This easy, Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe takes only 15 minutes to make and tastes so much better than storebought brands. It’s an authentic, homemade Mexican red sauce that uses crushed tomatoes, a blend of spices and chiles, and sour cream to create the best enchilada sauce!
Why You’ll Love It
I love this homemade red enchilada sauce recipe for so many reasons!
- Easy. It’s really simple to make and doesn’t require much prep. It doesn’t require roasting chilies, soaking chilies, or grinding chiles…instead it uses simple pantry staples and fresh ingredients to create a delicious authentic tasting enchilada sauce. Plus, this sauce comes together in just 15 minutes, including prep time!
- Delicious. DIY enchilada sauce is so much better than storebought. Homemade enchilada sauce is so much richer in taste than the stuff you buy in cans. Making this sauce at home also allows you to customize the flavors to your liking. Make it spicy or mild, smokey or creamy - it’s all up to you!
- Is so versatile! Of course, you can use this in red sauce on enchiladas, but you can also add it to soups, casseroles, rice, burritos, tamales, tacos - you name it!
- Healthy. No added preservatives, here - just fresh ingredients and pantry staple spices. Again, you can totally customize this sauce so you control the sodium and everything else that goes into it.
- Great for batch cooking! This enchilada sauce freezes so well and is a great recipe to double or triple so that you have it on hand for those busy weeknight dinners.
- Gluten-Free. This recipe doesn't use flour as a filler, so it's naturally gluten-free.
What is Enchilada Sauce?
Enchilada sauce is an authentic Mexican sauce that blends chiles, onion, spices, and sometimes tomatoes to create a deliciously creamy, rich, and spicy sauce. Enchilada sauce is typically used to smother enchiladas, but can also be added to soups, rice, casserole, tamales, burritos, or anything you feel like!
What’s the difference between red and green enchilada sauce?
Red and green enchilada sauces are the two main types of enchilada sauce. The main difference between them depends on the type of chili pepper that is used to make the sauce. Red enchilada sauce, like the kind featured here, is made with red chili peppers, while green enchilada sauce is made with green chili peppers and, often, tomatillos. This results in a very different taste, with red enchilada sauce typically tasting a bit spicier and earthier, and green enchilada sauce tasting a bit milder and fresher. (Although depending on the specific peppers you use, the heat level can vary for both versions!)
Red Enchilada Sauce Ingredients:
There are a million enchilada sauce recipes out there, all of them prepared differently. Many authentic recipes use dried chiles to create the sauce, roasting and then grinding them into a rich paste. While I love that method, it’s more time-consuming than I usually want. I’ve found you can still get an authentic taste from using chili powder, dried herbs, and other fresh ingredients that create a delicious chile enchilada sauce in half the time. Here are the main ingredients you’ll need:
- Fresh peppers and onions. Sauteed onion, pasilla or poblano pepper, and garlic create a great base for this enchilada sauce and add a ton of flavor.
- Spices: Chile powder, cayenne pepper, and cumin add a nice spicy flavor to this easy red sauce.
- Crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Some recipes omit tomatoes altogether, but I find that adding tomatoes and tomato paste adds a touch of sweetness to this red sauce. The tomato paste also helps to thicken this tomato enchilada sauce. I love using fire-roasted tomatoes here for a bit more heat, but feel free to use regular crushed tomatoes if you don’t want to make this too spicy.
- Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce: These add so much rich flavor and create a smokey dimension.
- Sour cream. The sour cream helps to mellow out the sauce a bit and turns it into a delicious creamy enchilada sauce.
How To Make This Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe
Making your own enchilada sauce is quick and easy, and only takes a few steps:
- Sautee the veggies until they’re nice and soft. Add in the cumin and cook everything for about 1 minute more before removing it from the stovetop.
- Blend. Dump the sauteed veggies into a blender or food processor, add the rest of your spices, tomatoes, and tomato paste, and blend on high for about 2 minutes.
- Add in the sour cream and blend until completely smooth and creamy.
- Serve. Use the enchilada sauce for enchiladas or any of the other ideas listed below and enjoy!
- Change up the peppers. I used pasillo peppers here but you could also use poblano or other variations to change the flavor.
- Make it less spicy. If this sauce is too spicy for your taste, simply use less chile powder, fewer chiles in adobo sauce, and use regular crushed tomatoes instead of fire-roasted.
- Make it smokey. Use chipotle chili powder instead of American chili powder for a smokier (and spicier) flavor.
- Make it thicker. This sauce is fairly thick, but if you want it thicker you can simmer it over the stove before using it to thicken it up a bit.
- Experiment with the spices. The spices used in this recipe are pretty standard for a red enchilada sauce, but feel free to add other Mexican spices, or even sugar, cinnamon, or cocoa to sweeten it up a bit and add in different flavors.
How long does this enchilada sauce last?
You can store any leftover enchilada sauce in an air-tight glass container (the sauce will stain plastic containers) for up to 1 week.
Can you freeze enchilada sauce?
Yes! Frozen enchilada sauce will keep for up to three months. To freeze it, allow the sauce to come to room temperature, transfer it to a glass jar (freezer safe!), label it, and freeze it. Allow it to thaw in the refrigerator prior to using it.
What to make with enchilada sauce
Whether you’re making this easy enchilada sauce for a specific meal or looking for ways to use leftover enchilada sauce, here are a few great ways to use this Mexican red sauce.
- Enchiladas. This of course is the classic use for enchilada sauce and this recipe works for almost all types of enchilada recipes. Try it with chicken enchiladas, beef enchiladas, veggie enchiladas or even shrimp enchiladas!
- Rice. Pairing Mexican rice with enchilada sauce is a great way to add a kick to a basic side.
- Tamales. Top your favorite tamales with this delicious red enchilada sauce.
- Frozen burritos. Looking for an easy and quick weeknight meal? Make a big batch of this enchilada sauce and use it with frozen burritos! Just bake the frozen burritos in the oven with the enchilada sauce and cheese on top and you have a simple, elevated, and easy meal for busy nights.
- Soups. Add this sauce to Mexican soups for a ton of flavor.
- Casseroles. Easy to use in rice, chicken, or beef casseroles, especially when you don’t want the hassle of making full-on enchiladas.
- Nachos. Use it as a sauce to pour over sheet pan nachos!
I hope you love this sauce as much as I do! If you try it, please let me know what you think in the comments below, and tag me with a pic @frontrangefed on Instagram!
Other Mexican Favorites
- Homemade Tortilla Chips
- Easy Guacamole
- Sheet Pan Chorizo Nachos
- Chorizo And Red Pepper Tostadas
- Cherry Salsa
- 5-Minute Pineapple Salsa Recipe
Authentic Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 pasillo pepper or poblano chili pepper, chopped (seeds removed)
- ½ red pepper, chopped (seeds removed)
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 15 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes, crushed
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
- juice from 1 lime
- ¼ cup sour cream
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat the oil. Sautee the chopped onions, pasillo pepper, red pepper, and garlic until softened, 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the cumin and cook for 1 minute more.
- Transfer the mix to a blender and add the tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, cayenne pepper, chipotle chili and lime juice. Blend for 1-2 minutes, then add the sour cream and blend until completely smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste
- Serve over enchiladas, in soups, casseroles, or mixed with rice.