It only takes 10 minutes and a few basic ingredients to make a Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce that is full of the flavors you’d expect at your favorite Mexican restaurant. But be warned: make this once and you’ll never want to buy over-priced, over-processed enchilada sauce at the store again!

Use this sauce to make the best black bean enchiladas with corn! Easy and delicious!

Spoon hovering a jar of thick homemade red enchilada sauce.

All About Enchilada Sauce

Enchilada sauce, how we love it! A very popular component of Mexican and Tex-Mex recipes, of course most prominently enchiladas, enchilada sauce can either be red or green in color. We’re talking all about red enchilada sauce here, which can also be called salsa roja or mole rojo.

What is red enchilada sauce made from?

Red enchilada sauce is typically made with a roux of oil and flour, which is then mixed with Mexican peppers or ground spices and broth. Its rich red color typically comes from the the red chiles and powders that are added to the sauce, but can be deepened by adding tomato, as well.

Of course you can buy canned enchilada from the store, but I promise, once you go the homemade route, you won’t look back.

The Case for Homemade

If you like to make food from scratch and simplify meal prep at the same time, a key trick is to make sauces in advance that can be stored in the fridge or freezer until meal time.

Many sauces and condiments can be made in just 15 or 20 minutes – easy enough to do a few days in advance, especially if most of that is inactive time, but long enough that making the sauce and then assembling dinner is not always an option on a busy night. No wonder store-bought jarred sauces are so popular!

Unfortunately, those same jarred sauces usually contain a lot of added sugar, sodium, preservatives, and who knows what else. So, while I don’t shy away from using them in a pinch, it feels so good to be able to make your own versions easily at home, know exactly what’s in them, be able to easily adjust the flavor profile or how spicy it is to your own preferences, and feel the pride of putting something totally homemade on the table.

This enchilada sauce is one of my MVPs for all of those reasons. It’s simple, from scratch, and delicious!

Ingredients & Common Substitutions

Prep bowls filled with chicken broth, flour, vegetable oil, chili powder, garlic powder, oregano, cumin, and salt.

Here are a few notes and shopping tips about the ingredients you’ll need to make homemade red enchilada sauce, as well as possible substitutions. Most of these are probably in your pantry right now!

  • Chili powder: Adds heat! You can adjust the amount to suit your personal taste and spice tolerance, and be alert to the general spice level of your chili powder. I have found that if I’m using standard McCormick chili powder, I want the full three tablespoons. If I’m using more of a specialty chili powder with more intense depth of flavor, I often reduce the amount by as much as one full tablespoon.
  • Dried cumin and oregano: Use dried, powdered cumin and dried flakes of oregano as these dissolve easily and quickly.
  • Garlic powder: Adds extra flavor to the sauce. Powdered garlic works better with this recipe because it will dissolve easily as opposed to minced or crushed garlic.
  • Salt: To taste.
  • Oil: Regular vegetable or canola oil work well in this recipe. Other neutral flavored oils such as sunflower or olive oil are also OK.
  • Flour: You can substitute with your favorite gluten-free flour for a gluten-free enchilada sauce!
  • Chicken broth: Low sodium broth is preferred, and yes, you can substitute vegetable broth to make the sauce vegan or vegetarian-friendly!

How To Make Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

This sauce comes together very quickly, so all ingredients need to be prepped and ready to go.

First, mix all your spices together in a prep bowl or small dish and set aside. 

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium high heat, then whisk the flour into the oil until the mixture is smooth and thick. This forms a roux and should take about a minute.

Stir in the seasonings, then slowly whisk in the broth. Allow the mixture to bubble, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is thickened. The best way to test its consistency? Dip a spoon into the sauce and lift it back up — the sauce should lightly coat the back of the spoon and drip off slowly.

My Number One Tip

Using fresh, quality spices imparts tons of flavor. Not sure how old your spices your are? Use the sniff test! Fresh spices should have a bright, bold aroma. In the wise words of Food52, if they don’t smell like much, they won’t taste like much, either.

Why is my enchilada sauce bitter?

If you taste your enchilada sauce and find it has a bitter or sour aftertaste, this could be simply due to the acidity of the peppers or tomato, if added. Not to worry. Mix in agave syrup or brown sugar, starting with 1/2 teaspoon and adding more until the taste is evened out to your liking.

Variations

  • More Tomato Flavor: Add 2-3 tablespoons tomato sauce to the oil and flour mixture before adding the rest of the seasonings. You can also add tomato paste; in this case, add an extra 2-3 tablespoons of broth to thin out the sauce.
  • Smoky Flavor: Add 1-2 teaspoons ground chipotle chili powder along with the other spices.
  • More Heat: Add a pinch of cayenne pepper along with the other seasonings.
  • Kick up the Fresh Factor: Add a handful of chopped fresh tomatoes and/or cook a small amount of chopped onion in the oil before adding the rest of the ingredients if you want a slightly chunky sauce!
  • Make it Vegan: Use your favorite vegan-certified vegetable broth or stock.
  • Make it Gluten-Free: Use your favorite 1-to-1 gluten-free flour.

Storage and Freezing Tips

This enchilada sauce is easy to store, so I highly recommend making a double batch to keep on hand for future last-minute meals! It’s amazing with any chicken, beef, or vegetarian enchilada or enchilada casserole recipe you love.

  • Short-Term Storage: First let your sauce cool completely to room temperature. If using within about 5 days, store in an air-tight lidded jar or plastic container in the refrigerator.
  • Long-Term Storage: This sauce can be frozen for 3-4 months, but a few tips go a long way to ensuring success. First, be sure to store in a container that leaves room for the sauce to expand as it freezes. Do not fill all the way to the top! Then, defrost the right way…
  • How to Defrost: For best results, allow frozen enchilada sauce to defrost in the refrigerator for about 24 hours prior to using, then warm it up slowly in a saucepan over low-medium heat. It may separate a bit at first, but whisking occasionally as the sauce warms will return it to a perfect consistency.
  • Sauce Too Thick?: If your rewarmed enchilada sauce becomes overly thick, not to worry! Simply whisk in a bit more chicken broth, or water in a pinch, and it will thin it out again.
Mason jar filled with homemade red enchilada sauce.

More Homemade Sauces

More Mexican Recipes

If you try this Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. I love hearing how recipes turn out in your kitchen, and it helps other readers, too.

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Spoon hovering a jar of thick homemade red enchilada sauce.
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Homemade Enchilada Sauce

It only takes 10 minutes and a few basic ingredients to make a Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce that is full of the flavors you'd expect at your favorite Mexican restaurant. But be warned: make this once and you'll never want to buy over-priced, over-processed enchilada sauce at the store again!

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth low-sodium preferred

Instructions

  • Before you get started, combine all the seasonings–chili powder through oregano–in a small bowl or prep dish. (The sauce comes together quickly and you'll want to have the spices all ready to go.)
  • Warm oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, then whisk in the flour until smooth and thick, approximately 1 minute.
  • Stir in the seasonings, then gradually whisk in chicken broth. Allow to bubble, then reduce heat and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes, whisking occasionally, until the sauce is a deep red and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Use immediately, refrigerate for 3-4 days, or freeze for 3-4 months!

Notes

  • Variations
    • More Tomato Flavor: Add 2-3 tablespoons tomato sauce to the oil and flour mixture before adding the rest of the seasonings. You can also add tomato paste; in this case, add an extra 2-3 tablespoons of broth to thin out the sauce.
    • Smoky Flavor: Add 1-2 teaspoons ground chipotle chili powder along with the other spices.
    • More Heat: Add a pinch of cayenne pepper along with the other seasonings.
    • Kick up the Fresh Factor: Add a handful of chopped fresh tomatoes and/or cook a small amount of chopped onion in the oil before adding the rest of the ingredients if you want a slightly chunky sauce!
    • Make it Vegan: Use your favorite vegan-certified vegetable broth or stock.
    • Make it Gluten-Free: Use your favorite 1-to-1 gluten-free flour.
  • Storage and Freezing Tips
    • Short-Term: First let your sauce cool completely to room temperature. If using within about 5 days, store in an air-tight lidded jar or plastic container in the refrigerator.
    • Long-Term: This sauce can be frozen for 3-4 months, but a few tips go a long way to ensuring success. First, be sure to store in a container that leaves room for the sauce to expand as it freezes. Do not fill all the way to the top!
    • To Defrost: For best results, allow frozen enchilada sauce to defrost in the refrigerator for about 24 hours prior to using, then warm it up slowly in a saucepan over low-medium heat. It may separate a bit at first, but whisking occasionally as the sauce warms will return it to a perfect consistency.
  • Sauce Too Thick? Whisk in a bit more chicken broth, or water in a pinch, and it will thin it out again.
  • Sauce Too Bitter? Add agave syrup or brown sugar, beginning with 1/2 teaspoon and adding more until the taste is to your liking.
  • Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven.

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 311kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 24g, Saturated Fat: 17g, Sodium: 916mg, Potassium: 532mg, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 4745IU, Calcium: 62mg, Iron: 4.1mg
Did you make this recipe?Leave a review below, then snap a quick picture and tag @nourishandfete on Instagram so I can see it!

This post was originally published April 19, 2018. It is now updated with new photos and helpful information on enchilada sauce variations, storage, and usage.