Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

Yummmm- Enchiladas!  I love them.  They are so versatile, you can wrap just about anything up in a tortilla, douse it with a delicious sauce, and you’ll quickly be in heaven.  As you know though, when it comes to enchiladas, the sauce is the boss.  That’s why I always make my own- I control how spicy it is, how rich, and what flavor profile I want.  This recipe for homemade red enchilada sauce isn’t just for enchiladas either.  It’s delicious as a flavor addition to stews, chilis, soups, mixed with crema, cream cheese, or sour cream for a dip- just about anything!

Homemade Enchilada Sauce- it’s all about the chilis

I love smoking and drying my own chilis, but this sauce is easily made with store-bought dried chilis.  The three peppers most used in enchilada sauce are anchos, pasillas, and chilis de arbol.  The anchos and pasillas make the main base flavoring of the sauce.  Chilis de arbol are spicy, so they may be omitted if you want a milder sauce.  For a medium spicy sauce, 3-4 will suffice.  You can make enchilada sauce from chili powder, but I find it’s much richer to make it from the dried peppers.

Rounding out the flavors

The usual suspects go great in enchilada sauce.  Onions, garlic, and tomatoes are perfect additions.  Mexican oregano is great if you can find it, if not, regular will do.  I also use some whole cumin seeds.  Lightly toast them in a dry skillet before grinding, and the flavor is exceptional.  You can use the onions, garlic, and tomatoes raw if you like, but browning them in the oven or even better, grilling them, will add a world of depth and richness.  Lightly toast the chilis before soaking them to help bring out the flavorful oils in them.  This can be done in the oven, a skillet, or on the grill as well.

As always, I hope you enjoy!

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Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

  • Total Time: 50 minutes


While we call this enchilada sauce, it will add flavor to tons of dishes! Use on tacos, in posole rojo, as a flavor enhancer in salsa, and so much more!


  • 3 oz dried guajillo chilis
  • 3 oz dried ancho peppers
  • 34 dried chilis de arbol (optional, they add heat to the dish)
  • 1 red onion (sliced and grilled or roasted)
  • 23 tomatoes (sliced in half and roasted or grilled)
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half, topped with oil, and roasted
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (toasted and ground)
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano (or fresh oregano, chopped)


  1. On a sheet pan, place dried chilis, cut onions, and tomatoes. Cut head of garlic about 3/4 of the way from the bottom. Coat with olive oil, and wrap the bottom in aluminum foil. Lightly coat in olive oil. Roast peppers, onions, and tomatoes at 350 degrees for 20 minutes then remove. Allow garlic to continue roasting for 25 more minutes, or until softened. For a smokier flavor, grill items instead. Allow to cool.
  2. Remove stems, seeds and pith from peppers. Roast in oven or on grill for 4-5 minutes. Bring chicken stock to a boil. In a pot (or the blender) add peppers, then pour boiling stock over them. Allow to sit for 20 minutes to soften, then add onions, tomatoes, and squeeze out roasted garlic. Add cumin and oregano, then puree very finely.
  3. Adjust for salt and pepper, then pour into jar and place in fridge for up to 2 weeks, if you can make it last that long.
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: sauces and glazes
  • Cuisine: Mexican