Do you remember Chi Chi’s restaurant? It was my favorite back in the day and their seafood enchiladas were at the top of my list. Creamy, cheesy, with big chunks of seafood, I still find myself craving these enchiladas.
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This is my take on Chi Chi’s luscious seafood enchiladas. They’re pretty close to the original, but not exact. They are, however, completely delicious. I like to serve them with Mexican Grilled Corn, Spicy Mexican Rice Pilaf, and a Jalapeno Guava Margarita. Play some Madonna and reminisce about the ’80s.
WHAT DO I NEED FOR THIS RECIPE AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS?
In trying other internet copycat recipes, I found some to be way off base in taste and texture and others to be really, really close to what I remembered.
I knew I wanted the enchiladas to be mild in flavor, not too fishy or spicy. After reading comments on blog posts, I discovered someone who mentioned that having worked at Chi Chi’s they knew that the sauce contained cream cheese and sour cream. Maybe that’s what was missing. After many trials and errors, this is as close as I can get.
- Shrimp – many recipes called for canned salad shrimp, but I have an aversion to canned protein-including seafood. By poaching shrimp with lemon and Old Bay seasoning, we add flavor and a lovely texture to the enchiladas. It doesn’t take much more effort and is well worth it. You will need about 1 cup of chopped shrimp.
- Old Bay Seasoning – to poach the shrimp
- Lemons and limes
- Butter, flour, salt, and pepper – this is used to make a roux to thicken the sauce
- Lobster Base – I use Better Than Bouillon brand. It adds a mild lobster flavor that MAKES this sauce! I’ve tried using fish stock but the seafood flavor was much too intense.
- Milk, sour cream, cream cheese – low fat would work, but not fat-free. It tastes chalky in this recipe. I like using full-fat dairy to keep the luscious, silky mouthfeel of the sauce.
- White wine – I used a very dry Chardonnay
- Monterey Jack cheese – buy it in a block and grate it yourself for the smoothest sauce.
- Imitation crab meat – it was a surprise to me how delicious this product was in the enchiladas. It keeps the dish mild in flavor and more authentic to what I remembered. I’ve tried using fresh crab meat, but the texture was off and it was much too fishy. Try it for yourself to see which you prefer.
- Flour tortillas – the thinner the better
- Paprika for color
- For spicier flavor – mix in a 4-ounce can of diced green chiles when you add the milk, sour cream, and cream cheese to the sauce. It will add a mild kick without overpowering the seafood.
- Pepper Jack cheese instead of Monterey Jack would also bump up the heat level.
- Adding a bit of cayenne to the sauce will also provide spice and heat. Just use it sparingly as a little goes a long way!
- If you enjoy a stronger seafood flavor, you can add chopped scallops, lobster, canned crab meat, or white fish like cod, haddock, Mahi, etc.
Alternatively for stronger seafood flavor, swap fish stock, clam juice, or shrimp base for the lobster base (which is quite mild).
Do you remember Chi Chi’s restaurant? It was my favorite back in the day and their seafood enchiladas were at the top of my list. Creamy, cheesy, with big chunks of seafood, I still find myself craving these enchiladas. I think you will as well! Luckily, you can make them easily at home.
For the shrimp:
- 15–20 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (to yield one cup of chopped, cooked shrimp)
- 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
- ½ fresh lemon
For the filling:
- 6 tablespoons salted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons lobster base (I used Better Than Bouillon brand)
- 2 cups milk
- 1 cup sour cream
- 6 ounces cream cheese, cubed
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
- 2 (8-ounce) packages Imitation crab meat, flake style, chopped
For the enchiladas:
- 10 (6-inch) flour tortillas
- 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- Paprika for garnish
- Lime wedges for serving
To cook the shrimp:
Fill a large saucepan about ¾ full of water.
Add the Old Bay Seasoning, squeeze the lemon, and add it to the pot.
Bring the pot to a full rolling boil over high heat.
Turn off the heat and add the shrimp.
Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and allow to sit for 4-5 minutes until the shrimp are opaque.
Drain the shrimp in a colander and rinse with cold water to halt the cooking process.
When cool enough to handle, chop and set aside.
To make the sauce:
In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.
Sprinkle in the flour and mix into the butter. Cook for 5 minutes, whisking constantly.
Stir in the white pepper, salt, and lobster base. Cook for another minute.
Whisk in the milk, sour cream, and cream cheese cubes until the cream cheese has melted and the mixture is smooth – about 5 minutes.
Pour in the wine and add the cheese.
Cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and the cheese is melted – about 2 minutes.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
To prepare the filling, combine the chopped shrimp and imitation crab meat in a medium bowl. Pour 1 ½ cups of the over the seafood and stir to combine.
To assemble the enchiladas:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with cooking spray.
Spoon a thin layer of the reserved sauce into the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
Lay a tortilla on a flat surface and spoon 3 heaping tablespoons of the filling down the center of the tortilla. Fold the tortilla and then roll it up.
Place the enchilada seam side down into the pan. Repeat with the remaining tortillas and filling.
Pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas and sprinkle with 1 cup of Monterey Jack cheese.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and golden on top.
Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Serve hot with lime wedges.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Category: Main Dish - Seafood
- Method: Bake
- Cuisine: Mexican
Keywords: seafood enchiladas, seafood, dinner recipes, Chi Chi's restaurant, copycat recipes, shrimp, imitation crab meat, restaurant recipes