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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”

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  1. 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?

    • I added a small can of tomato sauce and it’s a good color now.

    • Mine tastes good but is brown hmmmm. I was tempted to add tomato sauce but it not supposed to have that. Oh well. Still delish! I used Mexene Chili powder. My favorite.

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

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

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

  5. You put an asterik on the flour and chili powder but gave no reference???

  6. As others said this has way too much chili powder. Trying to figure out how to save this sauce.

  7. This recipe is awesome! After making it the first time for my beef enchiladas, I decided to mix up a large batch of the herbs and spices. I store the mix in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge. So easy and quick to make a batch of sauce.

  8. So easy to make. And very delicious. I used it in your chicken enchilada recipe. Definitely a keeper

  9. I love this recipe! After happily making this enchilada sauce for a couple of years, I was reading the comments and decided to try adding tomato sauce just to see what that would do. No, thank you. It seemed to make it acidic and bland. Follow the original instructions and you will not be disappointed.

  10. While the flavor was good, the sauce was runny. I had to add two rounds of corn starch and even more flour to get it to thicken. I would do it again, but modify the recipe with those additions to get it to thicken.

  11. This recipe sounds really great. I have a lot of flour tortillas, can I use these instead of corn?

  12. Chilli warning should have been clear on the ingredients. ‘American Chilli’ is clearly not chilli. Made this with real chilli powder and, well, you can guess. Awful. What a waste of ingredients.

    Should have a warning ‘For Americans Only’ sadly – not for International audiences.

    • I did the same thing and I’m in America. :/ The author did specify but I didn’t pay attention as I usually use regular chili powder. To rectify this, I just added more ingredients and added loads more cumin and garlic to make the ratio to chili powder a little less severe .

  13. I also like to add about a cup of ground black pepper and 2 1/2 cups of red pepper flakes to really give it that dry heat.

  14. I would to can this recipe for my own use. Does this recipe multiply well or their modifications that need to be made? I would also like to know on your green enchilada sauce.

  15. My family and friends agree that this is delicious!

  16. Easy to make!

  17. Adding a can of chipotle peppers in adobo and blending with a stick blender before letting it simmer to thicken cuts out the need for simmering and gives it a serious kick.

  18. This was great and much cheaper than buying $5 of enchilada sauce which would not be half as good. . If using chicken broth be careful not to add much salt, I might have slightly over salted it. My husband said the enchiladas were the best he’s had in a long time. I think next time I’ll try using just water instead of chicken broth, just due to salt and the added cost.

    • There are chicken and beef broths on the market that have NO salt added. I stock only these in my pantry and never have to worry about too much salt. Thank the companies that have FINALLY gotten this message!

  19. Made it for the first time today, doubled recipe but used 5 T olive oil, 1 box chicken broth and 1/3 cup chili powder. Perfect! My new go- to for enchilada sauce!!

  20. Absolutely the best enchilada sauce recipe! Substituted same amount of almond flour and we didn’t have cumin so I used a 1/4 tsp of coriander instead, just used box chicken broth and no added salt to the roux but I cooked in a cast iron skillet for making the roux so it had some seasoning already to it. Put a layer of gluten free black bean tamales in a casserole dish (Texas Tamale Co black bean tamales sat in my freezer for months!), later of shredded chicken, added this enchilada sauce, thick layer of queso cheese, sour cream on top with mild green chilis to top it off. So good! Sad I waited so long to cook the black bean tamales but it had to have this enchilada sauce recipe! Thank You for sharing, will be the only one I use from now on!!!

  21. Do you continue whisking while the sauce is simmering and thickening?

    I’ve made it several times and love it and always get compliments! I always wonder at this step, I stir it occasionally but just curious the proper way to do it.

    Thanks!

  22. Is a 1/4 cup of chili powder right?

  23. 10 stars! Made it today. I was in the kitchen for about 3 hours, mostly because I was experimenting with the chili powders. I used the 3x portion and used 1/4 cup regular chili powder, 1/4 mix of hot Mexican chili powder, 1/4 cup of guajillo chili powder, and a pinch of chipotle powder. For the cheese, I used the round block enchilado Mexican cheese and it yielded 6 cups. This recipe was perfection and spicy! The best recipe online forever and ever and ever amen.

  24. This is hands down the very best homemade enchilada sauce I’ve ever had! I love supporting small business trucks, and restaurants, and this is identical to my favorite small Mexican restaurant of all times. The owners relocated, and rather than sell their small business, they decided to just close up shop. Now I can make my own, and I love it that much more, so thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    The enchilada sauce has another great use for me as well. It is the perfect base for a chili no bean topping, that can be used for burgers, hot dogs, and especially tater tots or fries! Simply brown 1/2 pound of ground beef, drain the fat, and add the entire enchilada sauce recipe to you ground beef! I got rave reviews for the chili specifically when I served it at a large family gathering BBQ.

  25. The few bad comments almost scared me into buying a can of sauce as plan B. Glad I didn’t and I never will again. Worth the minimal effort.

  26. Obsessed with this recipe. Don’t freak out about the 1/4 cup of chili powder, people. It works here and tastes amazing in a pan of enchiladas!!

  27. Is this something I could can for prep? And if so what amount of time should I process it?

  28. Best red enchilada sauce I’ve ever had. Have made this recipe many times !

  29. I just made this and it’s truly an amazing recipe. I usually grab a gross can of sauce and try to make it better lol. Thanks for sharing this!!!

  30. This sauce was delicious! I prefer a verde sauce for enchiladas but my daughter put a request in tonight for enchiladas with red sauce and I am so glad she did! This was so easy to make and perfect flavor.

  31. Great recipe! I made this instead of going to the store to get enchilada sauce and I will never buy the canned stuff again! My husband said they were the best I had ever made. I used a Mexican hot chili powder and added some cayenne as we like lots of heat. Thanks again.

  32. I was really disappointed in this sauce, it didn’t taste like enchilada sauce at all. I’ll try one with a tomato paste base next time.

  33. love it – really different using your sauce recipe – SO good, thanks!

  34. Delicious recipe! I did add 1-2tbs of tomato paste. Otherwise, made exactly as written.

  35. Thanks Ali.
    Staple in the house since we started making it a few years ago. You are spot on when you call it flexible. We’ve used Malaysian chili powder or all smoked paprika in place of the American chili powder added in turmeric and ancho paste, each time slightly different but always fantastic.
    We use leftover rice plus whatever veggies have to get used up, it’s a great use it or loose it recipe.
    Thanks!

  36. What am I missing? From all the raving reviews I had great expectations. I followed the recipe exactly using the recommended brands of spices. My sauce was very bitter and left a bad taste in my mouth. Does cumin cause that? I tried adding tomato paste, passata, and even some honey, but it was still not good. Luckily I had some canned enchilada sauce on hand and used that in your enchilada casserole recipe. I was able to add a few spoonfuls of this recipe to the canned sauce to give it more flavor. So disappointed.

  37. I added a 1/4 tsp of cinnamon and 1 tsp of Adobo.It was amazing!

  38. I love this enchilada sauce, I really prefer without tomato! It’s so quick easy and flavorful.

  39. I love this recipe. Thank you so much! I make your enchilada recipe with it. Sooooo goood! Way better than the canned stuff.

  40. I just made this enchilada sauce!! It was so easy and so amazing!!! I followed the recipe exactly and the color was deep and beautiful! I defiantly will be making again!

  41. Going to try to make the recipe But shouldn’t I add tomato paste or something