Homemade Enchilada Sauce that’s 1000X better than canned and ready in just less than 15 minutes!
This homemade enchilada sauce recipe is made with simple pantry ingredients and takes less time to make than running to the grocery store! It’s rich, bold, smoky, quick, easy, freezes beautifully and you can customize the heat and consistency. Once you taste this red enchilada sauce recipe, you won’t want to live without it or go back to the store-bought kind again! It makes everything better from enchiladas, to soups, to skillets and even pastas! You will LOVE having this red enchilada sauce on hand!
Red Enchilada Sauce
In preparation for the outrageously delicious red chicken enchilada recipe coming at you later this week, I bring you this homemade Red Enchilada Sauce recipe! I can’t believe I haven’t posted an enchilada sauce recipe yet, especially because we are obsessed with enchiladas. And let’s be honest, enchiladas are ALL about the sauce. And this homemade enchilada sauce is spectacular and completely accessible.
In fact, Patrick always preferred green enchiladas until I started making them with this red enchilada sauce and now he can’t get enough AKA this sauce will completely change your enchilada experience! So, ditch those bland, watery, tomato-centric store-bought canned enchilada sauces and treat yourself and your family to this homemade enchilada sauce!
Here’s just a few reasons why you’ll love this enchilada sauce recipe:
- FLAVORFUL. No skimping on seasonings here! This red enchilada sauce is bursting with Mexican flavor but will magically complement and not compete with everything you pair it with. The flavor comes from blooming the spices in not just oil but a combination of oil and butter then combining them with rich tomato paste and dynamic chicken broth as opposed to vegetable broth. It is also spiked with a pinch of cinnamon, coca powder and sugar (to mimic Mexican chocolate) for true authentic Mexican flavor that adds a hint of warm sweet, spicy complexity – everything an enchilada sauce should be.
- EASY. This enchilada sauce recipe is completely attainable on a weeknight in MINUTES and doesn’t require toasting chilies, seeding chilies, simmering chilies, straining chiles, charring vegetables, chopping or blending – phew! But it still delivers ALL the flavor by using chili powder so all that work has been done for us!
- PANTRY FRIENDLY. To that end, you don’t have to go searching for never-used before chilies but have everything you need right now in your pantry to make this homemade enchilada sauce!
- CONSISTENCY. This red enchilada sauce is gorgeously thick and creamy like you would expect from authentic enchilada sauce thanks to the flour (you can use gluten free flour as well), but you can also make it thinner if you wish.
- CUSTOMIZABLE. The beauty about making your own enchilada sauce is that you can customize it exactly how YOU want it! You can make it thicker, thinner, more or less garlicky, more or less spicy, etc.
- ENOUGH SAUCE FOR ENCHILADAS! Many enchilada sauce recipes only yield 1 cup or so which isn’t enough to make enchiladas – or at least only dry enchiladas. This red enchilada sauce recipe makes 2 cups which is perfect for saucy enchiladas.
- VERSATILE. Red Enchilada Sauce isn’t just for enchiladas. It amps up soups, chilies, skillet dinners, burritos – basically everything it touches!
- HEALTHIER. Canned enchilada sauce can be full of preservatives and unnecessary processed ingredients like MSG. This homemade Enchilada Sauce is nothing but pure ingredients.
- FREEZER FRIENDLY. If you’re not making enchiladas, you can easily freeze the leftover sauce in individual jarred portion sizes. Freezer enchilada sauce also comes in super handy to have at your fingertips so you might as well triple the batch!
What is Enchilada Sauce?
Red enchilada sauce may also be called salsa roja, salsa roja para enchiladas or mole rojo. It is a sauce made out of ancho/ pasilla/New Mexico and/or Cascabel chiles, onion, garlic, tomatoes, broth, cumin, oregano, etc. all blended together then simmered until thickened. It creates a multi-dimensional tapestry of complex layered flavors that enlivens everything it touches. Enchilada sauce is primarily used to smother enchiladas but can also be used in soups, skillets, burritos, etc.
Enchilada sauce is easy to find at any grocery store but almost equally as easy to make at home and WAY tastier!
is this Authentic enchilada sauce?
This enchilada sauce recipe is not 100% from-scratch authentic but rather a quicker, simpler, easier recipe that anyone can whip up at a moment’s notice using pantry staples. It can be our secret.
This speedy sauce uses smart shortcuts such as utilizing already prepared chili powder instead of toasting and simmering chilies as well as using onion powder and garlic powder. Still, this easy enchilada sauce recipe boasts all of the authentic, restaurant flavor and I prefer it even to the from-scratch recipes I’ve made!
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RED AND GREEN ENCHILADA SAUCE?
Aside from the color, the primary difference between red and green enchilada sauce is the type of chili used to make the sauce. Red enchilada sauce is made with dried red chilies such New Mexico chiles, Ancho chiles, or Cascabel chiles. Green enchilada sauce, however is made with green chiles, such as Anaheim, hatch chiles, jalapenos and/or serrano peppers.
Red enchilada sauce is warm, robust and earthy whereas green enchilada sauce is herby, tangy, and bright (thanks to the addition of tomatillos and cilantro). Red enchilada sauce also tends to be naturally sweeter than green enchilada sauce because it is made with red chiles – the red color is indicative that the peppers are ripe as opposed to green chiles and tomatillos which are not yet ripe.
As far as which enchilada sauce is spicier? It all comes down to the chili. If serrano peppers are used in the green enchilada sauce, it will knock the socks off of any red enchilada sauce made with ancho chiles (which is a poblano chile when green). The same role reversal can take place by swapping chiles to make red enchilada sauce spicier.
HOMEMADE RED ENCHILADA SAUCE INGREDIENTS:
The ingredients for this homemade red enchilada sauce recipe are very simple. You will need:
- Chili powder: is where most of the flavor comes from so please use a quality brand such as McCormick. INTERNATIONAL WARNING: American Chili powder is a blend of chilies, cumin, garlic powder, and herbs with a ratio of one-part cayenne to seven parts the other spices. Chili powders sold in other parts of the world, however, are 100% chile pepper and 8X hotter than chili powder! So, please use American-style chili powder to make this recipe or your mouth will be on FIRE!
- Seasonings: In addition to chili powder, the enchilada sauce is seasoned with ground cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, ground coriander, smoked paprika, dried oregano, salt and cayenne pepper. They all work together to create a deep, satisfying complexity.
- Tomato paste: adds the signature tomato flavor. Some authentic recipes don’t include tomato paste but it is a flavor must in my book.
- Oil: you will want to use a neutral oil such as vegetable oil that won’t add flavor to the sauce. Other suitable neutral oils include grapeseed oil, corn, peanut, canola, or safflower oil.
- Butter: use unsalted butter so we can control the salt or you may substitute with the same amount of oil.
- Flour: is used to make a roux with the oil/butter to thicken the sauce. You can use all-purpose flour or all-purpose gluten free flour.
- Chicken broth: forms the base of the sauce. Use low sodium broth so we can control the salt.
- Cocoa Powder + sugar + cinnamon: this is an easy substitute for Mexican chocolate which I’m pretty sure most of you don’t keep stocked. It adds a depth of flavor you will LOVE.
- Apple cider vinegar: awakes the flavors of the sauce. You may substitute with distilled white vinegar.
Can I Use Vegetable Broth Instead of Chicken Broth?
You may use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth but it doesn’t deliver the same level of flavor. If you do decide to use vegetable broth, make sure to use low-sodium vegetable broth and salt to taste.
How Spicy is Enchilada Sauce?
This Enchilada Sauce recipe is not spicy, just flavorful if you don’t add the cayenne pepper. With the cayenne pepper it has a medium kick.
The chili powder is not pure chile powder; meaning, chili powder is mixed with other seasonings verses chile powder which is made with only ground up chile peppers. Of course, there are some variances in heat between different brands, so I recommend tasting the enchilada sauce before deciding if you want to add the cayenne pepper. And of course, if you would like it spicier, amp up the chili powder or cayenne pepper to taste.
HOW TO MAKE ENCHILADA SAUCE:
You are just a few minutes away from unapologetically spectacular homemade enchilada sauce. To make:
- Whisk seasonings together. Whisk the flour and all seasoning together in a small bowl (through oregano); set aside.
- Make the roux: Melt the butter in the olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Sprinkle in the flour/seasonings and then whisk for two minutes. This will help cook the flour and get rid of the raw flour smell/taste as well as “bloom” the seasonings, or release more of the flavor.
- Whisk in broth and tomato paste. Whisk the tomato paste into the flour mixture until completely combined and cook for one minute. Reduce the heat to low, then gradually whisk in the chicken broth. Continue to whisk until most of the lumps are dissolved (a few is okay and will whisk out when simmered). Stir in cocoa powder, sugar and cinnamon.
- Simmer sauce: Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking often, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Continue to simmer, whisking often, until it thickens to your desired consistency (totally customizable), about 5-7 minutes. Keep in mind the sauce will thicken some as it cools.
- Adjust seasonings. Remove from heat. Once cool enough to taste, adjust seasonings as desired with additional salt and pepper, sugar or vinegar.
Enchilada Sauce Variations
- Make it spicier. Add minced chipotle chilies, cayenne pepper, chipotle chile powder or hot sauce to spice it up.
- Make it sweet and spicy. You know this flavor combo is one of my favs! Add additional sugar and balance it out by cayenne pepper or chipotle chile powder.
- Mellow the acidity. You can mellow the tanginess of the tomato paste by adding additional sugar to taste.
- Make it thicker. Simmer the enchilada sauce longer to thicken it up.
- Make it thinner. If you want thinner sauce, simply don’t simmer the sauce as long. If you’re past that point, stir in chicken broth or water a little at a time until you reach desired consistency.
Tips for the Best Homemade Enchilada Sauce
- Measure out seasonings before you start making the red enchilada sauce. You will want to add the seasonings all at once with the flour – and since there are quite a few -it is helpful to measure them out first.
- Cook the flour for a full two minutes before adding the tomato paste. We don’t want any raw flour taste to ruin our enchilada sauce!
- Add the chicken broth gradually so you have time whisk it into the flour and decrease the number of lumps you have to extinguish later.
- Add the chicken broth over low heat. This prevents the broth from bubbling and spattering, but most importantly, it really gives you time to whisk the flour and broth together before heat is introduced which makes getting rid of lumps 10X harder.
- Simmer to desired consistency. This can be different for every individual, but just make sure it is at least thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
- The sugar, cocoa powder and the cinnamon (simulating Mexican chocolate) really enhance the authentic enchilada sauce recipe so please don’t skip them!
Ways to Use This Homemade Enchilada Sauce
- Enchiladas: Of course, this sauce was made for enchiladas! Try it in my Beef Barbacoa Enchiladas or the chicken enchiladas I have coming later this week. You can also make enchiladas out of virtually any of my Mexican proteins such as Chipotle Sweet Pulled Pork, Crockpot Mexican Chicken, 10 Minute Mexican Chicken, Salsa Verde Chicken, Beef Barbacoa, Carnitas, or Mexican Ground Beef. Simply mix the protein with 1/2 cup enchilada sauce, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 cup Monterrey Jack cheese, 1 cup cheddar, assemble, pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over top then bake.
- Burritos: Add enchilada sauce directly to the filling of any burritos for instant flavor and moisture. You can also pour it over burritos to make “wet” burritos or smothered burritos.
- Soups: Homemade enchilada sauce instantly amps up the flavor of soups such as Posole or my Cheesy Taco Soup, Fajita Chicken Soup and Caldo de Pollo. When swapping in enchilada sauce, you will want to reduce some seasonings in the recipe.
- Pasta. Treat red enchilada sauce like spaghetti sauce and add it to your favorite pasta along with ground beef, cheese, etc., similar to my Taco Spaghetti and Cheesy Taco Pasta Casserole.
- Skillets. Add enchilada sauce to chicken or ground beef and rice along with cheese, black beans, corn and all your favorite toppings like my Mexican Chicken and Rice Skillet or Tex-Mex Sausage and Rice Skillet.
- Rice. Add homemade enchilada sauce and cheese to plain rice, Cilantro Lime Rice or Mexican rice for a cheesy saucy side. From here you can add any protein or add-ins.
- Simmering Sauce. You can simmer chicken, beef or pork in red enchilada sauce on the stove, in the oven or in the crockpot.
- Breakfast: Use enchilada sauce to top your favorite chilaquiles, or combine with eggs and fried tortillas for Migas, or drizzle over breakfast tacos.
How long is Enchilada Sauce good for?
Enchilada Sauce should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. When properly stored, it is good for 5-7 days. It will thicken in the refrigerator so just thin it out with some water or chicken broth.
Can I Freeze Enchilada Sauce?
Yes! Homemade Enchilada Sauce should be frozen if not used within a week. Lucky for us, it freezes exceptionally well so you can use some now and freeze some for later or make it with the sole purpose of freezing.
To freeze Enchilada Sauce:
- Let Enchilada Sauce cool to room temperature.
- Transfer to freezer safe glass jars (it will stain plastic) or freezer safe bags.
- Label and freeze for up to 3 months.
- When ready to use, let sauce thaw completely in the refrigerator.
- Stir in water or chicken broth to reach desired consistency.
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