The BEST Enchilada Sauce!

Truly the BEST homemade enchilada sauce recipe!  It’s super simple to make, and a million times better than the canned stuff.  (Also be sure to check out my new recipe for Green Enchilada Sauce too!)

The BEST Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe

My best tip for how to make a killer pan of homemade enchiladas?

This homemade enchilada sauce recipe. 

It has been the secret ingredient in my favorite enchilada recipe for years.  And inevitably, every time I make a pan of enchiladas for a dinner party, or take some enchilada soup to a friend with a new baby, or whip up a quick batch of enchilada nachos, or add the sauce to some shredded chicken for Taco Tuesday — someone always asks for the recipe to this magical enchilada sauce.

It’s a million times better than anything you can buy in the can.  And even better?  It only takes about 20 minutes to make, and calls for simple ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.  Let’s make some!

Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe | 1-Minute Video

Chili Powder for The BEST Enchilada Sauce recipe!

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce Ingredients:

To make this enchilada sauce recipe, you’ll need (affiliate links included):

  • Chili powder: As in, the classic American* chili powder, such as this.  This is the main seasoning in this simple sauce, so I recommend buying a good-quality brand.  I sometimes also like to use a 50/50 blend of half chili powder + half ancho chili powder (or chipotle chili powder).
  • Garlic powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, and salt: These will be the other seasonings in your sauce.
  • Oil and flour: To make the roux to thicken the sauce. Any kind of mild-flavored oil or butter will do.  And if you are gluten-free, you can use an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend.
  • Veggie or chicken stock: This will form the broth for your sauce.

*International readers: Please note that American chili powder is very different than chili powder in other countries.  The American version is quite mild, whereas chili powders in Australia, Europe, and other places around the world are more similar to cayenne (aka — very spicy!).  I really recommend finding a bottle of American-style chili powder to make this recipe.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce Ingredients

How To Make Enchilada Sauce:

To make this enchilada sauce recipe, follow these simple steps:

  1. Make your roux: Heat your oil (or butter) in a saucepan.  Then whisk in the flour until combined, and cook for 1 minute or so.
  2. Stir in seasonings: Then add in the chili powder, garlic powder, salt, cumin and oregano and cook for 1 more minute.  This will help toast the spices just a bit.
  3. Whisk in broth: Next, gradually whisk in your sauce until most of the clumps have dissolved and the sauce is smooth.  (That said, it’s ok if there are a few small clumps.)
  4. Simmer and reduce: Bring the sauce to a simmer, then reduce the heat and let it continue simmering until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.  I like mine just slightly thickened, but you can let your simmer for longer if you would like it to be really thick.
  5. Serve!  Then once the enchilada sauce has reached your desired consistency, it’s ready to serve!

How To Make Enchilada Sauce

My Favorite Recipes Using Enchilada Sauce:

There are about a million ways you could use this enchilada sauce.  But some of my faves include using it in:

Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Also, be sure to check out my new recipe for Green Enchilada Sauce too!  Enjoy, everyone!

This post contains affiliate links.

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Red Enchilada Sauce

My all-time favorite homemade red enchilada sauce recipe.  It’s quick and easy to make, and a million times better than the canned stuff!

Ingredients:

Directions:

  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.

Also, I just want to stress again that 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.  American chili powder is fairly mild, and should not be overly spicy.  Some brands I recommend include:

  • McCormick Chili Powder
  • Penzey’s Spices Mild or Medium Chili Powder
  • Spice Islands Chili Powder
  • Simply Organic Chili Powder

If making this recipe gluten-free, be sure to use 100% certified gluten-free ingredients.

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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!

How To Make Enchilada Sauce From Scratch

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1,734 comments on “The BEST Enchilada Sauce!”

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  1. Excellent and went perfectly with the main recipe.

    Rating: 5
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  3. This sauce is awesome. We have probably used it 100 times. Thanks!

    Rating: 5
  4. Anyone not in America – BE AWARE American style Chilli Powder is NOT the same as Ground Chilli Powder… I made this last night with 4 tbsp Ground Chilli, and wow it nearly blew my socks off! After a bit of altering, it was certainly tasty, and a very good sauce. I will use the recipe again, but will amend the amount of chilli that goes into it and find a good ratio of spices to replace it with.

    Rating: 4
    • yep… made this last night.. Australian chilli powders must be made from ghost chillies!! Blew my head off – tried to adjust with tomato paste and sauce plus sugar… Was still waaaaaay to spicy even for my “Add’s hot sauce to literally everything” husband. Plus I am 4 months pregnant.. I couldn’t finish what I was craving and had to throw the whole batch of enchilada’s out :(

    • Sorry to hear that, Melissa. Yes, unfortunately that’s why I include so many recommendations for American chili powder. I tried making this once when visiting our family in New Zealand, and the chili powders down there are completely different (so much spicier).

  5. I can’t ever imagine ever buying enchilada sauce again after using this recipe. It was so delicious and had such depth of flavor. I used it in your Chicken Enchilada recipe. As a bonus, it’s a snap to whip this up. I used Penzey’s spices for all the dried spices called for.

    Rating: 5
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  7. How would I use real chilis? Or dried California chilis?

    • I made my own w/ real chilies instead, but rest of recipe as written is what I do as well and its delicious :)

      2 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1/2-inch pieces (1/2 cup)
      Dried chiles vary in size and weight. You’ll get a more accurate measure if you seed and tear them first; you need about 1/2 cup of prepped chiles.

      Toast chiles and other spices you’re using like whole cumin, in 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to spice grinder and let cool for 5 minutes. Add garlic powder and oregano and grind to fine powder, and you have home made chili powder!

      Hope i wasn’t annoying adding directions to an already amazing recipe I just really love this dish <3

  8. This was a flavorful sauce made with my from scratch chili powder (Alton Brown’s recipe). I doubled the recipe plus I added a couple of tablespoons of chipolte chile powder to my chili powder. OMG – spicy but delicious sauce for my chicken enchilada casserole. A great base recipe to tweak to my liking. Thanks for sharing.

    Rating: 4
  9. Hi Ali, I’m hoping you can help me. I enjoy making new and different meals for the two of us. We live way up in Ontario Canada and most people don’t seem to make Mexican dishes. I’d like to change that for us by starting with your red and green enchilada sauces and progress to all your posted recipes that use your homemade sauces. My problem is I’m not familiar with chilies, chili powder etc.. I also can’t handle even medium spiced dishes but my husband can. Could you please guide me through your sauce recipes by possibly keeping the flavour profiles but not much of the heat. I certainly may be asking too much and taking too much of your time. If that’s the case I shall muddle through on my own with absolutely no negative feelings what so ever. Thank you for reading my lengthy post and enjoy what’s left of our summer season! Sincerely, Kendra

  10. So does this sauce turn out red like traditional enchilada sauce? Or do I have to add tomato sauce or paste?

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  12. ALERT TO AUSTRALIANS: Our chilli is definitely WAY hotter and this is far from a mild sauce, I even tried going easy and only using 2 tablespoons of the chilli powder – I can’t recommend this sauce because we could barely eat the enchiladas and had to scrape most of the sauce off before we could eat them and I’m usually okay with spiciness.

    • After research on your comments and others it seems American “chilli powder” isn’t that at all if you live outside the USA. It’s a blend of herbs and spices that you use to make the Mexican dish chilli.
      Here’s a recipe from another site as to what goes into the chilli powder ( hardly any actual “chilli or cayenne” mainly paprika, cumin etc.)
      https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/237172/chili-powder/

  13. Shockingly good. Used it for veggie enchiladas (zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, bell pepper, onion) tonight and even our picky 3 year old cleaned her plate. Being from Austin I’m picky about my Tex-Mex, but this is definitely a keeper.

    Rating: 5
  14. Your recipes look amazing and oh so healthy. Can’t wait to try roasted cauliflower with enchilada. Should be easy as I have all ingredients. Let you know. Thanks

    • I just made the roasted cauliflower enchiladas last night but added broccoli and mushrooms to my roasting pan. Paired with this enchilada sauce, they were so, so good. I usually prefer meat (or at least eggs) for the main course, but the veg enchiladas held their own.

  15. So what makes this chili powder red? I’m in Australia. Used only 1/2 tsp chili powder but mine isn’t red. What am I missing. Do I need to find red American chili powder 😊

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  17. Me and my family were very excited to finally have a home cooked meal after a long week at the beach[we ate out every night] I read ALL of the reviews and it made the sauce sound AMAZINGGGGGG……. GUESS WHAT IT WAS NOT IT WAS THE WORST SAUCE I’VE EVER HAD. I’m shocked there are not any more bad reviews.
    *btw I followed the sauce recipe exactly and used brand ingredients with both sauce and enchilada recipes.

    Rating: 1
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  19. This really is a fantastic sauce, thank you so much for the recipe. Funny thing is that my stovetop suddenly stopped working and I had to make this in my microwave and it STILL came out delicious. I’ll definitely make it again. I made it for your “Best Chicken Enchiladas Ever” and perfect.

    Rating: 5
  20. My family is obsessed with this sauce! We make it a few times a month and it always gets rave reviews all around. Thanks for such a great recipe!

    Rating: 5
  21. Excellent exactly as outlined. I used a scant of ancho chili along with the chili powder. So delicious. So simple – I’ll never buy red sauce again. I am going to experiment next time with masa flour. Can’t wait.

    Rating: 5
  22. I have made this sauce a ton of times and love it! My question is, what do you consider “slightly thickened?”

    Rating: 5
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  24. I’ve used this recipe a few times and it IS the best enchilada sauce I’ve ever had. I’ve never been to a Mexican restaurant (and I’ve been to ALOT) that even comes close to the flavor that this recipe has. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe, it’s my “go to” sauce recipe for multiple recipes (I love it in my tamale meat too).HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!!

    Rating: 5
  25. There was a lovely mexican restaurant in Blythe, CA (La Amapola) that had the BEST red sauce ever. I went there for 20 years as I traveled from Phoenix to Los Angeles and begged for the recipe each time. Finally the owner was there and her recipe was exactly like yours. EXCEPT, she used Smart & Final chili powder, (which has a very dark/distinctive taste) fresh garlic cloves and put all of the ingredients in the blender (so no oil). After blending, heat it up and it thickens beautifully. BRAVA!

    Rating: 5
  26. Delicious! This is now my goto homemade sauce for enchiladas. Thank you!

    Rating: 5
  27. Hi – I made this enchilada recipe and I love it, so do my neighbors. Can I double this recipe?
    Thank you. Eileen

  28. Made these for the first time and loved them! The homemade sauce is the ticket, for sure. Next time I would use 2x sauce for one batch. Thank you!

    Rating: 5
  29. My family loves this sauce! I have used it the enchilada soup and enchilada casserole, both a huge hit! Wondering if I can freeze the sauce?

    Rating: 5
  30. I’ve made this sauce multiple times with both chicken and veggie enchiladas and we love it! (BTW I am not a “cook” so this feels like a real win for me!) We top them with homemade guac, hot sauce, and lettuce and always look forward to the leftovers the next day! Question: If I double the batch of sauce could I freeze it for future use?

    Rating: 5
  31. The sauce tasted great, but it didn’t turn out thick enough and I followed directions to a T.

    Rating: 4
  32. I never leave comments for these things but I just have to say that this sauce is PERFECTION. I don’t even understand how that’s possible given its simplicity, but I’m eager to make another vat of sauce to call “enchilada soup”. 😂 Thanks for introducing me to this crack!!

    Rating: 5