The BEST Enchilada Sauce!

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The best homemade enchilada sauce recipe!  It’s super-simple to make and a million times better than the canned stuff.  (Check out my recipe for Green Enchilada Sauce too!)

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 over years and years.  And every time I make a pan of chicken 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 enchilada cups for a party…this enchilada sauce always gets rave reviews and someone inevitably always asks for the recipe.

It’s a million times better than anything you can buy in the can and is made with the coziest, warm chili flavors.  But best of all, this homemade red enchilada sauce recipe only takes about 20 minutes to make and calls for a few simple ingredients that you probably already have sitting in your pantry.  So if you have yet to try this recipe, I say it’s time!

Let’s make a quick batch together!

Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe | 1-Minute Video

Chili powder (to make red enchilada sauce)

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce Ingredients:

To make this easy enchilada sauce recipe, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Oil and flour: To make our roux, which will thicken the sauce.  Feel free to use any type of oil or butter that you prefer.  And see notes below if you need a gluten-free option for the flour.
  • Chili powder: Very important note — this recipe calls for American-style chili powder, which is actually a blend of various mild chilis and seasonings.  (It is not cayenne!)  I recommend investing in a good-quality brand of chili powder for this recipe, since it is the main seasoning used here.  And if you happen to be an international reader, please (please) note that you need to look for a specifically American-style chili powder.  Many readers have reported over the years that most international chili powder blends are typically more similar to straight cayenne and can be overwhelmingly spicy.
  • Garlic powder, ground cumin, dried oregano: These are the other dried seasonings that we will use in the sauce.
  • Veggie or chicken stock: I also recommend using some good-quality stock in this recipe, which will add some delicious depth of flavor to the sauce.
  • Fine sea salt: And finally, don’t forget to season the sauce!  I typically add in about 1/2 teaspoon, but please note that the amount of salt you’ll need will directly relate to how salty your veggie/chicken stock happens to be.

Whisking Red Enchilada Sauce

How To Make Enchilada Sauce:

Here are the basic steps for how to make enchilada sauce (full instructions included in the recipe box below):

  1. Cook the roux and spices: In a small saucepan, we’ll cook the flour and oil together to form the roux, and then whisk in the spices to briefly toast them before adding in the stock.
  2. Simmer: Gradually add in the stock, while whisking the sauce to blend in any lumps.  Then heat to a simmer, and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it has reduced and thickened a bit.
  3. Season: Season with salt (or any extra seasonings that you might like to add), to taste.
  4. Serve: Then serve it up in a pan of enchiladas or whatever recipe sounds good…and enjoy!

Jar of red enchilada sauce

Possible Variations:

This recipe is quite flexible, so please feel free to tinker around with ingredient amounts and customize it however you prefer!  For example, you could…

  • Make it gluten-free: You can either use an all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, in place of the AP flour.  Or you can nix the flour and instead add a cornstarch slurry (equal parts cornstarch and cold water whisked together) to the sauce once it is simmering to thicken it.
  • Make it creamy: Whisk in 1/2 cup of heavy cream to turn this recipe into an epic creamy enchilada sauce.
  • Make it spicier: Feel free to add in a pinch or two of cayenne to make this sauce even spicier.  Or alternately, you can choose to use ancho chili powder in place of standard American chili powder.
  • Make it milder: American chili powder should naturally be quite mild.  But if you are wary of heat, feel free to start with 2 tablespoons (instead of 4 tablespoons) of chili powder in the recipe.  Then once the sauce has simmered, give it a taste and feel free to add more if you would like.
  • Make it smokier: Feel free to swap some of the American chili powder for chipotle chili powder, if you would like this sauce to have a smoky chipotle kick.  (Also note that chipotle powder is considerably spicier, so this version would pack more heat too.)
  • Add tomato sauce: If you would like to have a more tomato-y enchilada sauce, you are welcome to add 1/2 cup tomato sauce to the recipe in place of 1/2 cup of the stock.

Chicken enchiladas made with the best enchilada sauce recipe

Ways To Use Enchilada Sauce:

Here are a few of my favorite ways to use this easy enchilada sauce!

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Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Red Enchilada Sauce

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1/2 cups 1x

Description

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!


Scale

Ingredients


Instructions

  1. Cook the roux and spices: Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, whisking constantly.  Add in the chili powder, garlic powder, cumin and oregano and cook for 1 more minute, whisking constantly.
  2. Simmer: Gradually pour in the stock, whisking constantly to combine until no lumps remain.  Continue cooking until the sauce reaches a simmer.  Then reduce heat to medium-low to maintain the simmer (the sauce should continue lightly bubbling) for about 10-15 minutes, uncovered, until the sauce has slightly thickened.
  3. Season: Give the sauce a taste and season with salt, as needed.  (I typically add 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, but the saltiness of the sauce can vary depending on the brand of stock that you use.)
  4. Serve: Use immediately in your favorite recipe and enjoy!


Notes

Chili powder (important note): As mentioned above, this recipe calls for traditional American chili powder — which is not cayenne.  American chili powder is actually a blend of spices and is quite mild, whereas international chili powders are usually incredibly spicy.  So if you live outside of the United States, please look specifically for an American-style chili powder blend.

Gluten-free option: Feel free to use a 1-to-1 all-purpose gluten-free flour blend in place of the all-purpose flour.  Or alternately, you can thicken the sauce with a cornstarch slurry (equal parts cold water and cornstarch whisked together, then added to the sauce once it has reached a simmer).

Storage instructions: Let the sauce cool to room temperature.  Then transfer it to a mason jar or food storage container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.  Unfortunately this sauce separates a bit once it has frozen, so I don’t recommend freezing it.

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2,064 comments on “The BEST Enchilada Sauce!”

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  1. So easy and so delicious. Made all the difference between enchiladas with store bought sauce vs this. I added some cayenne to the 1/4 cup of chili powder to make it spicier.

  2. Made this recipe yesterday and my family w raved about it! I made it per the instructions. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. This is the closest recipe to a Mexican restaurant in Portland, Oregon that unfortunately has closed. It was a huge loss to hundreds if not thousands of people that loved our Original Taco House.😪😪 Thank you for it and I will be passing it on to everyone I know

  4. I have been making this recipe for several years. It is a favorite in my family and they often request it for their special birthday dinner choice. I make many of your recipes and have never been disappointed. Thank you for making me so popular with my family!

  5. It really is a fabulous sauce. Fun to give my lifemate a taste and watch his eyes bug out because of how hot it was. We added a half can of tomato sauce to the pan and declared the resulting sauce a total winner.

  6. Ok, Let me start by saying DAMN this sauce is good !

    But a word to the wise, if you have people in your house that can’t handle spicy, even when it has good flavor, use this sparsely. It has good good flavor, but it has a serious kick too..

    I highly recommend trying this, just be aware, It’s not for everyone.

  7. I never liked enchiladas. Then I had this!
    Omg. So good! It’s the sauce that makes it amazing

  8. Because this sauce can be used in so many ways, could it be canned?

  9. We will never use a packet mix again. I usually make double to put into the freezer for a mid week special.

  10. So easy and so good! I threw in 1 Tbsp. of tomato paste, just because! Threw out my old recipe!

  11. This sauce might have been the best thing to happen to me in 2020. I’ve made this recipe 5 times since finding it a month ago.

  12. This is definitely a keeper, just delicious! I recently had dinner with some friends and we were talking food and I mentioned that I had made your enchilada sauce, my friend said OMG she was getting ready to make this the next day, it is the best!

  13. I did this recipe and added chipotle peppers and it was amazing. Thank you!

  14. I made recipe exactly as written, using the same chili powder and used only half as much chili powder. it was very, very bitter and didn’t remind me at all of enchilada sauce.

  15. To make it low carb you can use a teaspoon or so of xanthum gum instead of flour. Our little boy is a type 1 diabetic so we nixed the tortillas ans he was able to have this without insulin and it didn’t spike his bg. Thanks for the recipe!

  16. Oh. Wow. This sauce is delicious and so easy to make. Thanks!

  17. This is absolutely, plate-cleaningly, delicious! The sauce was used to make bean and cheese skillet enchiladas, all of which were gobbled up in mere minutes. My 15-year-old son said the enchiladas were better than the ones we get at restaurants. I whole-heartedly credit the success of our supper to your recipe. THANK YOU!

  18. I live in a country where I can’t buy enchilada sauce and I love Mexican food, so I’ve been looking for a recipe to make it for a while. This is the best! Thanks

  19. We go to visit relatives every year in northern New Mexico near Santa Fe and I always look forward to the enchiladas my wife’s sister makes. Due to Covid we couldn’t go this year so I decided to make the N.M. meal with enchiladas as the main dish. I discovered this recipe and this is easily the BEST enchilada sauce I have every eaten. My wife and son couldn’t believe how good it was. One of the best recipes of any kind I have ever discovered…and I cook a lot! Thank you for this. You have set the gold standard.

  20. It’s a good beginning, but it was even better with a can of fire-roasted tomatoes (pureed in a blender). Not only did it add more flavor by rounding out the spices, it also increased the amount to actually making a large pan of enchiladas.