My mouth is already watering thinking about these dairy free enchiladas. They are ALWAYS a crowd pleaser. The simple dairy free cheese sauce is addicting so you'll want to make extra!
I could eat Mexican food for every meal. These dairy free chicken enchiladas are even better as leftovers after the sauce sinks into the tortillas. I like to top mine with a super simple guacamole and always make extra for lunch the next day.
If you'd rather have a vegan filling with black beans and veggies check out my vegan enchiladas!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Dairy free cheese sauce: This simple dairy free "cheese" sauce is blended cashews, salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and onion powder. Substitute for your favorite cheese substitute... or omit completely, they will still be delicious!
- Enchilada sauce: I'm obsessed with making gluten free enchilada sauce from scratch. I double the recipe to make 4 cups worth. The ingredients include: olive oil, flour, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, salt, tomato paste, water or broth, apple cider vinegar and black pepper. You can also buy red enchilada sauce at most grocery stores, just be sure you have 4 cups worth.
- Tortillas: I like to use gluten free flour tortillas because they are softer and more absorbent than corn tortillas. However, any type of tortillas will work.
- Veggies: white onion, red pepper & garlic. You can omit any or all of the vegetables but the texture will only have meat and sauce.
How to make dairy free enchiladas
1. Create the chicken filling: Cook and shred the chicken on the stovetop or in an instant pot. It's important to use COLD water and salt to poach chicken breasts so that it cooks slowly. Poaching chicken allows it to cook perfectly without losing moisture. When chicken is cooked in boiling water it becomes dry and rubbery. Slice and sauté the bell pepper, onion and garlic. Combine the shredded chicken and veggies with 2 cups of the enchilada sauce.
2. Make the dairy free cheese sauce: Blend together the cashews, water, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper until creamy and well combined.
3. Assemble the enchiladas: Spread a thin layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom of the baking dish so the enchiladas don't stick to the bottom. Fill each tortilla with a large spoonful of dairy free cheese sauce and two scoops of the chicken filling. Roll up and place the fold face down in the pan. Repeat until you run out of tortillas or filling.
4. Top with enchilada sauce & dairy free cheese sauce: Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce all over the top of the pan of rolled enchiladas. Drizzle the remaining dairy free cheese sauce on top.
5. Bake: Bake at 400° F for 20 minutes. Optional: garnish with extra dairy free cheese sauce, fresh cilantro and red onion. Serve with guacamole, rice and beans. Enjoy!
- Gluten-free enchiladas: Use your favorite gluten-free tortillas and make sure you have gluten-free enchilada sauce (it is typically made with flour, but I make mine with gluten free flour). My favorite gluten free tortillas are Maria and Ricardo's Quinoa Flour Tortillas from Whole Foods. I find that I need to microwave them with a damp paper towel for ~15-20 seconds in order for them to be pliable. Corn tortillas also work but they are a bit more dense which can be harder to roll and they don't absorb the sauce as well.
- Use a different protein: Substitute chicken with 2 pounds of cooked ground beef, shredded chuck roast, ground turkey, ground chicken or a plant-based protein like beyond beef.
- Add more veggies: I like to add riced cauliflower (fresh or frozen), chopped kale and mushrooms to my enchilada bake. Finely chop any of your favorite or leftover veggies and sauté them with the peppers and onions.
Healthy sides for enchiladas
- Salsa or pico de gallo
- Spanish rice
- Black or refried beans
- Pickled onions
- Roasted vegetables
- Mexican coleslaw salad
- The key to amazing enchiladas is making sure they are COVERED in enchilada sauce or else they are dry and flavorless. For a tray of enchiladas you need at least 4 cups of enchilada sauce, one small jar won't be enough.
- Salt your chicken ahead of time - instead of adding the salt right before you cook your chicken, rub your chicken with the salt and let it sit in the fridge for up to 24 hours before cooking. This will add maximum flavor and moisture.
- If the tortillas you are using are stiff - right before you assemble the enchiladas wrap the stack of tortillas in a wet paper towel and microwave them until they are warm and flexible. As you assemble keep the remaining tortillas wrapped in the damp paper towels. This should allow you to more easily roll up the tortillas.
- Short on time? Buy 1 large or 2 small rotisserie chickens for the shredded chicken. You'll need at least 4 cups worth of shredded cooked chicken.
- Double the creamy homemade cheese sauce to have extra for your leftover dairy free enchiladas or as a cheese substitute for other meals and snacks.
When you eat meat you are also consuming whatever the animal was fed or medicated with. I try and find chicken that is never given antibiotics or added hormones, pasture raised, humanely raised and USDA organic. To simplify things, I've been purchasing my meat from ButcherBox for years so that I always have the highest quality meat right in my freezer.
Enchiladas last in the refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Freezing enchiladas is not recommend because they will not keep their form / texture.
You can reheat enchiladas in a skillet, oven, air fryer or microwave. This article compares the 4 methods with the skillet as the preferred method and microwave as least preferred.
More dairy free meals you'll love!
I hope you love these dairy free chicken enchiladas! If you make it I’d love if you could leave a rating & connect with me on Instagram @passthesprouts!
Dairy Free Enchiladas
- large baking dish or 2 smaller ones
- 10 6 inch tortillas see recipe notes for gluten free recommendations
- 4 cups enchilada sauce homemade or store bought
- 3 breasts chicken breasts
- 3 cups cold water
- 2 teaspoon sea salt not all salt will be absorbed into the chicken
- 1 tablespoon oil avocado oil, olive oil or grapeseed oil
- 1 white onion medium
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 red bell pepper
Dairy Free Cheese Sauce:
- 1 cup raw cashews unsalted & unroasted
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder or 1 garlic clove
- 1-1.5 teaspoons sea salt add slowly based on personal taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven: preheat the oven to 400° F.
- Poach the chickenStove Top: In a pot combine COLD water, chicken breasts and salt. The water should be fully covering the chicken, if not add a bit more water. Cook on medium heat until the water starts to come to a gentle boil (~12 minutes). Flip the chicken breasts over with tongs or a fork and cover the pan with a tight lid. Turn the heat to a low simmer. Continue to cook the chicken for 15 minutes (or 20?) until the internal temperature is 165 F. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes while the temperature reaches 165F and the juices settle. Shred with two forks. Instant Pot: Cook on a trivet with 1.5 cups of water in the bottom of the pot. Cook for 18 minutes with 10 minute natural release. Shred with two forks.
- Prep the vegetables: Thinly slice the red pepper. Finely chop the white onion. Remove the skin and finely chop or grate the garlic cloves.
- Make the dairy free cheese sauce: Blend together the cashews, water, nutritional yeast, onion powder, garlic powder, sea salt and black pepper until creamy and well combined. Start by only adding 1 teaspoon of sea salt and slowly add up to 1.5 teaspoons depending on your personal salt preference - taste along the way to ensure it isn't too salty. This cheese sauce will be adding all the saltiness to the dish so it should taste salty but not overly salty. You should want to eat it with a spoon.
- Make the filling: On medium heat sauté the onion and red bell pepper slices in oil until the onion is translucent. Add the grated garlic for an extra minute until aromatic. Mix in the shredded chicken and 1 cup of the enchilada sauce.
- Prep the baking dish(es): The bottom of each baking dish should be lightly coated with a spoonful of enchilada sauce to avoid sticking.
- Assemble the enchiladas: Fill each tortilla with a spoonful of dairy free cheese sauce and two spoonfuls of the chicken filling mixture. Roll it up and place it in the pan with the fold facing down so the tortilla doesn't unfold. Repeat until you run out of tortillas or filling. Top the enchiladas with the remaining enchilada sauce and then drizzle the remaining cheese sauce on top of all the rolled tortillas.
- Bake: Bake at 400° F for 20 minutes.
- Add toppings: Top with fresh avocado slices, chopped cilantro, sea salt (to taste) and drizzled lime juice (or mix it all into a simple guacamole!). Add some hot sauce if you like them spicy.
- Favorite gluten free tortillas: Maria and Ricardo's Quinoa Flour Tortillas from Whole Foods - as with many gluten free tortillas I find that I need to microwave them with a damp paper towel for ~15-20 seconds in order for them to be pliable. Corn tortillas also work but they are a bit more dense.
- Dairy free cheese sauce substitute: shredded cheese or your favorite vegan cheese.
- Favorite enchilada sauce: I love this gluten free enchilada sauce, I double the recipe to make at least 4 cups worth. You can also buy enchilada sauce at most grocery stores.
- Why cold water to cook chicken? it's important to use COLD water and salt to poach chicken breasts so that it cooks slowly. Poaching chicken allows it to cook perfectly without losing moisture. When chicken is cooked in boiling water it becomes dry and rubbery.
- Want to add more veggies? I also like to add riced cauliflower (fresh or frozen), chopped kale and mushrooms. Or add any of your favorite or leftover veggies and sauté them with the pepper and onion.
My family loved these.
This is my favorite thing I've gotten from you so far. SO FREAKING TASTEY
Mike McG says
Excellent - we love a healthy substitute (GF + DF) for a family favorite.
Instructions were simple and clear + the extra comments were helpful for creative tweaks and modifications the next time we make theses soon!
Love this delicious recipe!
This is my new go-to enchilada recipe! At first I thought I would miss the cheese but when I was eating it, I didn’t even notice! There is so much flavor that you don’t notice it’s DF. 10/10 would recommend and will make again.
I’ve been having a hard to cutting down dairy. This recipe is helpful to keep my meals interesting
Wow, so delicious! Tried your recipe right away and it turned out great! The whole family loved it!
Lindsay Howerton-Hastings says
These are incredible - one of our favorite make ahead dinners!
Bernice Hill says
This is such a great idea! I have a whole bunch of shredded chicken and some tortillas in the fridge and I'm craving enchiladas! Now, I can't wait for dinner.
Dee Broughton says
Your cheese sauce looks great. I may give it a try in a vegan lasagna. Looks delish!
It will be great in a lasagna! I also use it for mac and cheese. Really anything where I'd use a cheese sauce 🙂