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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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Recipe rating

2,100 comments on “Enchilada Sauce”

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  1. This sauce is awesome! I’ll never buy a can of enchilada sauce again. So easy to make, and it makes a lot. Great on tamales too.

  2. The absolute best EVER!!! I make this at least once or twice a month and still freeze a little in between.

  3. Does the recipe really require 1/4 a cup of chili powder? In looking at various recipes this seems like a lot.

    • 1/4 is VERY SPICY. I used 3 TB of regular chili powder and 1 of chipotle and it was so hot. I despiced a bit with some tomato paste and honey. Very hot was my experience with 1/4 cup so would follow her instructions and start with 2 and see how it goes.

  4. I can’t believe how easy and how delicious this is! I will never used canned sauce again. Why would you? This takes minutes, is healthier, and tastes much better!

  5. Amazing sauce every time!! I actually started making it because I live in Ireland and couldnt get a hold of canned sauce, but I will never go back to canned when I can whip this up in 20 mins. I always make the chicken enchilada soup with this too :)

  6. Easy! Delicious! I do recommend a margarita whilst cooking this and the chicken enchiladas. :)

  7. You had said 2 Tablespoons instead of 4 for a variation on the chili powder amount, but then the recipe says 1/4 cup of chili powder. Is it supposed to be 4 Tablespoons or 1/4 cup?

  8. Totally missing the key secret ingredient to enchilada sauce!!! Add 2 tsp of cocoa powder and then you have the real deal!

  9. The flavor of the sauce was great! The spice was a little too much for the kids, but I think perfect for adults. How could I tone it down just a little?

  10. How do I get the red color? I’m making it now so can’t vote but my sauce is yellowish, definitely not red.

  11. I’m wondering if this recipe can be canned?

  12. Excellent sauce. I take it it supposed to be fairly thin? I cooked it down for 25 mi s didn’t thicken that much. Tastes great though!

  13. Really good sauce and so easy! Thank you!

  14. Great!

  15. Hi. I made this sauce today and will be assembling the enchiladas tomorrow night and baking Friday for a large group.

    My concern is the sauce is a little bitter. Does it mellow as it sits.
    Also, I guess I can add some tomato sauce if tomorrow it still seems a bit harsh. Correct?
    Thanks

  16. An easy crowd pleaser! Plan to make both the red and green enchilada sauces to store for winter. Delicious recipe and instructions explain the mystery of these classic Mexican dishes.

  17. I just made this and the whole family loved these chicken enchiladas! Only one complaint…… it was a 10 on the hot scale. I wondered why no one else seemed to mention this. I re-read the recipe and it mentioned some people living outside of the states reported it being too hot…. well, I live in The Netherlands? I guess our chili powder is a few steps up in the heat department??

  18. If you add in the half cup of heavy cream, should you change anything else. For example less stock? Thanks.

  19. Has this recipe changed recently by chance? I must have written it down incorrectly months ago. Delicious! Thanks for sharing.

  20. Fast and easy and it tastes great! I had everything necessary to make this sauce but didn’t realize it until I found your recipe. Yes, it is the best! The canned stuff has too many artificial ingredients. Thanks for sharing!

  21. So easy to make and when used in the Best Chicken Enchiladas EVER recipe, you really do get the best enchiladas ever! I happily ate the leftovers at work all week long!

  22. So this recipe is so much better with fresh ingredients- blend actual garlic, rehydrate New Mexico chilis and blend in a blender. I had to add so many ingredients to make this edible and its still grainy and canned tasting- like a Midwesterner came up with the recipe. Needs cocoa powder, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, honey, and a trash can.

  23. I’ve made this recipe 3 times in the last month, each time with tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes from the garden. Best enchilada sauce indeed!

    Thanks chica.

  24. Made for posole and it turned out amazing! Thank you!

  25. I’ve made this several times and it really is delicious. However my sauce comes out more brown than red, and I’m wondering why that would be. Any thoughts?

    • Kathy – it sounds like you made your initial roux darker by cooking it longer and used a darker chili powder. It sounds amazing and I will try it this way!!

  26. This sauce is sooo good! I use less chili pepper since my kids can’t handle too much of it, however, it’s still delicious and full of flavor! I double the recipe and use extra sauce when I heat up leftovers. Thanks!

  27. This has become my go to recipe. My only issue is mine comes out very brown, like a mole sauce. I’m using McCormick spices. Is it the brand of chili powder? I know I can add tomato sauce to redden it, but is it supposed to come out like the photos even without the tomatoes? Sounds silly, but it looks unappealing even though it tastes great.

  28. It’s good, but not what I really care for. I like a tomato base. I added extra broth and about 1/2 cup tomato sauce. It was perfect then!

  29. WOW! So easy and with simple everyday ingredients. I want to drink the sauce :D. Will make the chicken enchiladas tomorrow. Thank you.

  30. Not Authentic at all. Call it red sauce.
    It’s an insult to real Mexican food. Nothing Authentic takes 10 minutes. That’s the beauty of Mexican cuisine. It takes time, patience and lots and lots of ingredients .

    • Where did she say it was authentic? Not everything has to be authentic to be good!

    • Call it red sauce, fake sauce, inauthentic sauce, whatever you need to, but it’s still delicious! I’m sorry you feel insulted by this recipe (what a silly thing to say).

  31. Need MORE sauce :D, so I made this a second time within the week because I had extra broth. The first time around, I made chicken enchiladas which was tasty, but I wanted more of the sauce taste when I was eating it because the sauce is so good. With that said, we’ve had this sauce for breakfast three mornings in a row: eggs over easy topped with your enchilada sauce and cheese with crushed corn chips. Delicious and addictive!

  32. Not sure what I did wrong with this sauce. The first time I did the high-medium heat and the flour immediately burned (even with the whisking). Second time I thought it was going well but it came out super grainy. Any advice would be appreciated!

  33. I tried the recipe today. It was ok, but not great. It was easy to make, and will do in a pinch. I will probably stick to making the sauce the “old” way: boil chile pods, blend, and strain. Thank you for the recipe.

  34. I will never buy canned enchilada sauce again. This recipe is the BOMB!

  35. Use butter not oil.
    If it tastes too much like gravy, add: smoked paprika, soy, tomato puree/paste, liquid smoke, worcester sauce. This adds depth (umami) and smoke.

  36. made this today but it was not red! Was there a reason why?

  37. I love your site and so many of your recipes!
    I REALLY wanted to love your enchilada sauce. I followed the instructions to a T. Unfortunately this was a complete miss for me. I like and regularly use all these ingredients so it must be something about the proportions.

    Your chicken enchilada recipe is fabulous, but for now I’m stuck with a commercial enchilada sauce ?.

    Thank you for your wonderful site. Every other recipe has made the very top of my favorites list!

    BakerB

  38. I made this last night. It was good but not great so I had to look for an alternate recipe to try to compare ingredients and possibly touch it up. 3 stars as is but 4.5 with the added ingredients.
    I found another recipe that had these exact ingredients and measurements but also had 2 Tbsp tomato paste, 1 tsp of apple cider vinegar and a dash of cinnamon. It made all the difference in the world.

  39. I left a thorough comment that didn’t ever get posted.
    Love other recipes on this site, but not this one.

  40. I love this sauce on cheese enchiladas. It is more of a Tex Mex sauce, rather than “authentic” Mexican and there is nothing wrong with that! Mexican restaurants serve that type of food.

    • My experience with this recipe was not awesome. I missed the step where she says to gradually add the stock (distracted) but nevertheless the sauce turned out very salty, grainy, and generally unpleasant tasting. Unfortunate as Gimme Some Oven is usually really good. Oh well!

  41. These enchiladas and the homemade sauce was absolutely the best ever! Thank you for this easy recipe as well as the absolutely perfect enchilada sauce. I had no cumin so left it out and it was still to die for. Going to make more and freeze it. I was to lazy to chop the onions so they were left out too. It was our best dinner and I had left over rice and veggies, and refried beans. Thank you, thank you, thank you?

  42. I’m a bit embarrassed that I always thought enchilada sauce would have to include tomatoes of some kind. I’ll try your recipe as written, it sure looks delicious!

  43. I love the color and the smell I usually use Chili Ancho. But I made it and it was way to salty and grainy ? Help what did I do wrong ? It is a nice quick sauce.

  44. YUM! Excellent recipe

  45. When I read 1/4 cup of chili powder, I was sure this would be too hot for me. It is absolutely delicious! Thank you for sharing this new favorite for my family!

  46. I love this recipe! So easy and delicious! I make it as is, or sometimes add a half teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to give it that “mole” flavour.

  47. Sooo delicious! My husband’s comment to me: “You can make this anytime you want.” And my dad’s: “Those enchiladas are killer.” This sauce will forever be a favorite in our house!

    I will note that for us, this sauce was good for about 12 large enchiladas. It made more sauce than I expected which just meant my parents got a batch as well as us. No complaints on their end ;)

  48. I’ve made this a few times and it’s been wonderful. But I made it tonight and it came out bitter. I’m wondering what I did wrong?

    • You probably toasted the spices for too long, which can bring out bitter undertones in the flavor. I’ve done that a couple times while trying to make chili.

      But this recipe is great when you get it right!

  49. We loved it. Love how easy it was to make the sauce and that I had all the ingredients. Thanks!

  50. My family requests this sauce at least once a week. ? We’re all big fans!