West Texas Style Stacked Enchiladas were a staple in our home growing up. I don’t remember ever eating rolled enchiladas when I was young. We rarely ate out at restaurants, especially chain restaurants, where rolled enchiladas were typical. Stacked enchiladas were pretty much the only way I had seen them made until we moved from West to East Texas.
Enchilada night for us always consisted of stacked enchiladas piled high on a screaming hot plate that would burn a blister on your forearm if you accidentally touched it.
Yes, they were baked right on the plate. The blisters were worth it, though. They were probably my favorite meal my mother made when I was growing up.
Don’t worry, you won’t have to manage a screaming hot plate with this recipe, but you’ll have to manage to transfer the stacked enchiladas from a hot baking pan to a room-temperature plate. A nice wide spatula will get the job done.
The Old Borunda Cafe in Marfa, Texas
The Old Borunda Cafe in Marfa, Texas holds a hallowed place in the history of Tex-Mex cuisine, being widely recognized as the first establishment of its kind. Founded by Tulia Guiterrez in 1887, the cafe was eventually passed on to her sister, Carolina Palomo Borunda, who ran it until 1938, and later to Carolina’s daughter, Carolina Borunda Humphries, who continued the legacy until 1985.
Old Borunda Cafe is generally credited for the well-known “Dinner #1,” a classic Tex-Mex combination of enchiladas, tacos, tamales, and rice and beans. This timeless meal remains a staple of Tex-Mex cuisine to this day.
The cafe is also credited with popularizing the stacked enchilada, originally referred to as “Enchiladas Montadas” on the menu. Now known as West Texas-style stacked enchiladas, this dish remains a revered and beloved creation of Old Borunda Cafe.
The cafe was a frequent dining destination for James Dean and his crew while they were filming “Giant” in West Texas. According to “Recipes 4 Rebels,” the only item on the menu during this time was the Enchiladas Montadas, served with a side of beans and tamales.
It is worth noting that while alcohol was not served at the cafe, patrons were allowed to bring in no more than two beers of their own.
Unfortunately, The Old Borunda Cafe closed its doors in 1986, but its legacy endures through its timeless dishes and the enduring inspiration they provide to new generations of Tex-Mex lovers. The Stacked Enchiladas of The Old Borunda Cafe stand as a testament to the culinary ingenuity and Texan pride of those who brought the dish to life.
What Are West Texas-Style Enchiladas?
Stacked enchiladas aren’t unique to only West Texas. New Mexico also has a version of stacked enchiladas that are very popular.
The difference between West Texas-style and New Mexico-style stacked enchiladas are the type of chiles used in the red enchilada sauce, and the West Texas-style almost always has ground beef in it. You’ll often find chicken and plain cheese in many of the New Mexico recipes.
You’ll also find quite a few more green chiles in the New Mexican version than you generally find in the West Texan one.
Besides being stacked instead of rolled, a significant difference between West Texas-style stacked enchiladas, and traditional Tex-Mex enchiladas is the enchilada sauce. Traditional Tex-Mex usually has chile gravy rather than red enchilada sauce like you’d find in Mexican food.
Being from a majority Mexican community deep in West Texas, our food was more Mex-Tex than Tex-Mex. Chile gravy wasn’t that common out there.
- Try one of our 12 salsa recipes to help you master Taco Night.
As far as the red enchilada sauce goes, the one I make, with cloves and a pinch of cinnamon, is more common in the state of Colima, Mexico (West of Mexico City), rather than Northern Mexico. I don’t know how it found its way into my kitchen, but it did.
Maybe one of the families that we spent so much time with early on was from Colima. If you want a more authentic West Texas flavor, you can omit the cinnamon and cloves.
Tips for Mastering Stacked Enchiladas
Below are a few tips for mastering stacked enchiladas:
- Fry the tortillas until they’re almost crispy. I understand that you may be on a diet, but this is about the only way to keep the tortillas from disintegrating. You shouldn’t skip this step.
- Always top your stacked enchiladas with a fried egg. Make sure that yolk is runny, too. This is a tradition for a reason. The runny yolk adds a creaminess that makes your enchiladas spectacular.
- Don’t overcook the green chiles. If you put your green chiles into your meat mixture too early, they almost dissolve before you’re done cooking the meat. Roasting them under the broiler to remove the skin is all the cooking they need. Just mix them in when the meat is done browning.
- Homemade enchilada sauce is always better. The canned stuff is okay for a quick meal, but I have never tasted enchilada sauce from a can that compares to homemade. Just make it in advance and freeze it. Thaw it out when you’re ready to use it.
Fresh Roasted Green Chiles
If you want to make your own fresh roasted chiles, just char them over a flame until they’re completely blackened, then put them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until they’re cool. Peel off the blackened skin, remove the stem and seeds, then dice into a 1/8-inch dice.
If you don’t have a gas stove, you can blacken your chiles by roasting them on the top rack under your broiler (set on high and preheated for at least 10 minutes) for 4-5 minutes per side.
You get bonus points if you char your green chile over charcoal or, even better, a wood fire. The smoky flavor will make your enchiladas even better.
Stacked Enchiladas – West Texas Style
- 8 yellow corn tortillas
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil - more as needed
- 1/2 medium yellow onion
- 1 lb. ground beef chuck - 80% lean
- 2 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. Mexican oregano
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 3 4 oz. cans diced green chiles - Or roast two whole anaheim or Hatch chiles (preferred)
- 2 cups red enchilada sauce
- 12 oz. Monterrey Jack Cheese - shredded (pre-shredded cheese is evil)
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp. white onion - finely diced (optional)
- 2 tbsp. green onions - finely chopped (optional)
- sour cream - (optional)
- Salsa - (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees with the rack in the middle position. Spray your cookie sheet with oil.
- Preheat a cast iron pan over medium-high. Add vegetable oil, then fry the corn tortillas on each side until starting to crisp. Set aside.
- Add the diced onions to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent. Add the ground beef, chili powder, Mexican oregano, salt, and pepper, and cook until the beef is starting to brown, but pink in some spots. Add the green chiles and garlic, and cook an additional minute.
- Coat two tortillas with enchilada sauce, then place one on each side of the pan, leaving space between them, Add a scoop of the beef mixture to each, top with cheese, then another enchilada sauce dipped tortilla. Keep building layers until you've used all of the tortillas up. Top with any remaining meat mixture you have, ladle enough enchilada sauce to cover, then top with the remaining cheese.
- Place your enchiladas in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling.
- While the enchiladas are baking, add a couple of tablespoons of butter and a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil to a frying pan, and preheat over medium heat. Carefully add a couple of eggs, without breaking the yolks. When the whites of the eggs start turning opaque, cover with a lid and cook until the whites are fully set, but the yolks are runny.
- Remove the enchiladas from the oven and carefully slide a thin spatula under each stack to transfer to a plate (a thin metal spatula is very helpful here). Place fried eggs on top, then whichever garnishes you choose.