Enchilada Sauce

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My favorite 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 homemade enchilada sauce recipe

Ways To Use Enchilada Sauce:

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

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


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!




  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!


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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2,131 comments on “Enchilada Sauce”

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  1. Love the depth of flavor, I add a bit of chocolate at the end as well, gives it a little more oomph up front.

  2. I have a feeling the people calling this too spicy either got the wrong chili powder or lack spice tolerance. The heat of this was perfect for me, especially given that I’m using it in recipes with cheese (which combats spice).

  3. Made this exactly as recipe stated but for some reason mine didn’t turn out red…it was green???

  4. Chili comment: First off my friend my red enchilada sauce beats yours hands down and I shall tell you why. The chili sauces come from what is known as Atzlan from a people that call themselves Chicanos. Which translates into Mexican American that means they were born American and are of Native American and Hispanic descent. They were farmers/field workers and due to the time era their women had to feed many mouths bcuz it was not abnormal to produce 13-23 children so these soups fed many. Now to my point the reason my chili sauces beat yours is heritage yet more so my ingredients. You should NEVER use American powders from the grocery spice aisle! The best chili pods grown in the world are from Pueblo Colorado and New Mexico that compete regularly. For me green chili rules from Pueblo and the red rules from New Mexico and I’ve been eating both my entire life. Chicano mexican food beats anything from Mexico in my humble Chicano mind. Now that said your red chili should start with chili molido and it is NOT found in the baking aisle. It comes in the hispanic aisle and you get 4xs the amount for your buck and it is the best in flavor. Additionally, you will find your cumino and your oregeno and your chicken bouillon at 4x the amount for your money. Boullion is better than stock bcuz you can adjust the salt flavor and your not paying for whatever crap water they’ve put into it at the factory. And again you get more bang for your buck and can make 4x the cooking pots of chili. So I am not going to reveal my recipe, however I believe the primary reason for mine being better than yours is due to my ingredients are fresher bcuz they do not set on a grocery shelf for ions, and they are just a higher quality that occurs coming from right out of the fields. Most grocery store chains have the hispanic aisle. Although, you may have to order them from Europe. I am confident your red sauce will improve immensely. Also the Molido chili powders come in Mild, Medium and Hot for your discretionary advantage.
    From our Chicano table to yours. The Chicano people are a proud Native American people that invented what is known as the “poor man” Chili Sauces/Soups. They did NOT come from Mexico. They came from the labor and sweat of our brows  in the farming fields of Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and New Mexico throughout migration. I live in Denver CO now, yet the Mexico Mexican food has nothing competitively speaking on my home of Pueblo’s Mexican food. A primary reason being that they are clueless on how to make Chicharones, and nothing beats a bean and chicharone burrito with cheese and home grown home made green chili sauce smothered on top. Don’t forget to top with fresh garden lettuce and tomato.

    • lol “2 stars, it wasn’t this other recipe and also I like to gatekeep recipes”

    • Wow. Is this not something you could have messaged to her ? and then allow her the grace to edit her recipe based on your feedback? even though you said ‘my friend’ when you started off, it certainly wasn’t a friendly message.

    • @Tara Lea Chamblin – I think it would be a great idea for you to create your own blog and share YOUR recipes and dissertations there. On other people’s blogs, make THEIR recipe. I made Ali’s enchilada sauce today and it was great.

    • Thanks so much for your comments and suggestions. I’m truly inspired, but confused as to why you choose not to share your recipe? I would really like to improve my sauces .

    • Why not publish your own sauce recipe at this point instead of merely criticizing this one to pieces? Genuine question.

  5. For those that want better control on your spice heat use Chili Molido that is a New Mexico brand best in the world and they give you Hot, Medium & Mild. Additionally, it is in the hispanic aisle at 4x the amount for way cheaper than that itsy bitsy lil salt shaker in the spice rack on the baking aisle. Don’t believe me check it out. Plus you’ll find the cumino, the oregeno, and the big jar of bullion in beef, chicken and tomato flavors. I AM A PRO AT CHILI SAUCES😉

    • Hi Tara. I am looking for good red and green sauce. Are you willing to share your recipes? Loved your comments and would very much like to try your recipes! Ty JSS

  6. Awesome. Tastes amazing and I always have everything I need for the recipe on hand!!!

  7. I liked this recipe! I thought it would be way too much chilli powder, but it was just right! One thing I would change is to cook the chicken in batches instead of all at once. The texture of the chicken a little chewy from being too close together in the pot.

  8. After buying a store-bought enchilada sauce and tasting how terrible it played was I am so glad that I use this recipe to make my own. This is a very good recipe and very simple to make.

  9. This is my favorite enchilada sauce ❤ thanks for sharing

  10. It came out amazing

  11. This has been a staple in my house for Taco Tuesdays. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  12. Wish I would have educated my self a bit about enchilada sauce (this was my first time making it), and would have looked at other recipes before making this one. First off, it is way to spicy with having so much chili powder. Second, there is no tomato sauce/paste in this recipe. After making this and not being satisfied, I looked at other recipes, they all call for some form of tomato sauce, and less chili powder.

  13. I saw that the top comment was all complaints for not being Hispanic enough, but as a mixed Hispanic, I much prefer this type of chili to spicy enchilada sauce. The white side of the family prefer this version, as well. Thanks!

  14. I followed the sauce recipe exactly, but mine is not red…a brownish color???????

  15. Your enchilada sauce is the perfect blend of spices. I do prefer to add some tomato sauce as you suggested. The other commenter said bouillon is the best but I’d counter that homemade organic chicken stock made from a locally grown chicken is much better in both quality and taste. I also appreciate that the ingredients are readily available. There are many varieties of enchilada sauce, just as there varieties of every food.

  16. I like so many of your recipes, but this sauce is not one of them. Sorry.