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”

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  1. Have made this several times and it is a fantastic recipe. Thanks so much

  2. Love the depth of flavor, I add a bit of chocolate at the end as well, gives it a little more oomph up front.

  3. I have a feeling the people calling this too spicy either got the wrong chili powder or lack spice tolerance. The heat of this was perfect for me, especially given that I’m using it in recipes with cheese (which combats spice).

  4. Made this exactly as recipe stated but for some reason mine didn’t turn out red…it was green???

  5. For those that want better control on your spice heat use Chili Molido that is a New Mexico brand best in the world and they give you Hot, Medium & Mild. Additionally, it is in the hispanic aisle at 4x the amount for way cheaper than that itsy bitsy lil salt shaker in the spice rack on the baking aisle. Don’t believe me check it out. Plus you’ll find the cumino, the oregeno, and the big jar of bullion in beef, chicken and tomato flavors. I AM A PRO AT CHILI SAUCES😉

    • Hi Tara. I am looking for good red and green sauce. Are you willing to share your recipes? Loved your comments and would very much like to try your recipes! Ty JSS

  6. Awesome. Tastes amazing and I always have everything I need for the recipe on hand!!!

  7. I liked this recipe! I thought it would be way too much chilli powder, but it was just right! One thing I would change is to cook the chicken in batches instead of all at once. The texture of the chicken a little chewy from being too close together in the pot.

  8. lol “2 stars, it wasn’t this other recipe and also I like to gatekeep recipes”

  9. After buying a store-bought enchilada sauce and tasting how terrible it played was I am so glad that I use this recipe to make my own. This is a very good recipe and very simple to make.

  10. Wow. Is this not something you could have messaged to her ? and then allow her the grace to edit her recipe based on your feedback? even though you said ‘my friend’ when you started off, it certainly wasn’t a friendly message.

  11. This is my favorite enchilada sauce ❤ thanks for sharing

  12. It came out amazing

  13. I followed the recipe to a T even though i’m really more of a wing it and it comes out pretty good kind of cook. Used the “mild” amount of chili powder and while i didn’t have the organic on hand like you but i did have the same brand in regular form. I do appreciate some heat but my wife is pretty sensitive so i keep things mild for her. To that end i went and added the cream at the end to make it creamy and tone down the heat a bit while keeping the flavor. Even to my spice appreciating taste buds this was a bit fiery, my wife was a total no go. Added a bunch more cream to try to mellow it out and somewhat succeeded. Dinner ended up being more soft tacos than enchiladas as i could still only put a drizzle on my wifes serving to keep it mild enough. I put more on mine but it would have still been to much to have them swimming in this. Good flavor and all but unless you are one of those crazy folks that sits around chewing on ghost peppers its gonna be spicy. Not real sure why but it is what it is, your mileage may vary.

  14. This has been a staple in my house for Taco Tuesdays. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

  15. Wish I would have educated my self a bit about enchilada sauce (this was my first time making it), and would have looked at other recipes before making this one. First off, it is way to spicy with having so much chili powder. Second, there is no tomato sauce/paste in this recipe. After making this and not being satisfied, I looked at other recipes, they all call for some form of tomato sauce, and less chili powder.

  16. I saw that the top comment was all complaints for not being Hispanic enough, but as a mixed Hispanic, I much prefer this type of chili to spicy enchilada sauce. The white side of the family prefer this version, as well. Thanks!

  17. I followed the sauce recipe exactly, but mine is not red…a brownish color???????

  18. @Tara Lea Chamblin – I think it would be a great idea for you to create your own blog and share YOUR recipes and dissertations there. On other people’s blogs, make THEIR recipe. I made Ali’s enchilada sauce today and it was great.

  19. Your enchilada sauce is the perfect blend of spices. I do prefer to add some tomato sauce as you suggested. The other commenter said bouillon is the best but I’d counter that homemade organic chicken stock made from a locally grown chicken is much better in both quality and taste. I also appreciate that the ingredients are readily available. There are many varieties of enchilada sauce, just as there varieties of every food.

  20. I like so many of your recipes, but this sauce is not one of them. Sorry.

  21. Thanks so much for your comments and suggestions. I’m truly inspired, but confused as to why you choose not to share your recipe? I would really like to improve my sauces .

  22. Why not publish your own sauce recipe at this point instead of merely criticizing this one to pieces? Genuine question.

  23. I have made quite a few different enchilada sauces but I always come back to find this one because it’s my favorite!

    I think it has to do with how bold the flavor is and that it doesn’t have tomato. It’s completely different than the other recipes and in my opinion it’s the yummiest enchilada sauce.

  24. Love this sauce. So much better than the already made sauce in the fro dry sortie and very quick to put together. Loved the suggestion in one comment to add some chocolate. One small square of 85% dark chocolate and wow! Thanks!!

  25. I double it. I found it because a Chincano friend of mine said it would be a good place for me to start and then I could tweek it for myself. I’m still tweeking, but it is pretty good.

  26. I used the stock from the chicken I boiled so had some seasoning in it. This is definitely a chili sauce. I ended up adding some tomatoes, black pepper, green peppers, dried cilantro and more cumin to this. This is a great ground works recipe! Super easy and can add or take away from it for anyone’s taste.

  27. I do not consider myself an expert but my wife and I love this recipe. She is more of the authority on Mexican food. When she asks me to make it again and again and again, I know I got a good thing here.

  28. This sauce is seriously amazing. We always make a triple batch and drizzle it on all sorts of other dishes throughout the week.

  29. 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!

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

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