I’ve been working on my enchilada game lately, for both the cookbook and my next blog post (coming Monday!). There is an art to making great enchiladas, and the sauce is a key component.
I thought I’d share my tested and perfected enchilada sauce recipe today, in case you want to try it on your favorite enchilada recipe. It’s ready in under ten minutes, and I promise, it’s so tasty you won’t want to go back to the store-bought kind again. As a bonus, unlike the canned varieties, this homemade sauce is free of unnecessary processed ingredients and MSG (that’s monosodium glutamate, which gives my mom migraines).
When I developed my go-to sauce (first seen on my spinach artichoke enchiladas), I tried at least five of the top sauce recipes on Google, all with different ingredients and techniques. I tried making sauce with tomato sauce, which tasted too raw and was kind of goopy. I tried making sauce with blended diced tomatoes, and it had the same issues. I tried sauce without any tomato ingredients, and it didn’t taste quite like the enchilada sauce I grew up eating, or the sauce at my favorite Mexican restaurants. I tried sauces made without any thickener (like flour or cornstarch), and they pooled at the bottom and turned my enchiladas into a soupy, texture-less casserole.
Finally, after some experimentation and cross-referencing with America’s Test Kitchen, I landed on the perfect sauce. Vegetable broth forms the base of the sauce, but it’s only added after you make a simple roux of flour and oil. You need a full three tablespoons of each to properly thicken the sauce. I tried making this sauce with a gluten-free flour blend and that worked great as well.
This sauce is full of authentic Mexican flavor, thanks to a combination of dried spices, which are sautéed in oil to bring out their best, and umami-rich tomato paste. I made the cinnamon in my recipe optional, since some people just don’t like it in savory applications, but a pinch adds such a nice warmth and complexity. The final kicker is a tiny splash of vinegar, which really amps up the flavor.
I love this sauce, and I’m confident you will, too, since it’s already gotten rave reviews on the spinach artichoke enchiladas. I’m sorry to make you wait a few days for the enchiladas you’ll see in the last photo, but they are worth it, promise!
Homemade Enchilada Sauce
- Prep Time: 3 mins
- Cook Time: 7 mins
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups
- Category: Condiment
- Cuisine: Mexican
This homemade red enchilada sauce has authentic Mexican flavor! It’s so good and easy, you’ll never go back to store-bought sauce again. You can even make a double batch and freeze half of it for later. Recipe as written below yields about 2 cups (16 ounces) sauce.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons flour (whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and gluten-free flour blends all work!)
- 1 tablespoon ground chili powder (scale back if you’re sensitive to spice or using particularly spicy chili powder)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon salt, to taste
- Pinch of cinnamon (optional but recommended)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- This sauce comes together quickly once you get started, so measure the dry ingredients (the flour, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, salt and optional cinnamon) into a small bowl and place it near the stove. Place the tomato paste and broth near the stove as well.
- In a medium-sized pot over medium heat, warm the oil until it’s it’s hot enough that a light sprinkle of the flour/spice mixture sizzles on contact. This might take a couple of minutes, so be patient and don’t step away from the stove!
- Once it’s ready, pour in the flour and spice mixture. While whisking constantly, cook until fragrant and slightly deepened in color, about 1 minute. Whisk the tomato paste into the mixture, then slowly pour in the broth while whisking constantly to remove any lumps.
- Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, whisking often, for about 5 to 7 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit and a spoon encounters some resistance as you stir it. (The sauce will thicken some more as it cools.)
- Remove from heat, then whisk in the vinegar and season to taste with a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Add more salt, if necessary (I usually add another pinch or two). Go forth and make enchiladas!
Enchilada sauce recipe adapted from my spinach artichoke enchiladas.
Make it gluten free: Just use gluten-free all-purpose flour blend. I tried with Bob’s Red Mill brand and it worked great.
Make it tomato free: You can omit the tomato paste. You might want to up the spices a bit. The sauce won’t taste quite like the enchilada sauce you might buy at the store, but it will still be good!
Change it up: The chili powder, cumin and garlic powder are essential here, but feel free to change up the other spices to suit your preferences.
If you love this sauce: Check out more of my Mexican recipes here!