Here’s a great late-summer, early fall vegetarian entrée. It’s a layering of enchilada sauce, tortillas, sautéed summer vegetables, herbs, and Monterey Jack cheese. It’s an assembly that lends itself well to improvisation — use what you have on hand: mushrooms, Swiss chard, kale, eggplant would all work well here. The key? The homemade enchilada sauce, which takes 15 minutes to make and is so, so tasty.

A piece of vegetarian tortilla casserole on a plate.

As long as the tomatoes are still arriving in the farm share, I’m going to continue making my favorite summer recipes, namely this quick, red enchilada sauce. Of all the culinary discoveries this year, this one tops the list as most welcomed.

If you haven’t yet given it a go, I highly recommend you do: start to finish it takes 15 minutes, and it yields enough for at least a couple of batches of enchiladas or huevos rancheros or this lasagna-style casserole, which has found purpose for the many tortillas amassing in my bread box as well as a glut of late summer produce in my vegetable bins.

With that in mind, this is the sort of recipe that lends itself well to improvisation. Here, I’ve sautéed zucchini, corn, and bell peppers, but I can just as soon imagine sautéing mushrooms or Swiss Chard or, later in the fall, roasting cubed butternut squash or shredded Brussels sprouts.

The one non-negotiable? The sauce. As a refresher, it’s made with broiled vegetables (tomatoes, onions and jalapeño), fresh lime juice, and a chipotle in adobo sauce. It infuses anything it smothers with heat and spice, smoke and char, sweetness and acidity. It is delicious.

Here are the other components:

  1. Tortillas:
    • Order a few packs of Caramelo flour tortillas, which are exceptional. Read more about them here: Caramelo Flour Tortillas.
    • Seek out corn-flour hybrid tortillas, which of the commercial varieties, I find to be the tastiest. La Tortilla Factory sells a variety, and both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s do as well.
  2. Vegetables: As noted above, use what you have on hand. Sautéed mushrooms or greens would be delicious here as would any number of roasted vegetables. Truly, I cannot imagine a vegetable that would not work in this recipe. The key is to cook the vegetables to remove their water content.
  3. Highly seasoned beans or meat:
    • These slow-cooked black beans are seasoned with olive oil, salt, a bay leaf, onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. I have been cooking them by the pound and stashing them in the fridge or freezer. They are delicious straight from the pot, but as they marinate in their cooking liquid, they become even more flavorful. They freeze well, too. There are instructions in the recipe for making them in the Instant Pot, too.
    • Chicken: Tinga, a Mexican dish made with shredded chicken, chipotles in adobo sauce, tomatoes, onion, and cilantro is great in this tortilla casserole or in more traditional enchiladas. Here are two recipes: Instant Pot or traditional.
  4. Lots of fresh herbs: Inspired by this enchilada casserole recipe, which calls for layering the tortillas, sauce, and cheese, with lots of fresh cilantro and sliced scallions, I’ve done the same here.
  5. Cheese: Monterey Jack cheese excels at melting, which is why I love it for this dish as well as these enchiladas. That said, it’s very mild in flavor. Though I haven’t tried, I think a mix of Monterey Jack cheese and Cheddar would be excellent.

There are instructions in the notes below the recipe for how to freeze this tortilla casserole… your December self will thank you. As always, I hope you all love this one as much as I.

Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your ingredients.

The ingredients to make sautéed summer vegetable tortilla casserole.

Sauté the vegetables, starting with the onions and peppers, then the zucchini, and finally the fresh corn.

A skillet on the stovetop with sautéed summer vegetables.

Add some black beans, stir to combine, and season to taste with salt.

Ingredients on a counter top for the summer vegetable enchilada casserole.

Begin layering: enchilada sauce, tortillas, cilantro, scallions, veg+bean mix, and Monterey Jack cheese. Repeat until you have at least 3 layers of tortillas.

Layering the enchilada casserole with tortillas and summer vegetables.

Top the last layer of tortillas with sauce, herbs, and finally cheese.

Enchilada casserole ready for the oven.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use whatever shaped pan you have. Here’s a smaller 9-inch square pan ready for the oven:

An unbaked vegetarian tortilla casserole.

The casserole bakes at 425ºF for about 25 minutes or until the cheese begins to brown.

Just baked vegetarian tortilla casserole.

You can garnish with more fresh herbs if you wish.

Just baked vegetarian tortilla casserole.

Let rest at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving. It’s so, so good.

A piece of vegetarian tortilla casserole.
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A piece of vegetarian tortilla casserole on a plate.

Vegetarian Tortilla Casserole


  • Author: Alexandra Stafford
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: serves 6 to 8
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Here’s a great late-summer, early fall vegetarian entrée. It’s a layering of enchilada sauce, tortillas, sautéed summer vegetables, herbs, and Monterey Jack cheese. It’s an assembly that lends itself well to improvisation — use what you have on hand: mushrooms, Swiss chard, kale, eggplant would all work well here. The key? The homemade enchilada sauce, which takes 15 minutes to make and is so, so tasty.


Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced
  • 1 large zucchini, diced
  • 2 ears corn, shucked, kernels stripped
  • 1.5 cups cooked black beans, see notes below
  • enchilada sauce
  • 9 to 12 tortillas, see notes below
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, grated

Instructions

  1. In a large sauté pan over high heat, add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When it shimmers, immediately add the diced onions and bell peppers. Season with a pinch of salt. Turn heat down to medium. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often to ensure the vegetables are not burning. When the vegetables are soft, add the zucchini, season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, just until the zucchini loses its rawness. Finally, add the corn, season with a pinch of salt, and cook for a minute more. Turn off the heat.
  2. Add the black beans to the skillet and stir to combine. Taste. Season with salt to taste. 
  3. Heat the oven to 425ºF. Coat the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with a thin layer of the enchilada sauce (roughly 3/4 cup). Arrange a single layer of tortillas over sauce, trimming edges to fit.
  4. Scatter a handful each of cilantro and scallions over the tortillas. Spoon a layer of the vegetable-bean mixture over top. Sprinkle a layer of cheese over top. Spoon a layer of sauce over top and use the back of a spoon to spread it out. Repeat the layering: tortillas, herbs, veg+beans, cheese, sauce, until you have three (or four if you wish) layers of tortillas. 
  5. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the final layer of tortillas. Scatter a final layer of herbs over top. Add a final layer of cheese. 
  6. Bake enchiladas in the middle or top rack of oven until the cheese topping bubbles and browns in spots, 15-25 minutes. Garnish with more fresh cilantro and scallions if you wish. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting and serving. 

Notes

  • Black Beans: This is my favorite way to prepare black beans: Simplest Slow Cooker Black Beans (instructions for using the Instant Pot are included in the recipe.) 
  • Tortillas: I am partial to using flour tortillas but if you prefer using corn tortillas, go for it. When I have a stash of Caramelo tortillas on hand, that is my preference. When I don’t, I look for the tortillas made from a blend of flour and corn (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods) or I make them from scratch (here’s a sourdough version.) If you are using store-bought tortillas, toast them on both sides in a skillet until they begin to lightly brown. 
  • To freeze: Assemble the casserole, stopping after you top the final layer of tortillas with sauce. Cover the dish tightly with a few layers of foil. Freeze for up to 3 months. To thaw and bake: Bake covered at 375ºF for 20 minutes. Uncover. Sprinkle over a layer of scallions, cilantro, and a final layer of cheese.  Increase the heat to 425ºF and bake until the cheese is beginning to blister, about 15 minutes.
  • Category: Entrée
  • Method: Sauté, Oven
  • Cuisine: Mexican, American

Keywords: tortilla, casserole, vegetarian, beans, vegetables, enchilada