Chilaquiles: Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch or Dinner

Chilaquiles           Photo by Keri White

Chilaquiles are a typical Mexican dish that, like many traditional dishes, have a conflicting history.

Some sources say chilaquiles date back to the Aztecs and that the name derives from an ancient word meaning chiles and greens. Another source claims the dish originated in 1898 and was popularized by the restaurant San Jose in Mexico City.

Regardless, the meal is commonly served in Mexico as a way to use leftover corn tortillas and is usually eaten for breakfast with the tortillas remaining from last night’s dinner. Depending on where in Mexico you may be, and who is behind the stove, the preparation and ingredients will vary — some will simmer the tortillas until they are soft. Others prefer a crispier version, and will just toss the tortillas in the hot salsa until they are coated and warm. Some use mole, others salsa roja and others salsa verde.

The chilaquiles can be served with a fried, poached or scrambled egg and topped with cheese, or enjoyed solo.

The version below provided me with a delicious solo lunch, and gave me a good chance to use the last of some tortilla chips and salsa verde we bought at Tortilleria San Roman on Ninth Street to accompany a dinner of chili con carne. If you don’t have easy access to a source for chips or tostadas, you can fry your own tortillas using the instructions below.

And if you wish to make your own salsa verde, here’s my recipe:

You can use regular bagged tortilla chips in a pinch, but the authentic version is much better.

Chilaquiles for 1

8-10 triangular tortilla chips made from fresh tortillas

½ cup salsa of your choice

2 tablespoons cotija, Monterey jack or queso fresco cheese

1 or 2 eggs, cooked as desired

Optional toppings: Cilantro, chopped avocados, sliced scallions, additional salsa, hot sauce, chopped tomatoes or chiles, olives, etc.

In a medium-sized skillet, heat the salsa. Add the chips and turn them over until they are coated with salsa and hot. Add the cheese and allow it to melt. While the chilaquiles heat, cook the eggs as desired in a separate pan. Plate the chilaquiles, top them with the eggs, garnish as desired and enjoy.

To make your own chips: Cut the corn tortillas into triangles (like you would cut a pizza). Heat ¼ cup corn or vegetable oil in a skillet and cook the tortilla chips in batches without crowding them until they are crisp and lightly brown. Remove them from the pan, drain them on paper towels and salt them generously.


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