Vegetarian Enchilada Casserole


Several of us were asked to bring a Chicken Enchilada Casserole for a large gathering recently, so I volunteered to make a vegetarian version. The organizers wanted all the casseroles to have the same appearance so they had provided a recipe to follow and asked that I make my vegetarian contribution to look as much as possible as the original. I have included that recipe at the end of this post, just for comparison purposes. As you will see, the revisions I have made are quite a bit lower in fat and higher in vitamins and fiber, a nice side benefit.

One problem:  When I have made vegetarian enchiladas in the past, they have always had the tomatoe-y sauce that is what most of us think of when we imagine enchiladas.

To produce a flavorful substitute, not only without tomatoes but also without using cream soup was going to be a challenge, that’s for sure. But I was up to it and worked out the following recipe that is even tastier than the original and, not incidentally, a whole lot lower in calories and fat.

Creamy Vegetarian Enchiladas

olive oil
11 to 12 oz diced butternut squash, about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups
1/2 c (1/2 medium) onion, diced
4 oz can mushroom slices or pieces–do not drain
1/4 c flour
1 c plain low fat or nonfat yogurt
2 T McKay’s seasoning or other vegetable bouillon base
1 t garlic powder
1 t cumin
1/2 c low fat sour cream
10 oz frozen chopped kale or spinach, thawed but not drained
1 15 oz can garbanzo beans–drain but reserve liquid
4 oz  diced green chiles, including liquid
1/4 to 1/2 c chopped cilantro, to taste (use stems as well as leaves)
about 1/2 to 1 t salt, to taste
6 to 8 flour tortillas
14 to 16 oz Mexican mix grated cheese (or all cheddar or cheddar/jack mix)

1.  Put just enough olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan to cover the bottom with a very thin layer.
Add the squash and onions and saute over medium to high heat until the squash is soft and the onions are golden.

2.  Stir the flour into the liquid from the mushrooms, adding a bit more water or milk to make this a thin paste. Gradually add this mixture with the mushrooms and yogurt and stir just until the mixture is thickened. Add the seasonings and sour cream and stir until smooth and beginning to thicken.

3.  Add the kale or spinach, garbanzo beans, and cilantro. Taste and add salt as needed.  

 4.  Lightly oil a 9 X 12 pan and spread with a single layer of tortillas. Tear the tortillas as needed to cover the entire bottom. Spoon about one third of the garbanzo bean mixture evenly across the tortillas and then sprinkle with about a quarter to a third of the cheese.

5.  Repeat layering tortillas, bean mixture, and cheese two more times. Make sure the top is completely covered with the cheese.

6.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees (325 if using a glass pan) for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Serve with salsa and/or hot sauce.

Some changes you may want to make:

Mushrooms:   I didn’t have any fresh mushrooms so used canned, but sauteeing fresh ones (and maybe as many as 8 oz.) near the end of step 1 would be even better.

Tortillas:  As mentioned, I prefer corn tortillas, and you could substitute those for the flour tortillas here. If you stay with flour tortillas, choose whole grain tortillas for more texture and nutrition.

Garlic:  Fresh garlic is always good to use if you have it, but bottled or frozen garlic could also be substituted for the garlic powder. Still, garlic powder is a good ingredient to have on hand if you are in a hurry and/or you want to have a very well-blended garlic flavor in a sauce such as this.

Squash:  Butternut squash puree, either freshly made or pureed, can be substituted for the fresh squash.


For comparison purposes, here is the original recipe that was used for the evening’s meal. It was definitely a well-received dish and could be something you might want to make if you still use canned cream soups.

Chicken Enchiladas                  
1 dozen flour tortillas
Mix next 6 ingredients:

  • 4 COOKED skinless, boneless chicken breasts ( can use whole fryer instead)
  • 2 cans cream of chicken soup
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 1 small onion – chopped
  • 1 can green chopped chiles
1 pound grated cheddar cheese

Layer in a 9×13 pan:
Tortillas ( rip tortillas in sections to allow single layer coverage of pan)
Chicken mixture
Repeat layers (ending with grated cheese)

Bake uncovered at 350 for approx. 35 minutes or until bubbly.
Serves: 8-10

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