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What exactly are Mexican Chilaquiles and how do you eat them?

This post has kindly been supported by The Hatch Chile Store. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Looking down on a wooden table with a blue plate full of chilaquiles and fried eggs.

What are chilaquiles?

The popularity of Chilaquiles has grown exponentially over the last 10 years because it tastes so good! (see google trends data here). As more folks try it and love it, more and more restaurants and food trucks offer the dish.

So what are chilaquiles exactly and how do you pronounce the word? Chilaquiles (chee-la-key-less) is a Mexican comfort food made by stirring crispy tortilla chips into a simmering chile pepper sauce (can be red or green chile sauce) to soften them. The soggy chips are then generously topped with Mexican cheeses and garnished with eggs, meat, cream, onion, cilantro, avocado, olives, beans, or salsa.

A closeup of a blue plate with red chile sauce chilaquiles. It is covered in garnishes such as avocado, red onion, black olives and cilantro leaves.

You may think, “Eewww…. soggy tortilla chips??? Why would I want to eat soggy tortilla chips????”

Chilaquiles are delicious when eaten correctly. When they are smothered in cheese and toppings and eaten immediately after being cooked (when the chips can still hold a little bit of their shape) the dish really is comfort food at its best!

What are chilaquiles in English?

Chilaquiles is a spanish word taken from the original Native American language of Nahuatl, and loosely means “chile water + edible plant”. The word chīlāquilitl is thought to be the ancestral name of this dish. Translating this word is a bit tricky; it’s one of those words that doesn’t really have an easy English equivalent because it was translated by Spanish colonists who heard the Nahuatl word.

Do you eat chilaquiles with your hands?

Some people new to this dish may want to treat chilaquiles like fancy nachos and eat it with their hands…. but no, chilaquiles is not to be eaten with your hands; chilaquiles is eaten with utensils 😁

Are chilaquiles healthy?

A jar of red Hatch chile sits along side a plate of chilaquiles and behind it a red chile ristra.

Yes, chilaquiles can be a healthy dish, if the tortilla chips are fried with healthy oils and a lean protein is used as a topping. You can get a healthy serving (or two) of vegetables from the sauce and garnishes, along with the corn grains from the tortillas and protein from the cheese, cream and meat. And if you add low-fat refried beans to the mix you can count a serving of legumes too!

Of course with any diet portion control is essential, and all too often you are served a GIANT plateful of food at pretty much any Mexican restaurant that serves chilaquiles. So watch the portions with this one!

How do you eat chilaquiles?

Chilaquiles are best served immediately while the tortilla chips are still a bit stiff and the sauce is warm, topped with lots of delicious Mexican toppings and side of beans. Pick up a fork (or spoon) and dive in to get all the flavors in one mouthful!

What does chilaquiles taste like?

The taste of chilaquiles is best described as a taco salad with a mildly spicy red or green enchilada sauce stirred in as a dressing. The exact flavors can vary greatly though, as different combinations of sauces and toppings are compiled.

Red and green chile pepper sauces taste very different from one another, and some restaurants will use chipotle or ranchero sauce as well for their chilaquiles. Meat toppings can vary greatly as well, from Al pastor (rotisserie beef seasoned with chile pepper and pineapple) to chorizo to grilled chicken. You can get very creative with chilaquiles- and the more you are the better they will taste!

Breakfast Chilaquiles with Hatch Red Chile Sauce

The absolute best tasting chilaquiles should be made with famous Hatch chiles. Red or green, the flavor simply can’t be beat (in my humble opinion). When researching this article I wanted to create a very simple, yet super delicious, chilaquiles recipe for you to try, so I just had to use Hatch chiles!

I grew up in New Mexico, the home of the famous Hatch chile pepper. Their popularity is growing exponentially as well and I cook with it all the time because it’s so stinking good! I cook up large batches of red and green chile sauce, then store it in zipper bags in the freezer to use whenever I need it. I save a ton of time with most of my Hispanic cooking when my sauce is already done!

I have several recipes for red and green chile sauce right here on The Goldilocks Kitchen. You can check them out here (scroll to the bottom), or simply order your prepared and pre-packaged Hatch chile sauce from The Hatch Chile Store. That’s where I get all my chile!

To make my breakfast chilaquiles, I thawed out 1 cup of homemade red chile sauce in a skillet, and whisked in 1/2 cup of tomato sauce to give it a bit more depth of flavor and help the chilaquiles sauce taste authentic (because the red sauce for chilaquiles is a tomato chile pepper based sauce).

Looking down at a stainless steel skillet containing simmering red chile sauce for chilaquiles.

I skipped the more traditional (and laborious) step of cutting, frying, and seasoning stale tortillas to make homemade chips. Instead I added a few handfuls of my favorite store-bought tortilla chips to the simmering red sauce. Call me a heretic, but I wanted this recipe to be really easy, delicious and fast (and it is). Homemade tortilla chips are great if you have the time, and are usually a little thicker than store bought so they will take longer to get soggy in chilaquiles. If you want to try homemade chips in your next batch of chilaquiles, go for it!

Handfuls of tortilla chips are placed into a skillet containing red chile sauce.

After just a minute or two of stirring, the chilaquiles are ready to be plated, topped with all manner of goodness, and hoovered up by all. Score a win for a terriffic weeknight meal that takes like 15 minutes to make!

Tortilla chips are completely covered in red chile sauce in a stainless steel skillet.

Eggs are a great option for chilaquiles if you are pressed for time. Shredded cooked meats or chorizo are also excellent but you’ll need to cook them ahead of time. In fact, I do prefer my chilaquiles to be topped with some delicious carnitas. Most grocery stores stock ready-made carnitas that you simply have to reheat to eat.

A closeup of a serving of chilaquiles with a fried egg and many garnishes.

It is said that chilaquiles were born out of a necessity to use up leftover foods so they wouldn’t go to waste. Go ahead- throw the kitchen sink on top of your next batch of chilaquiles too 😋

What are Hatch Chile Peppers?

Hatch Chile peppers are world famous for their delicious flavors, produced by the unique climate and soil composition that exists only in the Hatch Valley of Southern New Mexico. These factors combine to grow exceptional-tasting chile peppers with smoky, sweet, and hot flavor notes. More people discover Hatch Chiles each year, and their popularity continues to grow.

Growing up in New Mexico where chile peppers are an integral part of the culture, I know that Hatch chiles have earned a reputation for being the best of the best. I personally only use authentic Hatch in all my cooking because it simply tastes amazing. You should be able to find canned Hatch chile in any supermarket these days, or you can order it directly like I do. Frozen chile is much, much better tasting than canned!

The Hatch Chile Store is the premiere website for ordering your Hatch chile– they are incredibly good at shipping fresh authentic chile right to your door, whatever variety and hotness lever you prefer. It’s where I get all my Hatch Chile, and I must say the flavor really does stand out above any other chile pepper variety.

Wooden baskets at a farmer's market are filled with fresh New Mexico chiles; most of them are green, but a few are turning red.

Head on over now to The Hatch Chile Store to stock up on the most delicious Hatch chile you can buy anywhere- they’ve always got great deals on your favorite products!

Did you know I have a full-color cookbook with lots more easy and delicious New Mexican recipes? You can learn more about it here!

You know what else is fantastic? Simply giving this recipe a star rating and a comment below! Your comments and ratings are greatly appreciated by me AND the Google algorithm. Thank you!

Did you know I have a full-color cookbook with lots more easy and delicious New Mexican recipes? You can learn more about it here!

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Breakfast Chilaquiles with Red Hatch Chile Sauce


Tortilla chips coated in warm red chile sauce and served with your breakfast eggs of choice. Garnished with fresh cheese, cilantro, avocado,  and/or fresh onions, this recipe makes a filling dish worthy to be on any comfort food list.


Units Scale
  • 1 cup of store-bought or homemade Red Hatch Chile sauce
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 4 large eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups your favorite tortilla chips
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco, or your cheese of choice
  • optional toppings: sliced onions, olives, avocado, carnitas, chorizo etc.


  1. Place red chile sauce and tomato sauce into a 12-inch skillet and briefly whisk together. Cover the sauce and set over medium heat. When red chile sauce reaches a light simmer, remove from heat.
  2. While waiting for the sauce to heat, set a separate nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and when it reaches temperature, cook the eggs however you desire, (scrambled, sunny-side up, over easy, etc) seasoning with salt and pepper if desired.
  3. Remove the lid to the red chile sauce and add the tortilla chips, stirring to coat. Divide the coated chips onto 4 plates and top each with an egg, cheese, and other toppings of your choice and serve immediately.


If you have stale corn tortillas you’d like to cut into wedges and fry to use in this recipe go for it. Just plan on an extra 15 minutes or so to  get them all fried. And be sure that you lightly sprinkle salt on the chips immediately after removing them from the frying oil.

Meats such as carnitas, chorizo, shredded chicken and Al Pastor make fabulous optional toppings for chilaquiles as well.

Want to make this recipe taste like famous Cocina 35 chilaquiles? Ladel some warmed seasoned cooked pinto beans onto the plate first, then top with the chilaquiles recipe above, followed by a helping of carnitas, a few squirts of oaxaquena cream (essential and found by the mexican cream and cheese aisle), and crumbled cotija cheese.

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