This authentic enchilada sauce is made from scratch using dried Mexican chilies and hearty spices. Use it to make your favorite enchilada recipe or as a base condiment for other preparations!

Enchilada sauce is a rich and flavorful sauce commonly used in Mexican cuisine, specifically for making enchiladas. It is a key component in traditional chicken enchiladas rojas and adds a delicious and distinctive taste to the dish.

The authentic enchilada sauce is made with a combination of dried chilies and spices, such as chile guajillo, chile pasilla, and chile ancho. The chili peppers are rehydrated before being blended with the other ingredients.

Homemade red enchilada sauce is not only to make enchiladas but also for other types of dishes such as pambazos and pork tamales. It adds too much flavor!

Mexican authentic enchilada sauce in two jars with chilies and spices scattered around.
Look at that beautiful color of this authentic enchilada sauce!

Ingredients

  • Chiles: The authentic enchilada sauce recipe calls for guajillo chiles and chiles pasilla, both dried peppers are easily found at Mexican grocery stores or on Amazon.
  • Garlic: Use fresh garlic cloves.
  • Herbs & spices: Oregano, black peppercorns, bay leaves, and cumin seeds. If you don’t have whole spices, substitute with the powdered version.
  • Salt: Use any type you prefer.

Utensils

  • Bowl.
  • Blender.
Ingredients for authentic enchilada sauce on a marble countertop with names overlay.

How To Make Authentic Enchilada Sauce

Clean the chilies with a damp kitchen towel to remove any dust they may have.

Using kitchen shears or a small sharp knife, carefully remove the stems from the dried chiles. Cut a small slit down the length of each chili and gently shake or scrape out the seeds and any loose membranes.

Mexican dried chilies with stems, seeds, and membranes removed on a marble surface.

Place about 3 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

Place chilies into a bowl and pour over the hot water, ensuring they are fully submerged.

TOP TIP: Place a fork or bowl on top of the chiles to keep them submerged if necessary.

Mexican chilies soaking in a bowl with hot water.

Let the chilies soak for about 15-20 minutes, or until they become nicely soft and pliable.

Remove the chiles from the water and place them in a blender along with garlic, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, bay leaves, oregano, and salt.

Add 2 cups of water and blend until you’ll have a smooth sauce.

Strain the red sauce into a pot or saucepan through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth to remove any remaining bits of skin or seeds.

Use a spoon or a spatula to help the sauce go through the sieve.

Straining the red enchilada sauce into a pan.

Transfer the sauce to a saucepan or small pot and simmer over medium-high heat until it has your desired consistency. Adjust salt to taste and turn off the heat.

Your authentic enchilada sauce is ready! Read below my suggestions for using it in some recipes and storing it.

Expert Tips & Notes

  • Look for guajillo and pasilla peppers that are flexible and pliable, if the peppers feel brittle or break easily, they probably are too old.
  • When cleaning the chilies, wear gloves to avoid irritation on your hands.
  • You can also toast the chili peppers to enhance their flavor. Heat a dry skillet or griddle over medium heat and place the chiles on it. Press them gently with a spatula and toast for about 15-30 seconds on each side until they become pliable and release their aroma. Be careful not to burn them, as it can make the sauce bitter.
  • If you want a milder sauce, mix in 1 or 2 cups of tomato sauce or 3 tablespoons of tomato paste. It will balance and tone down the spiciness of the Mexican peppers.
  • You can add other ingredients to customize your homemade sauce to your liking. Think of chipotle peppers for smokiness or even a bit of chocolate for depth and richness.
  • If you can’t find pasilla chilies, use chile ancho or just leave out this ingredient. Authentic enchilada sauce is also made only with guajillo chilies and it has a bright red color.
  • You can use powdered spices such as garlic powder, ground cumin, etc.

How To Use Mexican Enchilada Sauce

The authentic enchilada sauce is a versatile and delicious component of Mexican cuisine, adding depth and complexity to the dish.

Here are my favorite ways for using this homemade enchilada sauce in Mexican traditional dishes:

  • Enchiladas: A must to make for flat enchiladas sonorenses.
  • Chilaquiles: Make chilaquiles rojos, by simply heating up the sauce in a pan, adding the tortilla chips, and cooking until they soften slightly. Serve with cheese and cream.
  • Soups & stews: Use it to make a traditional sopa de tortilla, an enchilada soup, or delicious pozole rojo.
  • Marinade: Simply coat your favorite protein or vegetables and allow them to marinate for a couple of hours, the wonderful and aromatic sauce will infuse them and add tons of flavor! This is the sauce I use to marinate my Mexican turkey when I am in a hurry.

Store

This authentic enchilada sauce lasts for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Make sure the sauce has reached room temperature and then transfer to an air-tight container before storing.

You can also freeze it for months! This is why I love this easy recipe. I simply make a double or triple batch and divide it into resealable bags or freezer-proof containers.

I usually label them with the preparation date and store them for up to 3-4 months.

When I want to use it, I just thaw the sauce on my kitchen countertop and that’s it! Homemade salsa for enchiladas ready to use!

FAQ

What is a traditional enchilada sauce made of?

A traditional Mexican enchilada sauce is made of dried chilies, garlic, herbs, and spices. In Mexico, the recipe will never include, chili powder, flour, or other thickened agents as the chilies are enough to add texture to the sauce.

What is the secret to good enchiladas?

The sauce! Really. Just make a good batch of homemade Mexican sauce for enchiladas and you’ll have an outstanding dish.

More Mexican Sauces Recipes

This is really the best authentic enchilada sauce recipe you can make. My family owned a small eatery when I was a kid and this is how they always made it, so I hope you give it a try!

Also, don’t forget to follow this blog on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and YouTube for daily inspiration, helpful tips, and new recipes.

Video

Mexican authentic enchilada sauce recipe.

Authentic Enchilada Sauce

3 cups
An authentic enchilada sauce made from scratch with dried Mexican chilies and spices. Use it to make your favorite enchilada recipe or as a base condiment for soups, stews, and chilaquiles!
prep 10 minutes
cook 5 minutes
Soaking time 10 minutes
total 25 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 8 guajillo chilies (stems, seeds, and membranes removed)
  • 2 pasilla chilies (stems, seeds, and membranes removed)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ Tablespoon oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt

Instructions
 

  • Place about 3 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  • Place dried chilies into a bowl and pour over the hot water, ensuring they are fully submerged.
  • Let the chilies soak for about 15-20 minutes, or until they become nicely soft and pliable.
  • Remove the chiles from the water and place them in a blender along with garlic, cumin seeds, black peppercorns, bay leaves, oregano, and salt.
  • Add 2 cups of water and blend until you’ll have a smooth sauce.
  • Strain the enchilada sauce through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth to remove any remaining bits of skin or seeds.
  • Transfer the sauce to a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it has your desired consistency. Adjust salt to taste and turn off the heat.
  • You can use now the enchilada sauce right away or store it for later (read notes).

Notes

  • Look for guajillo and pasilla peppers that are flexible and pliable, if the peppers feel brittle or break easily, they probably are too old.
  • You can use only guajillo peppers. Or you can substitute pasilla chilies with chile ancho.
  • Place a fork or bowl on top of the chiles to keep them submerged in the hot water, so they will soak evenly.
  • You can add other ingredients to customize your homemade sauce to your liking. Think of chipotle peppers for smokiness or even a bit of chocolate for depth and richness.
  • This enchilada sauce stores well in the refrigerator in an airtight container or a glass for up to 1 week. It can also be stored in the freezer for 3-4 months.
Nutrition Information
Serving: 1 cup | Calories: 57kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Sodium: 92mg | Potassium: 323mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 4172IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 36mg | Iron: 2mg
rate this recipeScroll down and leave a comment with stars!

Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.

Join now my email list  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




14 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This authentic enchilada sauce? A game-changer in my kitchen! Made from dried chilies and spices, it adds a rich, homemade touch to my enchiladas. The depth of flavors enhances my favorite recipes. A must-have for any Mexican dish I prepare!

  2. 5 stars
    This is an excellent sauce as is, but I have a question. I have a rather large bag of dried Hatch chilies can I substitute these for either of the chilies in the recipe or can I do a combo of all three. Don’t want to ruin a good thing but I need to use these Hatch chilies up. Thank you

    1. Hi Dawn, if you’re talking about the dried red version of hatch chilies, yes, you can use them to make enchilada sauce. Actually, hatch chilies are a good substitute for guajillo! Make sure you soak them in hot water so they will blend easily.

  3. 5 stars
    Excited to try making enchilada sauce from scratch! Wondering if the anaheim peppers I have at home will help to balance the heat without compromising the flavor. Mari, your recipe is nicely detailed and because of that you deserve 5 stars! Now I am hoping to create a versatile sauce for various dishes. Fingers crossed for a lip-smacking result!

  4. I have always used this receipe, love it! However, it used to have a tex-mex version that uses powder instead of dried chilis?

    1. Hi Holly, you’re right and I apologize for the inconvenience. We decided to remove the tex-mex version from this post. You’ll find the recipe for that sauce in another post soon. If you drop me an email from the contact page I can inform you as soon as it’s done!

  5. 5 stars
    I was looking for a recipe like this, thank you for sharing! I can’t wait to try it soon!

  6. 5 stars
    I love how easy was to prepare this enchilada sauce! And perfect amount of heat for us! We used it for chicken enchiladas

  7. 5 stars
    This enchilada sauce was so tasty and rivaled my favorite Mexican restaurant! I’m never going back to store bought enchilada sauce again!

  8. 5 stars
    Around where I live, you can’t get enchilada sauce from the stores, so this was perfect for me! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe :)

  9. 5 stars
    This is really the best and authentic enchilada sauce you can find out there! It was spicy but not overlay thanks to the instructions of removing not only the seeds but also the membranes! A game-changer tip <3

  10. 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.