I proudly present: the best 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

If up until this point, you’ve been reaching for the red enchilada sauce can, the next time you are cooking Mexican, give this from-scratch recipe a try. 

Not only does this easy red enchilada sauce beat the pants off of whatever you’ll find on a store shelf, you’ll feel great knowing what’s in it.

The flavor is delightfully smoky, and you can adjust the spice level to your taste.

This recipe is also much lower in sodium than canned enchilada sauce brands. In fact, the high sodium level in store-bought sauce is what prompted me to try making this homemade version in the first place. I was thrilled to find out how easy (and better tasting!) it is when you DIY.

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!

This sauce recipe also yields a good amount (3 ½ 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 sauce.

Once you try this easy homemade recipe, you’ll want to add it to everything you eat! See “Ways to Use This Homemade Sauce” below for tasty ideas.

Classic enchilada sauce recipe in a jar

What is Red Enchilada Sauce

Red enchilada sauce is a type of Mexican red chili sauce.

  • Chili sauce is used as a general term for a spicy sauce that can be made of one of a variety of peppers. In the case of red chili sauce, those chilis are (as you have no doubt deduced) red.
  • Chili sauce can be found in both Asian and Mexican cuisine, but the flavors of the two are different, because different spices and herbs are added to each. They also have different bases. Asian chili sauce is usually more oil based, while Mexican red chili sauce (like this recipe) is tomato based.
  • My hunch is that the name “enchilada” was added later on, since enchiladas are a popular way to use Mexican red chile sauce.
  • Is Enchilada Sauce the Same as Taco Sauce? From what I can tell, the major difference between the two is that taco sauce is thicker (mostly likely because each taco only needs a few tablespoons versus the 2+ cups required for enchiladas). The taco sauces I’ve tried are usually more mild too.
  • If you prefer to use taco sauce instead of enchilada sauce in a recipe, I’d suggest blending it in a food processor or blender with a chipotle pepper in adobo or two to amp up its flavor and add other spices like garlic and oregano to taste.

The Spices in Enchilada Sauce

The spices used in enchilada sauce can vary based on the recipe. Many classic red enchilada sauce recipes I found called for chili powder, cumin, oregano, and even cinnamon.

Most sauces also start with a roux, which requires cooking flour on the stove in oil, then slowly splashing in liquid. I managed to avoid this step by blending a chipotle chile pepper in adobo right into the sauce to thicken it instead. (You can find chipotle peppers in a can in the Hispanic section of most grocery stores.)

Chipotle peppers have an incredibly rich, smoky flavor, and I love the heat they bring to the sauce. If you are extra sensitive to spice, feel free to leave out the pepper and use the adobo sauce from the can only.

Also, please note that this homemade 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.

How to Make Enchilada Sauce from Scratch

What is enchilada sauce made of? Well, unlike the canned version, this sauce is packed with flavor and made with simple, everyday ingredients. It is the BEST 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! For tips on where to find them, see the notes above.
  • 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.
  • Spices. I used a mixture of garlic, salt, and pepper to add depth to the sauce.
  • Coconut Sugar. Natural sugar with a subtle sweetness and caramel flavor to complement the heat of the chipotles. The sauce isn’t sweet; the sugar is here for balance.

The Directions

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer until thickened.
  2. Transfer to your blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend until smooth.
  3. That’s it! 

Quick sauce with delicious smoky and sweet flavor

Ways to Use This Homemade Sauce

Enchilada Sauce Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate leftover 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.

Recommended Tools for Making This Sauce

  • Immersion Blender. Blend your sauce without having to transfer it to a regular blender.
  • Mason Jars. Both this smaller size and larger size would be great for storing and freezing leftover sauce. This option is great if you want to stock up on these jars.
  • Small Whisk. The perfect size for mixing sauce ingredients without splashing everywhere.

 

A quick and easy recipe for the best red enchilada sauce from scratch. Ready in just 15 minutes and so delicious! This amazing homemade enchilada sauce used whenever a recipe calls for a red enchilada sauce can.

Enchilada Sauce

5 from 4 votes
Easy enchilada sauce that's ready in 15 minutes! This homemade classic enchilada sauce recipe is quick and tastes so much better than the can.

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins

Servings: 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cans tomato sauce (15 ounce cans)
  • 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.

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: 13kcalCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 2g

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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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  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

  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!