Daring Crab Enchilladas

Crab Enchiladas with Ancho Salsa

Time for my third Daring Cooks challenge!!

This month’s challenge was exactly what I had been looking for…. yummy Mexican food! Toronto doesn’t have many great Mexican restaurants, unfortunately. There are a couple… and we had one that I really liked that closed a couple of years ago. Booo!

Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco de Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.finecooking.com and written by Robb Walsh.

Poblanos and Tomatillos

Fresh Poblano peppers and Tomatillos

The challenge recipe was for chicken enchiladas, and of course I had to modify the recipe and swap out the chicken. I chose to make crab enchiladas instead, after a dish that I had in California and haven’t had since. These were not going to be “crab” enchiladas, but contain nice chunks of King crab. I bought some crab legs, pulled out the meat for the enchiladas and used the shells to make the broth.

The enchilada sauce was really simple to make, but required some items that I couldn’t find in the grocery store. I ventured out to Kensington Market, where Mexican shops carry almost everything a silly Canadian girl could want… except for the Anaheim chiles. It’s ok – I got Poblanos instead. I think I secretly wanted to have to get Poblanos, after watching a show on Chile Rellenos. (I think that might be my next Mexican challenge! Yumyum!). I also got a hand full of lovely green tomatillos. These are so nice to look at (and photograph), and have a crazy tartness that you can’t get from a red tomato. The peppers and tomatillos were roasted in the oven first, the peppers were skinned and seeded and all of the ingredients were blended together.

Roasted Poblanos and Tomatillos

Oven roasted Poblano peppers and Tomatillos

Realizing how simple this was, I adapted this process to make my ancho salsa. I roasted some red tomatoes and onions, and soaked and de-seeded some dried ancho peppers. I blended it all (pulsing, rather than pureeing… I wanted to keep some of the texture). I added  a touch of ground chipotle pepper at the end, for some smokiness. SOOOO GOOOD!

Another “secret ingredient” was some crumbled queso fresco… it doesn’t melt like other cheeses, so I used a few different cheeses in this dish. Queso fresco is a fresh cheese, like Indian Paneer, so it has a bit of a grit and chew to it that is unlike other kinds of cheeses. I think this cheese is the reason you see feta sprinkled on Mexican dishes sometimes… feta is one of the closest common cheeses, when comparing flavour (saltiness) and melting properties.

This dish did take some time to make, considering the broth, roasting of peppers, assembly and baking. It would be considerably less time if I did some of these things in advance… so really not a bad dish to make when you’re having company over! We thought it looked – and tasted – really impressive.

Hm, I even think I managed to make this one totally Gluten Free! You could also make this vegetarian by substituting the seafood stock for veg, and the crab meat for either some faux meat, or some nice roasted vegetables. Maybe even beans?

Crab Enchiladas - oven

Four crab enchiladas – fresh out of the oven!

Crab, Shrimp & Veg Stock


  • 2 Tbsp oil + butter (I used 1 Tbsp of each, but you can mix it how you like. The butter adds a nice warm flavour)
  • 1 med onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2-4 loose cups of “frozen veggie bits” (see note below)
  • shells from 1LB of shrimp
  • shells from 1.5lb of king crab legs (or equivalent)
  • 1 large dried bay leaf
  • 1 Tbsp small whole black peppercorns
  • 8-10 cups of water


  • Crab – I’m not sure how you get crab where you live, but I started with frozen pre-steamed crab legs. If you get them fresh, you’ll want to cook them first. If you can’t get whole legs, feel free to use lump crab or canned. If you get the pre-cooked frozen crab, I would advise against steaming the legs whole – just thaw, pull crab meat out, so the only cooking will happen in the oven when assembled in the enchilada. You don’t want overcooked crab.
  • Frozen Veggie bits – If you read my blog regularly, you probably saw a post about this a week or so ago. If not, ‘frozen veggie bits’ is a bag of bits that I cut off of my vegetables when preparing them for dinner and then freeze for use in stocks. These are not rotten vegetable parts, but maybe a little drier bits, or stems, or the bits that you might not want to include in the dish. For me, this includes herb stems, mushroom stems, broccoli stalks, bits of pepper that are close to the membrane or stem, carrot peels, etc. etc.


  1. Heat the oil/butter in a stock pot over medium heat , until it has coated the bottom.
  2. Sauté the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and golden. You’ll be able to smell when it is ready.
  3. Add the veg bits, shrimp and crab shells, and sauté for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the bay leaf, peppercorns and water. Bring to a boil.
  5. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for about 1 hour.

Daring Crab Enchiladas

(with Steph’s substitutions)


  • 1½ pounds Poblano chiles (about 6 medium) – roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely.
  • 7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium) – peel, remove stems
  • 4 cups broth (see above for the recipe I used)
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)
  • ¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolve in 2 tablespoons water, for thickening)
  • Hot sauce, your favorite, optional
  • Crab meat, from 1.5 lb of crab legs (shells removed, presumably these are pre-cooked and frozen crab legs)
  • 3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm). (you can also use wheat tortillas or other wraps)
  • 6 ounces grated cheese, I used a combination of jalapeno havarti, sharp cheddar and queso fresco
  • Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional


Roasting Fresh Chiles and Tomatillos

  1. Coat each chile and tomatillo with a little vegetable oil. Lay them on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.
  2. As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove the chilis to one bowl and the tomatillos to a second bowl and cover with plastic. Let them rest until they are cool. Put the tomatillos aside for now.
  3. To de-seed the chiles, pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds.
  4. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.

Green Chile Sauce

  1. Take the roasted tomatillos and puree in a blender or food processor.
  2. Put the puréed tomatillos in a saucepan along with the broth, chopped and roasted green chiles, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 4-5 cups, another 10-15 minutes.
  5. Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.

Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Crab Enchiladas

  1. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.
  2. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).
  3. Drain on paper towels.
  4. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.
  5. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.
  6. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.
  7. Divide half the crab meat among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.
  8. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the crab meat, more sauce and another third of the cheese.
  9. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.
  10. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
  11. To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.

11 thoughts on “Daring Crab Enchilladas”

  1. I love how your enchiladas are flooded with the green chili sauce! I wish i made more sauce to have an effect like this one. Great job on the challenge and for finding tomatillos, i still need to find out how they taste like someday.

  2. Hooray for Mexican! 🙂 Your crab enchiladas look delicious – awesome that you were able to turn the challenge into exactly what you were in the mood for! 🙂 Great job.

  3. Crab enchiladas, what an interesting idea! Back before I went veggie I really loved fish tacos, so I suspect I would have loved crab enchiladas too. 🙂

  4. I love the idea of crab as the filling it sounds so tasty and interesting I bet it was delicious. The photos look so mouthwatering. Cheers from Audax in Sydney Australia.

  5. I have come to the conclusion that king crab needs nothing, not even butter. That being said, I would destroy a plate of king crab and green chile enchiladas. Excellent work.

  6. Thanks for all of the comments, guys!

    @Robert – agreed! I’ve only ever steamed crab and had it with a little bit of butter before. I’ve never mixed it in things, or baked it into something else that could take away from it. It was great in the enchiladas, though!

  7. WoWWWW! I love seafood, your enchiladas sound so good. I’m making a chicken one this weekend already, but I might just have to make another one with crabmeat.

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