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!

Print
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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1,963 comments on “The BEST Enchilada Sauce!”

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  1. We love this sauce recipe! Next time we make your Best Chicken Enchiladas EVER recipe we will make/use double the sauce.

    • This is the best enchilada sauce I’ve ever eaten!!’ I’m sharing this recipe with everyone. It’s over-the-top good. And, its ease to make is a big bonus.

  2. Amazing recipe! Got rave reviews all around the table!

  3. I am one of those crazy people who tries a new recipe for company. I decided to make chicken enchiladas using this sauce as part of the recipe. Our family likes things a little spicy so I changd out 1 tbsp of the chili powder with a smaller amount of chipotle chili powder. The sauce ended up VERY SPICY — too hot for my company. My bad. Otherwise it was really delicious without that processed taste store bought sauces have. Mine did not taste bitter or gritty. I would recommend this, just don’t do what I did if you don’t want it really spicy. I have added a bunch of different things to dilute the spice — should be good for my company now!

  4. Delicious! But I put too much chilli in! What can I put in it to dull it down?

    • I’ve made this recipe probably 20 times at least and whenever the sauce is too hot, or just generally, i add a bit of honey

  5. Fantastic

  6. Awesome recipe, have used it quite a few times now and want to used it on holiday, I’m wondering if can prep the sauce a few days before? Should be OK shouldn’t it?

    • Haven’t made it yet but it says in the recipe you can put it in the fridge for up to 5 days.

  7. Taste great!!

  8. This is the best recipe ever. I will never use another kind!!!!!

  9. This is super delicious! I’ve made it at least 6 times now and I’ve found that I like my enchilada sauce a little bit spicy so I’ll replace some of the chili powder with chipotle chili powder which gives it a little bit of heat and some smokiness.

  10. This is nice and awesome thanks for share us.Fantastic Blog…I will definitly share your blog with other people.Thank you.

  11. Could you can this? I would like to make a giant batch once over several small ones. Thanks!

    • There are no acidifying ingredients in this recipe like tomatoes, sugar or vinegar that would make it safe to water-bath can. To water-bath can anything, the pH must be at or below 4.6 and none of the ingredients in this recipe would contribute to lowering the pH enough to safely trust water-bath canning it. If you have a way to test the pH you could try experimenting with adding citric acid to get it at or below 4.6 but that would make the sauce sour.
      I wouldn’t consider pressure canning either as the flour used to make the roux (wheat or Gluten free) is seldom recommended in any updated USDA tested pressure canning recipes from the past 20 yrs, as flour can be unpredictable with pressure canning and potentially make the sauce too dense to maintain sufficient heat and pressure to be safely pressure canned.
      I’m also an avid canner and will can anything in sight (my husband jokes about hiding our wiener dogs when I break out the canning equipment) but this recipe greatly appealed to me for the very reason that it doesn’t have tomatoes, sugar or vinegar like other enchilada sauce recipes. I’ve made it with both all purpose flour and gluten free flour for my gluten intolerant husband and either way is outstanding. It’s easy enough to make as needed as it doesn’t require a long simmer to blend the flavors, so I won’t try to can it.

  12. This is a great recipe! Thanks . I use an excellent chili powder from the Santa Cruz Chili company in Arizona for all my Mexican cooking recipes. No additions needed.
    After we moved from Arizona they have shipped their products to us in New Mexico, Oklahoma and now to Florida. I have been using their products for over 40 years and highly recommend their chili powder ( both hot and mild) and their chili paste. Check out their site.
    Www.santacruzchili.com.

    Love your site!

  13. Definitely my go-to enchilada sauce – delicious!

  14. I made this recipe because I am always looking for the secret to restaurants enchilada sauce. In a nutshell, no tomatoes. It turned out really spicy and hot and i thought I surely Had used the wrong chili powder. I served it the next day and it was excellent. The flavors had melded and the sauce was rich, smooth, no bitterness Or sharp heat. A real winner and it is so good with chips. No changes to the recipe for me. Glad you mentioned not freezing it. That is exactly what I would have done.

  15. I’ve only made enchiladas maybe twice Within a 4-year span and always used pre-made sauce. After this recipe, I can’t go back. This is my 2nd time making this 4 weeks apart. The 1st time I used foreign chili powder because it was what I had. You are right, very hot and still good, but this time I’m using American chili powder. Thanks!

  16. Delicious! Used this with homemade beef burritos and it tasted exactly like our local Mexican Restaurant. Other recipes I had used in the past for burritos called for a can of Enchilada sauce, it would then ruin the dinner. The store-bought cans of sauce are awful and leave a terrible after-taste. This recipe is very smooth and delicious. I have to admit though that I cut the chili powder in half, just due to my husband’s sensitive stomach. Thought I’d try that much and the. Increase as needed. This was the perfect amount for us. Not a bit of dinner leftover!

    Thanks again!

  17. I would like to thank you for posting this enchilada drink recipe. Yes, it’s that good. I’ve made it twice in 24 hours now. I put it on everything – eggs, nachos, and believe it or not, actual enchiladas. Cooks beware: if you taste it too early, it will seem bitter. I thought oh no! Is my chili powder old? Does the flour need to cook off? Patience. Let it simmer. Let it thicken a bit. The bare notes strung together metamorphose into a beautiful melody for your taste buds. Donating cans of enchilada sauce to local food kitchen now because I no longer have a use for them.

  18. This was a very good enchilada sauce! I made one before that was too overpowering so was very happy with the results of this one! I did cut back on the chili powder and added some chipotle sauce along with smoked paprika. All else remained as per the recipe.
    Thank-you!
    We will be always using this one in the future :)

    Carrie

  19. I have not made this enchilada sauce yet but I wanted to make sure I’m using the correct chili powder. I am using McCormick Organic Chili powder. I read the ingredients and it does have additional ingredients so I’m pretty sure it is the American Chili?

  20. Any enchilada sauce that calls for flour as a thickener is so BIZARRE.

  21. Everyone loved it! Had a little bit of a mishap with the chili powder as I only had about 2T of my favorite San Antonio chili powder. I grabbed the next best thing I had, which was chipotle chili, and it didn’t occur to me to dial it back a bit. We downed a lot of water, but even still it was some of the best enchilada sauce I’ve had in a while! I never would have thought it would be so simple to make!

  22. This recipe is awesome! It really does taste like enchilada sauce from a restaurant. I had never made enchilada sauce before making this one and I was amazed at how easy it was to do, and how few ingredients were needed. I had everything on hand already which made it that much better. Highly recommend making this sauce whether or not you’ve made an enchilada sauce before!

  23. This is the BEST enchilada recipe ever. I’ve made it twice now and RAVE reviews from many people.
    I use chopped jalapeños instead of the green chili and follow everything else as is.
    It will be used for decades to come…thank you for sharing!

  24. Awesome sauce! Great recipe!

  25. I’ve made this so many times! So easy and delicious, thank you!!

  26. I see several comments referencing Santa Cruz Chili powder. My family started Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Co in 1943. I would be happy to send you a sample if you send me a mailing address. We began growing and processing our famous mild red chili powder in Arizona but now have it grown in Mesilla Valley New Mexico, using seed especially developed here in Arizona. I look forward to hearing from you. BTW love your website.

    Jean Neubauer
    Owner
    Santa Cruz Chili &Spice Co.

  27. This is fantastic sauce. It’s good on everything. Leftover chicken, eggs, pork chops…..

  28. This sauce is awesome! I’ll never buy a can of enchilada sauce again. So easy to make, and it makes a lot. Great on tamales too.

  29. The absolute best EVER!!! I make this at least once or twice a month and still freeze a little in between.

  30. Does the recipe really require 1/4 a cup of chili powder? In looking at various recipes this seems like a lot.

  31. I can’t believe how easy and how delicious this is! I will never used canned sauce again. Why would you? This takes minutes, is healthier, and tastes much better!

  32. Easy! Delicious! I do recommend a margarita whilst cooking this and the chicken enchiladas. :)