Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mollie Katzen's Chilaquile Casserole

The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen was my second vegetarian cookbook and my first introduction to vegetarian food as something one would make and actually look forward to. My first cookbook had lovely recipes for baba ghanouj and tofu fritters, but I cooked them mostly out of an interest in bonding with my university roommates. The Moosewood Cookbook introduced me to vegetarian dishes that made me swoon and celebrate for their, well, taste as well as their meatlessness! My next vegetarian cookbook was, naturally, Mollie Katzen's next one, Still Life with Menu. And it was this cookbook that produced the single casserole recipe I have cooked most in my life: Chilaquile Casserole.

It is everything I look forward to in a winter dish: comforting, good for you (depending on what you add to it) and easy. The bonus with this dish is the nice warm heat you get from the chili peppers and hot sauce. You can make it your own by adding a variety of extras based on what you like or what you have in the pantry. My sister and I have experimented with the optionals over the years; I have settled on always adding cumin, garlic, black beans and some type of vegetable. Last night, it was kale, but I also tossed in some diced ham (next time, I'll saute the ham with some onions before adding them).  I am looking forward to leftovers for lunch today and, fingers crossed, tomorrow!

Chilaquile Casserole

  • 12 corn tortillas (the small ones) or 6 flour tortillas (the large ones)
  • 1 medium chili pepper, chopped and seeded, or 1 4-ounce can of green chilies
  • 2-3 cups grated cheese - cheddar, jack or another favourite
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk (see note 1)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Optional additions:
  • cooked beans like black, pinto, white and kidney or chick peas
  • sauteed onions and/or garlic
  • sauteed diced or chopped vegetables like zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, bell pepper, leeks, kale or spinach (see note 2)
  • shredded chicken or diced ham - for a non-vegetarian version
  • diced or thinly sliced tofu
  • cumin, oregano, basil
  • hot sauce or 1 to 3 teaspoons of diced canned chipotle chili in adobo sauce
note 1: If you don't have any buttermilk, you can add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to 2 cups of milk (minus 2 tablespoons to allow room for the vinegar). Let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken slightly and then use.
note 2: Sauteeing does more than soften the vegetables and carmelize their flavour, it also gets rid of a lot of extra moisture. I have found that raw vegetables give off a lot of water during cooking, making it hard for the custard to set properly.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Butter or oil a 2-quart casserole dish. Tear half the tortillas into bite-sized pieces and spread them evenly in the dish. Spread half the chilies and half the cheese on top. Add in any of your optional additions, if you are using them. Tear the remaining tortillas and layer them on top. Top with the remaining chilies and cheese.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk and the four eggs Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the casserole, pulling the tortillas aside to allow the mixture to spread evenly throughout the ingredients.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes, uncovered. 
  5. Serve with sour cream or yogurt, salsa and/or guacamole. Makes a nice meal with a salad.
Serves 4 to 6.


  1. Funny you made this. I haven't made it in a long time and then when we were at Big WHite I made it for breakfast. I overcooked it though but still better than a wife saver!

  2. Jon loves it. The last time I made it it took forever to set up (too much unsauteed kale but I was in a hurry to put it together). Never rush that step because the total time from start to finish was way longer.

    You made this first - I don't remember where. Or did we make it together at the lake? I have made A LOT of them and the best one is always the last one.

    I'm enjoying a snappy little boxed wine tonight - cheers!

  3. Pbbbbbltttt!!! Sorry - I had a mouth full. Of course not! All the better for us though 'cause then we can put spicy stuff in it.

    Technically, they should be able to eat it. I might try again with a mild version next time.

  4. This recipe is a gem that I've made over and over. I prefer a simple version with chillies and cumin as the only additions. It is absolutely the finest comfort food and is great leftover for breakfast or lunch. Would make a wonderfully easy brunch dish.

  5. This recipe is a gem that I've made over and over. I prefer a simple version with chillies and cumin as the only additions. It is absolutely the finest comfort food and is great leftover for breakfast or lunch. Would make a wonderfully easy brunch dish.

  6. Does anyone know if this freezes well?

    1. I have never tried! I can't find any other comments online about anyone trying. Great question, Heather. Custards do not traditionally freeze well as they tend to separate. But there may be enough other components in this dish that would help prevent that.

    2. An update - I sliced into 6 pieces, wrapped in foil, and then put all 6 into a gallon-sized ziploc. They froze really well! Just grabbed one in the morning to take work work, where it microwaved in about 90 seconds.

      One note though - I've never seen green chiles in an 8-pz can, only a 4-oz can. I used a 4-oz can (drained) and it was plenty.

    3. Awesome! Thanks, Heather! That is great to know. I will definitely try that, too.

      And you are right - I didn't even notice that. Thanks for the correction - I'll edit it now.