Red Enchilada Sauce

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 |


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.  :)

The BEST Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce |

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 also always 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.  I hope you continue to enjoy it!  Here’s the recipe…

The BEST Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce |

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! also, see note below if you do not like heat*)
  • 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.)

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. Lea — March 5, 2015 @ 8:35 am (#)

    How thick does your sauce usually come out? 

    • Ali — March 21, 2015 @ 12:07 pm (#)

      It’s just slightly thickened — definitely still pretty thin. If you want it thicker, just simmer it longer. :)

  2. Elle — March 5, 2015 @ 11:07 am (#)

    So first I have to chuckle at how I found this page, I was searching for a great enchilada recipe and when yours showed a link to this sauce I opened it curious how much sauce I would need… When I opened the link I smiled because I’ve been using your sauce recipe so long I have it memorized! It’s so good!! It always impresses in a quinoa enchilada bake :) Secondly it’s so easy!!!!! Also 100x better than the canned stuff. So thank you!

    • Ali — March 5, 2015 @ 11:14 am (#)

      Thanks Elle, that makes my day! : )

  3. Jessi — March 8, 2015 @ 10:34 am (#)

    This looks great! A few pointers to make it more “authentic” (sorry, my little old Mexican grandma makes the BEST Mexican everything, and you can’t beat abuelita’s sauce, LOL). Instead of using the stock-flower-chilie powder combo, look for dehydrated New Mexico red chilies. Re-hydrate the chilies in a huge stock pot full of boiling water and garlic and onion to taste. Once they are re-hydrated (I have no idea how long this takes, sorry), puree the chilies, a bit of the garlic and onion, and water from the re-hydrating pot. You can remove the seeds from the dehydrated chilies prior to soaking to reduce the heat.

    Sieve the puree into another pot to remove chunks, and heat to boiling. In this case, you will only need a bit of your favorite spices (caldo de tomate is a must), a bit of lard, and you are good to go. You will want the same consistency as your sauce. Your casserole looks delicious! Great job!!!

  4. Gary Simpson — March 8, 2015 @ 11:24 am (#)

    Came across your enchilada recipe.  Sounds good.  Several people have pointed out my comment.  Having lived in NM most of my life I do question the red sauce.  You mention your friend is from NM yet she spells chile chili.  As you have heard true NM chile is chile!  It is very different from chili powder.  Chimayo red chile (powder or actual dried whole chiles) makes incredible red sauce.  Easily ordered via the internet.   There is a huge difference with a sauce made with chile powder vs. chili powder.

  5. Tanya — March 8, 2015 @ 9:31 pm (#)

    So good. Made this sauce as part of the recipe for best ever chicken enchiladas last night for dinner. Made extra to take for lunch today but everything was eaten last night. Even my fussy 11 year old went back for seconds. Thank you for this great recipe. Trying your skinny honey lemon chicken tonight.

  6. Lynn — March 12, 2015 @ 1:31 pm (#)

    4tbs of Chili, really?!

    • Ali — March 12, 2015 @ 2:40 pm (#)

      Chili powder, yes. (Not cayenne.)

  7. Hophead — March 13, 2015 @ 11:15 am (#)

    This is GREAT! Thanks from Finland.

    • Ali — March 18, 2015 @ 1:20 pm (#)

      Thank you so much! : )

  8. Cindy — March 13, 2015 @ 7:54 pm (#)

    I just made this tonight with about 2.5 tablespoons of chili powder and it was really, really good. I ran out of chili powder and that’s the reason I used less. Going to SAMs tomorrow to stock up on chili powder so I can make the recipe just as posted. I think it will be awesome because its already so good!

    • Ali — March 18, 2015 @ 1:19 pm (#)

      Thanks Cindy, glad you liked it!

  9. montana janie — March 14, 2015 @ 11:08 am (#)

    Do you prefer chicken over veg stock?  Or visa versa ? We are making this today :) 

    • Ali — March 21, 2015 @ 12:13 pm (#)

      I prefer chicken stock, but either will work!

  10. Amanda — March 14, 2015 @ 3:56 pm (#)

    I’m so disappointed. I just made the enchilada sauce using high quality spices, followed the directions exactly, and it was disgusting. It tasted like pure chili powder, never thickened, and was dark brown. I’m glad that I tasted it before putting it in my meal. I had to use canned enchilada sauce from my cupboard. :(  I’ve never had a problem making sauces like this. What a bummer.

  11. Emalie — March 17, 2015 @ 12:45 pm (#)

    Made this sauce in a pinch when I couldn’t make it to the store, and my husband said they were the best enchiladas he had EVER had. The sauce is different tasting than store bought sauces, but it works wonders on a simple beef-and-cheese enchilada set-up. Definitely a winner! (If you like chili powder ;)

    • Ali — March 17, 2015 @ 9:12 pm (#)

      Thanks for sharing this Emalie, I’m thrilled to hear it was a hit with you and your husband! Cheers!

  12. Denise — March 17, 2015 @ 1:43 pm (#)

    I had the same issue with it not thickening. I checked other recipes like this and they added 10 ounces of tomato paste so that’s what I did. Then it came together and thickened.

  13. Talia — March 18, 2015 @ 12:45 am (#)

    I didn’t have any success with this, tasted like chicken stock with chilli. :( For those who want a dry Mexican spice mix this is my absolute favourite

  14. Lauren — March 19, 2015 @ 8:15 am (#)

    This sauce was soooooo spicy. I added a quart of tomato sauce and it was still barely palatable. Maybe the chili you can buy in Belgium is spicier than the types you can buy in the US? It was tasty though. Made lovely enchiladas though. The corn, beans, cheese, sour cream and the extra, mild salsa that I added made for an absolutely delicious meal. Next time, I will be cutting the amount of chili powder by at least half though. Then again I now have like 5 cups left and only add about a cup per meal so I’ll be set for quite a while.

  15. Alicia — March 20, 2015 @ 4:34 pm (#)

    This sauce did not work out well. I don’t know if it was the gluten free flour I used or maybe because I doubled the recipe but it just did not work. It did not thicken or reduce down. I must have used a half box of cornstarch just so it would be usable. It also turned out brown and grainy. I followed the instructions exactly. I should have just thrown it out and started over but I didn’t have enough ingredients or time.

  16. Kathy — March 21, 2015 @ 9:36 am (#)

    I’m not sure what recipe some of these folks tried, but I’ve made this several times and it is FANTASTIC! Don’t listen to the trolls; it’s absolutely delicious. I’m going to try your enchiladas next. Thanks for sharing your talent!

    • Ali — March 21, 2015 @ 10:46 am (#)

      Thanks Kathy, I appreciate that!

  17. Ali — March 21, 2015 @ 12:03 pm (#)

    I use dried oregano.

  18. Debbie — March 23, 2015 @ 8:11 am (#)

    Looks great, but I think you forgot the tomato paste/sauce.

    • Ali — March 23, 2015 @ 9:08 am (#)

      Hi Debbie! This recipe actually doesn’t have tomatoes in it. I think you’ll still enjoy it!

  19. Corri — March 24, 2015 @ 12:40 am (#)

    Im sorry, but I have to agree with quite a few others that this sauce just didn’t work.
    Thickened a bit but the chilli was too overpowering (I used 2 tbpsns) and was just too thin in general. Not going to use it Im afraid but would still like to give the Chicken Enchiladas a go!

  20. Jaime — March 24, 2015 @ 12:42 pm (#)

    This sauce didn’t turn out at all. Like some others it tasted like chili powder and was very chalky. I dumped it out!

  21. Jason — March 24, 2015 @ 8:36 pm (#)

    I made this sauce and for some reason it tasted a bit bitter and almost as if I licked the chili powder right from the jar. I tried adding some sugar in it to balance it out and that helped. Has anyone had this problem or does anyone have any tips on what my problem might be? Otherwise I love this recipe compared to another one that I tried.

  22. Tiffany — March 25, 2015 @ 1:04 am (#)

    we make enchiladas straight from the chiles in Mexico and this is much easier and almost foolproof. we use guajillo chiles and remove stems and seeds. boil them for about 10 min with a few cloves of garlic. blend and strain in a fine strainer. if the sauce is runnyput back in blender and add 1-2 tbsp of cornstarch or maseca and blend. return to stove to simmer about 2-3 min add salt to taste and enjoy. this is not spicy at all as enchiladas aren’t supposed to be spicy but covered in chile sauce.

    • Ali — March 25, 2015 @ 12:36 pm (#)

      Thanks for sharing your recipe Tiffany, it sounds so wonderful!

  23. Heather — March 25, 2015 @ 2:14 pm (#)

    Made this sauce last night and modified after reading the comments.   I used a bit less chili powder (especially since my recipe I was using the sauce for also called for chili powder) and did end up adding half a tiny can of tomato paste.   It tasted good without, but I missed the tomato flavor.  That’s just a matter of preference though.    It was easy and I really did enjoy this recipe.   Thank you! 

    • Ali — March 25, 2015 @ 5:30 pm (#)

      Awesome — I’m so glad to hear it! :)

  24. Greg — March 25, 2015 @ 3:12 pm (#)

    Smells great! My sauce is coming out a little watery, and it’s still a little gritty at the bottom of the saucepan. Any tips? I’ve been whisking for 20 minutes or so! Thanks!

    • Ali — March 25, 2015 @ 5:29 pm (#)

      You might need to simmer it a bit longer to have it thicken up, although mine never gets super thick. And not sure about the grittyness at the bottom of the pan. All of the seasonings and such should have dissolved with whisking for awhile. Maybe the roux got a little stuck? I’d just keep whisking!

  25. Laura — March 26, 2015 @ 6:47 am (#)

    I’m sorry it this has been asked already….how long can the sauce be kept in the refrigerator? I made some about 3 week-ends ago and didn’t use it all up…..would love to use some tonight :)

    • Ali — March 26, 2015 @ 10:06 pm (#)

      I think it should still be okay at three weeks, but give it a little taste first, just to make sure. Thanks for making it!

  26. Nathan — March 27, 2015 @ 10:18 am (#)

    This looks super simple.
    Might just have to try it tonight! I’m craving spicy. Also, just an FYI, your links for the different dishes all go to “The Best Chicken Enchiladas EVER” recipe. Thought you’d might like to know. Thanks for the recipe!

    • Ali — March 27, 2015 @ 5:40 pm (#)

      Thanks Nathan, it is super simple, and I hope you like it! Also, thanks for letting me know about those links!

  27. Jane Plant — March 28, 2015 @ 1:36 pm (#)

    No tomatoes in this sauce? That can’t be right

  28. Jaci — March 29, 2015 @ 8:38 pm (#)

    I didn’t have any fancy chilies on hand, but mixed some inexpensive New Mexico blend and other darker looking chili blend from the grocery store. I did have to modify…my chicken stock was so concentrated so just added maybe a cup of water. I really eye things from there, but I believe if you follow the recipe, and while it calls doe chic stock, this could really mean half water half chic stock! From there I added more floor, whisked in gradually to thicken. Added more cumin….and whatever else to taste. I wished I made more of it though. I’d triple the amount so I could use more corn tortillas. Sesame seeds and chocolate could be a fun addition next time around. Oh, and I did put I’m maybe a tablespoon of hot salsa in (just a little bit of the puréed tomato and lime did wonders). Sometimes,  if not always, recipes for cooking (not baking) take a bit of a personal touch. Thanks for laying the foundation! 

    • Ali — March 30, 2015 @ 12:04 pm (#)

      Hey Jaci, thanks for your tips, I like what you did with it! : )

  29. Minnie — March 30, 2015 @ 10:01 am (#)

    My favorite Mexican restaurant in Tucson, AZ makes a delicious enchilada sauce without tomatoes or tomato sauce so I’ve been looking everywhere for one. This recipe is pretty close. I used barely half the chili powder but left everything the same and it turned out great. Not spicy which pleased my husband but with enough flavor to enhance the enchiladas. I liked this recipe because I prefer my enchilada sauce without the tomato flavor or texture but I think if you want a tomato based sauce, adding a small can of sauce or paste wouldn’t hurt. 

    • Ali — March 30, 2015 @ 11:45 am (#)

      Hey Minnie, I’m glad you liked this recipe, thanks for giving it a try!

  30. Kiani — March 30, 2015 @ 10:04 pm (#)

    Interesting… the first time I made this, it was delicious. I thought all the comments about it being too spicy and too salty were crazy! Im very sensitive to spice and can’t handle spicy food. Like at all. I thought the sauce was mild and delicious. Tonight I made it again and when I tasted it.. soo salty and sooo spicy! I’m totally confused. I did use the bottom of my chili powder bottle so maybe all the spicy parts fell to the bottom? And also I used sea salt so maybe that isnt a good idea. In any case I will make this again and master it! Haha.

  31. Kiani — March 30, 2015 @ 10:08 pm (#)

    Me again… I was making 1.5x batch and just realized I put 3x salt.. so that explains the salty part. And for the spicyness? I think because I did all the salt and spices one at a time after the chili powder.. the chili was exposed to heat for too long, bringing out the spiciness. I think pre-measuring and dumping everything in at once would help tame the spice. Just my thought.

    • Ali — March 30, 2015 @ 10:22 pm (#)

      Oh no! Well I’m glad you figured out the salty problem. I hate whenever I’m one-and-a-halfing a recipe and make a mistake like that! Also, I think your spiciness theory might be right! I hope the third time’s a charm! : )

  32. DocTony — April 3, 2015 @ 4:17 pm (#)

    For those who keep commenting about the lack of tomatoes–there are many (if not a majority) of recipes for enchilada sauce that DO NOT call for tomatoes. In addition, enchilada sauce isn’t supposed to be very thick. Even the (icky) canned sauces are only slightly thicker than tomato sauce. But, if you want it thicker add more flour–or simmer it longer until some if the liquid evaporates. If you’re concerned about the heat level, 

  33. DocTony — April 3, 2015 @ 4:23 pm (#)

    For those who keep commenting about the lack of tomatoes–there are many (if not a majority) of recipes for enchilada sauce that DO NOT call for tomatoes. In addition, enchilada sauce isn’t supposed to be very thick. Even the (icky) canned sauces are only slightly thicker than tomato sauce. But, if you want it thicker add more flour–or simmer it longer until some if the liquid evaporates. If you’re concerned about the heat level, for heaven’s sake, take Ali’s advice to start with less chili powder. The last thing I wanted to say is that this is a recipe that truly features spices as the star–if you use low quality spices, it will taste like you used low quality. I’m not saying that everyone should place a Penzeys order immediately, but know that you get what you pay for. 

    I’ve made this several times, and I think it’s great. Today, in fact, I made it with homemade stock (the BEST reason to own a pressure cooker, btw). It’s outstanding for my my palate. If it doesn’t agree with yours, a few little tweaks might help. 

    • Ali — April 4, 2015 @ 3:28 pm (#)

      Thanks Tony, I appreciate your tips and the kind words — I’m glad you enjoy this recipe! : )

  34. Linda Ojord — April 3, 2015 @ 7:52 pm (#)

    Would this be a good candidate for canning. I want to keep it a while longer, to space out my mex dinners and don’t have them but 1 or 2 times a month?

  35. Zoey — April 8, 2015 @ 1:56 pm (#)

    We really liked it! I was a bit nervous after reading that some people didn’t like the result (those who called it chalky) but I imagine that’s a result of less-than-ideal chili powder (ours was a storebrand, but fairly fresh). I added a pinch of sugar because the store brand sauce we’re used to has a bit of sweetness. My boyfriend likes chipotle so we may add a chipotle pepper next time we make it (and there will definitely be a next time)! Thank you!

    • Ali — April 9, 2015 @ 10:43 am (#)

      Thank you Zoey, I’m happy you guys liked this, and I bet chipotle pepper would be an awesome addition, especially if you really like some heat! : )

  36. Bonnie — April 11, 2015 @ 6:53 pm (#)

    Tastes great. My sauce is a little gritty though from the spices. Any suggestions or is it supposed to be a little gritty. Thanks!

  37. Lesley Dyer — April 12, 2015 @ 1:40 pm (#)

    This is excellent enchilada sauce!  It’s now a part of my staples.

    • Ali — April 12, 2015 @ 2:19 pm (#)

      Thanks Lesley, I’m so glad to hear that!

  38. Monica — April 13, 2015 @ 9:01 am (#)

    The link to the slow cooker enchilada soup recipe isn’t correct. It opens the page for the chicken enchilada recipe. Thanks!

    • Ali — April 13, 2015 @ 11:23 am (#)

      Oh no, thanks for catching that Monica — I got my links mixed up! Just fixed it! : )

  39. Lisa — April 15, 2015 @ 5:00 am (#)

    Easily the best enchilada sauce I’ve ever had at home, and it rivals quite a few Mexican restaurant as well.  I followed the recipe exactly, using 1.5 tablespoons of chili powder because I can’t eat anything spicy.  The sauce was very thin but that’s how most authentic enchilada sauces are, at least in the Cleveland  area Hispanic community. By the time I was on my second enchilada the boyfriend finished his fourth and asked for more!  Super yummy, I’m making more for tonight (tacos for dinner!)  Thanks for the recipe. 

    • Ali — April 15, 2015 @ 12:53 pm (#)

      Thanks so much Lisa, that’s a high compliment! So happy it was a hit with you and your boyfriend. : )

  40. Tiffany — April 16, 2015 @ 7:25 am (#)

    I just made the chicken enchiladas yesterday with the red sauce and it turned out fantastic!! I just added a little more flour to help the sauce thicken and simmered it like you said! It’s completely fool proof and quick and easy! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!! 

    • Ali — April 16, 2015 @ 12:19 pm (#)

      Thanks Tiffany, I’m glad to hear that!

  41. Anna — April 19, 2015 @ 12:30 pm (#)

    I made your sauce and chicken enchiladas today! They turn to be pretty awesome!
    I have used hot chilli powder which turn to be slightly too hot so I added little bit of lime juice and coconut milk. Still nice!

    • Ali — April 19, 2015 @ 2:17 pm (#)

      Thanks Anna, I’m glad you liked them!

  42. sf — April 26, 2015 @ 8:05 am (#)

    Just clarifying.  By chili powder, do you mean powdered chilies, like ground New Mexico, Pasilla or Guajillo, not commercial chili powder that has garlic and oregano in it?


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