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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

2,081 comments on “Enchilada Sauce”

  1. I just wanted to say that I whisked the flour and the spices together before I made the roux. It made it EVEN easier and worked beautifully. I was about to run to the store to pick up some enchilada sauce … So thanks for saving me time, money and providing me with a great recipe!

  2. My only regret is that I did not make more sauce.

  3. Oh my gracious! This is easy and so good. I copied it into my “favorites” cookbook already.
    Thank you!

  4. Do you think this is safe to pressure cook to keep it longer in my pantry?

  5. I was wondering if there was anyway to can the sauce so I could store and use it later?

  6. I have made this many times. It doesn’t disappoint.

  7. Hands down the best red enchilada recipe I have ever come across.

    I am intrigued by the addition of chocolate as suggested in the comments but that would make it more of a mole sauce. May have to play around with this a bit.

    Once again, thanks for sharing

  8. love this sauce. I will never buy store bought again. Based on the comments I added a tsp of brown sugar, a tsp of cocoa powder and a tsp of smoked paprika

  9. I substitute masa harina for the flour, using 1/4 cup for 2 cups of liquid. . Manseca is the most commonly found brand. Make sure it’s the “instant masa harina.” It’s naturally gluten-free and absolutely never gets lumpy. Smooth every time. I used to find it in the Mexican section, but now in the flour isle.

    • Hi! This is my second time making this sauce and each time it doesn’t turn out well. Could it be I am burning my spices? My sauce is brownish red. I am not even whisking them for a minute and my heat setting is correct. I use veggie stock as I don’t eat meat. Any advice would be appreciated!

  10. This is a really good homemade enchilada sauce. I sub in chickpea flour with excellent gluten-free results. Make extra for next time. Another twist is to use tomato juice in place of the chicken stock. Very nice too.

  11. Delicious! I added chipotle powder and smoked paprika, two favs. My one comment is that my sauce is a bit granular, like the spices didn’t all cook/disintegrate. What’s the solution?!

  12. I used this for the enchiladas recipe and it worked well! I thought it was going to be difficult but it was really easy. I forgot to season with salt at the end but it tasted great to me! I don’t usually like enchiladas sauce but I really enjoyed the flavor of this one.

  13. I used this for the enchiladas recipe and it worked well! I thought it was going to be difficult but it was really easy. I forgot to season with salt at the end but it tasted great to me! I also didn’t have cumin(which i’m not really a fan of anyways) so I substituted paprika instead. I don’t usually like enchiladas sauce but I really enjoyed the flavor of this one.

  14. I love this recipe so easy to make I just added paprika and chipotle chile as well as the chilli powder I’ve made it as is and its perfect jus wanna try this way for a change Thank You so much better than store bought

  15. I’m sure you don’t mean 1/4 Cup chili powder?

  16. Loved the recipe but no idea why it says 1/4 cup of chilli powder. That’s A LOT!! I put 2 tsps in and even that was too much so maybe it’s an error or am I doing something wrong?? Plse let me know
    Thanks

    • I used a 1/4 cup and it was delicious. I even sprinkled some homemade fajita mix I had onto each layer. We are not a spicy family but definitely like flavor.

    • I agree with you…1/4 cup sounds crazy…..I’m going to try 1/4 teaspoon

    • I was thinking the same thing 1/4 cup of chilli powder seems like a lot!

  17. Best ever sauce!!

  18. Best enchilada sauce! Thank you for the recipe!

  19. It’s in the oven baking. But if you are wanting to make the homemade sauce from this site, take note that it needs to be doubled to have enough for the casserole. I totally mind gapped on this as I was parenting at the same time, and when I was putting it all together……I didn’t have enough sauce.

  20. Best recipe ever. My go to! So easy and it’s delicious.

  21. This is super quick, super delicious. Thanks for the recipe!

  22. I followed the recipe exactly and ended up with a VERY bitter sauce. Not sure if I was too high on the heat? Maybe burned the roux or toasted the spices? Who knows. I’ll have to try it again and see if it turns out different.

    I ended up adding tomato paste and some sugar which made it quite good. Nice blend of spicy, savory and sweet. Maybe a tad too spicy for some. There’s always the option to reduce the chili powder if needed.

  23. Love love love the sauce! It has been my go to for years. I had no idea how horribly inferior the canned stuff was at the store till I actually made my own. Or should I say your recipe! Thanks so much!

  24. this is my family’s FAVORITE enchilada sauce by far! We LOVE it. I do have a question…… can I freeze this after I make it? I would love to have it finished and out of the way for those days we are moving fast through dinner.

    Thanks in advance!

  25. I’m amazed that the reviews here are so controversial. We make this sauce all the time and love it. Couldn’t be easier!

  26. LOVE, LOVE LOVE everything you’ve shared to date. I just thought I’d better double-check that I’m supposed to add 1/4 CUP of chili powder versus 1/4 tsp? It made the roux very dense…. I appreciate the extra tutelage.
    Blessings,
    Lisa

  27. [READ THIS REVIEW] I was so disappointed with this sauce. The enchiladas itself was good, but the sauce ruined it. First, when I made the roux, it turned brown after stirring for like 30 seconds. The recipe says to stir for one minute. At this point, I add the dry ingredients (chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, cumin) and it looks like a lot of tiny balls. And after 15 minutes of simmering, the sauce was EXTREMELY thin, so I had to add a lot of corn starch to thicken up. After it thickened, the sauce was so dark. Like not black, but a very dark brown. It ended up making the enchiladas bitter. To all of you reading this review, I highly recommend a tomato-based enchiladas sauce because it will genuinely taste like an authentic Mexican enchiladas.

    • So you burned your roux, and instead of discarding and starting over, you persisted with your ruined ingredients and then blamed the recipe?

    • It sounds like the roux burned, just as Kyle mentioned.

  28. ??? love this sauce. Couldn’t be easier and we put it on everything!

  29. I use this recipe every time I make enchiladas! It’s soooo good. The mild spice gives it a little kick and it’s packed with flavour. No need to buy enchilada sauce in the store ever again!

  30. Wow, this was even better than I was expecting…can’t wait to make it again!

  31. This turned out well after I doctored some stuff because the spice was way too much. I think there should be a disclaimer that there are different levels of heat within “chili powder.” Not all are created equal. My husband and I love spice, we live in Southern California and have been raised on Mexican food, but I think our chili powder (from an authentic Middle Eastern market) was too potent and I should have checked it first. I ended up adding more vegetable stock, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, and a couple swigs of lemon juice. It was still too spicy alone but in the zucchini enchilada casserole it turned out perfect with a nice, but doable, spice factor. It was so easy and I had all of the ingredients on hand, I will make it again, keeping the chili powder spice in mind.

    • The recipe has multiple disclaimers about variations in chili powders, using American style chili powder, etc.

    • You are correct Kyle! I didn’t read as closely as I should. I am trying it again this week and will update my review. Thank you for being polite.

    • I made this again today and want to update my review. I did it almost exactly, just 1 tablespoon of my super spicy chili powder and it is 5 stars! I did also add 1/4 cup tomato sauce because I like the tomato flavor, but it was awesome before I did that. I let it simmer a bit longer and the consistency is perfect. I am having some on my chilaquiles now, will be using some for albondigas soup tonight, and the rest for a roasted hatch chili flatbread later in the week. Highly recommend.

  32. Very good in the chicken Enchiladas! Has a distinct strong taste by itself but smoky & great when with the dish. When I first started making it in a little pot I got nervous because mixing the spices with the little bit of hot oil was super dry and started burning. But I quickly added a little chicken broth and it mixed better. Then continued to stir as a poured a little more in. Followed the directions the rest of the way, stirring occasionally, and it thickened after 15 mins & took off the heat.

  33. I have been making this sauce for years and I love your recipe. I did make one change that makes a difference for me but might not be liked by others: I roast dried pasilla and ancho peppers and then grind them for the chile powder. I do also make an American chile powder with those chiles as the base, but I usually use 3 parts dried chile to one part American chile powder in this recipe. I’m sorry some don’ like it–it is certainly a departure from canned enchilada sauce, and that’s actually one of the reasons I sought out this recipe–canned enchilada sauces often have TONS of sodium. In addition to using this as an enchilada sauce, I stir it into chicken or pork and use for street tacos. I keep a jar of your sauce in the fridge at all times. Thanks for the enchilada sauce gift that keeps on giving!

  34. I made this recipe last night and it was SO good. It seriously reminded us of an enchilada dish we had at a Mexican restaurant in NYC. Saving this recipe so I can make it again in the future!!

  35. Very disgusting. Super bitter. Just YUCK! I knew something was off when I saw 1/4 c of that chili powder as part of the recipe. Waste of time and a waste of your spice if you make with those measurements. Wayyyy too much Chili Powder.

    Should be 1/4 Cup flour and 1-2 TBSP of Chili Powder. Please please do yourself and who ever you may be cooking for a favor by switching those two measurements and I promise you will be much more satisfied and will have great enchilada sauce.

  36. Seriously, this recipe reminds me of watching a cooking show and a famous chef is making something so SIMPLE and everyone is raving over it as they reassure you that simple tastes better. I LOVE enchiladas – in a true Mexican restaurant… but NOT at home. Canned sauce, nooooo! I saw this recipe and thought why not?

    WOW! I have made it twice in one day. My son and daughter-in-law just had a baby. When I tasted the sauce that took me all of 10 minutes to make… I thought I have to share (show off) what I just did! I took over a pan to them and then made another pan for myself (whipped up a new batch of sauce – better than the first). I have taken them 10 meals over the past 2 weeks and this one they texted me a RAVE review!

    I used rotisserie chicken and added a drained can of rotel to the chicken instead of the can of chiles. So simple, so easy and sooooooo impressive to the taste buds! Do it!

  37. I was so happy to find this sauce recipe! For everyone that says this isn’t authentic, my children had a babysitter from Mexico and she frequently made us enchilada’s, Spanish rice, homemade tortillas, and tamales for us. I watched her make the sauce for the enchiladas and she made a roux with oil and flour and then added the spices. She never put tomato into the sauce and it was sometimes rather brown. She never measured anything. This sauce is like a taste of the past and I love it. So easy and quick, give it a try, you will love it too!

  38. I followed this recipe to a T and am disappointed in the taste. As others have said, it has a bitter taste. In my opinion 1/4 cup of chili powder is way too much. I suppose it’s possible that once baked with the enchiladas it might be good but I’m too scared to try it in case it ruins my beautiful batch of enchiladas. I will not be using it and will try another recipe that doesn’t call for as much chili powder.

    • I followed it to a T but then added one tbsp of tomato paste. This really cuts the taste of the chili powder you said your tasting. I am from south Texas and we have a lot of Mexican influence in our cooking. This sauce in my opinion is great with the added tomato paste and I highly recommend it. This is my opinion. And the roux is the most important part of the recipe. It’s the base so if this isn’t right then start over.

  39. If your roux turned brown in 30 seconds, your heat was way too hot. You burnt it.

    You add the ingredients “dry” so the heat can release their flavours and smells.

    The reason your sauce was thin was that you did not make the roux properly. The purpose of the roux is to thicken the sauce.

    My guess is you burnt the roux, dramatically turned the heat down and barely simmered the sauce.

    I’d suggest more practice before you write a [READ THIS] type of headline-grabbing comment.

  40. Sauce turned out awesome!!! I added a little cayenne and tomato paste. Love it

  41. Can you can this sauce?

  42. I’m going to make the recipe today but my question is can you make it ahead of time and can it? My schedule is crazy I would love to have it on my shelf when I need it.

  43. I’m going to try this recipe tomorrow. I have a few quick questions: can this recipe be canned and, if so, would I need to add apple cider vinegar to the sauce before canning, and how long should the pints of sauce be processed in a hot water bath canner?

  44. Made exactly to recipe but used ancho chilli powder (yes 1/4 c in faith) and added a shake of cinnamon powder and a squeeze of tomato paste to my cast iron pan on the BBQ (40 degrees here in Wasaga Beach Canada).
    Packs a punch for sure and depth of flavour I’ve never tasted out of canned sauces. And looks like melted chocolate. Gorgeous!

    Here’s the problem. A little goes a long way…how can I store/freeze the rest. Please let me know ASAP, don’t want to waste it.

    Thank you🤗your recipes are always good, but I’ve never commented.

    Wish I could send pics! So far so good….have never baked enchiladas on the BBQ!

  45. Do you know if you could make this enchilada sauce in a large batch and can the excess in jars?

  46. Just made this sauce and it turned out great! Thank yiu for posting the recipe.

  47. I tried this tomato-free enchilada sauce and was pleasantly surprised at the great taste, consistency, and how easy it was to make. I didn’t have avocado oil on hand, so used olive oil. I’d like to try it with avocado oil. My somewhat picky son liked the taste. I used it wth chicken enchiladas.

  48. Very easy to make and I love it. I usually have to buy canned enchilada sauce but no more. Although I do prefer to add in one or two tbsp of tomato paste to the recipe as suggested. It adds something to it. This is a great sauce and I know I will continue to use it. I was very impressed.

  49. To the comments about this sauce being grainy or bitter–I made this sauce last night and after it had thickened, I tasted it on a spoon. It seemed a little grainy and bitter–but it had something that was missing from my store-bought sauce. I love Ali’s other recipes, so I decided to do an experiment. I made some cheese enchiladas with just her sauce. I made some on the side that had a mixture of half my store-bought sauce and half Ali’s sauce. (My store bought sauce is a bit mild and sweet, but palatable.) Both batches were terrific, but I preferred Ali’s, and I even put some of her sauce on the other ones. So if you’re on the fence about this recipe you could do an experiment like I did. Or just trust that the sauce works on the cheese, and take a chance. (And maybe skip the toasting of the chili powder just to be sure you don’t burn it.)

  50. Excellent enchilada sauce. Tried one last time with AC vinegar in the recipe, not near as good. Thank you