07 June 2010

lentil enchiladas with homemade ancho chile sauce

lentil filled enchiladas with homemade ancho chile sauce

Next up for the lentil challenge is a really tasty recipe for lentil enchiladas. The premise of this recipe came from when my mom made chimichangas (I don't care what Summer says, I could eat them year round) filled with lentils, cooked similarly to that of refried beans. The taste was light and less heavy than with meat, and it makes a great alternate option in case you happen to be out of the refried beans.

lentil filled enchiladas with homemade ancho chile sauce

To up the authenticity factor, I decided to go ahead and make up my own ancho chile sauce following the basic technique you will find in many cookbooks. This consists of preparing the dried ancho chiles by removing the stems and seeds, briefly cooking them over a hot, dry cast iron skillet, then soaking them in boiling water until soft.

lentil filled enchiladas with homemade ancho chile sauce

You then puree the chiles with a portion of the soaking liquid and regular water with some spices, press the mixture through a sieve to finish with a smooth, but still thick sauce, and heat briefly in a pot with a few more ingredients. A bit more intensive than the sauce I last posted about, though the results are worth it. Also, both the sauce and the lentils can be prepared a few days in advance, if needed.

lentil filled enchiladas with homemade ancho chile sauce

For this recipe I chose to go with the skinless yellow lentil (it almost looked pink to me, but cooked up yellowish), supplied by the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council for the contest, because they intentionally cook up softer than brown lentils (which you would have to overcook to reach the consistency needed -- you still can do that and it works perfectly, but pink lentils, if available, cook quicker). You don't want a complete mush. Rather, the lentils should be beginning to break down and the consistency overall will resemble refried beans.

I cooked the lentils simply with chopped onion and garlic, then added a packet of Goya seasoning (which you can find in the Mexican section of the "ethnic foods" aisle of the grocery store) and a bit of salt. The lentils lose their pinkness when cooked, so the Goya helps to bring out the yellow color.

To prepare the enchiladas, warmed flour tortillas are dolloped with the lentils and some Mexican blend shredded cheese, then warmed up tightly (think Cuban cigar-crepe episode of Seinfeld, but back off a bit).

lentil filled enchiladas with homemade ancho chile sauce

The sauce is ladled on top of the enchiladas as well as cheese to bake in as the dish cooks. After a bit, I took it out and dolloped yogurt on top along with extra chopped onion and chopped cilantro. Bake for a few minutes longer, then remove from the oven to rest a bit before serving.

lentil filled enchiladas with homemade ancho chile sauce

This was a really wonderful dish. The lentils were great and added a light, neutral flavor to the enchiladas, and the chile sauce tasted like what you'd expect at an authentic Mexican restaurant. The amount of sauce made ensures that there's some that doesn't completely soak into the tortillas, perfect for lading on top of rice. The cilantro and onions gave the dish a nice flavor contrast, and the yogurt helped cool the sauce (which was a bit spicy, but not so much once it baked) down a little. So if you're looking for a vegetarian enchilada recipe, or just a different variation, try using lentils as the filling. You might even fool tricky eaters since the filling resembles gooey cheddar cheese!

Recipe after the jump

This recipe was created as part of my involvement with the USA Dried Peas & Lentils Recipe Rivalry. I'll be blogging about lentil recipes over the next two weeks.

1. Lentils with Jalapeno, Cilantro, and Queso Fresco
2. Lentil Olive Salad with Fresh Mozzarella

USA Dry Pea & Lentil Recipe Rivalry

Print this recipe

lentil enchiladas with homemade ancho chile sauce
Recipe by Christina Provo

Serves 6

For lentil filling ~

2 cups pink lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 packet Goya Sazón with Coriander and Annatto seasoning
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

For ancho chile sauce ~

6 dried ancho chiles
1 medium onion, chopped, divided
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

For enchilada assembly ~

12 8-inch flour tortillas
2 cups shredded Mexican blend (unseasoned) cheese
Plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Cooked white rice, for serving

directions ~
  1. Place lentils, onions, garlic, and oregano in a medium sized saucepan with 3 1/4 cup water. Bring just to a boil, then lower heat to maintain a constant simmer. Skim any foam that rises to top. Stirring occasionally, partially cover with a lid, and cook for about 20 minutes or until lentils have broken down, but not to a complete mush. There shouldn't be much water left -- you're looking for the lentils to resemble the consistency of refried beans. Remove from heat. Stir in Goya and salt; set aside.

  2. Prepare ancho chiles by carefully slitting them open and removing the stems and seeds. Flatten chiles as much as you can.

  3. Heat a dry 10-inch cast iron skillet to medium-high. Once heated, carefully press each chile down in the skillet, pressing to keep the chiles down against the bottom. Cook for 5 seconds, then flip over and cook for another 5 seconds; repeat with remaining chiles. Place in a bowl and cover with 4 cups boiling water. Cover bowl and let stand for 15 minutes, to soften chiles.

  4. Reserve 1 1/4 cup soaking liquid. Place chiles in a blender with half of the chopped onion, all the garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, soaking liquid, and 3/4 cup water. Cover blender and puree until smooth. Working with half the sauce, strain chile sauce through a fine mesh sieve placed over a large bowl. Press and stir the liquid with the back of a large spoon, pressing to remove as much liquid as you can and push the chile sauce through the sieve. You will end up with a really thick, paste-like substance of chile residue. Ladle sauce into a large liquid measuring cup. Repeat with remaining sauce; you should end up with 2 to 2 1/4 cup sauce, and it should be somewhat thick.

  5. Pour sauce into a medium saucepan and whisk in vinegar, cocoa powder, and sugar. Bring to a rapid simmer, then reduce heat and let cook for five minutes.

  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. wrap tortillas in foil and warm in oven for 10 minutes.

  7. Lightly grease a 13x9-inch casserole dish with cooking spray. Ladle 1/4 cup sauce on the bottom of the dish. Assemble tortillas by spooning about 3 tablespoons (use a 1/4 cup measuring cup, but don't fill it completely) lentils along the bottom thirds of a tortilla and sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons cheese. Roll up tightly and place in casserole dish. Repeat until all tortillas are rolled. Pour sauce on top, spreading to cover the tops of the tortillas. Sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese and bake for 15 minutes. Remove dish from oven. Dollop enchiladas with yogurt and sprinkle with remaining onion and 1/4 cup cilantro. Bake an additional 5 minutes, then remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with rice and additional cilantro.



  1. So inventive! You are going around the world with this challenge. I love the texture of yellow lentils...a perfect replacement for refried beans.

  2. Wow, I'm really impressed that you came up with this recipe! I definitely would order it if I saw it on the menu. And homemade ancho chile sauce? That sounds really wonderful.

  3. nice one! I really like the idea of using lentils as a refried beans replacement- smart!

  4. I made these and they were so good! The lentils were awesome, I'm definitely going to make them again that way and use them in other mexican like dishes. Thanks so much for the recipe!

  5. Beautiful! It is so worth the time to make your own enchiladas sauce, and yours looks and sounds fantastic. I love this kind of cuisine, enchiladas especially. That is a gorgeous plate of food, and I will bet it tasted wonderful. Excellent work!


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