The BEST Enchilada Sauce!

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The best homemade enchilada sauce recipe!  It’s super-simple to make and a million times better than the canned stuff.  (Check out my recipe for Green Enchilada Sauce too!)

Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe

My best tip for how to make a killer pan of homemade enchiladas?

This homemade enchilada sauce recipe. 

It has been the secret ingredient in my favorite enchilada recipe for over years and years.  And every time I make a pan of chicken enchiladas for a dinner party, or take some enchilada soup to a friend with a new baby, or whip up a quick batch of enchilada nachos or enchilada cups for a party…this enchilada sauce always gets rave reviews and someone inevitably always asks for the recipe.

It’s a million times better than anything you can buy in the can and is made with the coziest, warm chili flavors.  But best of all, this homemade red enchilada sauce recipe only takes about 20 minutes to make and calls for a few simple ingredients that you probably already have sitting in your pantry.  So if you have yet to try this recipe, I say it’s time!

Let’s make a quick batch together!

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: To make our roux, which will thicken the sauce.  Feel free to use any type of oil or butter that you prefer.  And see notes below if you need a gluten-free option for the flour.
  • Chili powder: Very important note — this recipe calls for American-style chili powder, which is actually a blend of various mild chilis and seasonings.  (It is not cayenne!)  I recommend investing in a good-quality brand of chili powder for this recipe, since it is the main seasoning used here.  And if you happen to be an international reader, please (please) note that you need to look for a specifically American-style chili powder.  Many readers have reported over the years that most international chili powder blends are typically more similar to straight cayenne and can be overwhelmingly spicy.
  • Garlic powder, ground cumin, dried oregano: These are the other dried seasonings that we will use in the sauce.
  • Veggie or chicken stock: I also recommend using some good-quality stock in this recipe, which will add some 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 please note that the amount of salt you’ll need will directly relate to how salty your veggie/chicken stock happens to be.

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 cook the flour and oil together to form the roux, and then whisk in the spices to briefly toast them before adding in the stock.
  2. Simmer: Gradually add in the stock, while whisking the sauce to blend in any lumps.  Then heat to a simmer, and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it has reduced and thickened a bit.
  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 all-purpose gluten-free flour blend, in place of the AP flour.  Or you can nix 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 an epic 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.
  • 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 1/2 cup tomato sauce to the recipe in place of 1/2 cup of the stock.

Chicken enchiladas made with the best enchilada sauce recipe

Ways To Use Enchilada Sauce:

Here are a few of my favorite ways to use this easy enchilada sauce!

Print
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 all-time favorite homemade red enchilada sauce recipe.  It’s quick and easy to make, and a million times better than the canned stuff!


Scale

Ingredients


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): As mentioned above, this recipe calls for traditional American chili powder — which is not cayenne.  American chili powder is actually a blend of spices and is quite mild, whereas international chili powders are usually incredibly 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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1,969 comments on “The BEST Enchilada Sauce!”

  1. Was a little doubtful at first with so much chili powder. Turned out ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. The only thing I did differently was substitute the oil with butter😄

  2. Love the recipe! Question, can I make a double batch and freeze a portion to use later?

  3. Yeah not what I had hoped for. Maybe as a base for a pot of chili but not enchilada sauce.

  4. Super easy and super flavorful! Loved this recipe.

  5. This was my first time making Enchilada sauce. It’s okay, but it pretty much tastes like chili powder. As I was tasting it I realized it definitely needed some acidity in it (which says something as I tend to shy away from acids.) In the end I had to look up a few other recipes to see what the unifying ingredients were. I added some lemon juice and a bit of tomato paste to it and it helped bring it together. My enchiladas taste pretty good, but this is not a keeper for me.

  6. I have been using this recipe for well over a year! It’s so simple, but delicious. My husband (from Mexico) likes it with just a touch of sweetness, so I add about 2 tsp of white sugar. So good! Thank you!

  7. This is amazing sauce. I usually use canned enchilada sauce. My husband came in while I was starting this recipe. He was not happy that I was changing how I always make my enchiladas. He came back in while the sauce was cooking and said that smells amazing. It tastes as good as it smells. I will never go back to canned sauce this is so easy to make.

  8. Thanks for sharing, the sauce is terrific and for Sheltering in Place I made good use of some meat in the freezer. As a grab and go for the kids, I made a bunch, and froze them, works great. Three enchiladas fit into a small aluminum pan (Like for webber drippings) and then covered with foil and put in gallon zip lock freezer bags. To bake (still frozen) loosen the foil so the cheese doesn’t stick, and bake at 350 still covered about an 45min-1hr, uncover to brown.

  9. Absolutely amazing. My first time making enchiladas and this sauce along with the beef and chicken recipes were awesome.

  10. Made this recipe today with some additions. Used all ingredients listed plus 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, doubled the oregano to 1/2 teaspoon and added a 14oz can of tomato sauce. I also used 1 cup of beef broth and 1 cup of chicken broth.
    The addition of the tomato sauce adds a bit of sweet and acid to the taste, thickens it a bit, and with the broths, adds a good dash of umami to the flavor while toning down the chili powder and cumin.
    I have a couple of pounds of smoked pork shoulder I will be shredding and seasoning for filling.
    When making the enchiladas, we use a silicone bbq brush to coat both sides of the tortillas before filling, then brush the tops with a generous amount of sauce but not so much to make them sloppy.

  11. This was beautiful color and scent. Maybe something is wrong, this was so salty it was not edible. Very spicy, used McCormick American Chili Powder. To fix it, I used 1/4 of the salty concoction, added 4 squares of trader joe dark chocolate, 2 cups of water, 2 tbs of tomato paste, and cooked it down. Still very spicy and we like spice. A great method for a rich beautiful sauce. Next time, no salt or to taste after! 1 Tbs of Chili Powder. Maybe mild paprika as a substitute 3 tbs chili powder for color.

  12. Just love this sauce, especially as its not tomato based. And the other thing I love about this sauce? That,, the post explains that American chilli powder is not as spicy as sold here in Ireland.. First American sauce I made nearly my head blow off!! 😂🇮🇪

  13. Just made this tonight, but with corn tortillas and it was AMAZING. Love your blog and recipes!

  14. Great recipe that is my go to sauce. Thank you

  15. This sauce make enchiladas AMAZING!
    I stumbled upon your recipe a few years ago and didn’t realize it would mean I’d never enjoy enchiladas again unless they were made with this sauce!
    When I first made it I had my doubts because it was based solely on spices and no tomato ingredient. My whole family, husband and three sons, adore when I make enchiladas! Making again tonight and thought I would finally let you know and say thank you!

  16. This is AMAZING! Better than any enchilada sauce I’ve ever tasted! Even better than that I’ve eaten in any Mexican restaurant.

  17. Hi! The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of both oil and flour.

    The video shows a much higher amount of flour in order to achieve the roux.

    What’s the correct amount? When I put 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp flour in, I could not achieve the roux consistency…had to add flour.

  18. Never was good at anything Mexican my husbands favorite food. This dish is constantly requested by my family. Thank You

  19. This is DEFINITELY the BEST enchilada sauce ever! I am Very Pleased with how easy it is to make and will Never purchase canned enchilada sauce again! I never comment on recipes but this one is unbeatable. You will not be disappointed.

  20. Made this tonight with regular chili powder using about 2 heaping Tablespoons and a 1/2 T of cumin as 1/2 t of onion powder in addition to the other spices you recommended. It was excellent. My mouth is still a little tingly from the chili powder, but not in a bad way. I make a breast of chicken covered in salsa and add chili and cumin to it and cook it until it’s ready to be shredded and use that inside my corn tortillas. Thanks for this recipe. I will definitely use it again. And for the mason jar suggestion.

  21. Did you leave out tomato?
    What makes the sauce red?
    How do you fill the quart jar in the picture with only 2 cups stock?

  22. Very easy… I would have everything measured out before starting… burnt 1st batch. Oh well… but 2nd batch wea was almost perfect. We added 1/4tsp onion powder.

  23. OK I made the sauce from the chicken thighs broth – The sauce is delicious!.I plan to use chicken thigh meat instead of breast meat in the enchilada recipe…… Due to the fact that all I had were chicken thighs in my freezer! Not getting to the store as much with the Pandemic. Making The best chicken enchilada recipe a little later..I can’t wait to try it today on Cinco de Mayo!

  24. Made your homemade enchilada sauce and enchiladas for Cinco de Mayo during this COVID-19 quarantine. Absolutely wonderful! I did add fresh garlic along with the powered garlic. I’ll definitely make these for my family when we can all get together again. Thank you. Theresa in Foster City, CA

  25. Outstanding sauce. I will never go back to canned sauce. I made it twice this month and made a double batch today so I can freeze half for next month when I am too busy to make it.
    .

  26. This is perfect as I can no longer find enchilada sauce in the UK! Can this be frozen?

  27. Way too salty! 2 cups stock (mine contain salt) so I should not have added any salt, or maybe a small pinch. It was otherwise tasty. I substituted paprika for chili powder so kids would eat it.

    • Lesson learned Claire, if you are using ingredients that already contain salt (broth, butter, etc.) leave out the extra amount called for in the recipe. Cooking 101…

  28. This was awesome recipe. I made this as is and then made my own version. I cut chili powder down to 3T, added can of smoked green chilies, 1/4 cp red onion, 2 cloves garlic, and 3/4 t sugar. Cooked for 20 minutes on low/medium heat, let sit for 1 hour. This elevated the flavor!!!!

  29. I loved this recipe. Due to the state of the current pandemic, I have tried to limit my times out to the grocery store and I didn’t have any enchilada sauce on hand so I decided to try and make my own and this one worked great and I will save for future use. I used oat-flour instead of all purchase flour and turned out great! I was wondering if it was possible to freeze this to use for future use (outside of the 3 days you can refrigerate it).

  30. This is an amazing recipe. I usually avoid enchiladas because I find the canned stuff sickly, a crime against food. This recipe is really good, the only thing I added was two tablespoons of tomato paste.

  31. This is so easy to make and incredibly tasty. I am a new fan of gimme some oven. Thanks!

  32. I used this recipe today for the first time. I substituted the American chilI pepper for mild/sweet paprika and added a half tsp of smoked paprika. It worked out great. The whole family including my 2 year old loved it. Thank you for the recipe – We’ll be making it again! 🙂

  33. Have made this 20+ times and it’s fool proof. Always my go to Enchilada sauce with pantry staples and no icky ingredients (like so many in the stores these days). Thank you!!!

  34. I was reluctant after reading some of the reviews, but not only was this recipe simple but it absolutely was better than any if the store bought sauces we usually buy. Will 100% make this again. I let mine simmer for a long time (~30-40 mins.) which definitely helped the flavors develop, and used a little more than 2 cups broth (just to use up the container). Great, simple recipe.

  35. Can I use beef broth instead of chicken

  36. Excellent

  37. I read a lot of reviews and thought I would like this, plus I had all the ingredients, but I would not make it again without some modifications. For one, it was WAY too salty. I used Better than Bouillon veggie stock and should probably have skipped the salt altogether. I also added 1/4 tsp of chipotle powder to give it a little kick, and used 2 tbsp of chili powder because I didn’t want that to be the only flavor. It will do, but not what I expect an enchilada sauce to taste like. I would try a different recipe that calls for some kind of tomato product next time. I also agree with the reviewer who said to add some acid, a splash of lemon or lime would probably help.

  38. You seem to have forgotten tomato paste. I defy anyone to make a sauce this red according to your recipe, without it. All other recipes online contain tomato paste. I figured this omission out myself, then confirmed it with the other recipes.

  39. My family loved the chicken enchiladas and the sauce. I was skeptical about how much of a difference the sauce would make, but it was easy and super tasty. One thing I don’t get, though, is the note at the end of the sauce recipe saying we have to toss it after three days. I boiled it down, used it and then poured the leftovers into a sterilized schiracha bottle. It’s been a week and I just added some of the sauce to my breakfast this morning. Am I lucky to still be alive?

    Could you please explain the super short shelf life on this sauce, especially if it’s stored in the fridge.

  40. This really IS the BEST enchilada sauce. I actually tried a good brand name can of sauce 1 time to be quicker, and OH it was awful. No way! This doesn’t take long and is well worth it!

  41. My son asked if I could make Chicken enchiladas for his birthday, and I made the sauce as well. We’ve never had these before. I have to say, they were delish! New favorite for our family.

  42. This is soooo easy & the best! My family loved it as well. I reduced my chili powder because some don’t like the heat. I’m going to make more & can it fit convienience next time around.

  43. I live in Canada and used a local Chili powder and this sauce was way too hot. My lips still burn after an hour of tasting. Flavourful but take the advice and start off with only one tablespoon of Chili powder if you’re not using the mild American one.

  44. Very tasty and delicious!! Will never buy enchilada sauce from a can, ever again!

  45. This was a super easy recipe, but I’m not its biggest fan. I love this site, so no disrespect, but this just tasted like chili powder to my husband and me. It was bland, too. We added more salt and garlic powder, and also added onion powder and white sugar. It made it somewhat better, but I agree with another couple of reviewers that it needs some acid. I enjoyed the flavor of the sauce once it was incorporated into a 4-ingredient healthy chicken enchilada casserole recipe, but my husband still found it rather bland even in the casserole. Idk that we would use it again, but we might try adding some tomato paste or lemon juice next time. We had neither on hand when we made this tonight. Thanks for your blog though….I always enjoy it!

  46. I made this along with the enchilada recipe by this author, and both were so amazing. I made them, following the recipe exactly, and I wouldn’t change a thing. YUM!

  47. I was disappointed with this sauce. I will not be making this again.

  48. Mine was bitter and runny and overly hot. I used regular chili powder. This is nothing like the enchilada sauce I grew up with – and I grew up in Texas.

  49. This is the best sauce, my family loves it and I always make double, you can spread on most anything!

  50. This is the only enchilada sauce recipe I use! SOO GOOD AND EASY!
    You can honestly make it while making enchiladas, just keep an eye on it :)
    Quick question: Can you freeze or can the sauce? If so, for how long / how?

    Thanks :)