Carmella Padilla’s Red Chile and Blue Corn Enchiladas

Carmella Padilla prepares her enchiladas as her 100-year-old mother always has — flat, or stacked, rather than rolled, with blue corn tortillas. She makes her until-now secret red chile recipe from chile caribe, a coarse-ground type of New Mexican red. The slightly fruity flavor, a good heat, and intense red color are all important. She gets her chile from Harvest Gifts in Tijeras, which can be ordered by mail (505.281.0696). Small pork cubes enrich the sauce, too. She recommends making the chile on the morning of the day you plan to serve it, or even a day ahead, so that the flavors meld fully. Carmella and Luis both enjoy topping each plate of enchiladas with a fried egg, a popular local variation, so feel free to add it. Learn more about the couple’s story and their home once you’ve made the recipe.

Carmella’s Red Chile and Blue Corn Enchiladas Recipe


For Carmella’s Top-Secret Red Chile:

1 cup medium to hot dried chile caribe
Pinch or 2 of salt
Pinch or 2 of garlic salt
Approximately 2 cups water
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2-1 white or yellow onion, chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2-2 lb pork stew meat, cut into cubes no larger than 1/2 inch

For the blue corn tortillas:

2-3 tbsp olive oil
8 blue corn tortillas (2 tortillas per serving)
About 4 cups grated Monterey Jack
Finely chopped white or yellow onion
Chopped tomato, lettuce, and avocado
Fried eggs, optional


  1. In a blender, combine the chile with salt, garlic salt, and about one-half of the water. Blend about 30 seconds then pour in the additional water, and blend again for about a full minute. The chile mixture should become extremely smooth. Stir up from the bottom and blend a bit longer, if needed.
  2. Warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onion is softened and translucent. Stir in the pork and continue cooking, until the meat has released its juices and is beginning to brown, about 10 more minutes. Pour in the red chile mixture and simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the pork is tender and the mixture reduced somewhat. It should still be very spoonable. Add a little more water, if needed for the proper consistency. Let the chile sit at room temperature for an hour, or refrigerate it for at least several hours, or up to overnight. (If refrigerated, reheat it before using.)
  3. Prepare the tortillas. Warm the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Dunk each tortilla in the oil and let it soften, a matter of a few seconds. Drain the tortillas on paper towels and reserve.
  4. Shortly before serving the enchiladas, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Assemble each portion of enchiladas on a separate heatproof plate. On each, spoon out several tablespoons of the red chile. Top with a tortilla. Add a generous 1/2 cup of red chile, fully covering the tortilla, then sprinkle on about a tablespoon of onion, and about 1/2 cup of cheese. Repeat with another tortilla, more chile, onion, and cheese. (Any leftover chile can be kept for up to several days to top or accompany other dishes.) Build the additional enchiladas in the same way.
  5. Bake the plates of enchiladas for about 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly in spots. Garnish with tomato, lettuce, and avocado. Serve immediately

Recipe by Carmella Padilla / Story by Cheryl Alters Jamison / Photography by Tira Howard 

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