Homemade Enchilada Sauce

This easy homemade enchilada sauce takes just a few minutes to make, and tastes worlds better than anything you can buy in a can.

This easy homemade enchilada sauce takes just a few minutes to make, and tastes worlds better than anything you can buy in a can.

You know how much we love eating Mexican food around my house, right?  I mean, nearly every recipe I posted last week was Mexican-inspired.  Oops?

If you’re not a Mexican food fan (??), try searching my main dish recipe index for some other ideas.  And never fear, Wednesday we’re talking double chocolate muffins.  Skinny double chocolate muffins.

But today we’re talking Homemade Enchilada Sauce.  Now, before we get too far into this…yes.  I know that authentic red enchilada sauce doesn’t actually contain tomato sauce, and instead gets its flavor from guajillo and/or ancho chili peppers.  Here’s the deal, though.  I needed a version that did not require a trip to the specialty foods market {these peppers are difficult for me to find at my local grocer}, was fast and easy for work nights, and got the thumbs-up from my 6-year old.

This version was it.

This easy homemade enchilada sauce takes just a few minutes to make, and tastes worlds better than anything you can buy in a can.

I can make this sauce with staple ingredients from my pantry in less than 20 minutes, and it tastes a million times better than the canned version I get from the store.  Plus, I know exactly what it contains.


What’s your favorite enchilada recipe?  If you’ve got some, link ’em up below!

This easy homemade enchilada sauce takes just a few minutes to make, and tastes worlds better than anything you can buy in a can.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce
Serves: makes about 2 cups
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion and cook until just browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chili powder, cumin, salt and oregano and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Sauteing your spices for a few seconds will give your sauce a fuller flavor.
  2. Add in the tomato sauce and chicken stock. Bring mixture to a simmer and cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove from heat, and strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer, pressing on the onion to extract the sauce. If I am making enchiladas or something similar, I'll add the reserved onions to my filling. You may discard the onion if you wish.
  4. Keep refrigerated for up to one week. Makes approximately 2 cups.
adapted from Cook's Illustrated Cookbook

XO, Ashley


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  1. Was wondering if you could puree the whole mixture instead of straining the onions out when it is finished cooking? And have you ever tried canning your enchilada sauce? Can’t wait to try it! Do you have a recipe for green enchilada sauce?

    • Hi Meleani – I haven’t tried pureeing the whole mixture but I don’t see why that wouldn’t work! I strain mine simply because my kiddo hates onions, but I still like to have the flavor in my sauce. 🙂 I have not canned this, but it will freeze well.

      Don’t have a recipe for green sauce yet, but it’s on my list to post soon! Thanks for stopping by!

    • I used a can of diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce and just used a hand blender to puree the entire mixture while still in the saucepan – worked wonderfully and the flavor is fabulous!

  2. Pinned! Can’t wait to try it out!

  3. A Mexican friend taught me how they make Enchilada Sauce, in Juchipilla, Zacatecas.

    Pull stems and seeds out of dried Ancho Chiles. (I can find them in a clear cellophane bag at WalMart or Price Chopper.) Soak in water for a few hours, to rehydrate. (I put them in a Ziplock Bag, fill with water, and seal airtight so that the chiles are submerged totally in the water. When they have softened, put the chiles and water into a blender, and process until it is all liquid. If it is too watery, add 1 or 2 slices of bread, pulled into shreds, as the blender is running – this will thicken the sauce. Then, over medium heat, put a little bit of oil (or lard) into a saucepan large enough to hold all the mixture. “Fry” (Mexican term) for a few minutes to cook the chiles.

    To use, the Mexican authentic way to make an enchilada is to, dip a corn tortilla in the sauce, cook in a little bit of melted lard for about a minute, flip, cook for another 30 seconds or so, and place on a cookie sheet to cool. Fill the tortillas with your filling, roll up, and put into a baking pan, seam side down. Pour any remaining sauce over the enchiladas, cover with shredded cheese, and bake until all is hot and bubbly.

    This is so much better tasting than any canned version I have tasted. And it’s so quick and easy to make (about 15 minutes after they are soft). I bought a can of Enchilada Sauce once, and it was horrible tasting – nothing like what I make.

    The last time I cooked a Mexican dinner, for about 200 people, I skipped frying the dipped tortillas in the lard. I simply dipped the tortillas in the sauce, filled them, and rolled them up. They aren’t quite as tasty as the authentic version, but they are a lot more healthy? Maybe not. Chef Michael Symon says that cooking with lard is actually healthy. We all know that all natural fats, like butter, and lard can be processed by our bodies, versus the trans fats made from homogenized oils (margarine and oleo). They are foreign to our bodies, which don’t know how to process them.

    I make these Enchiladas with homemade Frijoles, and a baked Mexican Rice. YUM!!!!!

  4. Green Sauce, or “Salsa Verde”, is made with fresh Tomatillos. Most stores carry them now, but once, when I found them, they were labeled “hot chiles”. Funny that the produce person didn’t know what they were. Some people think they are green tomatoes, but they are not even related to a tomato.

    Peel off sticky husk and rinse under water. You can steam them, or microwave them, until the skins split. Put them in a blender, and process. Now you have Salsa Verde.

    When I catered a Mexican dinner at the local college, one of the attendees came out in the kitchen after the dinner. She was expecting to see a Hispanic cook, and was surprised that an American, in northern New York (I’m in the Thousand Islands on the Canadian border), had cooked such an authentic Mexican dinner. She especially commented on the Salsa Verde I put on the tables as a condiment. I told her I had good teachers when I lived in California. She also commented on the homemade tortillas, and was surprised I had a tortilla press. I hadn’t used anything out of a can, and everything was homemade (except for the cheese and some of the filling ingredients).

  5. My mother always made her own enchilada sauce and it is one of my favorite “food memories!” Thanks for the recipe.

  6. I’m totally guilty of buying canned enchiladas sauce. But your recipe looks so easy!! I’m totally going your route for my next Mexican Fiesta! (so probably tomorrow!) 🙂 #ilovemexicanfood
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  7. I just made enchiladas, with the storebought kind :/ I could have totally used this recipe!! Next time 🙂
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  8. I’m sorry to say, this is no where near an authentic mexican enchilada sauce. This is tex-mex. I’m mexican, live in mexico many great cooks in my family and around me. We would never use canned tomato sauce for ANY sauce. No chile powder. We use many varieties of dried chiles, and techniques to achieve a certain type of flavor. This is not mexican!

    • Vera,
      I was wondering how you would make enchiladas. I am in need of a good authentic recipe.

    • She knows that and this recipe is for those who can’t find the chiles. If you read the post, she says she can’t always find them at her local grocer. I love this recipe. It’s a quick fix and I use it whenever I am craving enchiladas. I come from Cali and used to eat authentic Mexican food since my sis in law was from there but now that I live in Europe, say good bye to finding any type of authentic Mexican food item.

      If you need a quick fix, then this is the recipe!

  9. Hi! I’m a vegetarian and was wondering if I could replace the chicken stock for vegetable or would it change the flavor too much?

  10. Sorry you can’t find the dried variety of chiles where live (and it is chiles not chilis). I have never had trouble finding the dried variety anywhere. Of course you are so right. This is not enchilada sauce at all, given the tomato sauce, but I’m sure its tasty. Actually real enchilada sauce is either green or red depending on which chiles you use. Locals probably use more green sauce than red frankly. I’m from New Mexico, and we kinda know our enchiladas…lol..

  11. I just made this for dinner and it was GREAT! Thanks for the recipe!

  12. Used a can of diced fire roasted tomatoes instead of the tomato sauce. Used 1/2 San aAntonio chili powder and 1/2 Chipotle chili powder for an extra kick. After simmering I put it in the blender and puréed. I am using it for my enchilada recipe in the crock pot. DELISH.

  13. Patricia says:

    Made this last night, soo tasty and good! This my new go to homemade enchilada sauce. I had been using a different recipe, but so glad I found this one and decided to try it. Def worth a try!

  14. Kristen says:

    This sauce was fantastic thank you for sharing

  15. How lacking would this recipe be if I didn’t have any stock on hand? Would it not be very tasty if I just used water? Thanks for your help.

  16. Love this enchilada sauce recipe! My husband and I just made 22 quarts of it! And canned them! He accidentally doubled the salt in the last batch so we ended up having to double everything to correct it 🙂 we also added jalapenos and cayenne pepper. Thanks so much for the recipe!

    • Mallory, I sureh hope you get this. I would love to know how you canned this recipe. Did you use a water bath or pressure canner. How long was your processing time and/or pressure and processing time? I know it’s been a year since you posted this but if you see this I would sure appreciate a reply. Thanks.

    • Michelle says:

      Please share how you canned this recipe!

      Thank you

  17. Can’t thank you for the healthy recipe. It’s Friday night, tired and just deboned the leftover chicken from last night. No enchilada sauce in the pantry and was not up to a last minute run to the store. This was just the thing. I don’t care how authentic or not…..it’s great! 🙂

  18. Cindy Blair says:

    For those who have asked, I have canned this and it works great! I don’t buy canned red sauce anymore. This is much more flavorful and without all the salt! I can 6-7 pints at a time so I always have it ready when needed!

    • Cindy, do you mean you just sealed it in a mason jar and stuck it in the cabinet? The chicken stock won’t go back once opened? How long will it keep? Thanks!

  19. This looks to die for! One question: how long will it keep in the freezer? Thanks!

  20. Yum! Thank you so much for this recipe! I am making this recipe (http://www.favfamilyrecipes.com/cafe-rio-sweet-pork.html) and needed enchilada sauce. I found you on Pinterest. With 4 kids at home, I REALLY didn’t want to run to the store for a “quick” trip. My sauce turned out delicious!

  21. Michelle says:

    Please share the canning recipe!

    Thank you,

  22. Crystal says:

    Ashley, I love this recipe. Thanks so much for sharing. I made it but quadrupled the recipe (and tweaked it a bit) and canned it and sold the jars at a craft fair! Everyone loved it. I did do a hot water bath for 30 minutes as well. The 250ml jars are the perfect size for an enchilada recipe.

    • Sherrey Roberts says:

      I am afraid that this low acid, Tomato Enchilada Sauce recipe, as it is written, CANNOT be preserved simply using a water bath! In a high pH environment, botulism can grow, so to safely preserve this sauce, once bottled, it must only be processed using a pressure canner , using the recommended pressure, and time, depending on the size of the jars used. Pressure canners raise the internal temperature of the jars to temperatures of approximately 116C (240 F) which is then high enough to kill off any botulism spores that may exist in the sauce. You should consult similar sauce recipes that have been tested using a pressure canner, to determine the correct processing time and pressure. If you did not change the pH of this sauce before preserving it using a waterbath, this sauce was, unfortunately, unsafely preserved. I hope those who purchased this Enchilada Sauce from you at the Craft Fair do not become severely ill due to the improper canning method chosen! As well, I hope none of them further increased their risk of illness by choosing to store this sauce for an extended period of time, before using it! If possible, it would be advisable to contact the purchasers of this sauce, to encourage them to discard all jars that they may still have, and to not take the risk of consuming it.

  23. This recipe is fantastic! I almost never made enchiladas because I never loved the canned sauces but this is SO easy to make, my freezer is filled with awesome enchiladas!
    Also, for those in my extended family who are onion and garlic intolerant, I make it without and it still comes out fabulous! This one is definitely bookmarked for repeated use!

  24. Thank you so much for this recipe! I’m a Cali girl living in Europe and forget about finding anything related to mexican food that isn’t crazy expensive!! Enchiladas are my absolute favorite and when I need my fix, this is it!!! Everything is easy to find! After reading some comments, this recipe is for those who can’t find chiles to make our own sauce. This is great! Thank you so much! I’ve made it several times already and just freeze the leftover sauce and pop it out to defrost when I have that craving again!!

  25. I made this sauce last night and my husband just raved about it. It really was over the top delicious! Thanks for sharing

  26. Sherrey Roberts says:

    This looks like a lovely sauce, but since it îs a low acid tomato sauce, the only safe way to can it is to use a pressure cooker. Anything canned in a boiling water bath needs to be high acid (t it has to have a pH of 4.5 or below). If you bottle this, and use a water bath, you are risking botulism, since it can grow in low acid or high pH foods.

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