Red Enchilada Sauce

Make this Tex-Mex style red enchilada sauce recipe and you’ll never want to open a can again. Start with whole dried chiles, add aromatics like onion and garlic, whirr in the blender, and you’re well on your way to the best enchiladas ever.

Bowl of Red Enchilada Sauce Surrounded by Enchilada Ingredients (a Plate of Tortillas, Bowl of Shredded Chicken, Bowl of Shredded Cheese, and Glass Platter with Sauce Soaked Tortillas)

Simply Recipes / Marta A Rivera Diaz

Sure, you can use canned enchilada sauce, but with a recipe this simple, I doubt you'll want to. 

Begin by toasting dried guajillo or ancho chiles (you can also use just one type of chile) in a dry skillet. Guajillos are a bit spicier than anchos, so if you're not a fan of too much heat, stick with anchos. Once the peppers release their aroma, the seeds and stems are torn away before the chiles soak in hot liquid to soften them up a bit. 

The sauce is then pureed smooth. Onions, garlic, chopped tomatoes, and the rest of the spices complement the enchilada sauce's already bold flavor.  

Bowl of Red Enchilada Sauce Surrounded by Enchilada Ingredients (a Plate of Tortillas, Bowl of Shredded Chicken, Bowl of Shredded Cheese, and Glass Platter with Sauce Soaked Tortillas)

Simply Recipes / Marta A Rivera Diaz

Using Dried Chiles

  • Taking the time to toast your dried chiles warms up their natural oils, which awakens their flavor. You don't need to add any oil to the pan, just throw the chiles in and let them warm gradually.
  • Don't skip soaking the dried chiles. Soaking the chiles in hot liquid rehydrates the dried peppers to ensure they blend to a smooth texture later.
  • Replace the ancho chiles with a spicier chile, such as guajillo (chiles de árbol). You can also combine anchos and guajillos to create your own unique sauce. 
  • If you want to add more heat to your enchilada sauce, add up to 1 teaspoon of your favorite cayenne pepper with the other dried spices.

Tips and Tricks

  • When blending the enchilada sauce, scrape down the blender halfway through the blending process. This will kick up any rogue chunks of onion or pepper that may linger in the corners. 
  • If you find that the sauce is too chunky, add an additional 1/2 cup of liquid (stock or water) to the blender to thin it out. 
  • If your sauce is too thin, puree some crumbled corn tortilla in it.
  • Love spice? Add as many canned chipotles as you feel like, along with some adobo sauce from the can. 
Casserole Dish with Enchilada Sauce Soaked Tortillas Surrounded Enchilada Ingredients (a Plate of Tortillas, Bowl of Sauce, Bowl of Shredded Chicken, and Bowl of Shredded Cheese)

Simply Recipes / Marta A Rivera Diaz

Ways To Use Red Chile Sauce

Red Enchilada Sauce

Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Soak Time 15 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 32 servings
Yield 8 cups

Guajillos are a bit spicier than anchos, so if you're not a fan of too much heat, stick with anchos. 

The ground cinnamon and cocoa powder are great additions, but they're optional. If you prefer to omit them, you can. 

This makes 8 cups, more sauce than you’ll need for most recipes, but it freezes very well.

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces dried ancho or guajillo chiles (about 10 chiles; see recipe note)

  • 4 cups boiling water, chicken stock, or beef stock

  • 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes 

  • 1 large white onion, peeled and cut into eighths

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

  • 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder (optional)

  • 1-3 canned chipotle peppers (optional)

Method

  1. Toast the chiles:

    Add the chiles to a dry 12-inch frying pan. Turn the stove to medium heat and gently toast the chiles, flipping halfway during toasting, 4 to 5 minutes. The exterior of the chiles will take on a dark color, and you'll start to smell their aroma. 

    Once the chiles are toasted, remove them from the pan and allow them to cool for 10 minutes (or until cool enough to handle).

    Ancho Chiles Toasted on a Skillet on the Stove for Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Marta A Rivera Diaz

  2. Stem, seed, and soak the chiles:

    Once the chiles are cool, pull off their stems. After pulling the stems, you can easily tear them open. Shake out the seeds inside and pull the yellow (or white) membrane that lines the inside of the peppers. 

    Put the peppers in the jar of a 64-ounce blender and carefully pour the boiling water or stock over them. Allow the peppers to soak for 15 minutes. 

    Simple Tip!

    If you happen to be poaching chicken to use in your enchiladas, soak the chiles in the poaching liquid instead of plain boiling water for more flavor. Instead of a blender or food processor, you can use an immersion blender to blend the sauce right in the pot you cooked the chicken in.

    Gloved Hands Removing Seeds from Roasted Peppers for Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Marta A Rivera Diaz

    Onions, Ancho Peppers, and Stock Soaking in a Blender for Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Marta A Rivera Diaz

  3. Puree the sauce:

    Check to see that the peppers have softened. Remove 1 cup of the soaking liquid and set aside. 

    Add the chopped tomatoes to the blender, along with the onions and garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, and (if using) ground cinnamon and cocoa powder. Blend on high speed until smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and blend once again at the same speed for another 30 seconds. 

    Simple Tip!

    Don’t overfill the blender. A 64-ounce blender will accommodate this entire recipe, but if yours is smaller, puree the sauce in batches.To avoid an explosion, be sure to vent the blender lid—just remove the plug from the center. 


    Taste the sauce; the heat level will depend on the chiles you used. If desired, add some chipotle peppers for more heat or flavor. If you’d like the sauce to be thinner, add as much of the reserved soaking liquid as needed.

    Simple Tip!

    Sauce too thin? Crumble part of a corn tortilla and puree it into the sauce until smooth.

    Canned Tomatoes and Spices Added to Blender for Enchilada Sauce Recipe

    Simply Recipes / Marta A Rivera Diaz

    Red Enchilada Sauce Blended Together

    Simply Recipes / Marta A Rivera Diaz

  4. Use or store: 

    Taste for seasoning and add more salt, if needed. The sauce is now ready to use.

    Did you love this recipe? Give us some stars below!

    Simple Tip!

    You can make the enchilada sauce up to 1 week in advance. Prepare the sauce as instructed and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the prepared sauce for up to 6 months. When you're ready to use it, thaw it completely in the refrigerator.

    Bowl of Red Enchilada Sauce Surrounded by Enchilada Ingredients (a Plate of Tortillas, Bowl of Shredded Chicken, Bowl of Shredded Cheese, and Glass Platter with Sauce Soaked Tortillas)

    Simply Recipes / Marta A Rivera Diaz

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
23 Calories
1g Fat
4g Carbs
1g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 32
Amount per serving
Calories 23
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 1mg 0%
Sodium 137mg 6%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 1g 3%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 2mg 10%
Calcium 10mg 1%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 130mg 3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.