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

2,141 comments on “Enchilada Sauce”

  1. So easy and so delicious. Made all the difference between enchiladas with store bought sauce vs this. I added some cayenne to the 1/4 cup of chili powder to make it spicier.

  2. Made this recipe yesterday and my family w raved about it! I made it per the instructions. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. This is the closest recipe to a Mexican restaurant in Portland, Oregon that unfortunately has closed. It was a huge loss to hundreds if not thousands of people that loved our Original Taco House.😪😪 Thank you for it and I will be passing it on to everyone I know

  4. I have been making this recipe for several years. It is a favorite in my family and they often request it for their special birthday dinner choice. I make many of your recipes and have never been disappointed. Thank you for making me so popular with my family!

  5. It really is a fabulous sauce. Fun to give my lifemate a taste and watch his eyes bug out because of how hot it was. We added a half can of tomato sauce to the pan and declared the resulting sauce a total winner.

  6. Ok, Let me start by saying DAMN this sauce is good !

    But a word to the wise, if you have people in your house that can’t handle spicy, even when it has good flavor, use this sparsely. It has good good flavor, but it has a serious kick too..

    I highly recommend trying this, just be aware, It’s not for everyone.

  7. I never liked enchiladas. Then I had this!
    Omg. So good! It’s the sauce that makes it amazing

  8. Because this sauce can be used in so many ways, could it be canned?

  9. We will never use a packet mix again. I usually make double to put into the freezer for a mid week special.

    • This sauce is great. I make double and freeze half. Kids love my enchiladas.

      I recommend adding some tomato paste to it. Works really well.

  10. So easy and so good! I threw in 1 Tbsp. of tomato paste, just because! Threw out my old recipe!

  11. This sauce might have been the best thing to happen to me in 2020. I’ve made this recipe 5 times since finding it a month ago.

  12. This is definitely a keeper, just delicious! I recently had dinner with some friends and we were talking food and I mentioned that I had made your enchilada sauce, my friend said OMG she was getting ready to make this the next day, it is the best!

  13. I did this recipe and added chipotle peppers and it was amazing. Thank you!

  14. I made recipe exactly as written, using the same chili powder and used only half as much chili powder. it was very, very bitter and didn’t remind me at all of enchilada sauce.

    • I added some honey to the sauce. It didn’t sweeten it as much as it took away the bite.

    • How do you complain when you didn’t even use the recipe right of course all the flavor won’t be their if you take away half of the flavor

    • I also found this to be very bitter and I did make it as directed. Tried again today but reduced it to 2 T of chili powder and liked it much more.

    • Looking into this, I likely toasted the spices too long the first time around. Apparently chiles get bitter if cooked too long! Try cutting down the time you cook the spices or adding the chile powder in after the sauce has reduced some. Fixed the problem for me!

    • There are many options for red chili powder. Some can be quite bitter. I purchase red chili powder from 2 locations: Hatch, NM and Chimayo, NM. I “discovered” Chimayo red and green when I started visiting NM at least annually in 1990. We drove the northern route from Las Vegas, through Santa Fe, and back. Chimayo red tends to be sweet and smoky; not bitter. It is still a favorite of mine. Then I found mild red in Hatch. I had been purchasing whole, frozen roasted green chilies in Hatch but I bought a gallon ziplock bag of mild red and I am hooked. You can find it online and I like the fact that I am supporting the growers directly. Store-bought simply does not compare. I like to add a small amount of ancho (and it is mild) as well as ground chipotle as well to give a very complex flavor. This recipe is excellent! One of the best I’ve made.

    • I’m making mine as I read the comments and I saw on another recipe that they used about 2-3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help with the chili powder bitterness. I’ll see. Mine is still cooking. I have 5 minutes to go and it’s not thickening. I’ll wait and see though. Finished cooking. Didn’t really thicken like I thought it would. It taste ok and that could be my fault because I added the vinegar and a little tomato paste.

  15. To make it low carb you can use a teaspoon or so of xanthum gum instead of flour. Our little boy is a type 1 diabetic so we nixed the tortillas ans he was able to have this without insulin and it didn’t spike his bg. Thanks for the recipe!

  16. Oh. Wow. This sauce is delicious and so easy to make. Thanks!

  17. This is absolutely, plate-cleaningly, delicious! The sauce was used to make bean and cheese skillet enchiladas, all of which were gobbled up in mere minutes. My 15-year-old son said the enchiladas were better than the ones we get at restaurants. I whole-heartedly credit the success of our supper to your recipe. THANK YOU!

  18. I live in a country where I can’t buy enchilada sauce and I love Mexican food, so I’ve been looking for a recipe to make it for a while. This is the best! Thanks

    • Hi, thank you for sharing the recipe. I will like to make a comment for people that are fan of Mexican food but can’t tolerate such a spice recipe. This recipe is really spice! If you would like to use it please keep in mind that 1/4 cup of chili powder is A Lot! FIRE! So start slowly with the powder and taste

  19. We go to visit relatives every year in northern New Mexico near Santa Fe and I always look forward to the enchiladas my wife’s sister makes. Due to Covid we couldn’t go this year so I decided to make the N.M. meal with enchiladas as the main dish. I discovered this recipe and this is easily the BEST enchilada sauce I have every eaten. My wife and son couldn’t believe how good it was. One of the best recipes of any kind I have ever discovered…and I cook a lot! Thank you for this. You have set the gold standard.

  20. This is my go to sauce!

  21. It’s a good beginning, but it was even better with a can of fire-roasted tomatoes (pureed in a blender). Not only did it add more flavor by rounding out the spices, it also increased the amount to actually making a large pan of enchiladas.

  22. I can’t praise this sauce enough! Saving this recipe for future mexican endeavors. Thank you!

  23. Tonight I went to make your Best Chicken Enchiladas, I happened to have a jar of enchilada sauce so I was going to use that in place of making homemade. I opened the jar and decided to taste it before using it, the jarred sauce was so gross compared to this homemade sauce. Immediately threw away the jarred sauce and whipped up a quick batch of your sauce to go in our enchiladas! So glad I tasted the jarred sauce first because the flavor was night and day, this really is the BEST enchilada sauce I’ve ever had, definitely won’t be buying any more jarred sauce from here on out!

    Thank you for the great recipe!

  24. HELP!! My sauce turned out super dark red (like blackish red). The chili powder was also dark, so I’m assuming that’s why? I’ve never had enchiladas (that I can remember) so I don’t know how it’s even suppose to taste… but it certainly doesn’t look like a nice, deep red. :(

    • You more than likely burned your spices and flour at the beginning try a lower heat when doing the first step

  25. This sauce just was not for us. I was so hopeful with all of the positive reviews, but We didn’t care for the flavor at all. Added heavy cream and tomato sauce and still didn’t like it. Maybe I should’ve tried way less chili powder?

    • I don’t live in the US so sometimes recipes like this don’t make much sense, with the amounts of salt and spices added. I have no idea if chilli powder is not as spicy there or what, but if I put 1/4 cup of chilli powder I’ll poison my whole family or at least give them some… stomach issues.
      I just substitute the chilli powder with sweet red pepper powder and add a teaspoon of cayenne powder for a little bit of spicy-ness, it always turns out great.

  26. This is the best and easiest enchilada sauce ever. My husband on a kinda different diet so had to make my own things from scratch Going to make the chicken enchilada casserole today,looks and sounds good. Thank you for your delicious recipes.👍

  27. The idea is right, but the flavor profile is not what my taste buds desire from an enchilada sauce.
    As is- this recipe is very spicy with heat and bland in flavor.
    I made a DOUBLE batch and added more of the same or similar spices. ADD 1 tsp of ground cumin, 1 tsp oregano, used garlic salt instead of powder (about 1.5-2tsp total) and omitted salt (only because that’s what I had on hand other than my go to fresh garlic). ADDED 8 oz tomato sauce and a good squeeze of tomato paste (about a tsp or so). The flavor after additions was much more to our liking.

  28. Definitely the sauce I use every time…so much tastier than store bought and so easy…

  29. I accidentally used cayenne powder instead of chili powder.
    Against my better judgment, I dumped 1/4 cup of pure spiciness into my pot and then read the disclaimer about three seconds later. Cut to me frantically trying to scoop out the powder while my mother looked on with a face of pure disappointment, wondering where she went wrong in raising her daughter. In all fairness, I’m 15 years old and have almost burned the house down on multiple occasions while trying to make instant ramen, so maybe she shouldn’t have let me near the stove.
    Anyways, the sauce itself was amazing, even through hot tears of pain from the spiciness. The only thing more painful than that however, was the walk of shame as I went to throw out my unpalatable creation. The universe had won. I was ready to cut my losses and go back to instant ramen when my mother stopped me and did something that has quite literally changed my life. She took a bit of flour and water and kneaded them into two spheres, a little bigger than quarters. Then, she dropped these balls into the still-simmering sauce and waited for about 15 minutes. And then she told me taste the sauce. I took a tentative spoonful and my eyes began to well up. However, these weren’t painfully-spicy-food tears, but tears of joy. Somehow, those beautiful little dough balls soaked up the spice and my fiery inferno of a sauce was now edible?? I’ve scoured the internet to see if anyone else knew about this marvel, but came up with nothing.
    Anyhow, this recipe is marvelously good and I will be making it again (minus cayenne powder)

  30. Going to make this tonight – you’re great ! love watching your posts.

  31. Outstanding recipe. So easy and so flavorful compared to store bought. This sauce took my Dad’s legendary enchilada casserole to a new level. He would be sooooo jealous!
    Thanks.

  32. This is my go to recipe and I always make a 4x batch and freeze off mason jars of it. Never had an issue with it separating myself and it’s awesome to have a few jars handy in the freezer to make for some quick enchiladas or soup or pasta bake! Thanks for a great recipe!

  33. Very good, quick and easy! Had everything on hand! Tasted fantastic!

  34. Can you freeze left over sauce?

  35. This is the best enchiladas sauce recipe! I’ve made it for years, exactly as written, and put it on my favorite homemade enchiladas. In the past year, I’ve had to go gluten free due to a celiac diagnosis, and it was heartbreaking to have to give away the batch hanging out in my freezer. Luckily, I have successfully made this recipe with rice flour instead of all-purpose. It has kept all the magic!

  36. This sauce is the bomb! I added just a touch more cumin (my favorite spice!), and next time will make a double or triple batch to have it on hand. Yay! p.s. I used a combo of veggie and chicken broth, since I had those to use up, and it worked great :^)

  37. I usually would just buy cans but tried this sauce and it was DELICIOUS. I also included some diced tomatoes which I blended in at the end with an immersion blender, as well as some smoked paprika and chipotle chilli powder. 10/10 recommend this recipe!

  38. We gave this recipe an A+! It makes the best enchiladas we’ve ever tasted. This recipe is a keeper, and we’ll be making it again very soon. We highly recommend it. Enjoy!

  39. Best enchilada sauce ever!

  40. My go to sauce for enchiladas. So easy and delicious!

  41. Loved it! I added 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar for some acidity. Next time I would also add tomato paste to spice mix before adding the chicken broth. Thank you for the recipe!

  42. I’ve made it multiple times and it’s always great’

  43. This recipe was perfect – exactly what I want a red enchilada sauce to taste like! And it was so easy. Thank you!!!

  44. I forgot to buy enchilada sauce and so glad I found your recipe! Excellent!

  45. I’ve made this sauce about 5 times in the last month.
    Mostly I use it with your enchilada casserole recipe.
    Both or so easy and so tasty

  46. Way too spicy for me and my kids. Wish I would have done half chili powder.

  47. This is the BEST homemade enchilada sauce recipe I’ve encountered. It’s better than ANY product on store shelves. It’s nice that you an adjust the heat based upon sensitive eaters. Thanks for sharing!

  48. Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

  49. I’ve made this before however I forgot if I can use almond flour instead of regular flour. Do you know if this will work ? And very good sauce by the way !

  50. This enchilada sauce was so gritty and bitter, I was sorry I wasted 1/4 cup chili powder. I bought Spice Islands chili powder which is not the cheapest one on the shelf. I had to use the store bought sauce so the enchilada’s were pretty good.