I've always been a fan of Mexican food and when I tried enchiladas for the first time in an authentic restaurant I was blown away by how amazing everything tasted! Ever since then I've come up with this homemade enchilada sauce recipe and I've been making my own big batches of enchiladas at home with my own homemade enchilada sauce.
No need to buy canned enchilada sauce, homemade enchilada sauce is the best and gives you the ability to adjust the seasonings to your taste. You can whip this sauce up in about 20 minutes and it uses very simple ingredients!
This recipe creates about 5 cups of enchilada sauce so you can store some away in the freezer for the next time you need it. I like to put 1 cup portions in freezer bags (flattened out) and stack them in the freezer for when I need them. The 1 cup portion is just enough if I'm making 3-4 enchiladas.
If you're a fan of extreme spiciness you can add more chili powder than what is called for in the recipe. I usually put in a little more than what's in the recipe below so the measurements are just guidelines.
The easy enchilada sauce recipe tastes excellent on top of classic beef enchiladas but you could also incorporate it into any other Mexican influenced dish as well.
What is Enchilada Sauce?
Enchilada sauce is a traditional Mexican condiment made from chilis, spices, and tomato-based sauces. It adds an earthy smokiness that can bring any dish to life. The distinct smokiness of enchilada sauce comes from the addition of chili powder and other spices like cumin or oregano.
Although it is usually used to add flavor to beef or chicken enchiladas, it can also be used as a topping or dip for tacos and other Mexican dishes. It can also be used to make a classic American favorite – chili.
Enchilada sauce is traditionally made by combining dried chilis with spices and tomato sauce, then blending the ingredients into a thick paste. This paste is then cooked together until it forms a thick, rich sauce that has a deep red hue and complex flavor. To make the process easier, I use the already thick tomato paste over watery tomato sauce and I use chili powder.
This is a red enchilada sauce recipe. Red enchilada sauce is made using ground red chilis or chili powder and it has an earthier flavor than its cousin, green enchilada sauce, which is made with green chilis and green tomatillos (and sometimes jalapenos) and has more of a fresh flavor in addition to a wider heat range. Though there is a lot of room for spiciness levels to be adjusted to your preference with either homemade red enchilada sauce or green enchilada sauce.
What Ingredients are used to make Enchilada Sauce?
Making your own homemade enchilada sauce is surprisingly easy and doesn't take too long either! All you need is some basic pantry staples such as tomato paste, vegetable oil, flour, salt, chicken or vegetable stock, chili powder, dried oregano and cumin. With just these simple ingredients, you can whip up a delicious enchilada sauce that will add an extra dimension of flavor to any dish.
That's how I make the sauce, though experimenting with adding onion powder, garlic powder, cumin garlic powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper and paprika can also bring great results.
What to Serve with / How to use Enchilada Sauce
Enchilada sauce is not just for enchiladas, it can be used as a topping for tacos and burritos. It can also be used to add flavor and complexity to quesadillas and taquitos. You can use it as a dip or a sauce.
Enchilada sauce is also an excellent way to spice up casseroles, scrambled eggs, chili macaroni and cheese dishes, soups and stews.
A squirt of enchilada sauce can be put inside of a wrap, a sub, or a sandwich for an extra kick of smoky flavors.
This recipe also works great with vegetarian dishes like bean-based fillings for tacos or quesadillas made with tofu or tempeh.
Enchilada Sauce Recipe Variations
You can increase the smoky flavor of your enchilada sauce by removing just a little bit of the chili powder and filling in the difference with chipotle powder (just a bit because it is intense). You can also increase the smoky flavor and while moderately upping the spice level by replacing half of the standard chili powder the recipe calls for with ancho chili powder. Finally, adding a teaspoon or two of smoked paprika to the recipe will also increase the smoky flavor and taste profile.
If you want to make a creamy enchilada sauce, melt 2 tablespoons of cream cheese into the sauce when it’s finished cooking. You can also add a cup of sour cream or Greek yogurt before serving.
You can use either chicken broth or vegetable broth if you're making a vegetarian version.
Can I make Enchilada Sauce ahead of time?
Yes you can make enchilada sauce ahead of time, just refrigerate it after making and reheat it prior to use.
How to Store and Reheat Leftover Enchilada Sauce
Covered tightly with plastic wrap or stored in an air-tight container, your enchilada sauce will last for up to one week in the fridge. To reheat, transfer it to a saucepan and warm over low heat until it's hot throughout.
Can I freeze Enchilada Sauce?
You can also freeze enchilada sauce for up to three months, making it a great option if you want to make a big batch ahead of time – just make sure you label it with the date you made it. When ready to serve, thaw out your enchilada sauce overnight in the fridge or on the countertop. Reheat as needed before serving.
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp flour
- 2 tbsp + 1 tsp chili powder (add more or less of this depending on how hot you like it)
- 2 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 3 (10.5 oz) cans tomato paste
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Heat oil in medium sized pot.
- Stir in flour and stir with a whisk until smooth – about 1 min.
- Add spices and cook for about 30 seconds.
- Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- The sauce will thicken and you can adjust the seasonings more to your taste if needed.
I like to store this in the freezer in 1 cup portions for when I need it. 🙂