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.
Can I use the powdered Enchilada Spice Mix that’s already mixed in the Mexican foods part of the grocery store? How much of the bag should I use?
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.
I had my gas burner set to medium and my space mixture burnt immediately.
Why did you give the review 3 stars though? You burning yourself has nothing to with the recipes quality.
Why would you rate the recipe only 3 stars when you are the one who burnt you, not her! The recipe deserves to be rated for taste, not what you did wrong.
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!
Great sauce recipe…..was going to make the enchiladas tomorrow….but I couldn’t wait! And I grew up in Kansas City ….knew I could trust this would be a winner.
Great to hear, Jenny!
Thank you so much for this delicious and easy recipe! My husband needs to watch his sodium intake so it is wonderful I don’t need to buy prepared sauce that has a lot of extra, unhealthy ingredients.
MARY K CARMODY
Made this sauce last night for my chicken and cheese enchiladas. It was the best I’ve tried. I think I can stop here! Anyone who still buys canned sauce needs to try this because it’s a thousand times better and less costly! I used chicken broth because I didn’t have vegetable broth and I’m obviously not a vegetarian. Thank you!
This recipe was really easy to make and delicious! I added a bit of smoked paprika, cayenne, tajin, and lime juice!!
Thank you for sharing how you made it, Emily!
Hi there! Going to try this recipe out soon…would like to know if the ground Chili powder is the American version where its actually a mix of spices (Paprika, garlic powder, cumin, etc) or is it the Chili powder used in more Indian dishes that is a pure ground chili? It really makes a big difference using one of the powders in another dish and then its the wrong powder. Made a mistake of using the Chilli powder we normally use in South Africa -which is normally just ground chili of one type of chili and adding it to an Enchilada recipe, and my mouth was on fire! I like heat but it was definitely the wrong chili powder used. Normally enchilada recipes are the American version, so I had to mix my own spices to make the “Chili powder” required. Could you advise which one is used here?
Hi! This is the American version. Adjust to your spice level and what you have available.
I will never use a can of enchilada sauce again. This recipe is so good and easy to prepare. I used it over stuffed poblanos with great reviews! Thank you for the recipe.
Thank you for sharing, Carol! I appreciate your review.
I really love this recipe. I was out of garlic powder so I minced a couple cloves and added to the oil initially so as to extract their flavor. Used Bob’s Red Mill GF flour–worked great.
The only problem is that I cannot stand cumin (I can handle the little bit in chili powder), so I used coriander–doubled the amount (used 2 t) and it was fine. Very happy with the result.
Thanks for the great recipe!
I found it very disappointing.
What didn’t you seem to enjoy about this recipe, Peter?
I made this and it was super easy. I do admit I didn’t have vegetable stock so I used beef broth. I will be making this again, tasted great and was super quick and simple to make.
This enchilada sauce is easy to make and delicious!!
This recipe is easy and delicious!! I use 1 teaspoon of chili powder instead of tablespoon . Totally recommend to try it.
Great! I love this recipe and use it all the time. I adjust the spices down a notch for my family .
I added MSG the second time I made this and it was so much better!
This recipe appealed to me because it seemed faster and easier than the recipe I usually use that requires more ingredients and immersion blending and all that. It was a hit with my husband! He said it had more flavor and tasted better. Unfortunately I was not able to taste it much right now due to recently having radiation to my neck. It sure did smell good! Can’t wait to make it again when my taste buds get back on track. Putting this one in my little recipe book.
This was too mild for our taste so I added red pepper flakes and a bit of Kashmiri chili powder. Delicious.
It will freeze well and be even better next time.
I made these today and dropped off for my sister then came home and made another batch for my son. She loved them. When I made second batch I was rushing and forgot the tomato paste, it was thinner but still very good. Thanks for this recipe.
Quick note to share a major thank you. I made your enchilada sauce last night. I put it on veggie enchiladas ( for me from your recipe) and ground beef with cheese for my meat eaters… it was a home run! Everyone raved about the sauce. It was so good. Kids even requested seconds. Thank you for help w/Sunday dinner.
I’m glad you loved it, Shannon! I appreciate your review.
Is it strange to say this recipe was a highlight for me?! That’s when I found it and began making it -and enchiladas – weekly. I love this sauce. It’s easy and the oregano and cinnamon add a nice depth (I usually add a little more than the recipe mentions). I’ve even made this with veggie bouillon cubes. Other people love this sauce too! I dropped enchiladas off for overwhelmed moms and caregivers that needed help, made it for my family and friends as we began to gather again. It’s now a requested dish and a favorite of mine. Thank you!
I’ve tried this recipe a few times and it always comes out bitter and gritty. I’m using the correct kind of chili powder… any thoughts?! With all the rave reviews, I’m assuming I’m doing something wrong!
I’m sorry to hear that. How are you measuring your flour? You may want to change the brand of tomatoes you are using.
I just made it and it was sooo bitter. I realized I had scorched the flour spice mix just a little in the hot oil. I dumped it out and started over, making sure to not get the oil too hot and now it tastes great! The only problem is it’s not as red as I’d hoped. Not sure what I did wrong there. It looks more like tomato soup, but still tastes good.
This sauce is AHMAZING! So much better than the store. I doubled the recipe because I was cooking for a large group.
This was outstanding! So simple but packed with flavor. Followed recipe exactly but used chicken broth b/c that’s what I had. That Apple Cider Vinegar at the end gave it the tiny tang I needed. This made enough for one pan of 11 enchiladas! I added a sprinkling of chipolte ground pepper to add the heat. Thank you for a recipe I will always go to!!
I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it, Jennifer! I appreciate your review.
I made this last night..i made a pkg of frozen enchiladas. It may be great for some.. but my crew just wasn’t a fan of the cinnamon..no one liked it..so I’m stuck eating leftovers so not to waste food.. lol
Just my opinion..thanks so much for the recipe!
This was so easy and delicious! I did use half of the chili powder to cut down on the heat and included smoked paprika, which is my favorite spice for the depth and flavor it adds. I made two batches and added white pepper to the second. Original recipe is great, but I always like to add my special touch to each recipe. This recipe is a keeper for it’s taste and ease to make. I look forward to trying more of your recipes. Keep us the great work and thank you!
I made this easy recipe using chipotle chili powder instead of regular chili powder. It’s much better than canned sauce. It’s also very easy to make. The ingredients and directions are spot on. Thank you for sharing.
Why would you rate the recipe only 3 stars when you are the one who burnt you, not her! The recipe deserves to be rated for taste, not what you did wrong.
This sauce is SO good! I used 2 Tbs. Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour and it came out great. I used almost the whole amount of chili powder and personally thought the spice was just right. The pinch of cinnamon adds a lot too!
It is a great basic enchilada sauce that allows you to change to your liking. Very tasty and versatile.
You’re welcome, Tina! Thank you for your review.
I’m half Mexican and half Puerto Rican so going in I was skeptical since this is drastically different from the way I was taught, but I was wanting to save time and energy during a busy work week since I was feeling drained. Enchilada sauce is usually a labor of love, but I did not want to spend the time taking it low and slow. So I gave this a go. It took a few alterations to counter the heavy flour flavor (I generally don’t eat a whole lot of gluten so that could be why it stood out to me). If you’re looking to save time this isn’t bad necessarily, but I definitely feel it requires seasoning to taste. In the future for my palette I’d cut back on the flour and simmer longer to thicken.
Thank you for your feedback!
This is an absolutely delicious recipe!!! I’ve tried some chili gravy recipes in the past, and they were good but not as great as this recipe. I think the chili you use is extremely important. I used the cinnamon and white vinegar but half of what you listed because it was a new thing to me. I did add an extra tbsp of chili powder (Gebhardt’s, ancho, and Hatch red chili powders, all of which are mild due to heat restrictions of family and friends). I also grated about a tbsp of fresh onion which added some additional flavor. Love it!! I used both freshly made chicken broth and then added about 1/2 tbsp of Better than Bouillon vegetable paste. I can never leave a recipe alone…lol…but these were great additions. Thanks so much for posting a great recipe! I plan on using it on tamales and chicken enchiladas.
Wonderful to hear, Dianna! I appreciate your review.
I never even thought about making my own enchilada sauce. I’ve always used store bought but I tried your recipe and it was fantastic! I used gluten free flour and it worked perfectly. Love it!
Hooray! That’s great to hear, Mari.
This is my second time making this. The last time I made it I used it with chicken quesadillas … And I really wanted to lick the pan! I’m having a fajita party tomorrow and I’m serving it as a side sauce, but also tossing the sauteed zucchini, mushrooms and onions in it for the vegetarians. I hope there’s some left because I keep sneaking tastes. Great and easy recipe.
Nice authentic recipe. Starting with hot oil is key. I immersion blended a rehydrated ancho Chile and half a fresh tomato at the end. Tasted soooo good on top of my chili rellenos.
I made this for the second time and it is fabulous! easy- quick- items readily available in your pantry-made my enchiladas worth enjoying again and again. Thank you!
You’re welcome, Wendy!
I use the Enchilada Sauce recipe often. It tastes like the real thing and is relatively simple. Worth the effort!
Great to hear, Greta!
Love this recipe! We use it to make the enchiladas but I make the x3 version so there’s enough sauce left over for another meal – I then use that for what we call Mexican curry. That’s so easy – soften some green peppers and cook off chicken breast and add both in with the reheated enchilada sauce. Serve with rice and sour cream on the side. Delicious!
Great to hear, Charlotte! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it.
Delicious sauce. As written it was hot for my liking! Husband loved it hot and I made a more mild version for myself sticking exactly to the recipe both times, except for the mild version I used less chili powder.
I was so happy with this recipe with the exception of the cinnamon. It was giving Indian food vibes. I will totally make this again without the cinnamon!
I love to hear that, Nikki! Thank you for your review.
I absolutely LOVE this recipe. It’s so easy to make and it’s freaking delicious! It adds so much flavor to my enchiladas. One day I’d like to experiment with different Chili Powders in this recipe.
That is probably the greatest enchilada sauce I’ve ever seen and made thank you so very much that is great
Just made this enchilada sauce. Delicious! So much better than canned. No turning back now!
I have made a lot of enchilada sauces looking for that one that is just perfect. This is it. And so easy
Recommendation: sauté the flour by itself for a minute, then add the spices for another minute. Flour was still a bit undercooked tasting when using my “medium heat” setting, but you can’t go by color if spices are already mixed in. If you usually have to cook flour for two minutes when making a roux, cook it for an extra minute here, too.
I know all the comments say this sauce is amazing, but seriously, this sauce is amazing. Great step-by-step directions too!
This is a super easy and excellent enchilada sauce. I add one more tablespoon of chili powder and a bit more vinegar. Turns out great every time.
I grew up partly in Mexico and this sauce satisfies my enchilada cravings majorly!
Hooray! I’m glad this passes for you. I appreciate your review, Krystal.
Wow! This was incredible! It’s so quick and easy to make, and I had everything on hand to make it. This is better than a restaurant. Thank you so much!!!!
You’re welcome, Carrie! I appreciate your review.
Fantastic sauce, I adjust up a bit as love chilli and garlic, ditch salt altogether as enough elsewhere. I do just put the tomato puree and vinegar into the stock and add as it makes life easier and more rounded flavour. Thanks for sharing this as it easily a weekly make in this house.
You’re welcome, Bob! I’m glad it’s a staple in your home.
carol j lynch
Delicious! I have it sitting in the pot right now as I’m all done with the sauce. I’m not sure if it should be thicker than it is as it’s not water thin but still a bit thin. Will it thicken once it’s cooked with the enchiladas? No biggy if it doesn’t. Love this recipe and I loathe cooking. Hubby loves it!
Hi! This isn’t meant to be a thick sauce. I hope you enjoy it!
Oh my God I just made this today and put it over your chicken enchilada casserole, I didn’t think I can make an enchilada sauce, my family destroyed this at dinner, and I made a double batch.