Enchiladas are one of those foods that, when done correctly, you can’t stop thinking about (what’s better than a spicy, saucy, cheesy tortilla filled with meat or veggies?). But when you make a bad batch, they’re a soggy mess.

There’s no need to let prior Mexican food mishaps hold you back from one of life’s great culinary pleasures — with a few simple tips at your fingers, you can make pitch-perfect enchiladas every time.

NB: They freeze well, so you can make a batch ahead to last you through the month, and most of the components are make-ahead-friendly (perfect for a Cinco de Mayo party!).

1. The Spice is Right

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Enchiladas typically rely on red, green, or brown sauces (brown being the Tex-Mex style featuring a mix of gravy and chiles). Whether you use tomato, tomatillos, or just the peppers themselves are the base, make sure your sauce is a good consistency – about that of cream – and has some nice kick. And please, make your own – the jarred stuff is often too sweet and full of salt and preservatives.

2. Treat Your Tortillas Right

The most important tip for avoiding soggy enchiladas is to briefly fry your tortillas in hot oil before you fill and roll.  This creates a little bit of a barrier so that the tortillas don’t soak up too much of the sauce and therefore start to break down.

First, select good, fresh corn tortillas, ideally ones that are made from nixtamal and don’t rely on preservatives (Hot Bread Kitchen ships theirs online). Then, heat oil over medium high and fry tortillas about ten seconds per side, until they just start to crisp and brown. You can drain them on paper towels if you’re wary of too much oil, but don’t worry – they don’t soak up much of it.

3. Fill ‘Er Up

This is the fun part – selecting a filling to suit your taste. You can go for meats, vegetables, cheese, a combination of the above … there really are no rules here. Think about texture and balance – meats should be ground or slow-cooked and shredded (you don’t want to have to cut through your enchilada to eat it); veggies should be pre-cooked. How spicy you go on the filling should depend on your sauce and your palate. Mild sauces can get an extra kick from fresh chopped jalapeños, while spicy sauces might benefit from vegetables like sweet potato.

4. Skimp on the Sauce

No, legit enchiladas are not supposed to be swimming in sauce as most American preparations might have you believe. You’ll need about 4 cups of sauce for 8 enchiladas.

Before frying your tortillas, spread about a cup of sauce lengthwise down the center of your baking sheet. After frying the tortillas, dip each side in your sauce to coat the whole surface. This method will ensure even distribution — and less sauce means your tortillas are less likely to fall apart. Once you’ve stuffed each tortilla with filling, rolled and placed it (seam-side down) in the pan, pour the remaining sauce over the rolled tortillas — then top with cheese.

5. Balance Things Out with Garnishes

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Once your casserole is out of the oven, sprinkle it with tons of toppings to brighten things up and balance the flavors. Sliced radishes, crunchy pickled red onions or jalapenos, lime wedges, and fresh cilantro lighten a heavy, cheesy sauce, lending fresh flavor and bold color. Take simple beef enchiladas in a Tex-Mex direction with dollops of sour cream and chopped raw onion. If you’ve got a spicy sauce, consider adding a cooling element like slices of avocado or crema (Mexican sour cream). For veggie enchiladas, extra shredded cheese never hurts! Get our Pickled Vegetables recipe.

Here are some recipes to get you started: Beef Enchiladas, Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Enchiladas, and Spinach-Mushroom Enchiladas.

And on the side: Margaritas, Refried Black Beans

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