Spicy Homemade Enchilada Sauce

This Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce recipe is perfectly balanced and the perfect topping for beef, pork and chicken enchiladas. This fresh red sauce is needs just 7 ingredients, including fresh tomatoes, and 30 minutes to make!

Overhead view of Enchilada Sauce in glass jar

TexMex cuisine is totally delightful! (I didn’t always feel this way, but younger Erin had some learning to do.)

When we moved to Dallas in 2012, we set out to find the best TexMex and Mexican restaurants in town. And we’ve also learned how to make some of our favorite dishes at home, too.

While this is not authentic Mexican enchilada sauce from my great grandmother, it is a delicious sauce to smother enchiladas in that calls for simple, easy-to-find ingredients.

Why I love this recipe:

Enchilada sauce is one of the pieces of a dish we all know and love. But before a few years ago, I’d always used store bought enchilada sauce from a can, thinking it was more fuss than it was worth to make on my own.

I didn’t realize how easy it was to make enchilada sauce at home… and this Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce recipe pairs beautifully with all kinds of enchiladas.

It adds some heat and smokiness, and we’ve found this recipe is utterly delightful. You can also use it like a salsa, on a taco, on nachos, or more!

This recipe is also naturally gluten free, vegetarian and vegan, so if you’re making enchiladas for someone who has food intolerances, allergies or eats a specific diet, it’s good for almost anyone.

After all, we don’t need chicken broth or vegetable broth to thin it out OR flour to thicken it up, so it’s pretty easy.

Whether you’re making a batch of Chicken Zucchini Enchiladas or Pork Carnitas Enchiladas or a classic beef enchilada recipe, this red sauce is an excellent one to have in your back pocket.

Other TexMex dishes we love to make at home: Ground Beef Tacos | Homemade Loaded Queso | BBQ Nachos | Grilled Shrimp Salad with Homemade Lime Vinaigrette | Black Bean Dip

Need some dinnertime inspiration? Head over to my Dinner Recipe Index for more ideas!

Tomatoes in a bowl next to spices, an onion and garlic on marble

What you need to make this recipe:

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In addition to these tools, you’re going to need some simple ingredients to make this enchilada sauce.

Be sure to scroll down to the recipe card to get the exact amounts!

  • Roma tomatoes—these are my favorite for enchilada sauce. You’ll need about 8-10, depending on the size. Don’t feel like you need to peel them. Simply chop and throw into the saucepan.
  • Yellow onion—we don’t need a ton, so a small onion should work perfectly here. You may also use a white onion if you don’t have a yellow one.
  • Garlic cloves—fresh garlic adds the MOST flavor, so please peel your own. (Or you can purchase pre-peeled garlic cloves at most groceries these days, which is an amazing timesaver.) Since we’re going to blend up the sauce, you don’t need to finely mince them, either.
  • Spices—we’re going to need kosher salt, as well as chili powder, ground cumin and red pepper flakes. Depending on your tolerance for heat, I suggest starting with less and adding more after tasting to ensure you don’t blow out your tastebuds. You could also use cayenne pepper if you like it hot.

Please note that we are not using tomato sauce or tomato puree as the base of this recipe. We’re also not adding flour (or a gluten free flour blend) to thicken it up OR thinning it out with chicken or vegetable stock. It also does not involve sour cream.

Collage showing how to make enchilada sauce

How to make Enchilada Sauce

Throw your tomatoes, onion, garlic and spices into a large saucepan.

Bring the ingredients a boil, then lower the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes have broken down. (They’ll get quite liquidy, which is what we want!)

Pour the sauce into a blender (or use an immersion blender). Blend until smooth.

Strain the sauce with a fine mesh strainer to remove seeds and skins from the sauce. (If you don’t strain it, the sauce will be less smooth, and I love a smooth enchilada sauce.)

Give the sauce a taste and add extra salt to taste, if necessary.

Transfer the strained sauce into a bowl or a jar and refrigerate until use.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is red enchilada sauce made of?

This red enchilada sauce is made of fresh tomatoes, as well as onion, garlic and spices that include chile powder, cumin, salt and red pepper flakes.

What is the difference between red sauce and enchilada sauce?

Red enchilada sauce and green enchilada sauce are made with different types of peppers. Red sauce is made with red chile peppers while green sauce is made with green peppers.

Which sauce is better for enchiladas?

It depends on your enchiladas and their filling! We use this sauce for various homemade enchiladas and think it works well for vegetarian, chicken, beef and pork enchiladas.

What does red enchilada sauce taste like?

It’s a combination of the sweetness and acidity of tomatoes with the heat of red peppers (in the form of chili powder and red pepper flakes.)

How do you make enchilada sauce taste better?

If you think your enchilada sauce is lacking, consider adding more red pepper flakes or chili powder to give it more depth of flavor.

A jar of homemade enchilada sauce on marble

Quick tips and tricks for the best red enchilada sauce:

  • Add some more heat! If you want this red sauce to have a major kick, replace the chili powder with the same amount of chipotle chile pepper powder. It’ll add smoky, spicy flavor to the enchilada sauce.
  • Make it in advance. If you’re hosting a Mexican Dinner Party, this is an easy part of a recipe to make days beforehand to where all you have to do is slather your enchiladas in it before baking.
  • Serve it with your favorite TexMex dishes. We love this sauce with Chicken Zucchini Enchiladas and Pork Carnitas Enchiladas, but you could also serve it with chips (like a salsa) or even use it as a base in dishes like Enchilada Meatballs and Creamy Chicken Enchilada Bruschetta.
  • How to store: This sauce will stay good in the refrigerator for a few days. It also freezes well in a freezer-safe container for up to two months.

Now who wants to make this delicious sauce that’s way better than the canned grocery store kind? Here’s how you do it…

Overhead view of Enchilada Sauce in glass jar
Yield: 3 cups (24 oz.)

Spicy Red Enchilada Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce recipe is perfectly balanced and the perfect topping for beef, pork and chicken enchiladas. This fresh red sauce is needs just 7 ingredients, including fresh tomatoes, and 30 minutes to make!

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. ripe Roma tomatoes (about 4 cups chopped from about 8-10 tomatoes)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, measure in the tomatoes, onion, garlic and spices.
  2. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes have broken down.
  3. Pour the sauce into a blender (or use an immersion blender). Blend until smooth.
  4. Strain the sauce with a fine mesh strainer so there are no tomato seeds or skins in the sauce. Transfer the smooth sauce into a bowl or a jar and refrigerate until use.

Notes

This sauce will stay good in the refrigerator for a few days. It also freezes well in a freezer-safe container for up to two months.

If you want this sauce to have some major kick, replace the chili powder with chipotle chile pepper powder.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 46Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 455mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 2g

Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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6 Comments

  1. Ok this made me hungry, which is not fair because I am having a protein shake. Perhaps, I should have stopped by around dinner time instead. Yes, the young one in you was so wrong.

    It is good to know that this freezes. I wouldn’t have thought that it could. Looks great. Thank you.

  2. What? Two for one margaritas isn’t always a good idea?! I love Mexican inspired food and have recently come around to loving enchiladas. I will have to give your sauce a try!

    1. Thanks so much, Allie! I didn’t make my own until a few years back, so I know how it goes… but it’s so easy! And I know you can do it!

  3. Looks so good. Enchiladas are definitely one of my favorite foods, thanks for sharing

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