Red Enchilada Sauce

Learn how to make homemade red enchilada sauce with this easy recipe!  It’s so simple to make, and so delicious that I bet you’ll never return to the canned stuff. 

This homemade enchilada sauce recipe is the BEST!!! It only takes about 20 minutes to make, it tastes great on all kinds of enchiladas, it's easy to make gluten-free, and it's absolutely delicious! |

Every time I make the sauce for my favorite chicken enchiladas, I feel like the enchilada sauce itself is so good that deserves its own post.

Believe me, people.  This recipe will knock your socks offffffff.

I guarantee you will never go back to the canned store-bought stuff again.  This sauce is a breeze to make, calls for simple ingredients, and is insanely delicious.  Whenever I am making enchiladas, I will often whip up a double batch of the sauce to use in some chicken soup, as a marinade, or to some salsa or quesadillas up a notch.  Really, it is so good.

Just make sure that you pay the extra dollar for some good-quality chili powder.  You will taste the difference.  And love it.

Did I say you’ll love it?

Update 3.31.14 — SO many of you readers have used and loved this sauce over the past few years that I decided to post some new photos of the sauce, after making it for the 492th time.  :)

Also, a number of people have commented on the color of the sauce.  Different chili powders that I have used sometimes make the sauce more brown and sometimes more red.  I shoot my photos about a foot away from a window, so the backlighting can make the photos also appear more vibrant.  Whatever color it comes out, though, this sauce is always crazy good.

Just be sure to buy chili powder (not cayenne, also known as “crushed red chili powder”), and simmer the sauce for however long it takes to reach your desired thickness.  The sauce will not be super thick, but should not be overly runny.


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Red Enchilada Sauce

This homemade red enchilada sauce is WAY better than anything you can buy in the can, and quick and easy to make as well!



  1. Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour and whisk together over the heat for one minute. Stir in the remaining seasonings (chili powder through oregano). Then gradually add in the stock, whisking constantly to remove lumps. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes until slightly thickened.
  2. Use immediately or refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.  (I like to use mason jars or Weck jars to store this sauce.)

*I consider this sauce pretty mild.  But if you are wary about heat/spice in your sauce, I would begin with 2 tablespoons chili powder and add more from there once the sauce has reached a simmer if you’d like.  Or if you’d like a smokier sauce, I recommend using 3 tablespoons chili powder and 1 tablespoon chipotle powder.

Again, though, this recipe calls for traditional American chili powder, not cayenne.  From the comments, it sounds as though chili powders vary significantly from country to country.  But the traditional American chili powder is fairly mild, and should not be overly spicy.  Some brands I recommend include:

  • Morton & Bassett Chili Powder
  • Penzey’s Spices Mild or Medium Chili Powder
  • Spice Islands Chili Powder
  • Simply Organic Chili Powder
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If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I'd love to see what you cook!

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Looking for some good recipes to use this homemade enchilada sauce?  Here are some of my faves:

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1,344 comments on “Red Enchilada Sauce”

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  1. I just made your enchilada sauce. I was amazed at how easy your recipe comes together and how delicious it is. I used it in my enchilada casserole which is in the oven now. The family is hovering in the kitchen, breathing in the wonderful savory aroma – and watching the timer on the stove.

  2. This sauce is spectacular! I have made it many times. I always do a double batch as it goes quick. As for the enchiladas I use corn tortillas and usually make two 9×13 pans at a time. Generally I wing it on the mix for the filling but I always add a can of diced green chilies to the garlic and onion in the first sauté. This is followed buy a generous amount of green onion, shredded chicken, black beans, quality cheese, some plain yogurt, tomatoes and cilantro. Brushing on the sauce to the tortillas is a great idea and adds to the flavor. I give the enchiladas a generous dose of sauce on top and always get rave reviews with this dish. I will never buy store made sauce again. Now I need to figure out an equally great recipe for “green sauce”. Thanks for the great recipe! I happened across your site about a year ago and reference it often.

  3. Just wondering if this will make enough for 1 1/4 cups you suggest for enchilada soup if it is boiled down?

    • Hi Lulu! Yes, definitely — this recipe makes 1 1/2 cups, so just reduce it down until it’s 1 1/4 cups and you’ll be golden for the enchilada soup! :) We hope you enjoy!

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  5. This sauce is 11 times better than anything out of a can; every store-bought brand I’ve tried has too much of a “tinny” taste.  I used Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base and liked it more than I did with the typical canned broth.  This is no doubt a keeper recipe.

  6. Hi Hayley, I just ran across your recipe for this homemade sauce, and I am about to try this and I was wanting to know from Brian, How much or haw many cubes Bouillon does he use? 
    I am a foodie and love to try now recipes. Soooo excited

    • Hi Donna! This is actually Ali’s recipe and her blog (I just help out with things around here). :) But we’re so happy you want to give the sauce a try! If using Better than Bouillon, for 2 cups of stock you would need 1 teaspoon (or one bouillon cube) per 8oz of water, so 2 teaspoons or 2 cubes.

  7. This is the BEST enchilada sauce I have ever had and I am HISPANIC, living in Texas, so I’ve had my share of enchiladas (including my moms) My kids BEG me to make this sauce recipe : )

  8. I love it, had the same problem getting it to thicken up but just added a Tbl of flour water and worked like a charm. I used 2 Tbl mccormick chili powder and is just right. Thank you.

    • We’re glad the flour and water helped, Deborah, and we’re happy you enjoyed the sauce!

  9. Hi, I looked up a few recipes for enchilada sauce and they add crushed, canned tomatoes.  Have you missed them out in the recipe and for what reason?  

    • Hi Susie! No, our recipe doesn’t have tomatoes in it, but feel free to add them if you like!

  10. How do you keep the flour from burning when you mix it into the oil?

    • Just make sure your oil is not crazy hot and that you are whisking well and it shouldn’t burn. We hope you enjoy!

  11. Be warned if you live in a country where they put real chili into chili powder you will want to use much less than 4 tablespoons. I live in Vietnam and I tried adding 4 Tbsp and the entire house felt like a riot police pepper spray attack for an hour. However this is an excellent recipe, just be cognizant of the chili situation if you’re not living in the US.

    • Yes, we’ve found chili powders can differ drastically from country to country! We’re so sorry this lit you up — we hope you can give it another try with less chili powder next time!

  12. Hi! I highly recommend using maseca instead of the flour. Gives it a more authentic Mexican flavor. Its a great thing to have on hand and add to any mexican dish…especially chili! Yum! I have made this a few times over the past several years and i cannot get enough!

    • We’re glad you enjoyed this, Kristine! We’ve never tried it with Maseca, but we’ll have to next time we make it! :)

  13. Thank s for sharing. I love all your recipes. I was wondering if you have ever tried making large batches of the sauce and freezing?  

    • Thank you, Sheri — we’re glad to hear that! And yes, you can definitely freeze this sauce!

  14. Just made a double batch… This stuff is amazing!! I accidentally added 1tsp onion powder (again made a double batch) but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. Thanks for sharing!! No more store bought for this girl! I used a tomato chicken base with a small amount of celery seed for the vegetable broth.

  15. Can this sauce be canned to be used for a later date, if I wanted to make a large batch?

    • Hi Nathan! We’ve never canned this but if you followed the proper canning procedure, you should be able to (we think a hot water bath would probably suffice?)

  16. Hi! Can you use water in this? I tend to avoid stock when making soups and sub in water instead…Just not sure how this would work here.

    • Hi Sarah! Yes, you could use water. It won’t have as much flavor, and you will need to add more salt (just do this to taste), but it should still work out okay. You could also try a lower-sodium stock if you wanted, or try a mix of that and water. We hope you enjoy the sauce!

  17. This really is the best enchilada sauce ever.  I found this recipe last year and have been using it ever since. My whole family says I make the best enchiladas they’ve ever had, including in restaurants.  This sauce is key.  

    • Thank you so much, we’re thrilled that you and your family love the sauce and the enchiladas!

  18. This is my “go-to” for red enchilada sauce. It has been a little difficult to dial down the spiciness without increasing the saltiness of it, but I recently found that the use of Ancho chili powder along with paprika not only helps maintain a mild smoky heat, it also helps maintain the color. Thanks so much for this recipe!

  19. really good and easy. i had a dark chili powder so it was a little overpowering, so i added a can of tomato paste to it and it was really good. def. a keeper.

    • We’re glad you enjoyed it! Yes, we’ve found chili powders can differ drastically (color and level of spiciness). We’re glad the tomato paste helped mellow it out some. :)

  20. This is my “go-to” for red enchilada sauce. Enchilada night at our house is always a welcome treat because of both your Stacked Enchilada recipe and this Red Enchilada Sauce recipe. We have some individuals who are not tolerant AT ALL of spiciness once it passes mild heat. I have tried a couple different formulations and have found that Ancho Chili Powder combined with Paprika helps dial down the heat and create a smoky sweet flavor. Thanks! This is another great recipe.

  21. Mine is a bit too spicy (kids are eating it too) – how can I cut the spice before I make the casserole? Or, could I add more cheese or something to balance it out? Thank you!

    • Hi Lisa! To make this a little less spicy, you can just cut back some on the chili powder (we’ve found that certain brands can vary pretty drastically in their level of spiciness). We would recommend adding the chili powder to taste (that way you can always add more if you like). We hope this helps!

  22. I found this recipe 4 years ago… still one of my go tos. Thanks!

  23. I have used this as a gravy for tamales for years.   It is wonderful.   Have given the recipe to several friends and relatives.   We have used it also, as you suggest for enchilada sauce.     It’s the BEST.   Originally it came from a Mexican cook book.  

  24. I lived in NM for 14 years and boy do I miss Hatch Green Chile and green enchilada sauce. Did Liisa teach you a green enchilada sauce recipe that you can share?

    • Hi there! We don’t currently have a recipe for green enchilada sauce, but stay tuned! :)

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  26. This makes a VERY thin sauce, no matter how long simmered to reduce., It was barely passable with added tomato paste. I would give it a 1 on a scale of 10.

    • We’re sorry to hear you didn’t care for it!

    • I add just a bit more flour. Its like making gravy. You get your oil and flour to the consistency you want your red sauce to be and then add the rest of the ingredients. Comes out perfect every time.

  27. Looks great what is the Sodium? All the ones in store much too high. Also could ground turkey be subbed for chicken?

    • Hi Mary! We’re sorry but we are unsure of the nutrition facts/amount of calories in this recipe. We currently are not publishing nutrition facts on the site, as the nutrition calculators available are not 100% accurate, and we never want to publish anything that might be misleading. However, a lot of our readers love the My Fitness Pal nutrition calculator, so feel free to try that for an estimate. We hope that helps! As for ground turkey instead of chicken — are you referring to the enchilada recipe? If so, you can definitely do that swap. We hope you enjoy! :)

  28. Can this sauce be frozen?

  29. Great sauce. I had a little left over, so I mixed it with mayo (roughly 2tbs each enchilada sauce and mayo) and made a tasty dip for sweet potato fries.

  30. Hi! I wondered which out of the 4 chili powders you recomended is your favorite to use? 😉 Thanks in advance!!

    • Hi Rena! That’s tough, as we love them all, but Morton & Bassett Chili Powder is probably our top fave. :)

  31. I used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil and oh man … tasty!!!! I will never buy the canned stuff again!

    • We’re so glad you enjoyed the sauce, Lisa, and that’s great that the coconut oil worked out well in this!

  32. Hi Hayley, do you recommend any substitutes for. Green chiles and red chilli Mexican powder? Can’t find any Mexican chillies in UK.

    • Hi Dimpi — unfortunately we can’t think of any substitutes for the chili powder.

  33. I used this enchilada sauce with enchilada casserole that I kind of created. I loved it. I wanted to ask you how to double the amount of roux. Can it be frozen?

    that tortilla soup looks really really good. I’ll have to try it!

    • We’re so glad you liked it, Sarah! If you wanted to double the roux, then you would double the oil and the flour amounts. And yes, you can freeze this sauce! :)

  34. Can we skip the cumin? ICK~- Otherwise I’m SO down!

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  38. We also made this tonight to go on your chicken enchiladas and LOVED IT. I think I’m forever ruined on the store bought canned stuff!

    Rating: 5
  39. This sauce is everything. I have made it a few times with the Best Chicken Enchiladas Ever. I am not a “make my own sauce” kinda of girl, but I made this and I am a convert. It’s so easy and I always have the ingredients on hand. Just made it for Cinco de Mayo. My hubby loves it to, and he is into canning. He said if I made a big batch he will can it so we can always have it ready! YUM!

    Rating: 5
    • Thank you, Joy, we’re so happy you and your husband enjoy it! :)

  40. My whole family, including the 1-4 year olds, love this enchilada sauce! We put it on everything and I have made several double batches! Thank you

    Rating: 5
    • Thanks for sharing, April, we’re so happy it’s a hit with your family! :)

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