How do you make an American classic like meat loaf a bit more . . . Texan? You treat it like a giant enchilada. Specifically, a truck stop enchilada, by drowning it in a chili gravy and melting a heavy blanket of orange cheese over the top.

Truck stop enchiladas likely need no introduction, but in case you’re new here, let’s give a brief primer on this quintessential Tex-Mex dish, named for its ubiquity at roadside oases. Lightly spiced ground beef is rolled in corn tortillas; doused in a mild roux-based chili sauce; and topped with cheese, onions, and, perhaps, pickled jalapeños. It’s comfort food at its best, as familiar on Texas menus as chicken-fried steak or fajitas. It’s not a huge leap to transpose that onto meat loaf—the two dishes share similar DNA. 

I was inspired by a David Tanis recipe from 2018 published in the New York Times. His Meat Loaf Parmesan, an Italian American riff on the classic, left me gobsmacked: Why have I been making only traditional meat loaf all these years? Why make a dorky little glaze for my loaf when I could swathe it in a luxurious sauce? It was a brilliant concept that was begging for further experimentation. And because I’m an Austinite, there was only one direction to take it.

To achieve enchilada flavor in meat loaf form, crushed tortilla chips replace the breadcrumbs, and the ground beef is seasoned with cumin and oregano. After cooking, the loaf is topped with the sauce and cheese and broiled, and finally sprinkled with raw onion and (optional) diced jalapeños. Serve the meat loaf in thick slices, with fresh, warm corn tortillas on the side. Leftovers can be repurposed into excellent tacos, quesadillas, and, wouldn’t you know it, enchiladas.

Enchilada meat loaf covered in chili sauce

Enchilada Meat Loaf

The classic American dish gets a Tex-Mex makeover covered in chili gravy and cheese, taking comfort food to another level.
Servings 4 people


  • 1 food processor


Meat Loaf

  • ounces tortilla chips, about 70 chips
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • oil for greasing the baking dish
  • chili sauce warmed through (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • ¼ cup raw finely chopped onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pickled jalapeños (optional)
  • warmed corn tortillas for serving

Chili Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 ½ cups chicken stock, heated


Meat Loaf

  • Heat your oven to 350F.
  • Pulse the tortilla chips in a food processor until finely ground; you should end up with about a cup of crumbs. Put these in a large mixing bowl, add the chicken stock, and stir to combine.
  • In the same food processor (no need to wash it), add the onion and garlic and pulse until finely chopped.
  • Add the onion mixture to the mixing bowl with the tortilla chip paste, as well as the beef, eggs, cumin, black pepper, oregano, and salt. Use clean hands to combine the mixture thoroughly.
  • Grease a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Use your hands to form a 5-by-10-inch rectangular loaf down the center of the dish; there should be some space all around the loaf.
  • Bake the meat loaf for 1 hour.
  • While the meat loaf is in the oven, make the chili sauce. (See below.)
  • Remove the meat loaf from the oven and set it aside to rest for 10 minutes or so. Heat your broiler on high.
  • Pour several ladlefuls of the chili sauce over the meat loaf—you want it to glaze the top and pool around the sides—and top it with the cheese. Broil just until the cheese melts, 3–5 minutes. Keep a close eye on it, as it can burn quickly.
  • To serve, sprinkle the top of the meat loaf with the onions and jalapeños, if using. Serve with warm corn tortillas and any remaining chili sauce on the side.

Chili Sauce

  • In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, black pepper, oregano, and salt.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and flour over medium heat, whisking constantly. Cook for about 1 minute.
  • Add the spices to the saucepan and whisk for one additional minute
  • One ladleful at a time, add the stock to the saucepan, whisking until smooth between each addition. Once you’ve added all of the stock, bring the sauce just barely to a simmer and simmer for 20 minutes. Keep warm until ready to use.


This recipe calls for lean ground beef, because typical ground chuck throws a lot of fat while cooking and renders the sauce greasy. If you use an 80/20 blend of ground beef, spoon out as much of the fat as you can before adding the sauce. The sauce can be made several days ahead of time and kept refrigerated. Heat through before serving.