Red Enchilada Sauce

Learn how to make homemade red enchilada sauce with this easy recipe!  It’s so simple to make, and so delicious that I bet you’ll never return to the canned stuff. 

This homemade enchilada sauce recipe is the BEST!!! It only takes about 20 minutes to make, it tastes great on all kinds of enchiladas, it's easy to make gluten-free, and it's absolutely delicious! |

Every time I make the sauce for my favorite chicken enchiladas, I feel like the enchilada sauce itself is so good that 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?

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.


4.5 / 5 (11 Reviews)
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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!



  1. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk 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 slightly thickened.
  2. Use immediately or refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.  (I like to use mason jars or Weck jars to store this sauce.)

*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.  Or if you’d like a smokier sauce, I recommend using 3 tablespoons chili powder and 1 tablespoon chipotle powder.

Again, though, this recipe calls for traditional American chili powder, 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
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If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I'd love to see what you cook!

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Looking for some good recipes to use this homemade enchilada sauce?  Here are some of my faves:

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1,414 comments on “Red Enchilada Sauce”

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  1. Pingback: Red Cheese Enchiladas Recipe

  2. I just made this tonight. First I was not sure about this since I was used to the ones that had tomatoes in recipes. But I am so glad I tried your recipe. It was so easy and so good, exactly what I wanted. I live in Japan where enchilada sauce isn’t something I see everyday, so I have to make my own. I’d try finding chipotle powder next time (if I can around where I am) for more kicks. Thanks so much.

    Rating: 4
    • Thanks for sharing with us, Asami — we’re so glad you enjoyed it! :)

  3. I just made this,easy yes, however I would not recommend every making this, all you can taste is chilli powder and it has no flavour.

  4. Can this sauce be frozen?

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  6. This is all I make and use for enchilada sauce. Plenty spicy enough with half of the chili powder.

    Rating: 5
  7. I’m making this one this week. Will let you know. It looks extra delicious. Fran

  8. My family loved this. They said never buy canned stuff again.

  9. Absolutely delicious. This has instantly become a family favourite and go to recipe for pot luck.

    Rating: 5
  10. I have made this recipe for a few years and my family loves it. :) Thank you so much!

    Rating: 5
  11. I just made this recipe… two cups of stock and you have paste. I added 4 cups of stock…perfect…and as advertised…awesome!

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  13. great sauce but the chilli powder I used nearly killed me! Even my husband (who is a seasoned hot sauce connoisseur) thought it was extreme! We must be using a different strength!

    Rating: 3
    • Oh no, we’re sorry to hear that, Laura! It is crazy how chili powders can differ (strength and flavor-wise), just from brand to brand. :(

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  15. Please try Santa Cruz Chili Powder from Santa Cruz Chili Co. in Tumacacori AZ.

    • Thanks for that recommendation, George, we’ll have to see if we can track some down! :)

  16. Used pork lard instead of vegetable oil. Substituted one Tbs of Oaxacan Adobo powder and one Tbs of smoked Spanish paprika for two Tbs of the chili powder. Added a pinch of red pepper flakes. Used three cloves of finely minced fresh garlic in place of the garlic powder. Awesome, awesome sauce, but not for the feint of heart. Turned up the heat and the smokiness a notch or three! Delish!

  17. I have made this sauce many times and love how simple and delicious it is! We are watching our sodium intake (most of the time) and I thought this homemade version would help compared to a canned sauce. Just discovered that chili powder has sodium in it (who knew?) and 4 Tbsp = 524 mg! I am in shock! We may have to reduce it just a bit! (But it’s still delicious.)

    Rating: 5
    • Thanks for sharing, Suzi, we’re so glad you enjoy it! And that’s crazy, we didn’t realize chili powder had sodium in it either, and that is a lot! Good to know.

  18. Can Ancho chili powder be substituted for regular chili powder?

    • Hi Susan! These actually aren’t interchangeable. Chili powder is a blend of spices, whereas Ancho chili powder is pure chili powder. You could use a mixture of both, but just keep in mind the Ancho will be much more potent, so we’d be cautious! We hope you enjoy the sauce!

  19. My favorite red sauce and I’ve tried sooooooo many! Thank you this was all amazing! Did exactly what the recipe calls for!

    Rating: 5
  20. Was going to buy some sauce and came across your recipe. Store bought enchilada sauce always seems a little bitter to me and I thought your recipe was too after following it exactly. So I added a tablespoon of brown sugar and also increased the total amount of cumin to a tablespoon. Most of the bitterness from the chili powder is masked by the brown sugar and I now have a sauce I can use often. Thanks for sharing it.

    • Hi Jim! We’re glad you were able to adjust this to your liking – thanks for your feedback!

  21. Follow up on my earlier comment. I used pure New Mexico chili powder which is not a blend of spices which probably caused the bitterness. I will try it next time with one of your suggested chili powder blends.

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  24. I had this recipe recommended today. Can you tell me more about your chili powder? Is this plain chili? Most of the chili powders I buy are combinations of chili and herbs.


  25. Hi! Have you got the ingredients for the sauce on grams please rather than cup etc

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  29. Can you can this sauce?

    • Hi Angel! We haven’t tried canning this, but we think if you followed the traditional canning procedure, it should work fine!

  30. I’m a chef from atlanta your recipe has no tomatoes you need to fix… it’s just stock and spices that’s not enchilada sauce!!!

  31. I am confused as the sauce is red but there is no red ingredient!

    • Hi there! It’s the type of chili powder we used, plus the lighting that makes the sauce appear more red in these photos.