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?


Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe Video (1-Minute!)


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
All images and text ©

If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I'd love to see what you cook!

This post contains affiliate links.

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

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1,552 comments on “Red 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! :-)

  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?

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  37. 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!

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

  39. 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!

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

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

  42. 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!

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

  44. 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?

  45. Can this recipe be canned?

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

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  50. 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)