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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 would 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): 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 typically quite mild, whereas international chili powders are usually 100% cayenne.  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

2,034 comments on “Enchilada Sauce”

  1. Way too much chili powder by proportion. And no tomato sauce? Cut the chili powder in 1/2 and add a 15 oz. can of tomato sauce.

    • Sorry, I didn’t see your post until after I made the sauce. I agree with the amount of chili powder recommended. I’ll take your advice. Thanks for sharing.

  2. How long does this last in the fridge?

  3. A favorite staple in my house and for everyone I’ve shared enchiladas with. You’ll never use the can again. It’s hard to believe how delicious this is and how little time and effort it takes.

  4. My sauce isn’t red? Why?

  5. My very favorite enchilada sauce. This is awesome over pork stuffed poblanos then topped with cheese & slid in oven. Nobody ever complains…unless there’s not enough for seconds.

  6. A new family favourite!

  7. I’ve been searching for an enchilada sauce for years, I’ve tried every canned brand out there. This simple recipe was too easy not to try and it’s freaking delicious.

    I used chili powder my local grocer made from roasted hatch chilies. I also used butter rather than oil, Wondra non-clumping sauce flour and Better Than Bullion. It was a bit spicy for me so I added more chicken broth and Wondra to calm it down a bit. Rich, thick and really quite amazing. The chili powder in this recipe is key, the author is right about using a good one.

  8. It’s my favorite enchilada sauce ever! Great for enchilada soup too. Love!

  9. Can you can or freeze this sauce???

  10. This used to require 4 tbsp of chili powder. Now it’s 1/4 cup and tastes way off. Help?!

  11. There was wayyy too much chili powder, I strongly considered tossing it. My brother added some tomato paste and it tasted way better!

  12. Honestly I don’t know if it’s defeating the point or not, but I take this recipe and then add a small can of red enchilada sauce at the end and simmer it down. Its honestly the best enchilada sauce I’ve had.

  13. I use this recipe with the chicken enchiladas recipe linked here. My housemate says it’s better than anything you’ll find in a restaurant and he eats at them several times each week.

  14. Best enchilada sauce ever!

    I lost the link to this recipe and tried another…it wasn’t the same. I crave this sauce – it is SO good! Thank you for an amazingly delicious recipe that is now a staple in our house.

  15. I LOVE your recipes, my favorite is the thyme scallop potatoes and then I found this one, very close runner up!! I wouldn’t change anything about this recipe! I come here for a lot of things. Job well done! It certainly blows the premise sh*t out of the water and so simple to make!

  16. I too added 1 small can of tomatoes paste to 3x recipe then it’s perfect!! Love this thank you!

  17. Excellent sauce. A little too spicy for me but I’m going to add a little more broth and possibly cut down on the chili powder until I get the desired spice. Overall will be using this instead of canned! Ty

  18. I cut the chili powder in half and added 1/2 of a 15oz can of tomato sauce. Really good

  19. Too much chili powder! 1/2 a cup of chili powder is almost an entire jar! Beware ! Depending on your heat tolerance I would start with much less chili powder. Can always add more.

  20. Will make it

  21. If I were to just use a can, how much would I use for the Best Enchiladas Recipe?

  22. Anyone have leftover Turkey ?

  23. This is crazy hot! I thot the chili powder amount was a typo! Did i do something wrong?

    • Make sure you’re using american chili powder. In other countries, their chili powders are mostly cayenne pepper. If it’s american it should have chili powder, garlic, cumin, oregano and salt (spices).

  24. Yuck, to spicy & had a weird taste won’t make again. Read some comments & took some advise & added tomato paste better but not great. Added a little sugar too & was a bit better. I like spicy but my lips were burning for a bit after tasting.

  25. this recipe is wonderful!!! thank you

  26. It’s really good

  27. great recipe! I would recommend adding chili powder in small amounts to suit one’s taste. I didn’t use nearly the amount recommended. I also used a little corn starch – this thickened up the sauce nicely. I wanted my enchiladas a little saucier so I added some tomato sauce and water.
    Also, I used fresh garlic – less expensive than garlic powder, and less salty. I cooked the sauce early and kept in fridge for the night. When I was ready to assemble enchiladas, I warmed the sauce again. Cheers!

  28. Beats all the ones I have ever tasted (restaurant or not :) I did use the gluten-free flour substitute option; light chili powder; and, used chicken stock. REALLY good..! Thank you for this!

  29. I’m surprised at all of the mixed opinions below about this sauce. We think it’s amazing!

  30. Can I can this sauce to make it pantry friendly and to store a few jars?

  31. I liked the spice in this recipe but if I were to make it again I would cut the amount of chili powder to 1/8 of a cup. It was way too spicy for my grandchildren.

  32. 1/4 c of chili powder left a bitterlike aftertaste…..too much. So, I decided to add 2 cans of tomato sauce and two more cups of chicken broth and salt to taste. Made a big ole batch, but tasted really good after that, so canned the rest for later. If I had it to do over again, I would cut the chili powder in half to 2T to make a better roux, and add one 15oz can tomato sauce. Other than that, makes an authentic sauce.

  33. My SO, who lived in Mexico for a year, declared this an authentic enchilada sauce. Ended up using 2 parts dark chili powder, 1 part Mexican hot chili powder and 1 part Chipotle chili powder, on my because I ran out of the dark. It was spicy but that’s how we like it. I don’t think I will ever go back to store bought. Used it in the chicken enchilada casserole Thank you for a great recipe!

  34. This is the best enchilada sauce I have ever tried!! As a transplanted Southern Californian to Idaho- I have been dying for real Mexican – this hits it spot on! Thank you so much!

  35. It was horrible! I was so upset that I wasted that much chili powder. After the fact I saw other recipes that only asked for a couple of teaspoons.. It was a waste and I Had to throw it out.

  36. I have used this recipe often, it never disappoints!

  37. I was a bit nervous trying this recipe because of the comments but it was very easy and had a lovely warm taste. I used a chile con carne spice mix because we don’t have American chile powder here but it turned out really well.

  38. This enchilada sauce is the BOMB. Using American chili powder, the portions are perfect. Once I used Chipotle powder and it was 5 alarm fire hot.. My bad!I always make a double batch because it’s so good. My entire extended family loves this sauce. Thanks for posting

  39. Very good, I did add a tablespoon of tomato paste, I may add more next time, and thin a bit more to make it go a bit farther, but over great!

  40. This recipe really didn’t work for me. I tried to make it 3 times thinking I’d done something wrong and each time I had to throw it out. Waste of money and ingredients. Texture and taste were all wrong and I made it exactly as written. I’ll be using other recipes for my enchilada sauce. I’ve been cooking for 40+ years so I’m not a newbie in the kitchen.

    • Like you, I’m no stranger to the kitchen, so I don’t want to offend you with my tip. My sauce was creamy smooth. I think because I cooked the roux for about 10 minutes, not the 1-2 suggested. I also used butter in place of the oil. And the flavor was horrible until I added plenty of salt.

  41. Where or what is the nutritional values to this sauce

  42. This was the easiest recipe for a real Mexican taste. I am so glad it did not use tomato. I had made a recipe similar years ago. It turned out fantastic!
    I did not use any salt or spices in my enchiladas so the sauce will be so perfect when I heat them in oven for hour.
    Thank you so much !

  43. First time I ever made the homemade enchilada sauce it is so delicious..enjoyed the whole enchilada recipe. I will definitely be using it again and again..yum yumj

  44. This is the absolute BEST enchilada sauce. I’ve made it twice now and both times everyone absolutely raved over it. Thank you so much for this amazing recipe.

  45. 4 tbs is 1/4 cup.

  46. The BEST! I don’t like any other recipe or restaurants, only this one.

  47. I’m looking at the picture of your completed homemade chili sauce, the color of which is a deep red. The main liquid ingredient in your printed recipe is 2 cups of stock, which has no red coloring. What brand of chili powder are you using that would produce a dark red coloring in the sauce?

  48. Great recipe, easy to make. Taste wonderful with many layers of spices. Thanks for this.

  49. Delicious! This is our new go to recipe.

  50. Can this be canned? Everyone loves it and it’d be a great hostess gift. I have a pressure canner