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Enchilada Sauce

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My favorite homemade enchilada sauce recipe is easy to make with pantry ingredients, it only requires about 5 minutes of prep time, and it tastes so flavorful and delicious.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe

My best tip for kicking your homemade enchiladas up a delicious notch?

Use this homemade enchilada sauce!

This recipe for Southwestern-style red enchilada sauce has been the starring ingredient in my favorite enchilada recipe for years and years. And every time I bake up a batch of enchiladas for a gathering, friends always ask for the recipe.

By contrast to many Mexican-style enchilada sauces, this recipe does not include tomatoes but rather centers its flavor around a rich blend of seasonings that you likely already have in your pantry (chili powder, cumin, garlic and oregano). On its own, the sauce is naturally fairly mild, although you are welcome to amp up the heat if you’d like. And its deliciously warm, toasty, earthy flavors pair perfectly with any variety of enchilada recipes.

The good news too is that this recipe only takes about 5 minutes to prep, plus an additional 15-ish minutes to simmer on the stove. It’s naturally vegetarian, vegan and can also be made gluten-free if you’d like. It’s made entirely with pantry ingredients, and can be customized to be more spicy, smoky, tomato-y, or even creamy if you prefer. And I must say — it’s a million times better than the canned stuff!

Thousands of our readers have made and loved this recipe over the years. So if you have yet to give it a try, I say it’s time!

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: These will form the roux to thicken the sauce. You’re welcome to use any type of neutral-flavored oil (or butter) that you prefer. And while I typically use all-purpose flour, you are welcome to sub in a 1-for-1 GF flour blend instead to make this recipe gluten-free.
  • Chili powder: For all of our international readers, please note that this recipe calls for American-style chili powder, which is actually a blend of various chilis and seasonings, including a typically small percentage of cayenne. (Most chili powders sold outside of the States are 100% cayenne, which would not work for this recipe.) I recommend investing in a good-quality brand of chili powder for this recipe, since it is the primary seasoning for this sauce. But keep in mind that chili powder blends vary from brand to brand, so it’s worth experimenting with a few to find the one that you love best!
  • Garlic powder, ground cumin, dried oregano: These are the other dried seasonings that we will use in the sauce. Feel free to increase the amount of any one of these once you have tasted the sauce, if you would like.
  • Veggie or chicken stock: I also recommend using some good-quality stock in this recipe, which will add a 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 the amount needed will likely depend significantly on the brand and saltiness of the stock that you use.

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 first cook the flour and oil together to form the roux, and then whisk in the spices to briefly toast them in the saucepan before adding in the stock.
  2. Simmer: Gradually add in the stock while whisking the sauce, in order to blend in any lumps. Then bring the sauce to a simmer and let it cook (you want to maintain a low bubble) for 10-15 minutes, or until it has reduced to your desired thickness.
  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 1-for-1 gluten-free flour blend, in place of the AP flour. Or you can omit 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 a delicious 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, which has a smokier and slightly spicier flavor.
  • 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 a few tablespoons of tomato paste to the sauce.

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:

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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 favorite homemade enchilada sauce recipe is easy to make with pantry ingredients, it only requires about 5 minutes of prep time, and it tastes so flavorful and delicious.


Ingredients

Scale

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 typically quite mild, whereas international chili powders are usually 100% cayenne.  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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Recipe rating

1,984 comments on “Enchilada Sauce”

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  1. Way too much chili powder by proportion. And no tomato sauce? Cut the chili powder in 1/2 and add a 15 oz. can of tomato sauce.

  2. How long does this last in the fridge?

  3. A favorite staple in my house and for everyone I’ve shared enchiladas with. You’ll never use the can again. It’s hard to believe how delicious this is and how little time and effort it takes.

  4. My sauce isn’t red? Why?

  5. My very favorite enchilada sauce. This is awesome over pork stuffed poblanos then topped with cheese & slid in oven. Nobody ever complains…unless there’s not enough for seconds.

  6. A new family favourite!

  7. I’ve been searching for an enchilada sauce for years, I’ve tried every canned brand out there. This simple recipe was too easy not to try and it’s freaking delicious.

    I used chili powder my local grocer made from roasted hatch chilies. I also used butter rather than oil, Wondra non-clumping sauce flour and Better Than Bullion. It was a bit spicy for me so I added more chicken broth and Wondra to calm it down a bit. Rich, thick and really quite amazing. The chili powder in this recipe is key, the author is right about using a good one.

  8. It’s my favorite enchilada sauce ever! Great for enchilada soup too. Love!

  9. Can you can or freeze this sauce???

  10. This used to require 4 tbsp of chili powder. Now it’s 1/4 cup and tastes way off. Help?!

  11. There was wayyy too much chili powder, I strongly considered tossing it. My brother added some tomato paste and it tasted way better!

  12. Honestly I don’t know if it’s defeating the point or not, but I take this recipe and then add a small can of red enchilada sauce at the end and simmer it down. Its honestly the best enchilada sauce I’ve had.