Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe | Gimme Some Oven (2024)

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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 | Gimme Some Oven (1)

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Ways To Use Enchilada Sauce:

Here are a few of my favorite ways to use this easy enchilada sauce:

  • Enchiladas: This red sauce works on just about any kind of enchiladas, such as my favorite chicken enchiladas, beef enchiladas, or roasted cauliflower enchilada.
  • Soups: Enchilada sauce is a fantastic way to season soups, such as my slow cooker chicken enchilada soup, cheesy chicken enchilada soup, or sweet potato enchilada soup.
  • Casseroles:If you don’t feel like rolling up your enchiladas, try ‘stacking’ them into a casserole, such as this chicken enchilada casserole (one of our readers’ favorite recipes!).
  • Nachos, Cups, Skillets and More: I also love using this sauce in other enchilada-inspired recipes, such as my easy enchilada cups, chicken enchilada nachos and this easy enchilada skillet.

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Red Enchilada Sauce

5 Stars4 Stars3 Stars2 Stars1 Star4.7 from 538 reviews

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 1 1/2 cups 1x
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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.




  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!


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.

posted on August 24, 2020 by Ali

Gluten-free, Mexican-Inspired, Sauces, Vegan, Vegetarian


Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe | Gimme Some Oven (2024)


What is traditional enchilada sauce made of? ›

The Best Enchilada Sauce

It comes from a combination of dried spices, which are sautéed in oil to bring out their best, and umami-rich tomato paste. The cinnamon is optional since some people just don't like it in savory applications, but just a pinch adds some lovely warmth and complexity.

Do you put sauce on enchiladas before or after baking? ›

Easy Cheese Enchiladas Recipe

Happy to report it couldn't be easier. Step 1: Make 10 minute homemade red enchilada sauce using fridge and pantry staples. Step 2: Sprinkle shredded Mexican blend cheese into the centers of corn tortillas then roll and place inside a casserole dish. Step 3: Cover with red sauce then bake.

What is a good substitute for enchilada sauce? ›

Tomato sauce is a good way to replace enchilada sauce if you're looking for a milder alternative. It's easy to take a pre-made tomato sauce and spice it and add other ingredients to get closer to a real enchilada sauce.

How to make can enchilada sauce better? ›

Add stock - Chicken, beef, or vegetable, stocks pack a ton of flavor - because they are prepared by simmering bones and vegetables in water for hours, often with herbs and spices until the flavor is extracted - and can instantly elevate the flavor of canned enchilada sauce.

What is the secret to good enchiladas? ›

Fry each of your tortillas in hot oil before adding in your enchilada filling. This will help keep the tortillas from soaking up too much of your sauce too quickly, which can also cause them to break apart.

What is the difference between Mexican and New Mexican enchiladas? ›

In New Mexico, enchiladas are traditionally stacked, rather than rolled. They consist of a red chile sauce and cheese. Meat is not traditional- and there should never be any tomato in the sauce. A fried egg is served on top- it helps cut the heat.

Should I cover enchiladas while baking? ›

Most enchiladas are baked and covered with foil until heated through. Oven temperatures and baking times vary per recipe, but on average they cook in a 350°F oven for about 25 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the enchiladas after they are heated through.

Do you cover enchiladas when you bake them? ›

Roll up tortillas; place seam sides down and widthwise in ungreased 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish. Spread with salsa; sprinkle with cheese. Bake uncovered 15 to 20 minutes or until hot.

Why are my homemade enchiladas soggy? ›

If you are actually following a quality enchilada recipe, you should have already dipped your tortillas into your chosen sauce before baking. This process softens the tortilla and infuses it with flavor, so if you just dump the rest of the good stuff on top of your dish before baking, you are begging for a soggy mess.

Is there a difference between red enchilada sauce and enchilada sauce? ›

The main difference is that red sauce is made from dried red chile peppers instead of green peppers, and the spices used are sometimes slightly different. This sauce has vinegar, garlic, onions, and other spices like oregano, chili powder, and basil.

What is normal enchilada sauce called? ›

The most common “red” enchilada sauce may also be called salsa roja, salsa roja para enchiladas, or mole rojo. This is a sauce made out of ancho/pasilla/New Mexico and/or Cascabel chiles, onion, garlic, tomatoes, broth, cumin, oregano, etc.

What can I use instead of tomato paste in enchilada sauce? ›

You don't have to dash out to the store if you're out of tomato paste; tomato sauce and tomato puree are both an excellent substitute. For every 1 tablespoon of tomato paste needed, use 3 tablespoons of tomato puree or sauce.

What makes enchiladas taste better? ›

While some recipes use flour tortillas, corn tortillas are traditional — and for good reason — are the better option for enchiladas. Corn tortillas have a distinct flavor that plays a key part of the enchilada experience, compared to flour tortillas, which are more like a blank slate.

Why is my homemade enchilada sauce bitter? ›

If you taste your enchilada sauce and find it has a bitter or sour aftertaste, this could be simply due to the acidity of the peppers or tomato, if added. Not to worry. Mix in agave syrup or brown sugar, starting with 1/2 teaspoon and adding more until the taste is evened out to your liking.

How to add flavor to enchilada sauce? ›

Improving upon canned enchilada sauce

If you're using fresh garlic, onion, or peppers, sauté those first in a bit of oil, then combine the butter, stock, and seasonings. Mix in the flour to thicken it, then pour in that canned enchilada sauce, and bring the mixture to a boil.

What is the difference between American and Mexican enchiladas? ›

Dishes such as enchiladas can be authentic or of the Tex-Mex variety. Authentic Mexican enchiladas have a variety of ingredients wrapped and often fried. They can be topped with cheese, chicken, lettuce, or sauces. Tex-Mex enchiladas are typically baked and are made with beef and cheese.

What are the different types of enchilada sauce? ›

Enchilada sauces are smooth, chili-based sauces that include salsa roja (red enchilada sauce), chile con queso (cheese-based sauce), verde sauce (green enchilada sauce), and mole sauces.

What is the difference between enchilada sauce and red sauce? ›

The main difference is that red sauce is made from dried red chile peppers instead of green peppers, and the spices used are sometimes slightly different.


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