Red Enchilada Sauce

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The BEST Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce |

Every time I make the sauce for my favorite enchiladas, I feel like it deserves its own post.

Believe me, people.  This recipe will knock your socks offffffff.

I guarantee you will never go back to the canned store-bought stuff again.  This sauce is a breeze to make, calls for simple ingredients, and is insanely delicious.  Whenever I am making enchiladas, I will often whip up a double batch of the sauce to use in some chicken soup, as a marinade, or to some salsa or quesadillas up a notch.  Really, it is so good.

Just make sure that you pay the extra dollar for some good-quality chili powder.  You will taste the difference.  And love it.

Did I say you’ll love it?

The BEST Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce |

Update 3.31.14 — SO many of you readers have used and loved this sauce over the past few years that I decided to post some new photos of the sauce, after making it for the 492th time.  :)

Also, a number of people have commented on the color of the sauce.  Different chili powders that I have used sometimes make the sauce more brown and sometimes more red.  I shoot my photos about a foot away from a window, so the backlighting can make the photos also appear more vibrant.  Whatever color it comes out, though, this sauce is always crazy good.

Just be sure to buy chili powder (not cayenne, also known as “crushed red chili powder”), and simmer the sauce for however long it takes to reach your desired thickness.  The sauce will not be super thick, but should not be overly runny.


The BEST Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce |

Red Enchilada Sauce

This homemade red enchilada sauce is WAY better than anything you can buy in the can, and quick and easy to make as well!


  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. all-purpose or gluten-free flour
  • 4 Tbsp. chili powder (*not cayenne, see recommendations for brands and tips on reducing the heat level if you don't like spicy sauces below*)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. oregano
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock


Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and stir together over the heat for one minute. Stir in the remaining seasonings (chili powder through oregano). Then gradually add in the stock, whisking constantly to remove lumps. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes until thick.

Use immediately or refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to two weeks.

*I consider this sauce pretty mild.  But if you are wary about heat/spice in your sauce, I would begin with 2 tablespoons chili powder and add more from there once the sauce has reached a simmer if you'd like.

Again, I am using chili powder for this recipe, not cayenne.  From the comments, it sounds as though chili powders vary significantly from country to country.  But the traditional American chili powder is fairly mild, and should not be overly spicy.  Some brands I recommend include:

  • Morton & Bassett Chili Powder
  • Penzey's Spices Mild or Medium Chili Powder
  • Spice Islands Chili Powder
  • Simply Organic Chili Powder

If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I'd love to see what you cook!

Looking for some good recipes to use this homemade enchilada sauce?  Try these!

The BEST Chicken Enchiladas Ever | #mexican

 The Best Chicken Enchiladas EVER

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup | #crockpot

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

20-Minute Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup | #mexican

20-Minute Cheesy Chicken Enchilada Soup 

Chicken Enchilada Casserole | #glutenfree

Chicken Enchilada Casserole (“Stacked” Chicken Enchiladas)

Leave a Comment:


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  1. Julie — June 5, 2016 @ 5:56 pm (#)

    For those experiencing problems with bitterness consider adding the chili powder after the sauce has mostly reduced. It should solve the problem. Many chili spices turn bitter when cooked too long or too hot.

  2. DOLLYD — June 7, 2016 @ 4:55 pm (#)

    I’ve used this same exact receipe from my grandmother for years… We never put in the salt it would be way wayyyyy to salty if we did… I’ve made it with homemade chicken stock as well as store bought so no salt was ever necessarily…. kuddos!


  3. Ruth Holden — June 8, 2016 @ 1:00 am (#)

    Okay yes this recipe is way off on the amount of chilli powder, I am in New Zealand using chilli powder from an Indian shop (hot stuff) I used ONE tablespoon of chilli powder and it is really really hot. Using four would be insane. Editor please check your quantities here.

    The other ingredients I added were three teaspoons tomato paste and about three teaspoons of raw sugar. Also had no dried oregano I used fresh chopped really small.

    This is now a very hot but acceptable Enchilada sauce, it is still not a five star recipe though :-(

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 15th, 2016 @ 12:09 pm

      We appreciate your feedback Ruth — that’s good to know that 1 TBS of New Zealand chili powder is plenty hot. We apologize this was too spicy! :(

  4. Jenifer — June 9, 2016 @ 5:34 pm (#)

    Hmmmm….easy breezy :-)  Can I can it for later use???

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 15th, 2016 @ 7:59 am

      You definitely can — we hope you enjoy!

  5. Lindsey — June 10, 2016 @ 6:43 pm (#)

    I read all the too spicy comments beforehand hand so I tasted all the way through the process. I used Simply Organic chili powder and started with only one tablespoon because I am a heat wimp and so is my three year old. I found that before the simmer the spice was perfectly mild but after 10 minutes simmering it got significantly more spicy. So I did another batch and buffeted it with a small amount of plain tomato sauce and left out the salt ( it was a bit salty) and simmered only about 3-5 minutes and it was very mild but still flavorful. I hope this helps others who need a milder taste. It was delicious though, I made it in two pans and gave my husband the spicier one and my toddler and I the milder and it was devoured! Thanks!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 14th, 2016 @ 5:56 pm

      Thanks for sharing this with us Lindsey! That’s interesting that the spice got more intense the longer the sauce simmered — definitely good to know! We’re happy you were able to mellow it out some with that tomato sauce and salt though, and that you enjoyed it!

  6. Melissa Burg — June 11, 2016 @ 12:57 am (#)

    Wow!!! This is the best chicken enchilada recipe ever…the sauce was AMAZING! You are right, I will NEVER buy store bought enchilada sauce again. I need to buy a new oven, so instead of baking, I melted butter in my electric skillet and fried the tortillas on both sides. Oh, also I cooked and shredded the chicken breasts instead. But wow…thank you for making my Friday night awesome. And thank you for sharing the awesome amazing enchilada sauce recipe…it turned out perfect! 

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 14th, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

      Thanks for your sweet comment Melissa — we’re so happy you enjoyed the sauce and the enchiladas! And your method of frying the enchiladas sounds amazing! :D

  7. Maria Lisonbee — June 13, 2016 @ 12:24 am (#)

    This is the best and easiest enchilada sauce!!! I ran out of my favorite canned brand and used your recipe, hands down better and delicious!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 14th, 2016 @ 7:52 pm

      Thank you Maria — we’re so happy you enjoy it! :)

  8. Los Gringos — June 15, 2016 @ 12:46 am (#)

    We love this recipe with the chicken enchiladas recipe – so tasty!
    Only caveat is that 4T chilli powder is way too much. The fire burned twice if you catch our drift. Perhaps chilli powder is milder in other countries but in NZ 1 teaspoon will give you more than enough kick, and I would use still less than that.
    Thanks for the recipes!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 15th, 2016 @ 10:18 pm

      Thanks for your feedback — we’re so sorry about the spice! We have found that chili powders can vary quite a bit, depending on the brand, and especially if you’re in a different country. We recently had another similar comment from some one in New Zealand, so this is good to know!

    • Ali — June 20th, 2016 @ 10:07 am

      So sorry about that! Yes, we’ve been hearing that chili powders seem to be different in different countries, so it sounds like the NZ version may be stronger than the US. I would start with less and then add more if you make this again. (And this probably goes without saying, but also be sure to double-check that the chili powder isn’t cayenne chili powder.) :)

  9. Ruqiya — June 21, 2016 @ 5:38 am (#)

    Hey, the recipe for the Enchilada sauce seems terrific though it feels like shouldn’t there be tomatoes there as well ( in any form )

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 21st, 2016 @ 10:13 am

      Hi Ruqiya — feel free to add some tomatoes or tomato sauce to the recipe if you’d prefer — some folks have done that and enjoyed it!

  10. Laura — June 23, 2016 @ 9:20 pm (#)

    I wish I would have read the comments before making the enchilada sauce. I added 4 T right away since I like spice, and found I had to cook the sauce for 30+ minutes to get it to thicken at all, and then it was basically inedible. I still plan on trying this recipe, just using store bought sauce.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 26th, 2016 @ 8:56 am

      Hi Laura. We’re sorry this was too spicy for you! We do have notes at the bottom of the recipe about how chili powders and their strengths differ between brands, and how we recommend starting with 2 TBS and add from there, if desired.

  11. saba — June 26, 2016 @ 3:00 am (#)

    A quick question. Cumin powder or whole cumin seeds?

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — June 26th, 2016 @ 10:25 am

      Cumin powder. We hope you enjoy! :)

  12. Elaina — July 10, 2016 @ 4:55 pm (#)

    This recipe is great! My husband & I loved it and it’s so easy. I don’t think I’ll ever buy canned enchilada sauce again. One question- did you ever freeze the sauce? Wondering if it’s good to freeze. Thanks!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — July 11th, 2016 @ 7:51 am

      Thanks Elaina — we’re happy you and your husband are fans! And yes, you can definitely freeze the sauce!

  13. Dana — July 12, 2016 @ 11:23 am (#)

    Hello! This recipe was fantastic! I’m not a fan of enchilada sauce at all (only ever had pre-made/canned), so I was a little worried I just wouldn’t like it…by the time I finished the first bite of the enchiladas, I seriously was wishing I had made waaaayyy more sauce. Spicy and delicious. I did start with 3TBS chili powder and worked my way up.. I did end up using 4, although I should mention that I think the brand I’m using is very mild. Love it! I actually did it with the ‘sister’ recipe for chicken enchiladas on this site. Freaking amazing. I have two male roommates and they literally inhaled them. Nice job!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — July 13th, 2016 @ 2:52 pm

      Hi Dana! Yay, we’re so happy you and your roomies enjoyed the sauce and the enchiladas! Thanks for your sweet words and for giving these a try! :D

  14. McFeisty — July 14, 2016 @ 6:37 pm (#)

    I love this recipe, so tough to find one that does not use tomatoes (tomato in enchilada sauce is wrong, in my opinion).

    I substitute good paprika sometimes, so if your ‘chili powder’ is too spicy, use plenty of paprika, instead. Also, add a dash of cumin, as that’s usually a component of chili powder. I am making posole tonight, very easy with enchilada sauce, can of hominy, diced cooked pork, simmer the pork in water long enough to make a nice broth, add everything else, very delicious.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — July 15th, 2016 @ 10:22 am

      Thank you for your comment — we’re so happy you enjoy the recipe and we think that posole sounds wonderful! :)

  15. McFeisty — July 14, 2016 @ 7:42 pm (#)

    I should have also pointed out that “chili powder” as Americans know it, is a blend of salt and spices we use to season a dish we call “chili,” while other countries may think of chili powder as simply dried, powdered chilies of one or more types. I have a recipe for chili powder, that doesn’t include salt:
    2 tablespoons paprika
    2 teaspoons oregano
    1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
    1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
    3/4 teaspoon onion powder
    1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste (optional)

    This supports my use of paprika as a ‘chili powder’ substitute, solves the ‘too hot’ chili powder dilemma, and also enables better control of the saltiness of the enchilada sauce.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — July 15th, 2016 @ 10:15 am

      Thanks for sharing your recipe with us! :)

  16. Holly — July 19, 2016 @ 7:52 am (#)

    I have made this sauce 4x now. It is fabulous! My whole family loves it. I will never use canned again. Heck this stuff is so good you can eat it right off the spoon! I made it for company 2x and now have a reputation for being an excellent enchilada maker.

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — July 19th, 2016 @ 1:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing with us Holly — we’re so happy to hear you and your family enjoy this! :)

  17. Jen W — July 19, 2016 @ 7:58 pm (#)

    I made this homemade sauce with your beef enchilada recipe, and my boyfriend, who is rarely impressed by my attempts at homemade Mexican food, absolutely loved them! This will be a repeat recipe in our house! Love!

    • Hayley @ Gimme Some Oven — July 20th, 2016 @ 1:26 pm

      Thanks for sharing Jen — we’re so glad you and your boyfriend enjoyed the sauce and the enchiladas! :)


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