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. I just made this sauce and it is delicious. It’s the first time I’ve made enchilada sauce and it was quick and easy and I’ll definitely make it again. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I will never use store bought sauce after making this for the family. We absolutely loved it!!! Thank you sooooo much for sharing.

  3. I liked this recipe. One augmentation–anything with cumin, I’ve found, can be enhanced by instead keeping cumin seeds around and quickly pan roasting and grinding them. I’m fine with dry ingredients…unfortunately I don’t have sprigs of parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme hanging all about my kitchen. But a fresh cumin is super easy and the flavor pops. Thanks for the recipe.

  4. we do not get chicken or vegetable broth.what alternative can i use?

    • You should be able to find it at a store near soup, or make it with bullion.

    • To get chicken stock or vegetable stock all you really have to do is boil some vegetables or boil some chicken and there’s your stock you can season it with salt and pepper if you like

  5. Gurrrl, this stuff right here is restaurant quality. 1st time making it….so dang good, can’t go back to the can! #authentic

  6. Loved this sauce. I just made it with ground beef enchiladas. I added a can of tomato sauce to it because it had a bitter taste. I think also adding honey or orange zest might enhance it. Or is a sweet component not necessary?

  7. Sorry forgot to rate it. It was my first time making homemade enchilada sauce. I like the simplicity yet tasty sauce! A winner for sure. Son and hubby loved it.

  8. This actually may be the worse recipe I’ve ever tried, was gritty and bitter and I had to dump it down the drain.

    • I think you may have burned the roux in the beginning :( I’ve never had that issue

    • I’m there with you on the grittiness and bitterness… I’ve made this twice now and on the second time I decided to go rouge a little and add some honey (~1/2″, more oil (double), more salt (double), paprika (1/4 tsp) and some cayenne (1/4 tsp). Turned out a little better but still gritty. I think the problem is the amount of chili powder. It just doesn’t seem to dissolve correctly even after cooking it for twice as long. Besides the bitterness the flavor is pretty good, so adding some sweet and salty flavors to this helped a lot.

    • Did you maybe burn it? Burning it on the stove would make it gritty and bitter. The second time I did burn it because I put too much oil in the pan and it made it gritty as well. I just dumped it and started over. It was fine after I redid it; not gritty, not bitter at all. if it is still too “gritty” for you, try straining it.

  9. Great sauce! Made my own quick chicken and black bean enchiladas (leftover chicken, can of beans, some salsa and lots of spices) and used this sauce with Mexican cojita cheese. Wow, Husband kept saying…”this is the bomb!” Didn’t want to stop eating it. P.S. Didn’t use quite 2 cups of broth…probably more like 1.5 – 1.75 cups.

  10. The best! I will not buy another can of sauce again. And very easy to make!!

  11. I made this sauce last night and combined it with a small can of store bought enchilada sauce because I didn’t make enough. It was the PERFECT blend. Excellent recipe.

  12. My husband has an intolerance to chili powder spice. How can I make this red sauce for the whole family to enjoy? Or do I need to make him a separate sauce for the enchiladas? How can I make it taste Mexican without the heat? Thanks!

    • Chile is the integral ingredient to enchilada sauce, maybe try something tomato based?? cumin, oregano and garlic for flavor?

  13. I found this to be very salty also.. great flavor though, well definitely make again but maybe adjust seasonings for our taste

  14. I made chicken enchiladas with this last night and the sauce was absolutely my all-time favorite.

  15. Excellent. I added 1/2 t onion powder and a pinch of sugar to cut the bitterness of the chili powder.

  16. Just made this sauce and the recipe for best chicken enchiladas for Father’s Day dinner. Yum! The enchiladas were similar to another recipe I have, but I always used store bought sauce. This sauce was soooo good and so easy to make! I had everything I needed for it in the pantry. It really was the star of the recipe. This will definitely be a staple in our house!

  17. Recipe looks simple and has such great reviews. I think I burned my spices in when I put them in the oil/flour mixture, so I had to dump the entire batch out, sadly.

    Any recommendation as to how I can avoid this next time?

    Thanks!

  18. I will admit, I was a bit skeptical as I read how great this enchilada sauce is, and how people were always asking for the recipe. I made it last night. I can honestly say, with no exaggeration, this is the BEST enchilada sauce. I’m amazed! My family loves it, too. Thank you so much for sharing. This is definitely a new favorite.

  19. I can’t wait to make this recipe! Thank You So Much for sharing it!

  20. This was really good and so easy! I had started making a tamale pie when I realized it called for enchilada sauce. Thankfully I remembered I had saved your recipe so it was a good excuse to try it. I might cut back on the chili powder next time or try ancho to change it up. Thank you!

  21. This is quite good. I do like to add tomato paste to my enchilada sauce, so I added in 2 Tablespoons and really loved that addition. I also eliminated the salt called for because my broth has salt in it. 1/2 teaspoon on top of that would be way too salty for us. I would like to tell people to have your dry ingredients mixed together in a bowl and right beside your stove prior to heating up your oil/flour mixture so you are ready to go as soon as your roux comes together, otherwise you seriously risk burning your roux. Have your broth handy right by the stove too. You will thank me later. :)

  22. Excellent! May cut back a little on chili powder the next time. Do you think the sauce would freeze well? Beef enchiladas…it’s what’s for dinner! Thank you for sharing your yummy recipe.

  23. LOVE this sauce!!! I’ve probably made this 10x since in the last few months. For me the actual enchiladas are almost an afterthought lol. Make the sauce, put whatever in tortillas, cover w/sauce and cheese and bake. I tend to add the entire tsp of cumin, oregano and garlic powder but I love seasonings. I first made this using better than bouillon veggie broth and it was good, then I used the same brand of no-chicken broth (vegetarian) and I could literally drink the stuff.

  24. Has anyone made these in large batch and can it?

  25. This is a game-changer!! So delicious. My family always loves my enchiladas, but this was the first time I made the sauce. (I usually go for Old El Paso.) This was WAY better. High marks all around. Thank you!

  26. This is a game-changer!! So delicious. My family always loves my enchiladas, but this was the first time I made the sauce. (I usually go for Old El Paso.) This was WAY better. High marks all around. Thank you! ❤️ The Roaming Texan

  27. This recipe is amazing. I used it to make a ‘Chili’s’ chicken enchilada soup but I realized too late that I was out of almost everything (canned tomatoes, beans…), so the soup was just flavored with this sauce, chicken, cheese, and more chicken broth. It tastes great!

  28. Excellent and so easy. I will never buy canned enchilada sauce again!

  29. Outstanding recipe. I tried it straight the first time and it worked very well. It spread well and was thick enough not to run off the shells. Tangy without too much heat. I tend to like a little more heat, but the rest of the family doesn’t. It was quick and easy and stored well overnight and reheated without changing the taste or consistency.

    I used a homemade chicken stock made from big-box roasted chicken carcass. I poured it straight from the stockpot to the strainer to the enchilada sauce pan. Normally, I would refrigerate overnight to remove the fat, but it was very flavorful with it.

  30. I’m not much of a cook, but I ran out of my canned enchilada sauce. I snagged this recipe and made it. It was great! Better (and cheaper) then the canned stuff I used to use. I don’t think I’ll ever purchase sauce again. Too easy to make it myself.

  31. Thanks for the quick sauce recipe. It was delicious. I used less chili powder and the sauce still tasted wonderful :)

  32. Easy! Delicious! I like the option that include s chipotle powder. Thank you!

  33. Love this sauce, to cut the heat for my partner i use smoked paprika to keep the flavour without the heat

  34. Tasted like chili powder. I must have done something wrong. Had to throw away the enchiladas.

  35. This recipe is easy and delicious. No more can for me. I made it for the first time and my family loved it.
    Thanks for sharing.

  36. I made this earlier in the week using homemade chicken stock and following the recipe exactly. It was my first time making an enchilada sauce, and it was perfect! The deep color of the sauce makes it appealing, and it had just enough heat with the ingredients in the filling. Thank you for this recipe!

  37. Great site

  38. Yep!! Best enchiladas ever

  39. horrible, ruined my enchilada’s!

    • You must not have made it correctly. As a Chef this recipe is absolutely perfect. Better than any restaurant I have ever gone to and everyone in my household agreed..

  40. Super easy and so delicious! I’ve made this multiple times. Most recently I tried adding 1.5 oz unsweetened chocolate and — wow! Really kicks up the d elote of the flavor and gives a rich, velvety texture.

  41. This was amazing!! I don’t know what happened to the other reviews that said it was gritty. This was perfect! I didn’t trust the recipe at first so I didn’t use my high quality chili powder but next time I most definitely will!!

  42. Good sauce but reduce or omit the salt if using pre-packaged salt or it will turn out too salty!

  43. OMG I’ve been looking for this recipe for years! We made one 30+ years ago for a school enchilada night, and everyone raved about it. Then I lost the recipe! Thank you, thank you!!

  44. Thanks for an easy and quick recipe! I used adobo instead of garlic powder and salt. Also added a squirt of honey for some sweetness and a dash of chipotle powder for heat!

  45. Good flavor but a little salty for my taste. I will cut the salt next time for sure.

  46. Can you make this with just ancho chili powder only instead of regular chili powder?

  47. The sauce us excellent. My error was i didnt have American chile powder so used Mexican. I cut it back to two tablespoons but oh my lips are still on fire. Trying to cool it back some before i add to enchiladas. But the taste is awesome.

    • Did you ever get an answer? I was thinking of making it without the rouge and canning it. When I wanted to use it I would make the rouge and add the can of sauce. My thoughts anyway…

  48. The best recipe I’ve ever found for enchilada sauce. Hooray!

  49. Can I freeze extra enchilada sauce? Thanks for this great recipe!

  50. OH MY GOODNESS! This is amazing. You are TOTALLY RIGHT…this sauce makes the dish. I am so grateful for this recipe. I used the gluten free flour and it was incredibly delicious. Thank you so much for sharing. This is my forever Enchlida sauce!