This recipe for authentic homemade red enchilada sauce is easy to make and so delish! It’s quick and only uses a few simple ingredients. It freezes well and can be used in multiple dishes. I promise you will not go back to canned enchilada sauce!
Canned enchilada sauce was one of the things we ditched when we cleaned up our diet. I remembered that I loved my childhood friend Lisa’s mom’s enchiladas, so I reached out to Lisa and her sister Lora on Facebook Messenger to see if one of them had their mom’s recipe for authentic enchilada sauce.
Lisa asked her mom and within a few minutes, I had Mrs. Ramirez’s recipe. I couldn’t believe how simple it was! Ancho chiles, garlic, salt, and water were the only ingredients in the recipe. For some reason, I thought it was going to be much more complicated.
I made the sauce for my family, but the flavor was a little too sharp/bitter for my sons. I played with the sauce a little by adding some tomato sauce and cumin to balance the flavors.
The first time I made it, I added way too much tomato sauce and lost the authentic taste that I remembered. The next time I tried it, I added much less and everyone loved it! So much better than the canned enchilada sauce I used for so many years.
You can leave the enchilada sauce as-is with no tomato sauce or you can tweak it to your preference by adding some. I’ve read recipes that say it’s not authentic if you use tomato sauce and others say it is authentic with tomato sauce. I say do what works for you! 🙂
The flavor of the sauce comes to life when you add it to your enchiladas or other dishes. (Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see 7 other ways to use enchilada sauce besides enchiladas.)
The ancho chiles come in a bag and should be soft and flexible. You don’t want them to be too dry. In some grocery stores, they are located by the spices. We usually purchase ours at our local Fiesta Mart. If your grocery store doesn’t carry them, try a Latin American supermarket, or you can always get them on Amazon.
The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. It freezes well. I like to freeze some in an ice cube tray. After the cubes are frozen, I transfer them to an airtight container. Perfect for grabbing a few cubes when I need a small amount. Mason jars are my go-to for freezing larger portions.
I’d like to give a big thank you to Mrs. Ramirez for sharing her recipe with me! I will never forget how much I loved your incredibly delicious enchiladas!
Easy Authentic Enchilada Sauce
This recipe for authentic homemade red enchilada sauce is easy to make and so delish! It's quick and only uses a few simple ingredients. It freezes well and can be used in multiple dishes. I promise you will not go back to canned enchilada sauce!
- 8 dried ancho chiles
- 3 cloves of garlic
- salt to taste
- reserved water from chiles
- 1-2 15 oz cans of tomato sauce
- 1-2 tsp cumin
Bring a pot of water to a boil. (about 4 cups)
While water is heating up, cut stems off of the chiles and remove the seeds. Rinse chiles.
When water comes to a boil remove from heat and add chiles. Let them soak until they are soft, about 15-20 minutes.
Place chiles, garlic, and a little salt in a blender. Reserve the water used to soak the chiles. Blend chiles and garlic.
Here is where your personal preference will come into play. Add reserved water to blender until you reach your desired consistency. I use about 1-2 cups of water depending on the size of the chiles. I leave the sauce a little thick because the tomato sauce will thin it out.
If you are not adding tomato sauce, you will need to more add more water.
Transfer sauce to a pot. Add cumin and tomato sauce. Simmer for 20 minutes.
I use about 2-3 cups of tomato sauce. Taste as you go. Experiment and add as much or as little as you like. You can add more of the reserved water if your sauce is too thick.
Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. It freezes well. I like to freeze some in an ice cube tray and then transfer to an airtight container. Perfect for grabbing a few cubes to add to soups, chili, stew, or to top eggs.
We recommend using organic ingredients whenever possible.
7 Ways To Use Enchilada Sauce Besides Enchiladas
This delicious enchilada sauce isn’t just for enchiladas. Try changing things up with these ideas.
- Baked Chile Rellenos With Shrimp
- Eggs – Huevos Rancheros, Scrambled eggs, Breakfast Burritos, and Omelets
- Chili, Stews, and Soups
- Tacos and Taco Salad – Use as a topping or add to ground beef.
- Rice and Beans – So yummy on top of refried beans or rice!
- Pork and Chicken – Add to the crockpot when cooking pork or chicken for tacos.
What’s your favorite way to use enchilada sauce?