Chips, salsa, cheese, sour cream and a little protein often come together in the form of nachos. And what a beautiful form it is. Still, nachos are usually a special treat, loaded with gooey cheese, sour cream and some form of fatty, shredded meat. Nachos are good, even great, in moderation, usually making an appearance in my house once or twice a year, typically during a halftime show.

If you’re looking for something more in the “nacho lite” category, let me introduce you to chilaquiles.

Chilaquiles (chee-lah-KEE-lehs) are a traditional Mexican dish made with fried tortilla wedges topped with a warm salsa, along with queso fresco, avocado slices, raw onion rings and a fried egg. Shredded chicken is sometimes mixed into the salsa, as well.

It’s simple, but complex at the same time. Especially if you make your own salsa, which only takes a few extra minutes to do.

In these Chicken Chilaquiles Verdes, we make a green salsa by broiling tomatillos with chopped onion and serrano chile (if you like it hot, add two), then puréeing the vegetables with a handful of cilantro, a touch of cumin and just enough sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatillos. The mixture is then simmered in a skillet, which mellows the flavors, before some chicken broth is added to lighten the salsa.

While you can certainly fry your own tortillas, I find it’s much easier and just as tasty to use tortilla chips, but make sure to buy thick, sturdy chips. Thin ones tend to disintegrate into the sauce. We want them to wilt a bit, but still retain some texture.

Some shredded leftover or rotisserie chicken is added for heartiness, but if you want to keep the dish vegetarian, simply leave out the chicken and use vegetable broth.

I like to top my chilaquiles with crumbled cotija cheese. It’s a salty cheese that resembles feta and is a nice foil to the heat of serrano chiles in the dish. Some raw red onion and a showering of fresh cilantro leaves come next, before topping it off with a sunny-side-up fried egg.

The result is a dinner in less than 30 minutes that’s delicious, satisfying, but light enough to enjoy anytime, with or without a halftime show.


Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at Follow her on Twitter ­at @meredithdeeds.