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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 will 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

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.7 from 539 reviews
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1/2 cups 1x


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.




  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): The amount is correct. And as mentioned above, this recipe calls for traditional American chili powder, which is not cayenne.  American chili powder is actually a blend of spices that are typically quite mild, whereas international chili powders are usually 100% cayenne (and very 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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2,135 comments on “Enchilada Sauce”

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  1. If I have no chili powder, can I substitute it for the entire chiles (i.e. canned chipotles)?

    • Alli, I have the same question. How much fresh, roasted chile would you sub for the chili powder?

    • Hey Kate! Not entirely sure on the substitution. As I wrote below, would consider trying a single chipotle chili in adobo sauce to begin with, and then add more if needed. If you try it, would love to hear how things go!! :)

    • Since there are so many comments about how brown the sauce is compared to the picture I have to ask if the recipe is really supposed to use “chili powder” or “ground chili”?

      “Chili powder” is the darker spice blend normally used when you make a bowl of chili. The picture does not appear to have used “chili powder”.

    • Hmmm…I imagine you could substitute in some canned chipotles, but it would probably give the sauce a different flavor. I would begin with one chipotle chili (in adobo sauce), and see how things go from there. (And would blend the sauce to be sure that it is pureed!)

  2. Ooo! this looks yummy! :)

  3. I love my Mexican food but I can’t stand store-bought enchilada sauce. This just might be the best thing I’ve seen all day!

  4. This stuff is so yummy! I always make extra, too.

  5. This sounds delish! I can’t believe that there aren’t any kind of tomatoes in it.

    • I was surprised by that too! You can add in some tomato paste if you’d like, but I love this sauce just by itself. So flavorful!!

    • I am shocked as well. Every authentic recipe I know does not use chicken broth as a base but rather tomatoes. My Grandma would kill me if I did it this way haha

  6. I always get the store-bought ones but I’m so glad I can finally start making it at home! Who knew it was this easy?!

    • I never knew until I tried it, and was ridiculously glad I did! Soooo much better. :-)

    • I’ve been reading through all of the comments, and I’ve noticed several asking about canning it. That is my question as well. I’ve read a couple saying to freeze it, but can this be canned? Inquiring minds want to know.:D

  7. This sounds so good – I’m always turned off by recipes that just call for “red enchilada sauce” because the stuff I buy is never what I’m hoping for. I’ll be trying this!!

    • Agreed!!! I used the canned stuff for years, and always though it was so bland. :S I hope you enjoy this one!!

  8. I’ve always wanted to make this! BOOKMARKED! :)

  9. I’ve been DYING to find a good enchi sauce! and HERE. YOU. ARE.

  10. Looks great, but the link to the Favorite Enchiladas isn’t working. We need that recipe too! :-)

      I searched for it. Hope this helps. :) Both recipes look fantastic and I’m trying them tonight.

  11. Oh my goodness… I have an enchilada recipe that I love, and I never thought to make the sauce and keep it in the fridge. I always just make the whole giant recipe and have tons of leftovers. I am going to be making this sauce next week!

  12. Hey Ali –

    Have you ever frozen this? Would love to make a big batch and freeze for quick night cooking.

  13. Huh. It never occurred to me to make my own enchi sauce. That is about to change. Thanks Ali!

  14. I never thought about making enchilada sauce! I use it all the time though so I don’t know why I haven’t yet! Thanks for the recipe.

    • Would it be possible to can it like you do tomatoes, or would you just use a water bath canner. I do alot of bottling and this would be ideal to keep in the pantry.

  15. Some friends and I are doing our ow cooking comp….My tme is mexican and I will try this sauce for my enchiladas :-)

  16. How spicy is this? Usually when I’ve bought canned sauces even mild ones, they are too spicy for us.
    Only one that so far isn’t spicy is the McCormick’s package.

  17. This looks delicious! How long does it last if you don’t use all of it?

  18. I can’t stand store bought stuff either and we love Mexican I just made this but made some substitutions I added some tomatoe paste (about a tablespoon) and cinnamon (maybe a teaspoonful) a bit more broth (about half a cup but next time I’ll do a full cup more) a bit more garlic and cumin and I used pink Himalayan salt and it’s pretty darn good! Thx for this;)

  19. I was wondering if you’ve tried canning this… I would love to have some on the shelf for when I don’t have time to whip up a batch.

  20. We made this tonight for the first time and it was AMAZING! I licked the spoon and pan clean! Thank you!

  21. Made this today. It’s wonderful! I don’t make anything that requires enchilada sauce because it grosses me out to use the can. I love this easy, delicious, recipe. Thank you for posting!

  22. Making this tonight! Can this be canned or frozen for quick use in the future?

  23. OK, I have a crazy question. “Chili powder’: in health food stores you can buy chili powder that is JUST chillis. But chili powder is also a mix of chili, cumin, garlic, etc. Am I the only one who is ever confused about this? THANKS, Mary Jane

    making your enchilada sauce today :) thanks for posting it. :)

  24. If you do not like spicy substitute the chili powder with paprika:) Tastes great!

  25. Yum, I’m making it right now. I’ve made this a couple times already and my family loves it. Since one of my daughters doesn’t like spicy food, I have to use less chile powder but it’s still delicious. Thank you for the great recipe, Ali.

  26. I made this last night and the family has been singing my praises all day! Best Enchiladas ever! My husband was eating it by the spoonful right out of the saucepan! I had been using another recipe that called for tomato paste and it was always too thick and rich, but better than store bought. This is my go to recipe from now on!

  27. Hi, just wondering what makes this sauce red?

  28. This sounds great. Just wondering if you have tried canning it in jars to store for several months?

  29. I can’t wait to try this! I would like to know if you think it can be frozen. I am currently working on “freezer meals” and similar ideas and would love to add this to my stash!

  30. Can you freeze it?

  31. I made this for dinner this evening. It was amazing! Everyone loved it. Thanks so much for sharing!

  32. Thanks for the great recipe! For the oil can you sub. olive oil? Do you think it would change the taste too much?

  33. I just found this recipe today and I’m looking forward to making it soon. I grind my own chili powder which I think will go quite well in this sauce. I was wondering if you have tried adding some Mexican chocolate?

    Bill Hawkes

  34. I searched the web for a homemade enchilada sauce recipe a few months ago, and found yours. I loved the look of your page and finished product (thought about making this for Christmas gifts) and thought I’d give it a try. This has become my go-to recipe. We LOVE it. The first time I made it for a church potluck and accidently used hot chili powder, it was hot but super delicious and got rave reviews. Each batch I make, I experiment with the chili powder…….sometimes a mix of regular chili powder and cayenne, tonight I’ll mix hot and regular chil powder and cayenne. I sooooo appreciate your great tasting, easy to follow recipe :)

  35. What type of chili powder. Ancho chili powder, New Mexico chili powder etc. Can you be more specific?

  36. I was wondering how much this makes? Or for how many enchiladas?
    I will be making 50 enchiladas and was wondering how many times I would need to repeat the above recipe? Thanks!

  37. I was wondering how long the shelf life is ? Also, Store it in the fridge ?

  38. LOVE that it has nothing hard to find in it! We live in the middle of no where and it literally is a 2 hour drive to a “real” grocery store. Can’t wait to try this just using what I already have!

  39. OH Thank you thank you. An enchilada sauce without tomato! I’m making this tonight.

  40. Never knew enchilada sauce was so easy! I’ll have to give it a try. :)

  41. This sauce looks really good and I can’t wait to try it! Just to let you know, the link to the ‘best enchiladas ever’ isn’t working and I am really keen to try them out. I tried looking for them in the recipe list but I can’t work out which it is. I am really tired so forgive me if it is obvious!

  42. Do you know if you can water bath can this sauce?

  43. I tried this and my sauce is very brown compared to the color of your sauce in the photo? Also I substituted 1 tabl of Chipotle for the chili powder and whoa! What a mistake! My mouth was on fire. I had to double the recipe to temper the heat of the sauce. I’m still not sure about the color?

  44. Can this recipe be canned?

  45. How much does this make? 3 1/2 cups?

  46. I’ve never seen enchilada sauce without some form of tomato base in it. Is this correct, or possibly an oversight? Just curious.

    • Did you get an answer about NO Tomato in this sauce Connie? South African’s are not big on Mexican Food but we’ve been to Mexico & I want to make this, but have no idea if it should have tomato’s in the sauce?

    • No tomato sauce or tomato anything in enchilada sauce.

    • so many are asking if this has tomatoes…..I have never used an enchilada sauce that had tomatoes in it. Same with the sauce for tortillas…..there are no tomato in those either…..just because its red doesn’t mean tomatoes….;o)

  47. Add a pinch of clove to it, yum!

  48. Made this as described and it was pretty wonderful. Second time I used King Arthur Glutten free all purpose flour; there was no discernible difference. I’ve tossed tortilla chips in this sauce topping with chopped chicken, more sauce, and cheddar cheese. Baked @ 425 for 15 minutes.

  49. This is the best internet recipe I have made. This is a delicious sauce. I made it with water instead of chicken broth and added another 1/2t of salt. Nothing else. I really recommend this sauce. As far as I am concerned, tomatoes in enchilada sauce are un-natural and an affront to all cooks who try to cook authentic-tasting Mexican dishes.

  50. Oh, my goodness! I definitely will have to use your recipe when I make enchilada again; it looks so easy! :-)