The Secret to Best-Ever Chilaquiles

Wondering how to make a plate of dynamite chilaquiles? The secret is all in the chips.

My first experience with chilaquiles wasn’t exactly traditional. Most people eat the dish for breakfast or brunch, but I found myself looking for a 2 am post-wedding snack at a 24-hour diner in San Antonio, Texas. The place was absolutely packed, and the large menu was overwhelming. I asked the server for whatever everyone else was eating, and she brought me what looked like a plate of saucy nachos topped with an egg (not to be confused with this other traditional Mexican breakfast). I wasn’t the least bit upset, especially after I took my first bite.

Ever since then, chilaquiles have become my go-to brunch option. They’re easy enough to make as a breakfast for two, and they also scale well to feed a crowd. I wasn’t able to mimic the flavor of my first experience until I learned this secret behind making the best chilaquiles.

What are chilaquiles?

First things first: What the heck are chilaquiles? It’s a layered dish that starts by simmering fried tortilla chips in salsa (which can be made with tomatoes for a red sauce or tomatillos for a verde sauce). The tortillas soften as they simmer away, infusing the sauce with their salty flavor and creating a perfectly thickened sauce. In a word: Yum!

From there, the chilaquiles are completely customizable based on your taste and mood. Make it meaty by adding bacon, beef, chorizo or chicken, or keep it veggie-friendly and top it with your favorite roasted vegetables. Finishing it with fried or scrambled eggs is a great way to amp up the breakfast vibes, but you can skip it if you’re not feeling it. And, of course, feel free to sprinkle on lots and lots of shredded cheese; a blend of Mexican cheeses works well, or you can get fancy and use crumbly cotija.

Learn how to make chilaquiles at home.

What’s the secret behind great chilaquiles?

Recently, one of the Taste of Home editors took a trip to Lubbock, Texas, where she had a plate of dynamite chilaquiles at The Brewery LBK. What made them so good? Their chef Brooke Pinkert spilled the beans: “The secret to great chilaquiles is using the cheapest chips at the store. They’re hard as a rock but they’re going to soak up all the juices.” You wouldn’t want to use those cheap chips for snacking, but they won’t get soggy like fancy thin chips.

Pinkert also recommends to “add cumin at every step: eggs, salsa and pepper mix.” So don’t skimp on it!

It’s also important to pay attention to your toppings. The reason chilaquiles taste so good is their combination of rich ingredients: fried chips, savory sauce and melty cheese. Consider lightening things up by balancing out those flavors with cooling sour cream, herbaceous cilantro, tangy pickled jalapenos or spicy radishes.

Can’t get enough? Try our other favorite Mexican breakfast recipes.

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay is a professional chef, recipe developer, writer and developmental editor. After years of working in restaurant kitchens, she turned to writing to share her skills and experience with home cooks and food enthusiasts. She's passionate about using local, organic ingredients and teaching others how to incorporate seasonal food into their diet. Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, writes for several publications and is the co-author of two books about Ayurveda.