Red enchilada sauce is the heart of many traditional Mexican dishes, infusing them with its distinctive, robust flavor. Originating from the Aztec era, this sauce has evolved but always remained a staple in Mexican cuisine. Its versatility and rich taste make it a favorite among food lovers.

red enchilada sauce recipe

Ingredients You'll Need

  • 4 dried Ancho chilies
  • 2 dried Guajillo chilies
  • 3 cups water, for boiling
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • Substitutes: If Ancho or Guajillo chilies are unavailable, feel free to use any dried red chilies available to you, adjusting the quantity for desired spice levels.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare the Chilies: Begin by removing the stems and seeds from the dried chilies. Place them in a large bowl and cover them with boiling water. Allow them to soak for about 30 minutes until they soften.
  2. Cook the Vegetables: While the chilies are soaking, heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until they are translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute, stirring frequently.
  3. Blend the Sauce: Drain the chilies, reserving the soaking liquid. Place the softened chilies, cooked onions and garlic, cumin, oregano, and salt in a blender. Add one cup of the reserved soaking liquid and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add more soaking liquid until you achieve a pourable consistency.
  4. Cook the Sauce: Heat the same skillet over medium heat and add the flour, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes to cook the flour without browning it. Gradually whisk in the chicken or vegetable broth, followed by the blended chili mixture. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Adjust Seasonings: Taste the sauce and adjust the salt or seasonings as desired.

Tips for a Perfect Sauce

  • Strain the Sauce: For an ultra-smooth consistency, strain the sauce through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any bits of skin or seeds.
  • Adjust the Heat: Control the spiciness of your sauce by varying the type and amount of chilies used. Remember, the seeds and membranes are the hottest parts, so remove them if you prefer a milder sauce.
  • Use Fresh Spices: For the best flavor, use freshly ground cumin and dried oregano.

Serving Suggestions

  • Enchiladas: Use the sauce to make traditional enchiladas by dipping corn tortillas in the sauce, filling them with your choice of ingredients, rolling them up, and then baking with extra sauce and cheese on top.
  • As a Dip: This sauce also makes a great dip for chips or a topping for eggs and other breakfast dishes.

Storage and Shelf Life

Your homemade red enchilada sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for up to three months. Thaw in the refrigerator and reheat on the stove or in the microwave, adding a little broth if necessary to reach the desired consistency.


Creating your own red enchilada sauce at home is a rewarding experience that brings the authentic flavors of Mexican cuisine into your kitchen. Don't hesitate to experiment with different chilies and spices to make it uniquely yours. Enjoy the process and the delicious results!

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