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

2,175 comments on “Enchilada Sauce”

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  1. Love love love the sauce! It has been my go to for years. I had no idea how horribly inferior the canned stuff was at the store till I actually made my own. Or should I say your recipe! Thanks so much!

  2. this is my family’s FAVORITE enchilada sauce by far! We LOVE it. I do have a question…… can I freeze this after I make it? I would love to have it finished and out of the way for those days we are moving fast through dinner.

    Thanks in advance!

  3. I’m amazed that the reviews here are so controversial. We make this sauce all the time and love it. Couldn’t be easier!

  4. LOVE, LOVE LOVE everything you’ve shared to date. I just thought I’d better double-check that I’m supposed to add 1/4 CUP of chili powder versus 1/4 tsp? It made the roux very dense…. I appreciate the extra tutelage.
    Blessings,
    Lisa

  5. [READ THIS REVIEW] I was so disappointed with this sauce. The enchiladas itself was good, but the sauce ruined it. First, when I made the roux, it turned brown after stirring for like 30 seconds. The recipe says to stir for one minute. At this point, I add the dry ingredients (chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, cumin) and it looks like a lot of tiny balls. And after 15 minutes of simmering, the sauce was EXTREMELY thin, so I had to add a lot of corn starch to thicken up. After it thickened, the sauce was so dark. Like not black, but a very dark brown. It ended up making the enchiladas bitter. To all of you reading this review, I highly recommend a tomato-based enchiladas sauce because it will genuinely taste like an authentic Mexican enchiladas.

  6. 💯💯💯 love this sauce. Couldn’t be easier and we put it on everything!

  7. I use this recipe every time I make enchiladas! It’s soooo good. The mild spice gives it a little kick and it’s packed with flavour. No need to buy enchilada sauce in the store ever again!

  8. Wow, this was even better than I was expecting…can’t wait to make it again!

  9. This turned out well after I doctored some stuff because the spice was way too much. I think there should be a disclaimer that there are different levels of heat within “chili powder.” Not all are created equal. My husband and I love spice, we live in Southern California and have been raised on Mexican food, but I think our chili powder (from an authentic Middle Eastern market) was too potent and I should have checked it first. I ended up adding more vegetable stock, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, and a couple swigs of lemon juice. It was still too spicy alone but in the zucchini enchilada casserole it turned out perfect with a nice, but doable, spice factor. It was so easy and I had all of the ingredients on hand, I will make it again, keeping the chili powder spice in mind.

  10. Very good in the chicken Enchiladas! Has a distinct strong taste by itself but smoky & great when with the dish. When I first started making it in a little pot I got nervous because mixing the spices with the little bit of hot oil was super dry and started burning. But I quickly added a little chicken broth and it mixed better. Then continued to stir as a poured a little more in. Followed the directions the rest of the way, stirring occasionally, and it thickened after 15 mins & took off the heat.

  11. I have been making this sauce for years and I love your recipe. I did make one change that makes a difference for me but might not be liked by others: I roast dried pasilla and ancho peppers and then grind them for the chile powder. I do also make an American chile powder with those chiles as the base, but I usually use 3 parts dried chile to one part American chile powder in this recipe. I’m sorry some don’ like it–it is certainly a departure from canned enchilada sauce, and that’s actually one of the reasons I sought out this recipe–canned enchilada sauces often have TONS of sodium. In addition to using this as an enchilada sauce, I stir it into chicken or pork and use for street tacos. I keep a jar of your sauce in the fridge at all times. Thanks for the enchilada sauce gift that keeps on giving!

  12. I made this recipe last night and it was SO good. It seriously reminded us of an enchilada dish we had at a Mexican restaurant in NYC. Saving this recipe so I can make it again in the future!!

  13. Very disgusting. Super bitter. Just YUCK! I knew something was off when I saw 1/4 c of that chili powder as part of the recipe. Waste of time and a waste of your spice if you make with those measurements. Wayyyy too much Chili Powder.

    Should be 1/4 Cup flour and 1-2 TBSP of Chili Powder. Please please do yourself and who ever you may be cooking for a favor by switching those two measurements and I promise you will be much more satisfied and will have great enchilada sauce.