How to Make Huevos Rancheros: Breakfast (or Dinner) at Our House
Please Join Us for a Classic Mexican Meal
Being a New England native without a south-of-the-border bone in my body, I'd not heard of this dish until my mustached man, an Arizona native, prepared it for me. Since then, this classic Mexican meal has become a staple in our house, morning or evening.
Huevos rancheros, meaning "eggs country-style" or "eggs ranch-style" in Spanish, was traditionally served as a mid-morning breakfast, or almuerzo, on rural farms.
Nowadays, you can find huevos rancheros on restaurant menus all over the southwestern United States and even in other parts of the country. And the neat thing is, two cooks rarely make this dish look or taste exactly the same.
Here, I'll share with you the way my husband makes huevos rancheros -- with a little help from me -- as well as some of the variations we've found in our travels and on the web.
Making Huevos Rancheros: The Ingredients
Our version of huevos rancheros is as simple as it gets....
....not to mention fast now that we have the system down to a science. It's like a little kitchen dance we do as we prepare this meal, usually for dinner at our house.
So here's what you'll need for huevos rancheros our way:
- Eggs, two per person
- Corn tortillas, small, three per person
- Refried beans, 1/2 can per person
- Green enchilada (or chili or chile) sauce, 1/2 can per person
- Cheddar cheese -- mild, medium or sharp (your choice)
- Olive oil
- Flour tortillas -- white or whole wheat -- 1 large per person
Obviously, this is the store-bought version of huevos rancheros. I discuss huevos from scratch, with recipes for preparing the components, a bit further on.
The Kitchenware and Tools You'll Need
More very basic stuff
We like to set out everything we need before we start to cook, so our little kitchen dance goes smoothly.
And here's what you should have to follow along:
- Fry pan (We prefer cast iron, but non-stick would be just fine.)
- Large serving spoon
- Cheese grater
- Can opener (Oops, left it out of the picture.)
- Microwave-safe plates
- And a microwave (although you can certainly make huevos rancheros with an extra saucepan to heat the beans and a conventional oven to warm the tortillas)
Now, before you go, "Eeeew, that fry pan up there is diiiirrrty," I want to explain that that's just a bit of rust you're seeing in the photo. Sometimes, the cast iron is still a little wet after we rinse it and wipe it out with a cloth, so rust forms as it finishes air-drying. We just wipe the pan out before using it again. No big whoop. (Wow, I haven't said "whoop" in years.)
Huevos Rancheros: The Making Of
Here are the steps to our choreographed huevos rancheros kitchen dance. So far, we haven't collided or squashed each others toes.
First, my job is to open the cans of beans and green sauce (we use Hatch Green Chile Enchilada Sauce), dump the sauce into the pan and set that on the stove. This I'm doing while my husband is doing calisthenics, warming up for the occasion. But that part is optional.
Then, onto both microwavable plates I spread half a can of refried beans, as pictured above. My partner in cooking calls this design a ffff-heart. Get it? Beans. Fart.
Okay, let's move on.
Next, cover the beans with three corn tortillas on each plate. One whole wheat tortilla is then laid over the corn tortillas. Why? Two reasons: to keep the corn tortillas from drying out in the microwave and to keep the beans from splattering. The edges of the corn tortillas roll up in the microwave, so that would let exploding beans sneak out, you see.
Cover the refried beans with corn tortillas....
Then cover the corn tortillas with a flour tortilla. Very simple, very easy....
Huevos Rancheros Continued...
Meanwhile, my assistant is turning on the stove burners, one on low under the sauce and the other under the cast iron pan, into which he pours a small amount of olive oil to fry the eggs, two at a time.
I then put the first plate of beans and tortillas in the microwave for one minute on high, as my other half cracks two eggs into the pan. Now, if he breaks a yolk, that becomes his serving, because I absolutely refuse broken yolks. I wish to break them myself, when I am good and ready. Hmpf!
Can you tell he's holding his breath as he breaks this egg?
Ready for the huevos flip!
Our Next Move....
When the eggs have been flipped (we prefer ours over-medium), I give the plate in the microwave another minute on high.
While writing this article, I asked my husband, "So, why do we actually do two separate minutes in the microwave, instead of two contiguous minutes?" After all these years, I'd never posed the question.
And he replied, "Because it works better that way."
When I then gave him a scowl, because that was a lame answer, he elaborated.
"It gives the plate a chance to stand, and the heat just seems to dissipate better, and the second minute finishes it off. Plus, the timing works out that way, so the beans and tortillas don't sit there, cooling, until the eggs are ready."
Okay, that sounded reasonable enough. Though a wee bit confusing.
So, when the microwave beeps for the second time, I remove the plate, whisk the flour tortilla off the top and spin around to place the plate on the counter, just in time for my mustached man to spoon some sauce over the corn tortillas.
He then slides two beautiful huevos onto the mound. And over the eggs, more green chili sauce goes.
While this is happening, I'm folding the flour tortilla into a nice triangle. The flour tortilla will come into play when the huevos rancheros have been eaten and scoopage is necessary to remove the remaining sauce and bits of bean from the plate. The dog can finish removing whatever is left after that, so we don't have to wash the plates.
Okay, so now it's time to grate the cheese on top of the pile of sauce-covered eggs, corn tortillas and beans. Then I place some plops of salsa here and there. And plate #1 is done!
He sliiiiides the eggs, yolks intact, onto the sauce-covered pile of beans and corn tortillas....
Grating, grating, grating...
The Huevo Ranchero-Making Continues....
Now, by this time, my partner is already cracking the next two eggs, so I have no chance to rest. Into the microwave plate #2 goes for one minute.
While that's happening and the man is watching over his frying eggs and turning off the saucepan, because the sauce is bubbling like crazy now, I start cleaning up. Egg shells go into the compost bin, the egg carton goes back in the fridge, the oil is put away and so forth. Otherwise, I'd just be standing there, watching eggs being flipped, which makes the flipper nervous. And a nervous egg flipper breaks yolks.
Basically, the whole process of huevos rancheros-making is repeated until we have two complete plates. Together, we carry our meals into the living room, where myhusband sits on the couch and I sit on the floor on the other side of the coffee table, and the dog watches as we dine.
Now, the way we eat huevos rancheros is to turn our plates, bite by bite, so as the yolks stay intact until we get to the middle. But that method is optional and generally only done at home. When eating restaurant huevos rancheros, we leave the plates stationary and move around the table instead.
Yes, I'm kidding again.
Oh, here, someone wants to show you his huevos....
How To Eat Huevos Rancheros
There IS actually a technique...
Yep, you read that correctly; I said how to EAT them, not how to make them (which I've already covered, of course). But I noticed that a number of folks visiting this page were searching for "how to eat huevos rancheros," so I assume there's actually some question as to how to get that saucy, somewhat spicy egg concoction into one's mouth with class and without dropping a lot of it off your fork and possibly onto your lap.
Well, here are some suggestions from an experienced huevo ranchero eater (me):
- Use a big spoon instead of a fork ... OR use a fork to cut into the concoction and then push it onto a spoon for the lift;
- Use the tortilla I fold and place on the side of the plate to scoop up the sauce, egg yolk and refried beans left on the plate;
- After each bite, spin the plate slightly (I prefer to go clockwise) and eat your huevos from the outer edge in. This generally leaves the yolks intact until the end, when you can then use that extra tortilla to mop things up.
Variations On The Theme
Different versions of huevos rancheros
Now, our way isn't the only way to make huevos rancheros. In fact, our recipe is rather ... well, unsophisticated, you might say. So here are just a few alternatives that would probably make a better presentation for a brunch or dinner party, and you can experiment with various methods of preparation to suit your style and your kitchen. And, if you're super talented, you can even try making this dish solo.
One creative twist on huevos rancheros is huevos divorciados, or "divorced eggs," which is made up of two eggs served in the style of huevos rancheros but with one egg covered in red salsa and the other in green salsa (salsa verde). The two eggs are then separated by a partition of refried beans or chilaquiles.
Another acceptable and kid-friendly recipe includes a soft flour tortilla spread with avocado then wrapped around fried eggs with bacon and baked beans, accompanied by sour cream, chile sauce or salsa, diced tomatoes and lettuce.
Huevos rancheros can be made with poached eggs or even scrambled eggs, with a tomato-bacon sauce, then served on toast.
Basically, put together eggs, a sauce of the Mexican kind and/or salsa, beans and some form of bread, and you can probably call it huevos rancheros.
Huevos Rancheros: On The Sides
While huevos rancheros alone can fill you up, the dish is often served with sides and garnishes. These can include:
- Sliced avocado
- Chorizo, a spicy, Spanish pork sausage
- Potatoes--home fried, hash browns, etc.
- Fresh fruit, like strawberriers or melon
- Spanish rice
Some people prefer to set out things like salsa, sour cream, avocado, shredded cheese, diced tomato and salsa in serving bowls, so everyone can add whatever they'd like.
Huevos Rancheros From The Ground (And Chicken) Up
Making huevos from scratch ... and then some
Ba-cack! Boy, do I miss that sound. You know, the sound of a chicken laying an egg? We used to hear that multiple times a day when we were farm caretakers. And we had eggs coming out our ears.
And vegetables. We grew just about every veggie known to man, and just about everything we ate came from the farm and gardens. So there was a time when we literally made huevos rancheros from the ground and chicken up, having only to buy the salt we needed to flavor the sauce and as an ingredient in our flour tortillas, and the food-grade lime to add to the water for making corn masa. We didn't make cheese (although we hand-milked a few cows) but neither did we use cheese on our huevos back then, either.
So, the hens provided the eggs, because the roosters were too darn lazy.
We grew and dried the corn for the masa to make the corn tortillas.
We grew the green chilis, garlic and onion, and made the veggie stock, for the sauce.
We grew the wheat, which we ground into flour, both for the whole wheat tortillas and as a thickener for the green chili sauce.
We grew the pinto beans, which we boiled and re-fried.
We grew the tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and cilantro and made the salsa from scratch.
And we used butter made from fresh cow's milk to coat our cast iron fry pan.
Oila! Huevos a la the homesteading way.
Our garden and chicken house on RamCat Farm
We grew the wheat to make our own flour....
Happy, free-range chickens lay lots of happy eggs...
Corn Tortillas From Scratch
First, the masa:
Corn tortillas are made from masa, which in Spanish simply means "dough." It is also used for making tamales, pupusas, arepas and other Latin American dishes. You can purchase the masa in its dry, powdered form, called masa de harina or maseca, which then must be reconstituted with water, or you can buy it fresh, as a paste, and head straight to making tortillas.
But to start right from the beginning--growing, drying and grinding your own meal corn (as opposed to sweet corn)--you'd need to transform that ground corn into masa. And here's how you do it.
The ingredients are few:
- 1 Liter of water
- 2 Tablespoons of powdered (slaked) lime
- 1 pound (450g) of dried corn, about 2-3/4 cups
Heat the water in a large, nonreactive pan, stir the lime and bring it to a rolling boil. Add the corn, stir well, cover and again bring the water to a rolling boil. Set it aside, still covered, until the next day--a minimum of 12 hours. Then, rinse the corn well, strain and grind it to the required consistency (pictured): either very smoothe for tortillas or more roughly textured for some types of antojitos or tamales.
In Mexico, slaked lime (calcium oxide) is used to prepare masa dough. The lime comes in small rocks, which you can find for sale in Mexican marketplaces. In America, one source is a garden supply store, but you may have to buy a lifetime supply, as it usually comes in large bags.
Once you have the lime, it needs to be slaked. Take a piece about the size of a golf ball and crush it as completely as you can. Put it in a non-corrosible bowl and be careful not to get any near your eyes. Sprinkle the lime well with cold water; it will hiss impressively and send up a little vapor. Once the action subsides, the lime is slaked. Dilute it with water and then pour the milky liquid through a strainer into the corn water for the masa.
Take a taste before you cook it. There should be a slightly acrid burn. If it seems really strong and bitter, dilute it a little. If it's weak, add a little more lime. Store any remaining lime in a tightly sealed jar. Over time, it'll slake on its own, as it draws moisture from the air. You can still use it, but it won't fizz up the same way.
Time To Make The Tortillas for Our Huevos Rancheros
And lots of other dishes, too
Tortillas are easy to make.
The single ingredient is moistened corn masa. The trick is getting the right amount of water mixed in with the masa. Sometimes it's too dry, sometimes too wet, so experimentation and personal preference is involved. Basically, you want the masa to feel like clay or playdough, and you don't want it to crack when you pat it out. At the same time, you don't want it to stick to your hands. (Or you can use a press. See below.)
Once you have the "right" consistency, make little masa balls and then press or pat them into round tortillas. Then cook the tortillas in a hot pan or a griddle, lightly coated with oil.
- 1c water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. shortening
- Flour (Steve doesn't give an amount, because it rarely ends up the same. The amount needed depends on the humidity in the air.)
- Dissolve the salt in water.
- Mix in flour and shortening until it's the right consistency.
- Make balls of dough and roll them in shortening.
- Flatten or press the tortillas and cook in a fry pan on medium heat.
You can make the tortillas by rolling them out with a pin or using a press. With this sturdy, cast iron press, you can make both corn and flour tortillas of various thicknesses.
When Steve and I got married, much of what was on our wedding gift wishlist was cast iron cookware and kitchen gadgets--pans and a griddle, a dutch oven, a kettle, and of course a tortilla press. We prefer cast iron to non-stick, because cast iron doesn't get all scratched up and need to be replaced. We also love how it looks, so we've hung some of our cookware on the wall and always leave a clean cast iron pan on the stove.
More Things You Can Do With Tortillas
But of course, huevos rancheros are hardly the only reason to make your own warm, chewy tortillas. They're also for burritos, tostadas, quesadillas, chimichangas, enchiladas and even a twist on the ol' tuna sandwich. In this book you'll find more than 200 recipes for well-filled tortillas, with illustrations throughout.
Steve and I always keep a bag of flour tortillas on hand for snacking on "as is" without any filler at all. We throw 'em in the microwave for 10 seconds, then roll them into a tube and munch. It's a great late-for-work snack we often grab just before heading out the door.
But, of course, there are a near endless number of things you can put in and on tortillas beyond just beans and cheese. This cookbook has really come in handy in our house, so I'd like to recommend it for yours.
100 Salsa Recipes
The salsas in this book are ranked 0-to-10 on a mild-to-hot scale and incorporate a variety of backyard and exotic ingredients. Each recipe includes simple cooking instructions, serving suggestions and variations.
For years, we made our salsa with just tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro. And that was just fine and a perfect addition to huevos, burritos and lots of other dishes. But, one day, someone gave us this book, and it created a whole new meaning to "chips and salsa."
A Recipe For Green Chili Sauce
This and the following recipe for red chili sauce came from a homemade cookbook given to me as a gift from friends and family.
- 1/2c canola oil
- 1c finely diced onion
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 Tbsp flour
- 2c hot chicken or vegetable stock
- Salt to taste
- 3c diced green chili
- Cilantro to taste
- Coriander to taste
- Diced tomato, optional
- Sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent.
- Stir the flour into the onion/garlic, mixing well.
- Add the stock slowly, stirring constantly.
- Continue stirring until thickened.
- Add the chilis, salt, cilantro, coriander and tomato.
- Simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
A Recipe For Red Chili Sauce
- 6 ounces of large, medium-hot, whole dried red ancho chilis
- 2tsp. dried Mexican oregano
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 3-1/2 cups chicken stock
- 2 Tbsp. lard
- 1-1/2 Tbsp. flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- Toast 4 chilis at a time on medium-high heat, 30 to 60 seconds (until you can smell them)
- While holding them in cold water, remove the stems and seeds. (The edge of a knife works well.)
- Cover the chilis with boiling water and soak 10 minutes, then drain.
- Blend the chilis, 3 cups of stock, 2 garlic cloves and oregano until smooth.
- Strain the mixture thoroughly. Use the remaining stock to work excess through the sieve and discard the solids.
- Heat the lard over medium heat until a water drop dances across the top.
- Brown the last garlic clove in lard, then smash the clove the release the flavor.
- Remove the garlic and discard.
- Slowly add the flour, stirring constantly to remove lumps. Stir until golden.
- Add the chili puree and salt to the lard mixture.
- Reduce heat to low and cook 10 minutes. Flavors should be mellower and melded together.
- Store the sauce in the refigerator or freezer for one week.
Huevos Rancheros Recipes Abound
Check out these alternatives to our huevos....
There are muchos huevos rancheros recipes to be found on the internet, along with some pictures much prettier than those I've shared here.
The following are just a handful of good ones I've come across:
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2009 Deb Kingsbury