I’ve been working on my enchilada game lately, for both the cookbook and an upcoming enchilada recipe. 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.
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 enchilada 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.
The Best Enchilada Sauce
Four reasons to love this recipe:
- This sauce is full of authentic Mexican flavor. 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.
- The final kicker is a tiny splash of vinegar, which really amps up the flavor.
- Unlike canned enchiladas sauces, this homemade sauce is free of unnecessary processed ingredients and MSG (that’s monosodium glutamate, which gives my mom migraines).
I love this sauce and I’m confident you will, too, since it’s gotten rave reviews on my spinach artichoke enchiladas and veggie black bean enchiladas.
Please let me know how this recipe turns out for you in the comments! Your feedback keeps me going.
Watch How to Make Enchilada Sauce
Homemade Enchilada Sauce
- Prep Time: 3 mins
- Cook Time: 7 mins
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- 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 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.
Storage suggestions: Extra enchilada sauce will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Or, freeze it for up to 3 months. Let it cool to room temperature before transferring to a wide-mouth mason jar, leaving some room at the top for expansion (don’t screw on the lid completely until the mixture is fully frozen), or a freezer bag (remove excess air before sealing).
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!
▸ Nutrition Information
What a terrific recipe for enchilada sauce!!! I have another recipe I usually use but didn’t have the energy or time to make it today so I decided to try yours. This is soooooooo easy and it’s DELICIOUS!!! My picky-eater husband raved about it. (I did, however, cut back on the ground chili powder because I don’t like things too spicy.) This is going into my permanent recipe box. Thanks so much!
Great to hear, Carol! Thank you for your review.
What a delicious flavorful red enchilada sauce that takes just minutes to make. Thank you for coming up with this authentic tasting sauce. I wondered the same as you on making the sauce the right consistency. This is perfect, now I know how they make it. I’m working on a chili verde version as well.
This sauce is amazing. I used oat flour that I ground and followed the recipe as is. Will remember this for my favorite Mexican meals. Thank you
You’re welcome, Sandra!
Amazing, been using this for ages. In my top 3 recipes
That’s great, Kav! Thank you for your review.
So good and easy. My veggie broth base is very salty so I shouldn’t have added any salt to my recipe but that would be the only change I would make along with a little extra tomato paste.
I really wanted to love this recipe! I was looking for an easier way to making enchilada sauce but unfortunately this is not it… I plan on trying it again with some alterations. I will replace the cinnamon with Abulitas chocolate and omit the oregano.
The way I was taught to make it takes time but so worth the effort. We remove the tops and seeds from Chile Ancho, Chile Puya, and Chili de Arbol (spicy), put in a pot with water and bring to a boil until peppers are tender and turn a deeper color. Transfer peppers and about 1/4- 1/2 cup of water to the blender and blend. Strain mixture then add garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt, 1 cube or pinch of Abulita’s Chocolate or Ibarra Chocolate, to sauce. Mix spices into sauce and taste test. I also dip the tortillas into the sauce as opposed to adding sauce to the baking pan.
Thanks for sharing! Your recipe gave me an idea to try using chile powders instead of the dried chile’s.
This is my “go-to” enchilada sauce recipe. It is easy and everyone loves it!
I love to hear that, Michelle!
First time making enchiladas, and this recipe was a dream. Flavourful, but not too spicy. So easy, I will make again for sure!
Great recipe as is, but I added some blended green chilies to it & it made all the difference. Gave it that little extra oomph!
That’s great to hear, Tina!
I just made this recipe and absolutely loved it! All of the ingredients were already on hand…thank you!
You’re welcome, Laura! I’m excited you enjoyed it.
I rarely make enchiladas but I have this great recipe with black bean and roasted butternut squash filling – a duo made in heaven- and it deserved a homemade sauce. Yours was GREAT! Sooo much better than canned. I used toasted then ground cumin seeds and freshly grated cinnamon- so wonderful with butternut filling. One of my best recipes ever with your sauce to top it!! Thanks. And so easy.
Can you use chicken broth if you don’t have vegetable broth?
Sure, I believe others have used that and didn’t mind the results.
Great recipe! I added a can of rotel tomatoes and wow! This one’s a keeper!
Great to hear, Kay! Thank you for your review.
Love this! Be careful not to cook the spices more than a minute, I scorched it a little. Still delicious. I wonder about adding a little cocoa for a mole flavor.
First ever making enchilada sauce. This totally knocked it out of the park! Way better than restaurant sauces! Even my husband loved it, and he won’t eat enchiladas in restaurants.
I love to hear that, Charli! I appreciate your review.
I haven’t tried it yet. (I just gave it five stars cause that’s the kind of guy I am!) What do you mean by “ground chili powder”?
I hope you try it! It’s a blend of spices here in the US.
Hi Kate, I’m an American expat and it’s hard to make authentic testing Mexican food abroad – this sauce was the first thing I’ve been able to make that genuinely reminded me of the tastes from home. My entire household loved it. Thank you!
This is such a deliciously authentic tasting enchilada sauce! And so easy to make! Thank you, Kate!
Had a craving for refried bean and cheese enchiladas… made the masa tortillas and decided to give your sauce recipe a go. OMG! SO AMAZING! I used bone broth with a veggie stock cube (mainly because I needed to use it before it went off!) and it was aaaaamazing! Definitely a keeper and have passed your recipe page on to several friends to try! Thank you for this!
My family liked the taste of this sauce. I had to use something because the sauce I had on hand was too spicy and I needed something to decrease that. I am only giving three stars because I completely scorched my hand after it splashed up and oil went everywhere. I have four huge blisters on my hand and wrist. One thing you might want to warn people about is making sure the burner isn’t up too high. I had mine set at medium (gas stove) and clearly, that was too much.
Oh no! I’m sorry to hear that, Angela.
Made your red enchilada sauce – delicious. I cut the chili powder to 1.5 teaspoons to suit my taste and was just hot enough. Definitely use again. Many thanks
This is great sauce, and henceforth my only one. The mexican restaurants here have gone to the dogs, so it is lifesaver for us.
But one question; why is my sauce too thick? Shall I add mor broth or less flour? Also, can I add coriander?
Hi, Be sure you didn’t over cook it and add too much flour. You could add some more broth to thin it.
This tasted amazing! Truly as good as my fave Mexican restaurant and tasted so much more authentic than canned. You’re right, I will never go back! I used Better Than Bouillon veggie base to make my broth and probably needed to lower the strength of how I mixed it as this was a little salty (and I didn’t add any additional salt). I’m sure it was my error so lesson learned. I used 3/4 tbs of chili powder and 1/4 tbs of chipotle chili powder and the smokiness was PERFECTLY balanced. The ACV was a great addition at the end! Thank you so much! I won’t be afraid to do it again.
Is good I added more Chili Powder and added Garlic Paste since I was out of garlic powder. Was good however I will have to make again and adjust some more. Thank you. I really didn’t want to go to the grocery store so this is a life saver.
Such a fantastic recipe! This is my go-to for chicken enchiladas. I double it for a 9X13 pan of enchiladas and it’s perfect. Tonight I subbed 1/2 butter for the olive oil and 1/2 adobe seasoning for the standard chili powder (just to use what I had on hand) and it made the flavor even more rich and complex. Thank you for this amazing base recipe that can be tweaked to individual taste and ingredients on hand!
Great to hear, Valerie!
So GOOD! And so easy to make! Love love love!!!
Great sauce! Used on the veggie black bean enchiladas and it made them complete.
I love this enchilada sauce recipe! Only one I like to use!
What a fantastic recipe! My favourite recipe is from America’s test kitchen, and this tastes just like it without all the work. I will say that I do toast, ancho chillies and grind them to make my own ancho chilli powder and that’s what I use. But I always have that on hand, so it makes this recipe so simple to put together. I make this with chicken stock or vegetable stock and they’re both delicious in their own way. Thank you for such a wonderful recipe!
I’m happy you enjoy it, Deborah!
This sauce is perfect. I do leave out the cinnamon (sorry), but when our go to canned sauce out of nowhere became too spicy for the kids, I went on the hunt for a homemade version. This fit the bill. I always double it for our family of four. I also love it because I always have the ingredients in my pantry. Delicious!