This homemade red enchilada sauce is the best! It’s a mix of dried chiles plus Mexican spices for an authentic taste that’s quick and easy to make, and perfect enchilada sauce for enchiladas, chilaquiles, soups and more.
I’m right there with you when it comes to that last minute rush to get dinner on the table. Those time when it seems it’s all you can muster is to toss some cheese in the middle of a few tortillas, pull a can of enchilada sauce from the pantry, break out the can opener, pour, and bake, and a pretty okay dinner is served.
But then there are the times when you want more flavor than an aluminum can can deliver. That’s when you plan ahead with a few long-lasting pantry staples and are STILL able to fix a fast dinner.
This authentic red enchilada sauce makes all the difference in homemade enchiladas. I’ve seen quite a few recipes that use flour and oil to create a roux for the base and then add tomato paste that then ends up tasting more like a spicy tomato sauce rather than a vivid enchilada sauce.
This recipe, however, calls for dried chiles that have been reconstituted and blended as the main part of the base for that real chile flavor.
Prepped ahead, this sauce is just as fast to use when you have it on hand. And it’s just as easy to prepare. And even better, it’s muy auténtico!
What’s in This Easy Enchilada Sauce?
This homemade enchilada sauce recipe calls for dehydrated New Mexico chiles and guajillo chiles that have been dried, along with a few tomatoes, onion, a bit of garlic, traditional Mexican spices of oregano and cumin. To deepen the flavor I add smoked paprika.
Dried chiles last forever in the pantry, making this sauce a super way to add flavor to many delicious recipes.
- dry guajillo chiles
- dry New Mexico chiles
- cinnamon stick
- vegetable oil
- yellow onion
- kosher salt
- dried oregano
- smoked paprika
- ground cumin
How to Make Enchilada Sauce Quick
Reconstitute the chiles. The chiles are softened in boiling water and simmered for about 30 minutes. Don’t forget to save the cooking liquid (discarding the cinnamon sticks if using) to add to the sauce after blending the whole chiles with the sautéed onion, garlic, tomatoes, and spices.
Blend the chiles, then strain the sauce. Discard any extra seeds or pieces of skin that didn’t blend smoothly. Taste and adjust the seasonings and amount of salt to your liking. At this stage you add more water to create the consistency you desire.
The final step, and most important is to fry the sauce. It’s a quick step but one you do NOT want to skip if you want to develop that rich, deep flavor that this homemade sauce delivers. Be careful as the oil will splatter, so work carefully.
Can I Double This Recipe?
Yes, you should definitely consider making a double batch of this red enchilada sauce to have on hand for easier enchiladas, burritos, chilaquiles, casseroles—you name it!
Can I Freeze Enchilada Sauce?
Very easily! To freeze this homemade enchilada sauce, first let it cool completely and then transfer it to glass jars or freezer bags. If using freezer bags, lay them flat in your freezer. Once hardened, you can store the enchilada sauce standing up and it takes up less room.
When you’re ready to eat the frozen authentic enchilada sauce, simply pop it into your fridge overnight to thaw. Or, reheat the sauce in a saucepan.
My Favorite Ways to Use Enchilada Sauce
Now that you’ve made a big batch of homemade enchilada sauce, the culinary world is at your fingertips. Here are a few of my all-time favorite ways to use this authentic enchilada sauce:
- Beef and Butternut Squash Enchiladas
- Easy Chilaquiles with Eggs
- Stacked Breakfast Enchiladas
- Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup
- Killer Beef And Three Bean Chili
- Mexican Turkey Meatball Sandwiches with Avocado Smash
Tips for Making the Best Enchilada Sauce
Cook the vegetables until soft, not browned. When cooking the onions and other veggies, cook just until softened so your homemade enchilada sauce doesn’t have a raw onion or garlic flavor to it.
Smoked paprika adds depth. If you don’t have smoked paprika on hand, I highly recommend investing in a jar. It’s inexpensive and adds so much flavor to this enchilada sauce, plus it can be used in soups, stews, chilis, and more. It doesn’t taste like regular paprika, it’s much more potent.
Be REALLY careful when frying the sauce. Lastly, be really careful when pouring the pureed red enchilada sauce into the oiled skillet. It tends to splatter, and you don’t want to burn yourself or get enchilada sauce on your clothes (it’s impossible to get out).
More Mexican Sauces & Dips You’ll Love
- Pico de Gallo
- Creamy Avocado Salsa Verde
- Mango Salsa
- Hatch Chile Salsa Verde
- Roasted Garlic and Pickled Jalapeño Guacamole
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
The BEST Quick and Easy Authentic Enchilada Sauce
- 3 cups water
- 2 ounces dried guajillo chiles stemmed and seeded
- 1 ounce dried New Mexico chiles stemmed and seeded
- 1 cinnamon stick optional
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil divided
- ¼ cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 medium tomato seeded and chopped
- 1 large garlic clove pressed or minced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- In a heavy saucepan, bring water, chiles and the cinnamon stick (if using) to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until chiles are tender. Drain the chiles, discard the cinnamon stick (if using) and reserve the cooking liquid in a measuring cup and set aside.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato, garlic, salt, oregano, smoked paprika, and cumin and cook for about 5 minutes more.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender and add the chiles plus 2 cups of the cooking liquid and puree until smooth. Strain the sauce through a fine strainer and discard the pulp. Add more cooking liquid to thin the sauce to your liking.
- Heat the remaining oil in the same sauté pan over high heat. Slowly add the sauce being careful to avoid the splatters. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then reduce the heat to low and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to use or freeze flat in gallon freezer bags for up to 3 months.
More Easy Mexican Recipes to Try
- The Best Steak Fajitas
- Easy Shredded Chicken and Zucchini Tacos
- Salsa Verde Chicken Enchilada Casserole
- Just Like Taco Bell Tacos Recipe
- Beyond Easy Chicken Mole Enchiladas
Have a great day, and I hope this recipe inspires you to get into the kitchen and make something good.
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This is wonderful. However, instead of the tomato, I put a can of Fire Roasted Diced Garlic tomatoes with the juice and it was perfect.
Followed directions exactly and now is my new favorite go to red enchilada sauce.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
YAY! Glad it’s a hit!
Well I just tried making this enchilada sauce for the first time and I made a couple mistakes but I really enjoyed making it I’m going to take a pic of it hopefully the next time I make it from scratch it will be a lot better I really love Mexican food a lot .
So glad you enjoyed it Marlene!!
Yes I did I had fun with it and I have a pic of it hedi it looks so good and my mom and husband said it’s was very good next day but I don’t know how to put the pic of it on here.
Even better than I imagined it would be. I ljust VE the addition of the cinnamon. I’ll be making this again.
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
So glad! Thanks Kairle
Hello, I’ve tried this a couple times now and I luv it!
I just had one question, is it really necessary to cook the sauce on low for 4-5 after blending everything together? All of it has been cooked already, what does this extra step do?
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
It thickens the sauce and blends the flavors! You could omit that step but I find it great for flavor.
I am going to forward the recipe to my mom. Ma is the best cook in our house. She loves cooking especially sauces at home.
Made this tonight, I guess I am the only one eating what I made. My kids did not like this at all. It has a weird bitter taste and I followed the recipe to a T. Maybe it’s because I am mexican and wanted a sweeter sauce because that is what my mom made and it was delicious. I wanted to make my own and wow my family. Just didn’t happen. I will have to ask my mil or my mom for their recipe. Maybe can tweak it adding a little of the abuelita chocolate and leaving out the tomato. I am glad I did the hard work… still feel good for trying. Thanks.
Sounds really good. I was wondering if you had a wonderful jalapeno sauce recipe you could share.i tasted one the other day and it was like a light green color. Very tasty!
I keep coming back to this recipe! So good. Been tweaking it a bit. Trying different dried chiles. Sometimes I add a bit of vinegar or lime juice to balance some of the bitterness. Also, the cinnamon stick is not optional IMHO. It’s amazing. Eating leftovers and still getting that hint of warm cinnamon aroma and taste. Really brings it all together. Thanks!
Ashley @ Foodie Crush
That all sounds so great! Thank you
I absolutely loved this recipe, I loved the cinnamon!!! I need to twick it a little bit just because I like a little more spice, but I loved it and I already forwarded it to my Peeps, lol!! I highly recommend it, thank you so much for the recipe, I just love trying new things, I never made my own enchilada sauce, so glad I did,
My father is a Latino Gentleman and we grew up learning Spanish and eating homemade Mexican food. I’ll tell you where Flour Tortillas work for enchiladas. Rotisserie chicken with green enchilada sauce mixed with Alfredo sauce. Top it all off with diced tomatoes, green onions, diced black olives and shredded cheese. I use the Mexican blend from Costco. Absolutely delicious..
How many chilies do you use? Says 2 ounces, is that approx 2 chilies? It would have been better if you said, #of ancho chilies to use instead of ounces.
I was wondering the same thing.how many chili’s are in an ounce..got no reply.
I would say that dried guajillos are probably more like 4 or 5 per ounce. So maybe 8-10 for this recipe? I think the New Mexico chiles have a bit more heat, and their skin is a bit thicker, so when dried they weigh more. So maybe 3 or 4?
I use a cheap kitchen scale for these things. The chiles I get here in California could be much larger or smaller than what you get wherever you are. They could be more or less dry. Same with garlic! If a recipe says 3-4 cloves, I use 1 or 2, because I basically get it days after it’s been harvested here… so it’s much stronger.
What I love about this sauce is that it is chile-based… not tomato or sugar-based like the store-bought stuff. If I were you, I’d try it with more chiles than you think you need, and then go from there. Hope this helps!
The package should say how many ounces are in there. Mine said 4 so I used half the package.
Cynthia L ODonnell
I measured the dried chilis on a food scale and it came to 8 for 2 oz and 4 for 1 oz.
Great recipe! I used ancho, guajillo and few chiles de arbol because it’s what I had on hand and added a little unsweetened cocoa for depth. Turned out wonderful! Thanks for the recipe!
For those with bitter sauce. In New Mexico we usually discard the first round of water used to soften the chili. Additionally, depending on type of chili that you use, remove the seeds which will also remove some of the bitter.
Is there a substitute for dried New Mexico chiles? I cannot find them anywhere.
Where do you live? New Mexico Chile’s are everywhere on the West Coast.
Amazon has both of the types of chilies and the mexican oregano, as well.
U.K. Amazon doesn’t, unfortunately. I’m a Californian living in Scotland, and desperate for good Mexican grub.
I have the other chili, but no New Mexico ones. :/
I think flour tortillas are wonderful with creamy green chili chicken enchiladas and terrible with corn and the opposite is true with red enchiladas, they must be corn. My son calls my green chili chicken enchiladas “Mom’s famous” and are wonderful with Pico de Gallo, sour cream and guacamole. As a teen he would bring his friends for dinner whenever I made them and they were an absolute hit
Made this and it had this strong bitter taste, salt took it away but then it was too salty.
The same thing happened to me. I followed the recipe exactly as written and the end result was extremely bitter. Also it was spicier than what I wanted since I’m making enchiladas for my 13 year old grandson. Looks like I’ll have to make a trip to the grocery store for dome pre-made sauce.
I didn’t care for the taste UNTIL I USED IT ON MY ENCHALADAS!! They were SO SO delicious! AUTHENTIC to the tee!
Made this for the first time and was very bitter and strong. What did I do wrong?
Same here. Was not aware how strong it would be :(