Red Enchilada Sauce (2 versions)

Learn how to make enchilada sauce with an authentic Mexican recipe and the simplified Tex-Mex version. Both delicious, both perfect to use not only to make your favorite enchiladas but also to prepare other Mexican dishes.

Red enchilada sauce on jars.
A collage with 2 photos of enchilada sauce.

Making enchilada sauce at home is something fairly easy and quick, it only takes about 20 minutes, from start to finish, to make a delicious and smoky batch of this amazing sauce. And the best of all, is that you can make it and freeze it for future uses, saving you lots of time for those busy nights!

About the Mexican version

There are two popular ways of making enchilada sauce. One is for sure my favorite because, well, I am Mexican and I grew up eating this version. This version is made using only Mexican chilies, the most common are guajillo, pasilla, ancho chilies, and of course: chile de árbol; but the choice of chilies change from region to region.

Authentic Mexican enchilada sauce in a blender.

Mexican authentic enchilada sauce is also made with whole spices, such as cumin seeds, black peppercorns, bay leaves, oregano and garlic cloves. This sauce is used not only to make enchiladas but also other types of dishes such as red pozole or pork tamales.

Authentic Mexican enchiladas served with potatoes and carrots.
Mexican authentic enchiladas (Aguascalientes style).

About the Tex-Mex version

The other version for enchilada sauce is a Tex-Mex recipe which is pretty easy to make and yet, so delicious. Surely a nice shortcut for when you need a quick enchilada sauce.

This version is made with a no-spicy chili powder. But, make sure you’re using a blend that has a very small percentage of spicy chilies, otherwise you’ll end with a very hot sauce. I have used many brands and types of chili powder, but my favorite has always been smoked paprika. It really taste as powdered guajillo or pasilla!

Besides from chili powder, the Tex-Mex of enchilada sauce has other differences, such as using powdered spices like cumin, pepper, garlic and onion powder, so they’re more easy to combine.

And last, the base for this sauce and the key for a successful recipe, is the roux: a flour and oil based preparation that helps to thicken the sauce and gives that nice, velvety consistency.

Tex-Mex enchiladas in a baking dish.
Tex-Mex enchiladas

Now that we know the differences between those two versions of red enchilada sauce, lets see how to make them both:

Tex-Mex Enchilada Sauce Recipe

  1. Mix all the spices and chili powder in a single bowl, so it will be easy to add them quickly to the pan. If you add one by one you will risk to burn the flour.
  2. Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk vigorously to combine it with oil and slightly toast it.
  3. Add the chili powder and spices mix to the sauce pan and whisk for a couple of seconds to combine.
  4. Slowly, add the chicken stock while whisking, so prevent lumps forming.
  5. Keep whisking while cooking for 10 minutes or until the enchilada sauce thickens to your desired consistency. Adjust with salt and remove from heat.
Tex-mex enchilada sauce in a pan.

Your enchilada sauce is ready. You can use it straight away or store as suggested below.

TIP: If the sauce is too thick, you can adjust the consistency by adding more chicken stock. Do it gradually, little by little as you don’t want to end with a watery enchilada salsa.

Mexican Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Use scissors to cut the chiles in half lengthwise and discard the seeds. Try to cut also some of the membranes (veins) so your chilies won’t be too spicy.

Mexican chilies cleaned on a marble surface.

Now, place the cleaned chilies in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and let them soak for at least 20 minutes or until the water has almost cooled down. 

Chilies soaking in a bowl.

Drain chilies and place them in a blender with garlic, cumin seeds, peppercorns, bay leaves, oregano and salt. Add 1 cup and half of water and blend until you’ll achieve a smooth sauce.

The chili sauce in a blender, seen from above.

Strain the sauce with a fine sieve into a bowl, use the back of a spoon to help the sauce to go through. Return the pulp of the chilies to the blender and add half a cup of water, blend again for 2-3 minutes, then strain into the bowl aswell. Taste the sauce and adjust with salt.

Your authentic red enchilada sauce is ready. Enjoy!

How To Store

Both sauces can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and both also freeze very well for up to 3 months. You can use freeze-proof containers or bags to divide the sauce in portions.

How To Reheat

  1. To reheat the Mexican authentic enchilada sauce just place it in a sauce pan and heat over medium heat while mixing from time to time.
  2. For the Tex-Mex enchilada sauce you might need a splash of water or chicken stock to reheat it in a sauce pan, as it thickens more after the sauce has cooled down.
Two jars with red enchilada sauce.

Some Variations

  • Add about 3 oz (85g) of dark, unsweetened chocolate while the sauce is cooking for a small “mole-alike” touch.
  • Make it creamy by adding about 1/2 cup of heavy cream, perfect for baked enchiladas.
  • If you chili blend is too spicy, add 1/2 cup of tomato sauce to tone it down.
  • Make it gluten free by using cornstarch instead of flour. Whisk equal parts cornstarch and cold water (about 2 teaspoons) and add it to the sauce when it is simmering.
Enchilada sauce recipe.

Enchilada Sauce (2 ways)

Learn how to make enchilada sauce 2 ways: Authentic from Mexico and the Tex-Mex version. Both delicious and easy to make.
PREP 15 minutes
COOK 15 minutes
TOTAL 30 minutes
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 2 1/2 cups
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

For the Tex-Mex version

  • 4 Tbsp chili powder (read notes)
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 ½ tsp vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 2 ½ cups low sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the Mexican version

  • 6 guajillo chilies
  • 1 pasilla chile (optional)
  • 1 garlic clove (peeled)
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt

Instructions

For the Tex-Mex sauce

  • Mix all the spices and chili powder in a small bowl.
    4 Tbsp chili powder, ½ tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, ¼ tsp ground cumin, ½ tsp dried oregano, ½ teaspoon salt
  • In a medium sauce pan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk vigorously to combine and slightly toast the flour.
    2 ½ tsp vegetable oil, 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • Add the chili powder and spices mix to the pan and whisk for a couple of seconds to combine.
  • Slowly, add the chicken stock while whisking.
    2 ½ cups low sodium chicken stock
  • Keep whisking while cooking for 10 minutes or until the enchilada sauce thickens to your desired consistency.
  • Adjust with salt and remove from heat.

For the authentic Mexican version

  • Cut the chiles in half lengthwise and discard the seeds, veins and stem.
    6 guajillo chilies, 1 pasilla chile
  • Place the chilies in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and let them soak for at least 20 minutes.
  • Drain chilies and place them in a blender with the spices and salt.
  • Add 1 cup and half of water and blend until you’ll have a smooth sauce.
  • Strain the sauce with a fine sieve into a bowl, use the back of a spoon to help the sauce to go through.
  • Return the pulp of the chilies to the blender and add half a cup of water, blend again for 2 minutes, then strain into the bowl.
  • Taste the sauce and adjust with salt.

NOTES

  1. Make sure you’re using a blend that has a very small percentage of spicy chilies, otherwise you’ll end with a very hot sauce.
  2. Nutrition info refers to the Mexican version.
Nutrition
Calories: 92kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 24mg | Potassium: 544mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 7425IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 3mg
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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I am printing this recipe right away! So nice having both versions in one page. I do make my own enchilada sauce aswell, of course, with the american version. Thank you for sharing also the mexican recipe, I’ll try it as soon as I can get me some chilies.