Cheesy Butternut Squash Enchiladas


Though it’s sometimes hard to decipher exactly what elevates a recipe from “maybe I’ll make that one day” status to “I’m sprinting to the kitchen right now” material (chipotle? squash? cheese?), I can pinpoint a few elements from the ingredient list or cooking instructions that’ll catapult the recipe over to the “no way am I ever making that” list, and the first one reads like this: “peel and cube the butternut squash.”

Have you ever peeled and cubed a butternut squash? If you’re lucky, the worst problem you’ll encounter during the process is your knife getting stuck in the stiff flesh no matter how recently its blade was sharpened. More likely you’ll also find the skin of your hands peeling off much more easily than the squash’s, thanks to butternut squash-induced contact dermatitis, which is a real thing.

And so I was intent on avoiding that instruction when I wanted to cook vegetarian enchiladas one Sunday and a butternut squash materialized in the produce aisle, the only appealing vegetable there. Of course, I wanted the squash in cubes eventually, so I could fill my all-veg enchiladas with something tasty and hearty. Instead of dealing with peeling and chopping, I solved the problem with a single cut through the middle of my squash before roasting the two halves until soft. Only then did I venture to remove the skin and chop the vegetable. I highly recommend this technique for any squash recipe that permits it. My filling got seasoned with lime juice, fresh garlic, and smoky chipotle in adobo, and I actually enjoyed cooking with squash for once.

The rest of the enchilada dish comes together as a healthful vegetarian main posing as something gooey and decadent. I love how the tomato and jalapeño sauce develops in the blender; onions, garlic, and oil conspire to emulsify the tomatoes and make them almost creamy. As for the cheese, use as much or as little as strikes you as right: you could scatter a mere 1/2 cup if you’re playing January on the light side, and these would be delicious.

Or, rev the measurement up to 1 1/2 or even 2 (!) cups, if this veggie main is meant to serve, I don’t know, carnivores watching the Super Bowl?


Cheesy Butternut Squash Enchiladas
Serves 6

These are a fantastic candidate for making on Sunday and eating later in the week. If that’s your plan, make the enchiladas all the way through the end but only bake for 15 to 20 minutes the first time. Reheat the whole pan in a 400°F oven for 15 to 20 minutes when you’re ready to eat. Also, note that these can be a bit messy to serve: you might wind up scooping them out rather than neatly lifting each individual enchilada from baking dish to plate. I really love these served beside homemade refried beans.


For the filling:
1 butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise, seeds scooped out
2 small yellow onions, trimmed and cut into eighths
Olive oil
1/2 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotles in adobo, chopped (1 tablespoon), plus 1 teaspoon of the adobo sauce from the can
1 clove garlic, minced or run through a microplane
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the sauce:
3 tablespoons safflower or other neutral oil
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, left whole
1 jalapeño, halved and seeds scooped out (you can leave in the seeds if you like a lot of spice)
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste

To assemble:
12 small corn tortillas
1 cup (about 8 ounces) mild cheddar or aged mozzarella (like the kind that comes in plastic at the supermarket)
2 scallions, green parts chopped, for garnish
Refried beans, for serving (optional)

Make the filling: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the butternut halves in a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish and brush with lots of oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 45 to 55 minutes, until soft but not too soft. In a second baking dish, toss the 2 onions with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and bake for 20 minutes, until soft but not too dark.  Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine the chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, garlic, olive oil, lime juice, and salt. When the onions are ready, toss with the chipotle mixture. When the squash is ready, let cool for a few minutes until you can touch it. Cut the peel off the roasted squash and roughly cube it. Add that to the mixing bowl and toss to combine. Taste for salt and add more as needed–you’ll want the filling to be very well seasoned to make the final dish sing.

While the vegetables are roasting, make the sauce: In a wide saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. You want the vegetables to soften and get a little brown around the edges. When the veggies are soft, add the tomatoes and simmer, partly covered, for about 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and even browned around the edges. Let the sauce cool for a few minutes, then transfer to the blender and blend til emulsified and smooth. The sauce will lighten in color to a pretty pink. Pour back into the saucepan you simmered the sauce in.

Toast the tortillas: heat a cast iron or other heavy pan over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, until very hot. Toast a tortilla for 30 seconds to 1 minute per side, until slightly golden and crisp. Set aside on a plate and repeat with the rest of the tortillas (this step allows the tortillas to absorb tons more enchilada sauce, which means more flavor).

Assemble the enchiladas: Spoon a little sauce into the bottom of the pan in which you roasted the squash. Take a toasted tortilla and immerse it in the sauce. (Use tongs or your clean hands.) Set the dipped tortilla on a plate or cutting board and spoon some of the squash filling into a line along the middle. Roll up the tortilla and place your enchilada in the prepared pan. Repeat until you’ve used up all the filling and all the tortillas. If possible, squeeze them all into the casserole pan, but use two pans if you need! Spoon the rest of the sauce on top, then sprinkle on the cheese. Bake at 400°F for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges of the enchiladas have gotten crispy. Garnish with the scallion greens and eat with refried beans.

This recipe is part of Food Network’s Comfort Food Feast! Click below to see the other casserole dishes that bloggers made:

The Heritage Cook: Tex-Mex Arroz con Pollo (Gluten-Free)
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Smoked Sausage Chicken Cassoulet
Dishin & Dishes: Black Bean Enchilada Pie
Weelicious: Chicken Wild Rice Casserole
Dishing with Divya: Chicken Mushroom and Black Bean Tortilla Casserole
Taste With The Eyes: Paella Rice with Baby Octopus & Meyer Lemon
Blue Apron: 11 Super Casserole Recipes for a Super Bowl Feast
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Pork Chop Casserole with Crimini Mushrooms
Red or Green: Stacked Cheese Enchiladas with New Mexican Red Chile Sauce
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Chicken and Rice Casserole
The Sensitive Epicure: Tater Tot Breakfast Casserole (Gluten-Free)
Domesticate Me: Mushroom, White Bean and Brown Rice Casserole with Bacon and Gruyere
Daily*Dishin: Chicken Tetrazzini Casserole
FN Dish: The New Age of Casseroles

  • Megan

    These look amazing! I consider it quite a feat to tackle cutting a butternut squash, but it’s so much better than buying the precubed stuff. Roasting the squash first definitely simplifies things… and probably helps with the flavor too. Great idea!

    • BGSK

      You’re right – it is better (and cheaper) than the pre-cubed. Hope you try the technique some time!

  • Warm Vanilla Sugar

    YUM! This sounds lovely!!

  • Becca @ Amuse Your Bouche

    I can’t believe I’ve never thought of pre-roasting the squash before cutting before! It’s a revelation!! Also these look totally incredible :)

    • BGSK

      Thanks, Becca! They’re delish!

  • Jules

    Is there any risk of overcooking the squash by using this method? These sound delicious, and I HATE cubing raw squash. But I’m worried the double-cooking will turn the squash mushy.

    • BGSK

      Great question–I definitely took the halved squash out of the oven a little earlier than I would have if eating it without a second baking. As long as you do that, I wouldn’t worry about it being overly mushy. Plus, the edges of the tortillas get crispy, a nice contrast in any event.

  • NotYourMamasMartha!

    I absolutely LOVE your tip about roasting the squash first – I was given that tip a few years ago and it changed my life. :) Can’t wait to try these out, thank you!

    • BGSK

      Can’t wait to hear what you think!

  • heidi

    You are my favorite! This looks amazing. Have you tried using butternut squash in mac and cheese? It will change your life.

    • BGSK

      Doing that pronto. Yum yum yum.

  • Lisa

    How many lbs. shoul the butternut squash be?

    • BGSK

      Something in the neighborhood of 2 lbs.

  • Sierra

    How do you think would this be using pumpkin in stead of butternut squash?

    • BGSK

      They should be great! Pumpkin can be more watery than squash, but the pre-cooking will take care of that.

      • Sierra

        Great – thank you!

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