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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

  • 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): 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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2,097 comments on “Enchilada Sauce”

  1. Made this tonight and it was excellent and I loved that I had everything I needed right on the shelf. Thanks!

  2. Wow, thanks for this recipe. I am going to try it. I have never seen one that didn’t call for some sort of tomato base, (which I have a problem with due to allergies) Appreciate your time to post!

  3. I have been looking for a good enchilada sauce for a long time. This sounds so great and easy! Do you think I could also make mexican rice with it? Can’t wait – I am going to make it this weekend!

  4. I have to say, when I saw this on Pinterest I expected to read the recipe and chuckle but this is the real deal. I am Mexican -American and this is how my mom taught me to make it. There should be absolutely no tomato anything in enchilada sauce! Great pin! :)

    • Thank you so much for this post!! I really dislike tomato based…anything. I can handle a little but do not want the tomatoes to take over the taste of the entire dish! I have now spent hours searching for a sauce for homemade Chili Rellenos that was not a close cousin to ketchup or tomato paste!! This one I will save and try!!

  5. Mine turned out like Leah’s, very BROWN!!! I’m not sure what I did wrong, but neither me or my husband could get past the brown color. Will try it again though.

  6. This sauce is amazing!!!

  7. Thank you so much for this recipe. I’ve tried many different enchilada sauce recipes, and I have found that tomato-based ones are not my favorite. This recipe is also husband approved so I’m glad I have found a sauce I can make from now on. :)

  8. Thanks to you and Rick and a rotisserie chicken, my Sunday craving has been more than satisfied, and in no time. Genius. My two year old and I happily dined while talking about how nice life is when people share.

  9. Mine was more brown as well, but super delicious!! I’ve been looking for a good enchilada sauce recipe and this will be my go-to from now on. Thanks so much!!

  10. Made this for my family last week, we loved it!! My husband is from Mexico and he said it “tasted like home”. He has raved all week about it so, we are having it again tonight!! Thanks for sharing, truly amazing!!

  11. This sauce was amazing, for much flavor and spice, but not hot. Totally made the enchiladas a hit tonight.

  12. Would this enchilada sauce be good with beef enchiladas?

  13. Is there an ingredient item missing from the last bullet point? Tomato sauce? Thx

    • authentic mexican enchilada sauce does NOT use tomato sauce. The red color comes from the chili powder.

  14. I used corn starch and a little different cooking method. Made a great gluten free enchilada sauce. Thank you!

  15. After trying this recipe I can see that we will never have to go out for enchiladas again! So good!

  16. has anyone tried with grapeseed or olive oil instead of canola / veg? trying to avoid industrial oils….looking for something less processed and this almost fits the bill! thanks so much!

  17. I was so looking forward to this recipe but it was a total flop for me! I followed it to the letter except I reduced the sodium. I’m not sure if chilli powder if different in the stated but in Canada it has salt in it which seems to have turned my sauce into a giant salty disaster!

  18. I can not wait to make & try. I absolutely despise any canned Enchilada Sauce from the store. My husband loves cheese enchiladas. Any suggestions for canning this? I would love to fill my pantry with a few jars of this “Real” enchilada sauce.

  19. Hello Ali,
    You were so right. We will never go back to store bought sauce again. After Thanksgiving we were looking for a way to use our massive amount of left over turkey. We found recipes for Turkey Enchiladas and tried your sauce with it. Fantastic ! I can see why you feel this sauce deserves a photo session. Thanks and happy cooking.
    From our kitchen to yours,
    Laura

  20. I made this sauce as directed and our mouths were on fire!!! It smells great and it has a good flavor, but it is entirely too hot! My tongue felt as though blisters were forming on my tongue and my husband and I were both sweating. Again, it’s good, but there should be a “warning” on this recipe.

    • Avoid the chipotle powder then because regular chili powder should be mild. I can’t handle any heat and I thought this recipe was perfect.

  21. Love this! I use it on my blog, and linked to you. Hope you don’t mind.

  22. We have gluten free eaters-could this be thickened with masa instead of flour?

    • I use GF all purpose flour and it thickens up nicely, ie: 4 Tbs canola oil : 4 Tbs GF flour : 2 cups homemade tomato sauce and 2 cups homemade chicken stock.

  23. Seriously loved this, thank you. (Also assuming your right about the Spice Island chili powder, I just ordered the giant 10 oz. bottle on Amazon). :)

  24. I think it is much better when I added some home made tomato sauce (2 c) and added 3/4 tsp of onion powder with an increase of cumin. Did you leave something out in this recipe..like tomato sauce?

    • Authentic enchilada sauce NEVER EVER has tomato sauce in it! I’ve never even heard of people putting tomato sauce in enchiladas until I did a recipe search. I’m kind of grossed out, tbh.

  25. rugbycoach, I was wondering the same thing. Red enchilada sauce without tomato sauce??

    • This accounts for the various shades of red. Chilis.vary in color by the breed. The flavor is amazing when not using tomatoes. My chili is made with NO tomatoes and friends have thought it was a typo, ruined some chili. He he.

  26. Sounds great. Can’t wait to try it. I noticed in the comments many people are asking if this can be canned. Has anyone canned it?

  27. Since the original poster hasn’t addressed this I will.

    Having LOTS AND LOTS of experience with both canning and freezing I would suggest freezing this recipe over canning it. If you were to can it I would suggest using the pressure canning method NOT a hot water batch.

    Ball makes freezer “jars” that are a Tupperware type plastic with a green lid. They are inexpensive (I think about $3.50 for a 4 pack) and are easy to store in the freezer because they stack well. I use them for everything from homemade sauces to leftover mashed potatoes. You could also freeze it in Ziploc bags. I would split it between two smaller freezer bags and then put those bags together in a gallon size so they are double bagged and you can thaw smaller amounts at a time :-) Freezing it should keep for 6-9months depending on just how cold your freezer is

    • Thank you for this. I prefer to make large batches of things and store them for later use. I am just learning about canning and am curious as to why you would suggest freezing over canning.

  28. Made this tonight for filet mignon enchiladas. The sauce smelled divine while cooking. I used 3 T Dean & Deluca Chile Powder and 1 T Dean & Deluca Ancho Chile Powder. I didn’t think it was too spicy. I’d probably add some chipotle powder or achiote paste next time because I do like it hot. The only bummer is that I don’t have any sour cream on hand…that would add a nice cooling effect to it. Thanks for the recipe. Yum! Oh, and by the way, I would freeze it, too.

  29. Wow! That really was an awesome enchilada sauce! Thanks for posting!

  30. This is so YUMMY! I served it with homemade black bean burritos! It is a keeper!

  31. Holy moly yum… I’m so glad I found this. Thanks for sharging this. I’m makeing this for my Food Swap this weekend, I’m sure it’s going to be fought over!

  32. So glad I found this! Making sweet potato mole enchiladas tonight and I don’t have any of the canned stuff (would rather make homemade anyway, but have never tried.) This sounds delish!

    BTW, anyone wondering where the tomato is, aunthentic enchilada sauce has NO tomato product! :)

  33. Do u have a recipe for green sauce?

  34. Could you can this? If so, how?!!!

  35. I grew up in El Paso, Texas, so I feel like know good Mexican food. I was incredulous when I saw this recipe — no tomatoes at all– but holy-kamoly, this sauce was so flippin’ good. I will never go back to the canned stuff!Thanks for the recipe!

  36. I tried this recipe and it’s great! But I made it slightly different by using a non-cook blender method. First I put in a scant amount of broth in the blender and added the spices. Instead of flour, I put in 1 Tbsp of corn starch. Then, in a microwave I brought the rest of the broth up to boiling and added it to the blender, and let it spin for 2-3 minutes. Done!

  37. I’ve made this several times now and it is so delicious and so simple to make! My family absolutely loves it! I am so thankful I found this recipe because I’m really trying to cut out the canned foods my family eats and I had yet to find on enchilada sauce recipe that we loved, until now.

    • You shouldn’t can anything that calls for flour to thicken the sauce. It’s like baking a pie twice, It will only give it a overdone burnt taste. You could thicken it after opening or choose a different recipe. With the chicken broth you would need to prepare cook. Go to the USDA guide to home canning.

  38. Sounds great, however you could just boil and. blend New Mexico Chilie.

  39. This was delicious! I loved it! I live in Mozambique and can’t buy canned but I had all this on hand and boy am I glad I did, I will never buy a can again. Yum! (Also, it tastes exactly like my favorite enchiladas at Mexican restaurants – no tomatoes in it!)

  40. I made this tonight and we loved it! Although, my first batch was way too salty. I usually use reduced sodium broth, but I had regular broth on hand and didn’t think about what I was using. I ended up making a second batch with water and no salt. The sauce with the two batches mixed together was still a little salty on its own, but it was delicious when the enchiladas were cooked. I’ll never go back to the canned stuff again!

  41. AMAZING!!!!!!!!!! It’s is so easy & has great flavor. It’s also a great starter recipe to add some different favors too. Thanks for sharing…this is my ‘go-to’ enchilada sauce recipe now!!! Cheers!!

  42. Thank you SO much for this yummy recipe. I have been trying to find a recipe that didn’t use canned tomatoes. (BPA issues).

    Thanks Again!

  43. No tomato sauce in enchilada sauce?

    • Nooooo! I couldn’t believe how many recipes I’ve found that added tomato sauce. I’ve never heard of such a thing! As a proud New Mexican, I can safely say you’d get run out of the state for adding tomato sauce to your red enchiladas. Yuck.

  44. Hey Ali, how’s it feel to have the #1 enchilada sauce recipe on the Internet?

    If you search for “enchilada sauce” on Google, your recipe comes up 3rd, but the first two both use either tomato paste or tomato sauce, so yours is actually the first authentic enchilada sauce recipe.

    Nice job! And it’s a great recipe too. I made it this past week, and it works great! Way, way better than any canned sauce, ever.

  45. Can you freeze this?

  46. What would be a “good” chili powder? I just buy the stuff in the grocery store – is there a better option?

    • Look at the ingredients of the chili powder. You should recognize everything listed or else it may have MSG or a sneaky slightly modified chemical. Personally, I like Gebhardt Chili Powder, if it’s available.

    • Ancho chili powder, or gebhardts

    • i bought some online after seeing reviews for it..it is expensive though..Gebhardt brand. i did use mccormick brand at store and it was just fine..made a good sauce..just don’t do off brand, cheap cheap kind..i tried that too and it was awful

  47. Thanks so much for this recipe. I live in China and anything canned has to come from a foreign import store and is too expensive. Learning to make everything from scratch!

  48. 5 thumbs up or 10 The best.

  49. This never thickened up, did I do something wrong?? It also was the brown color, but I figured it is just the chili powder I used…Can someone let me know if it should be thick…I’d appreciate it…..Also my daughter can’t eat anything with MSG, so this was a hit

  50. Can you can this ??? I would love to make a large batch and then can it.