high speed blender and blend until completely smooth.
3. Peel and coursely chop the sweet potato, then place into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Put into a medium sauce pan and cover with with water. Bring to a boil over medium heat then simmer 2-3 minutes until soft.
4. Drain the sweet potato and put into a high speed blender along with all the rest of the Cashew Sweet Potato Sauce ingredients. Blend until very smooth, then refrigerate to thicken up a bit.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.Lightly oil or spray a large baking dish or two small ones with no-stick cooking spray. Coursely chop the zucchini and process into a fine crumb-like texture. Process the kale to the same consistency. Place the zucchini and kale into a large mixing bowl. Add the remaining filling ingredients (don't forget the remaining onion and garlic from the enchilada sauce step!) and mix well. Add the cashew sweet potato cream and mix well, making sure to get it well-incorporated.
6. Assemble the enchiladas. Spread a little sauce over the bottom of the baking dish(es). Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup near the edge of each tortilla, then carefully begin rolling up, tucking in the ends. Place in baking dish(es) and cover evenly with remainig sauce. Top with cheese, if using. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake an additional 15-20 minutes until cheese (if using) is bubbly and golden brown. If not using cheese leave the foil on and bake a total of 30 minutes, just long enough to heat everything through. Serve with diced tomato, cilantro, salsa and avacado if desired, with a side of tomato cilantro rice.Leftovers will keep in fridge for up to 4 days or you can wrap each enchilada in plastic wrap then seal in a freezer bag and keep in freezer for up to a month. Defrost in the fridge and reheat covered, in a 350 degree oven or the microwave.
*Conventional canned goods usually come in cans coated with BPA, which is not goo for you! When using canned items, buy organic as often as possible.
**Corn tortillas are not recommended as they can be a bit dry and fragile. Sprouted grain tortillas can have the same issue, so I highly recommend either whole wheat or traditional flour tortillas.