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I proudly present: the best Red Enchilada Sauce. Homemade enchilada sauce might sound daunting to make, but this quick recipe is beyond easy, ready in 15 minutes, and uses common ingredients you can find at any grocery store.

Easy red enchilada sauce in a jar for serving with tons of dishes

Why You’ll Love This Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

  • Way Better Than Canned. Not only does this easy red enchilada sauce beat the pants off of whatever you’ll find on a store shelf, but you’ll also feel great knowing what’s in it. It has significantly less sodium and simple ingredients. It is the BEST enchilada sauce!
  • Easy to Make. This red enchilada sauce is made with tomato sauce, garlic, basic seasonings, and smoky, spicy chipotles in adobo, all simmered together and then blended. So flippin’ easy!
  • Adjust the Spice Level. The flavor is delightfully smoky, and you can adjust the spice level to your taste. While it might not be the most authentic enchilada sauce recipe per se, this speedier version still boasts classic, restaurant-style enchilada sauce flavor, and it’s completely attainable on a weeknight. WIN!
  • It Makes LOTS of Sauce. This sauce recipe yields a good amount (3 1/2 cups, or the equivalent of nearly three 10-ounce cans or two 14-ounce cans). You can use it in recipes that call for a larger amount of sauce or freeze it in individual portions, then reach for one whenever a recipe calls for canned red enchilada sauce.

5 Star Review

“This sauce is easy to make — I appreciate the short list of ingredients. It is also very tasty and made the house smell wonderful while cooking.”

— Scott —

How to Make Red Enchilada Sauce

The Ingredients

  • Tomato Sauce. The base for our easy red enchilada sauce. It brings a rich, developed flavor, helping to make this a quick enchilada sauce that tastes like it has been cooking for hours.
  • Canned Chipotle Peppers. For smoky flavor and spice!
  • Adobo Sauce. This is a bonus and comes in the can with the chipotle peppers. It’s spicy, earthy, and gives the sauce a unique, memorable flavor.
  • Simple Seasoning. I used a mixture of garlic, salt, and pepper.
  • Coconut Sugar. Or brown sugar. The subtle sweetness and caramel flavor complements the heat of the chipotles. The sauce isn’t sweet; the sugar is here for balance.

The Directions

  1. Mix. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan.
  1. Cook. Simmer until thickened.
  1. Finish. Transfer the cooked red enchilada sauce to your blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend until smooth. ENJOY!

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate leftover red enchilada sauce in an airtight storage container or jar for up to 1 week.
  • To Reheat. Gently rewarm sauce in a saucepan on the stovetop over medium-low heat.
  • To Freeze. Portion the sauce into individual containers and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight or (if you are in a big hurry) reheat gently in the microwave or on the stove.
Quick sauce with delicious smoky and sweet flavor

Ways to Use Red Enchilada Sauce

  • Immersion Blender. An easy way to make smooth enchilada sauce.
  • Mason Jars. Both this smaller size and larger size would be great for storing and freezing leftover sauce.
  • Small Whisk. The perfect size for mixing sauce ingredients without splashing everywhere.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • Know What to Expect. Note that this homemade red enchilada sauce won’t taste exactly like the kind you may be used to in a can. I’d argue it is much, much better, but if you don’t care for the smoky flavor of chipotle, this is probably not the sauce recipe for you.
  • Blend Carefully. If you don’t have an immersion blender, place a thick layer of paper towels over the top of your blender before you turn it on to protect your kitchen (and yourself) from hot splatters.
  • Make It Your Own. Add more chipotle to make your sauce extra spicy or mix in some cayenne for heat without the smokiness. Roasted Garlic is a delicious addition too. Feel free to get creative!

Red Enchilada Sauce

5 from 13 votes
Easy homemade enchilada sauce that's ready in just 15 minutes! This red enchilada sauce recipe is SO much more flavorful than store-bought.

Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes

Servings: 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients
  

  • 2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce use two individual peppers for a spicy sauce or one if you prefer medium heat; if you like mild, try omitting the peppers and adding just a few teaspoons of the adobo sauce to begin; you can always add more sauce later for additional heat
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from the can of chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup water or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar or brown sugar

Instructions
 

  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the tomato sauce, chipotle peppers, adobo sauce, garlic powder, water or broth, salt, pepper, and coconut sugar.
  • Bring to a steady simmer, then reduce the heat to medium low. Cover the pan and let simmer gently until thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until very smooth. Tip: Place a thick layer of paper towels over the top of your blender before you turn it on. Hot liquids in blenders love to splatter—don’t ask me how I know. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Video

Notes

  • TO FREEZE: Portion the sauce into individual containers and freeze for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight or (if you are in a big hurry) reheat gently in the microwave or on the stove.
  • Because of the chipotle peppers, the flavor of this sauce is deep and smoky (deliciously so!). If you prefer a more classic, right-from-the-can taste, I’d suggest seeking a different recipe. (I don’t have a specific one I recommend, as this is the recipe I always use.)

Nutrition

Serving: 2tablespoonsCalories: 11kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 0.4gFat: 0.2gSaturated Fat: 0.03gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.1gMonounsaturated Fat: 0.1gPotassium: 93mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 133IUVitamin C: 2mgCalcium: 5mgIron: 0.3mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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20 Comments

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  1. I made this Red Enchilada Sauce because I did not have any canned enchilada sauce for the Crock Pot Mexican Casserole recipe that is also on this website.  This sauce is easy to make — I appreciate the short list of ingredients.  It is also very tasty and made the house smell wonderful while cooking.  I look forward to trying it in the casserole recipe.  (The sauce is now in jars in the refrigerator.)

    With all that said, I did simmer the sauce for about 45 minutes instead of just 10 to 15, as called for in the recipe, because the additional time was needed for the sauce to really thicken.  (It yielded 32 oz. instead of 36 oz.)  I wasn’t in a hurry, so this wasn’t a problem.  Also, I used a hand-held immersion blender to mix the sauce in the same pan after cooking because it was much less trouble than dirtying a traditional blender or food processor.

    Other than the cooking time, I made the recipe exactly as written except that I used beef broth in place of the chicken/vegetable broth (or water) because I wanted the extra savory flavor.  I  used 2 chipotle peppers and a full tablespoon of adobo sauce, as the recipe calls for, and it was just the right amount of spicy for my tastes — not too spicy for me, but suit yourself.

    In fact, I think the main take-away from this recipe is that you should make your sauce so it tastes good to you, and if this sauce’s taste is not your cup of tea, you should find a different recipe.  Isn’t this really true of all recipes and all the cooking we do?

    For example, my spouse is a native Mexican.  He says this sauce is very tasty but reminds him of the plainer flavors of Central American cooking.  He told me, “It needs Knorr Suiza to have that Mexican flavor.”  That’s a brand of chicken bouillon popular in Mexico that’s also available here.  “But it has real beef broth,” I countered — to no avail.  Again, to each his own, right?  (For what it’s worth, I would proudly serve this sauce to his mother and am certain that she would approve.)

    So, thanks for this useful recipe, and “Vive la différence!” when it comes to the way sauces taste — make it the way you like it.  I like this sauce and was grateful to find the easy, fast, and tasty recipe.  Thank you, Erin!

    P.S.  My Mexican spouse has fallen in love with my mother’s Midwestern Meatloaf recipe.  To my surprise and out of the blue, he suggested that this Red Enchilada Sauce would be an excellent substitute for ketchup in the meatloaf — and I wholeheartedly agree!  You talk about” vive la différence!”  I’m going to try it and bet it will be delicious!5 stars

      1. You’re welcome, Erin — and now, having used this sauce to make the Crock Pot Mexican Casserole recipe that links here, I’m changing my rating of the sauce from four stars to five.  This Red Enchilada Sauce is PERFECT for that casserole recipe!  And I look forward to trying it in other recipes, too — like that meatloaf I mentioned.  Well done, Erin, and thank you for the delicious recipes!5 stars

          1. Hi, by “tomato sauce” are you meaning canned tomatoes or actually like Heinz 57 tomato sauce? The video shows it poured from cans and I’ve never seen 57 in can form, only tablet top bottled. Cheers!

          2. Hi Luke! It sounds like you might be talking about ketchup. I am not sure if you are in the USA or not but we typically have cans of just plain tomato sauce. You can do a quick Google search “15 ounce tomato sauce” and you’ll see the results it pulls up. Popular brands are Hunt’s, Furmano’s, Contadina, or local grocery stores will carry their own brand. Hope this helps!

  2. I have a challenge for you… We would love to make the vegan enchiladas, but are expats in Lima, Peru.  Canned anything is not an option here.  Everything has to be made from scratch.  Is there a way to make the enchilada sauce from scratch with only fresh ingredients? We can get pretty much anything fresh but canned is a no go.  

    1. Hi Jennifer! Unfortunately, I haven’t tried making this recipe without the canned items, so I don’t have any specific advice to offer. You might be able to find some other options online that utilize only fresh ingredients. I hope this helps!

    1. Hi Kim! I have not tried canning this sauce (it doesn’t tend to last long in our refrigerator!), but you could experiment with it. If you decide to try it, I’d love to hear how it goes!

    1. Hi Carla! I’ve only tested the recipe as written, but I think you could experiment with using adobo sauce only and omitting the peppers. I hope this helps!

  3. Hi! I’d like to make vegan enchiladas with this but was wondering if it would be too spicy for a toddler? My son is 15 months. Thanks!

  4. Where are the ancho chilies? Every other recipe I’ve ever seen either starts with toasted anchos (a “from scratch” recipe), or with a boatload of ground up chilies, such as sweet paprika (a quickie hack).
    Don’t get me wrong, my bet is this is tasty–the adobo is a big yes here!–but not sure it’s red enchilada sauce. Still giving it 5 stars, because the fundamentals of excellent cooking are obvies.5 stars

    1. Hi Betty, that is a completely different version of this sauce. A classic enchilada sauce made with red chilis such as ancho chilies, pasilla peppers, chipotle peppers, New Mexico chile, and Cascabel chilies. So it depends on which one you choose to use. We use chipotle peppers in ours. Enjoy!