Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

While Mexican food — particularly food made with chiles — has a reputation for being super spicy, recipe developer Stephanie Rapone says this doesn't have to be the case. With this particular enchilada sauce, she says she was going for something that "really highlights the flavors of the chiles without being spicy." In fact, the two types of dried chiles it is made with (guajillo and ancho) aren't known for their heat levels, but rather their depth of flavor. "If you want a spicier version," Rapone advises, "I would replace 1 ounce of the ancho chiles with árbol chiles."

Apart from the chiles themselves, this sauce involves a couple of other flavor elements. As Rapone tells us, "the cinnamon brings a warmth and complexity to the flavor of the sauce that you can't quite put your finger on." She also adds both honey and vinegar to the sauce, saying this "really rounds out the flavors." While the sauce can certainly be used on enchiladas (Rapone says this recipe makes enough to cover 2 pans' worth), you can also use it in other Mexican or Tex-Mex recipes.

Assemble the enchilada sauce ingredients

In addition to the guajillo and ancho chiles, you'll need an onion and some garlic to make this enchilada sauce, along with a can of peeled tomatoes. As regards the tomatoes, Rapone says "My recommendation is to get whole ones, if you can, but if you can't, diced will do the job, too" since they will get pureed in the blender along with the liquid from the can.

Other sauce ingredients you'll need are oregano, cumin, cinnamon, chicken broth, salt, red wine vinegar, and honey, along with some water for soaking the chiles and thinning the sauce.

Prepare the chiles

In order to make sure that your enchilada sauce is as mild as possible, you'll need to remove the seeds from the peppers. This is easily done; just snip off the ends, then shake out the seeds. Place the chiles in a heatproof container, pour some boiling water of them, then cover the container and let them sit for 30 mintues to soften.

Char the aromatics

Heat a skillet until it's nice and hot (but not pouring out smoke). You're now going to dry-toast the onion and garlic on all sides until the pieces are medium brown in color. Rapone says this should take about 2 minutes per side for the garlic and 5 minutes per side for the onion, so chances are you'll need to remove the garlic from the pan before the onion's done cooking.

Blend the sauce

Combine the softened chiles with the onions, garlic, and everything else remaining on the ingredient list in a blender and blend until it's smooth. The sauce will be pretty thick, so you'll need to thin it out with the liquid left from soaking the chiles — add this ½ cup at a time until the sauce is as thin as you want it to be. Season the sauce with salt to taste.

If you notice that the sauce has little bits of skin or other unblended stuff in it, you can always strain it before pouring it into a jar or other container. Rapone informs us that it can be kept in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, but if you won't be using it up within that time frame, you can always freeze it. As to how to use this sauce (other than on enchiladas), she says "I like to us it as a base sauce for huevos rancheros," or you might enjoy it as part of this Mexican pizza.

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe
5 from 36 ratings
While Mexican food has a reputation for being super spicy, this doesn't have to be the case. In this enchilada sauce, chiles add depth without a lot of heat.
Prep Time
Cook Time
red enchilada sauce in jar
Total time: 40 minutes
  • 2 ounces dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 ounces dried ancho chiles
  • ½ white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 (14 ½-ounce) can peeled tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  1. Cut the ends off the chiles and shake out the seeds. Place in a heatproof container.
  2. Boil boiling water (about 2 cups) over the chiles and cover the container with plastic wrap. Let the chiles steep, undisturbed, for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Toast the onion and garlic in the pan until both are medium brown on all sides – 2 minutes per side for the garlic, 5 minutes per side for the onion.
  4. Blend the softened chiles, onion, garlic (removed from the skin), tomatoes (plus the liquid in the can), chicken broth, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, salt, vinegar, and honey until smooth, adding the soaking liquid from the chiles ½ cup at a time until your sauce is as thin as you'd like.
  5. Season the sauce to taste with additional salt.
  6. If desired, strain the sauce to remove any unblended bits.
Calories per Serving 103
Total Fat 2.1 g
Saturated Fat 0.3 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 1.2 mg
Total Carbohydrates 20.1 g
Dietary Fiber 6.4 g
Total Sugars 9.6 g
Sodium 340.5 mg
Protein 4.0 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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