When you’re new to eating a plant-based diet, it can be easy to just stick with pre-made substitutes for your favorite recipes that feature dairy and meat. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, but if you’re trying to eat as many vegetables as possible, it’s kind of a missed opportunity. These vegan enchiladas are loaded with vegetables like beans, broccoli, bell pepper, and spinach, for a truly plant-based meal.
When I was recently visiting my grandma outside a very small town in Arizona, I knew I wouldn’t be able to find the same kind of vegan substitutes and ingredients I’d be able to get at the grocery stores back in Portland. So when I was looking for a dinner recipe, I decided to make these vegan enchiladas with just vegetables. No fake cheese, no fake meat, just vegetables, tortillas, and sauce. And they were a hit, even with non-vegetarians.
Although I used store-bought green salsa this time, I think this roasted tomatillo salsa would be really good with these.
Veggie-Loaded Vegan Enchiladas
Recipe yields 12 enchiladas, enough for about 4 servings.
3 cups enchilada sauce (see recipe for homemade enchilada sauce below)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion (about 1 small red onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of broccoli, florets removed and sliced into small, bite-sized pieces
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
5 to 6 ounces baby spinach (about 5 cups, packed)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
½ teaspoon salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 white or whole wheat flour tortillas (number depends on size of tortillas)
Vegan sour cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with olive oil or cooking spray.
In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil until simmering. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the broccoli, bell pepper, and garlic, and stir, reducing heat to medium-low. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 to 9 minutes, or until the broccoli is brighter green and just starting to turn golden on the edges.
Add the cumin and cinnamon and then the spinach, a few handfuls at a time, stirring until it has reduced in size. Repeat with remaining spinach and cook until all of the spinach has wilted.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a large mixing bowl. Add the drained beans and a few tablespoons of enchilada sauce. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Pour about ¼ cup of enchilada sauce into your prepared baking dish and tilt it from side to side until the bottom of the dish is evenly coated. To assemble your first enchilada, spread ½ cup filling mixture down the middle of a tortilla, then snugly wrap the left side over and then the right, to make a wrap. Place it seam side down against the edge of your pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Depending on the size of your tortillas, you may have leftover filling.
Drizzle the remaining enchilada sauce evenly over the enchiladas, leaving the tips of the enchiladas bare.
Bake, uncovered, on the middle rack for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and let the enchiladas cool slightly before serving. Garnish with chopped cilantro, avocado, salsa, and vegan sour cream. Serve immediately.
Homemade Enchilada Sauce
Yield: 4 cups/1 quart
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup flour (whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour or gluten-free flour blend)
2 Tbsp ground chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt, to taste
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cups vegetable broth
2 tsp apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Measure the flour, spices, and salt and mix together in a small bowl, and place it near the stove. Place the tomato paste and broth near the stove as well.
In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, warm the oil until it’s it’s hot enough that a light sprinkling of the flour/spice mixture sizzles on contact.
Once it’s ready, pour in the flour and spice mixture. While whisking constantly, cook until fragrant and slightly deepened in color, about 1 minute. Whisk the tomato paste into the mixture, then slowly pour in the broth while whisking constantly to remove any lumps.
Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, whisking often, for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit. (The sauce will thicken more as it cools.)
Remove from heat, then whisk in the vinegar and season to taste with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add more salt, if necessary.