Chicken, Black Bean, and Spinach Enchiladas

Beans and Legumes, Freezer Friendly, Main Dish, Mexican, Poultry | 47 comments

Tex-Mex is one of my most longed for foods. You would think living in New Mexico that I would have plenty of Mexican food options to choose from. But that’s just it. They are all too New Mexican for me. Nothing lives up to Pappasito’s – my favorite place to celebrate just about anything from birthday to graduations to ” just because” dates with my dad. Thinking about all of those family meals definitely brings back fond memories of growing up in Texas (even though I hated the humidity). I no longer live in Texas, so instead I’ve been left to perfecting the art of Tex-Mex in my own home.

I can’t say that I’ve made it too far on the perfection scale, but I think I’ve finally done it with these enchiladas. The filling is full of flavor and texture, plus a little spinach thrown in for good measure. And the two sauces balance each other out in taste and color. All it all, I thought it was a delicious meal and something that could easily grace the pages of a Pappasito’s menu.

For the chicken, I like to cook it in the crock pot with salt, pepper, a chopped onion, garlic, cilantro, lime, chili powder, and cumin. The chicken becomes so tender and moist that it is incredibly easy to shred. Alternatively, you can bake the chicken or used leftover rotisserie chicken, but I recommend seasoning it with the above listed spices and flavors.

Though these enchiladas might look time intensive, the great thing about them is that the individual elements can all be made ahead. The chicken can be made ahead and combined with the beans and spinach and refrigerated for up to 2 days until use. The tomatillo salsa can be made ahead as well and stored for up to 2 days, or even frozen for up to a month. And the sour cream sauce easily reheats in the microwave and returns to proper consistency with a few whisks with a fork.

See? There is absolutely no excuse why you wouldn’t have time to make these!

Chicken, Black Bean, and Spinach Enchiladas
a goodLife Eats creation

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  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cooked and shredded)
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 5 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup monterrey jack cheese, grated
  • 12 corn tortillas
  • Tomatillo Salsa, recipe follows
  • Sour Cream Sauce, recipe follows

Spray a 9×13 inch pan with spray oil. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the chicken, spinach, salt, pepper in a medium to large bowl. Stir until ingredients are evenly distributed. Add the beans and carefully stir in so as not to mash up the beans.

Steam the tortillas using a tortilla warmer. If you don’t have a tortilla warmer, see the bottom of this article at Food & Wine for alternative methods. Set tortillas aside and keep warm.

One by one, fill a tortilla with a small handful of filling, about 1/4 – 1/3 cup. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cheese on top of the filling and roll tortilla up, placing the seam side down in the previously prepared pan. Repeat until all tortillas have been filled. Drizzle sour cream sauce on top, followed by the tomatillo salsa. Top with additional shredded cheese, if desired.

Cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes, or until tortillas are heated through. Makes 1 dozen enchiladas. Serve with a tomato and avocado salad.

Alternatively, the enchiladas can be assembled on individual oven proof plates for a prettier look (as pictured). Tent the plate with foil to cover the enchiladas; bake for 10-15 minutes and serve.

Tomatillo Salsa
This tomatillo salsa is simple to prepare and can be served alone with tortilla chips for dipping.

  • 6 tomatillos, husks removed
  • 1/2 – 1 jalapeno, remove seeds to adapt heat
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, packed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place tomatillos in a medium sized sauce pan. Cover with hot water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove tomatillos from water and place in a food processor with remaining ingredients, starting with only half the jalapeno. Process until smooth. Test for heat and add the remaining half of the jalapeno if desired. Set aside.

Sour Cream Sauce
To save on fat and calories, feel free to substitute low-fat sour cream. However, I would not recommend fat-free sour cream.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the flour, whisking until golden and bubbly, about 2-3 minutes. Slowly whisk the broth into the flour mixture. Stir in the sour cream, whisking if necessary to remove any lumps. Simmer until sauce is thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Katie Goodman

About the Author:

Katie’s lifelong interest in cooking good food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. She is: Mom. Writer. Photographer. Recipe Developer. Website Founder. Lover of all things good in life. A mix of great recipes, family memories, and yummy photography is what Katie serves up each week at GoodLife Eats™. Katie and her family reside in Colorado.

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  • 1
    Amy from She Wears Many Hats - January 13, 2010 @ 1:51 pm

    These do look yummy Katie. Anything with black beans and cilantro together is an instant favorite. Cooking the chicken in a crock pot has got to be the best part though and I bet your house smelled divine! Will be trying this one soon – I even think my picky eater will like it.


  • 2
    LobotoME - January 13, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

    YUM. I'm adding this to next week's menu. thanks!


  • 3
    chakhlere - January 13, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

    They look so gorgeous and flavorful. Such a hearty meal!!!


  • 4
    Maria - January 13, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

    These look yummy! I will have to adapt and make a veggie version. One of my best friend's is from Texas and LOVES Pappisitos. I have never been, but in college she would always talk about it and wish UT had one:)


  • 5
    tastyeatsathome - January 13, 2010 @ 3:28 pm

    I do live in Texas, but I still love to have Tex-Mex at home. These look superb!


  • 6
    Gaby - January 13, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

    these could just be my favorite things in the world! I love enchiladas. I love chicken. I love beans. And I especially love spinach. Yup… its confirmed… these are my new favorite!


  • 7
    The Double Dipped Life - January 13, 2010 @ 5:47 pm

    Can I just say Yum! I am trying this asap!


  • 8
    Marci @OvercomingBusy - January 13, 2010 @ 7:29 pm

    Can't wait to try these!! My mouth is watering!!


  • 9
    Krista - January 13, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

    That sounds delicious! Printing recipe now :)


  • 10
    Marla (Family Fresh Cooking) - January 14, 2010 @ 12:44 am

    Katie, these enchiladas look beautiful. Wish I could have them for dinner tonight. I like the way the elements can be prepared separately. I found these really thin oat wraps at Whole Foods that would be so nice as the "tortilla." The sour cream sauce sounds so yummy!


  • 11
    Amy - January 14, 2010 @ 2:13 am

    These would make a fantastic lunch- I am always looking for stuff like this. I am addicted to those Amy's Organic Black Bean burritos so this is right up my alley! You always have the best recipes!


  • 12
    Sheila - January 14, 2010 @ 3:32 am

    Wow! I just stumbled upon your blog and these look absolutley delicious! I will certaintly test these out this weekend! Thank you for sharing :)


  • 13
    Katie - January 14, 2010 @ 4:59 am

    I just love your photography, Katie! These look great and healthy, will be trying these next week! Thanks for the inspiration.


  • 14
    bed frames - January 14, 2010 @ 7:53 am

    Starting the year healthy is a goal I want to achieve and so far I have been eating healthy foods! This dish looks great and so healthy!


  • 15
    Jan (Mixing Bowl Kids) - January 14, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

    These look so warm and comforting…and it's so nice to see something so healthy…great post.


  • 16
    Alisa - January 14, 2010 @ 7:46 pm

    How long do you cook the chicken breasts in the slow cooker?I love your recipes and photos…beautiful.Thank you.


  • 17
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction - January 15, 2010 @ 2:59 am

    This looks absolutely beautiful and so delicious. Enchiladas are one of my favorites. I will definitely be giving this a try!


  • 18
    Katie @ Cozydelicious - January 15, 2010 @ 8:26 pm

    These look wonderful! And your photos are so beautiful. This is perfect healthy food – because I can actually get my family to eat it!


  • 19
    Theresa - January 17, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

    I cooked these up this weekend for my hubby, kids and in-law… everyone (even the kiddos!) loved them! So flavorful and actually pretty simple when you look at all the flavor layers going on.The best part was because all the ingredients were all fresh and light, no one had that heavy, bloated mexican food after feeling! Yipee! lol


  • 20
    delightfullysweet - January 17, 2010 @ 10:53 pm

    Thinking this just might be tomorrows dinner!Thanks!


  • 21
    Curious Lissa - January 18, 2010 @ 1:52 am

    this looks so good i wish i could jump through my computer screen.


  • 22
    FC88 - January 19, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

    I just love the way you presented your food. The pictures you took are so beautiful. I have to try this recipe now!


  • 23
    Diane {createdbydiane.blogspot.com} - January 20, 2010 @ 5:06 am

    Looks delicious, I can't wait to see more of you wonderful cooking!


  • 24
    Anonymous - January 27, 2010 @ 1:20 am

    I had a friend over for dinner tonight and made these. They turned out FABULOUS! This recipe is definitely a keeper. They are so healthy and easy to make! ~Rachel


  • 25
    Anonymous - March 21, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

    Hey- its stephanie and jon…. we are making these sometime this week, and i thought about doing the chicken in the crock pot like you said. How long would that take to cook? Thanks!!!


  • 26
    Carol Schantz, Maryland - July 13, 2010 @ 3:00 am

    So good!!! I didn't have time to make the green sauce and ended up using hot salsa from a jar, that is outstanding on it, too!


  • 27
    Amanda - October 13, 2010 @ 7:59 am

    Hey There!
    I would love to make these and was wondering if corn tortillas are required, or if (reg. flour) burrito-style tortillas would work as well? i’ve got a whole back left i’m hoping to use up! thanks in advance!


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — October 13th, 2010 @ 2:22 PM

      Hi Amanda,

      Unfortunately I have not tried them with flour tortillas. If I were to make them that way, I’d opt for the size flour tortilla closest to the size of corn tortillas – not the large burrito size. Steam the tortillas first so they roll easily without any breakage. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. Let me know! :)

  • 28
    Alli - October 13, 2010 @ 6:26 pm

    these were fabulous! I worked at Pappasito’s here in Houston, and these easily could have been on the menu ;)


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — October 13th, 2010 @ 7:17 PM

      I’m so glad you liked them! And thank you! What a great compliment – I grew up in Houston and Pappasito’s has always been a favorite of mine. We went there for all of our family birthday dinners. I really miss that place! Got any recipes up your sleeve? ;)

  • 29
    Alli - October 13, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

    p.s. to save time for a weeknight meal, I made them vegetarian, with just spinach and black beans. still came out great.


  • 30
    Sarah - October 18, 2010 @ 12:25 pm

    Made these for dinner last night and they were awesome! Thank you for the recipe!


  • 31
    Betsy - July 03, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

    We had these for dinner last night and they where ridiculously good! I will definitely be putting them into our regular dinner rotation. It was the first time I cooked with tomatillos. I am a fan now. Thanks for the recipe!


  • 32
    Amy - July 29, 2011 @ 5:42 pm


    These look delicioso–but when I tried to print, I got more than the whole enchilada (sorry, the pun was too easy). Yikes! Would you consider making a way to just print the words, not all the pictures/comments/extras?



  • 33
    Amanda - November 25, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    Can these be assembled and frozen before baking? I’m not sure because of the sour cream sauce. Thanks!


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — November 26th, 2011 @ 4:10 PM

      When I freeze the enchiladas I assemble and freeze them without the sauce on top. You can freeze the tomatillo sauce but I always make the source cream sauce fresh.

  • 34
    Linda - July 26, 2012 @ 3:58 am

    Tried these last night. They were really good! Mine came out of the pan a bit scrambled, though. LOL. I had quite a bit of the chicken mixture left over. I put it in a ziplock bag and froze it to use at a later date. Hubby loved the tomatillo salsa! Thanks for sharing this!


  • 35
    Tone - December 21, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

    THE best enchilada’s…have served this dish several times and always get raves and requests for the recipe. I lay my tortillas out in two layers (bottom and top)rather than roll them…can’t seem to get the hang of the rolling thing without the tortilla’s breaking apart. So yummy!


  • 36
    Payton - August 17, 2013 @ 10:28 am

    What kind of sauce do you cook the chicken in with the crock pot? I saw the spices but won’t it get dry if you don’t have another sauce? Thanks, Payton.


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — August 17th, 2013 @ 6:33 PM

      you can add some chicken broth or salsa if you are worried about it getting dry.

  • 37
    Amanda - January 03, 2014 @ 2:30 pm

    I’ve made this recipe several times and it is ALWAYS yummy! However, whenever I make it, I always end up with WAYYYYY more than 12 enchiladas. Usually 2 dozen. I live in NC and I’ve only seen one size corn tortillas in the grocery stores here. Is it possible that my corn tortillas are smaller than yours? (I have no idea what size they are… they’re just the only ones available!) When I’m just cooking for my husband and me, it’s a lot of leftovers! Which is fine, because they’re yummy, but this is also something I plan to make when my adult stepkids (18 and 21) come over because it makes more than enough. Thanks so much for sharing this recipe!


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie replied: — January 4th, 2014 @ 9:19 AM

      I’m not sure if there are different sized corn tortillas or not. The number you end up with depends on how full you stuff the tortillas, so maybe I am just putting more filling in mine that you. If it is too much leftovers you could half the recipe or make 2 smaller 8×8 pans and freeze one of them. Glad you enjoy the recipe!

  • 38
    Dianne Ellis - July 19, 2015 @ 7:05 am

    Love the salsa at Pappasito’s. It was the first place I ever had “warm” salsa!! And I’ve eaten at a lot of Mexican restaurants! :)


  • 39
    Julie - October 02, 2015 @ 9:35 pm

    How do these freeze? Do I bake first and then freeze?


    • Katie Goodman

      Katie Goodman replied: — October 7th, 2015 @ 4:07 PM

      I freeze them assembled with the green sauce frozen separately. Thaw both before baking. I don’t make the sour cream sauce until I’m ready to bake because that sauce doesn’t freeze well.

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