© 2019, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. X-ray free-electron lasers (FELs), which amplify light emitted by a relativistic electron beam, are extending nonlinear optical techniques to shorter wavelengths, adding element specificity by exciting and probing electronic transitions from core levels. These techniques would benefit tremendously from having a stable FEL source, generating spectrally pure and wavelength-tunable pulses. We show that such requirements can be met by operating the FEL in the so-called echo-enabled harmonic generation (EEHG) configuration. Here, two external conventional lasers are used to precisely tailor the longitudinal phase space of the electron beam before emission of X-rays. We demonstrate high-gain EEHG lasing producing stable, intense, nearly fully coherent pulses at wavelengths as short as 5.9 nm (~211 eV) at the FERMI FEL user facility. Low sensitivity to electron-beam imperfections and observation of stable, narrow-band, coherent emission down to 2.6 nm (~474 eV) make the technique a prime candidate for generating laser-like pulses in the X-ray spectral region, opening the door to multidimensional coherent spectroscopies at short wavelengths.