Enchilada sauce is so named because it’s traditionally a spicy red sauce that enchiladas are swathed in. Either tomatoes or chili peppers are usually an essential ingredient in Enchilada sauce. But is it possible to make enchilada sauce without tomatoes?
There’s not much more that I like then Mexican food. Whether you’re making enchiladas for dinner or a chicken enchilada dip, the sauce plays an important role and homemade is where it’s at.
This enchilada sauce recipe first appeared on our site in 2018 and has racked up over 100 comments with a good many of them on whether red enchilada sauce should contain tomatoes, tomato sauce or tomato paste.
Many authentic enchilada sauces DO contain tomatoes, this one does not. It comes together very quickly and is a mild sauce but it’s full of that Mexican flavor. It is completely customizable to be more spicy or smoky, thinner or thicker. You hold the cards on the spice level.
So if there are no tomatoes in this Enchilada sauce, what’s in it?
- Oil and flour – this is what makes the roux for our sauce.
- Chili Powder – normal everyday American chili powder is fine. If you like a smokiness then you can try adding some smoked chili powder or smoked paprika.
- Cumin – chili powders side kick
- Garlic and onion powder round things out.
- Broth – either chicken broth or vegetable broth will work.
How to Make Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce:
- The Roux: Begin by making the roux with the oil and flour. Flour has a raw taste to it and must be cooked for at least 1-2 minutes over a very low flame, whisked consistently.
- Spices: Add the spices to the roux and stir. The heat and the oil will bring out the spices flavor which has been dried in a bottle.
- Simmer: Slowly add the broth, while whisking until the desired consistency. Simmer the sauce for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Season with a pinch of sea salt.
- Use immediately or let it cool and transfer to a wide mouth mason jar for later use.
How spicy is this sauce?
It is not spicy at all it’s just flavorful. However, keep in mind that there are differences in chili powders with some brands being hotter than others. Also, how old your spices are also factor in. Most spices should be thrown away after 6 months. If you do like heat, try adding some smoked paprika or cayenne pepper.
How do I store enchilada sauce?
Allow it to cool and place it in an airtight container or mason jar. It should be good for 5-7 days.
Can I freeze this sauce?
Yes. Again let it come to room temperature and place it in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.Print
Simply THE BEST Red Enchilada Sauce EVER!
Say goodbye to store bought enchilada sauce – this sauce is mild and can be customized to your spice level.
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 3 Tablespoons chili powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon salt (if using boxed broth taste first before adding)
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Heat the oil in a small saucepan over med/low heat. Add the flour and whisk for approx. 1 minute
- Add all the spices and stir.
- Gradually and slowly add the broth, whisking to prevent any lumps.
- Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until enchilada sauce thickens.
- Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge.
WHERE TO USE THIS SAUCE:
Chicken Enchilada Dip
GLUTEN FREE: To make this gluten free use a GF flour
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: To make this vegetarian use a vegetable broth
Calls for too much chili powder. Instead of 3 tablespoons I only put 2 but still too much and now I got a slight headache this is not authentic Mexican sauce and I should know all my family from Mexico & my mom n a Mexican restaurant I only came here cause she won’t share her recipe!
sorry you didn’t like it Michelle
I love this enchilada sauce recipe. I saved it years ago and don’t think I’ve purchased a can of enchilada sauce since. I’ve made this several times and it comes together so quickly and easily. Plus, it’s delicious! It’s a big win in our home. Thank you!
I made this today, and it was really good. I did have to add a little sugar to balance the acidity of the tomato sauce, but I made no other changes. Thanks Debi!
Someone said to use sugar to counterbalance the tomato sauce but the recipe doesn’t call for tomato sauce?
I made this tonight. Really good. Trying to find the difference from my fav restaurants sauce. Can’t pinpoint it yet. East, good recipe!
You didn’t use this recipe which I make quite frequently. It’s a great sauce which does not contain tomato sauce.
Not anything like an enchilada sauce.
This is a great tasting enchilada sauce. I now use all the time instead of my usual way which is to use dried chili’s. I simply don’t have or I don’t have them in my pantry all the time. Therefore this is a great tasting enchilada sauce that delivers without all the work. I do use a mix of chili powders. A medium hot chili powder and ancho chili powder are my go to for this recipe. I always double ( at least) and make a couple big pans of enchiladas and then freeze for lunches.
love your comment laura, thank you.
perfect every. single. time !!!
This is a super simple and tasty recipe I’ve used many times in the past. Note To Self though, not to use Extra Hot Chilli Powder because Mother of Burning Hell Flames, with 3 tablespoons of the stuff, was it spicy!!! Someone posted about the sauce being bland and doesn’t thicken, no way! That person must have really old spices in their cupboard and doesn’t know how a roux works. Also, a top tip if people’s sauce gets lumpy, it’s easy enough to salvage with the blade mixer on a hand mixer, wizzing for 10 sec.
Truly, the best ever.
Thank you Joey!
Flavor was pretty bland, could not get this sauce to thicken even after 30+ minutes of simmering. The best enchilada sauce is made with actual toasted chile peppers, not powders and broth. This sauce is okay, good enough for a weekday night but not close to good if you’re expecting authentic sauce.
Maybe you used too much oil or not enough flour. Mine was perfectly thickened.
I love this sauce. I make this version all of the time because it reminds me of my Tex-Mex mom’s enchilada sauce. She’s one of those people that has the recipe in her head and can’t really give you a recipe. She says just add “this much” chili powder” and “a few shakes of onion powder.” 🙂
My go to recipe – I make it all the time and everyone loves it!
Wow it was good but really spicy 3 tablespoons of chili powder may have been too much for me but my husband very happy
I didn’t like it. I don’t know if I did a step incorrectly but it just didn’t taste like a enchilada sauce.
This is the best enchilada sauce i’ve ever made. I would love to know if it could be canned? I would love to can it.
Love this sauce. I made enchiladas for my children. Using this sauce. They are very picky about enchiladas. But said they were better than any they had ever had. I am wondering if you could can this and have it ready at a moment’s notice?
I have canned enchilada sauce before but it is the tomato version. I would think this is able to be canned but I would leave out the flour and oil. Process it just like you would for the tomato variety. When ready to use the sauce, simply make the roux and slowly add the sauce until thickened. It wouldn’t be “ready to use” but would be fairy simple.
This sauce is very much like the one I’ve been making for 40 years. My wonderful mom n law taught me this among many other great recipes. We also call it gravy. We make it on holidays and put it over our turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing, and anything else we have.
No tomato sauce or tomato paste?
THANK YOU for this recipe!!! I make a Mexican dish at least once a week and we love Enchiladas! Tonight I’m making a layered Enchilada Casserole and I’m so excited to have a fresh sauce NOT CANNED! I try to go as unprocessed as possible so this is a real treat for me and my family! YOU ROCK and it’s so EASY!
awwww Amanda THANKS !!! You rock too
Absolutely excellent enchilada sauce. Super easy to make. This has made it to my favorite recipe list.
why thank you Marcy !!!
Jake D from Iowa
Amazing sauce and so easy to make with ingredients most people have in their cupboards all the time. I will literally NEVER buy canned sauce again! Family loves it and I’ve shared your recipe with several people. I ran a family restaurant for many years and Mexican food was a major part of my menu. Wish I had this recipe back then! Thanks for sharing!
wow … that was some compliment. Thank you Jake D !!
Seriously excellent. No way on the cinnamon for me, just because I have experimented before. I was leary of the vinegar, but tested before adding and the sauce was a tad bland. Added the vinegar, stirred and retested after a couple minutes and ohh sweet baby Jesus in a Manger that’s good.
I added 1/2 tsp of the sauce from a can of adobo chilies after making sure to follow your recipe just to kick it up a tad and this is my favorite red Chile sauce ever. Great job
I just made the mixture, and put it in the oven, I am super excited to try it! Thank you so much for the recipe! I am extremely allergic to MSG, and buy nothing out of a can if I can help it! Ill let you know how it turns out! Thanks again!
so excited too Jena .. pls let me know how it turns out
Never buying another can of sauce…so easy and so good. Thanks for sharing!
Super easy and much better than canned
I just have to let you know that your enchilada sauce is the only one I make and use now. I’ve been making it for over a year now and I love it. I get so many compliments on it too. Thank you for sharing your recipe with us.
wow! thanks, I love waking up to comments like this! 😀
Wow, husband and kid said best enchiladas ever! Going to use the sauce with
Cheese enchiladas for my hindu friends who love to try new food.
This is a very good and simple enchilada sauce. For those critical that it is not authentic, yes you can make more elaborate sauce with toasting Chile’s, etc, but one doesn’t always have time to do that. And this is really perfectly good and easier alternative. My mom would usually make it this way. A few notes why that make or break the final results:
– the chili is important! It is the main ingredient after all. I prefer New Mexico Chili and it comes in mild, med, hot, and very hot. California chili is also good.
– don’t over cook the chili after adding to rue. Just a minute is good or it can get bitter.
thanks Kath! 🙂
Roux.. sorry I’m the spelling police
This sauce was amazing! The only complaint from my family was that there was not enough of it!
awwww!!!! Thank you for that Melissa! 🙂
Made this sauce tonight and I added some cinnamon so my kids would eat it n and used beef broth, it was delicious! This will b our new go to sauce! Thanks!
Not to be rude but this is not how you make enchilada sauce.
This is an easier way to make the enchilada sauce without having to go through the process of cooking dried chilies,etc. And some people may not be able to get the dry chilies so powder is acceptable. I use this method myself and the recipe is good Debi! I have tried a similar recipe so nothing wrong with it! Beats using that awful canned stuff!
Love it! thank you
I’m wanting to make enchiladas tonight, but don’t have chicken broth available, and really don’t want to go to the store. Will it hurt anything to use beef broth? I’m making venison enchiladas, so I’m actually thinking beef broth may be better?
You can certainly try beef broth Jessica. I think I would water it down a bit though. Let me know how it worked!
I’ve made this before and it’s really delicious. I know people think it’s hard to do this rue, but if you do you will never go back to a can again. My mom and grandmother alway did their own sauces but i’ve seem to have lost the recipe book they did for me. I’ve had to resort to Pintrest for a lot of recipes that I can’t seem to remember, and asking my mom and grandma is not an option. Thank you for posting!
thanks Barb! That’s quite a compliment (blush)
I just made this sauce to use for dinner tonight. Like many other pinners, I too will be giving up the canned sauce! This sauce is delicious! I added a dash of cayenne for a little extra heat and a little lime juice too. I can’t wait until dinner is ready! Thanks for the great recipe!
THANK YOU MICHELE !!!
Hi, i would like to try this but can i use ibdian chili powder as am not sure what chili powder you used. Thanks
How long can it be stored in the fridge?
I wouldn’t keep it longer than 7 days
I made the sauce. Have to say it was my first attempt at making homemade enchilada sauce. It was delicious, thank you for sharing your recipe.
Super excited to say I’m trying this tomorrow. I hope it all works out. I’m nervous. Judging from comments I feel like it should be good. I’ve had tex Mex before but gosh it’s been years that I don’t remember what it taste like. But again judging from comments I’m sure it’ll fine. Quick question however , I just left the store and forgot the EVOO, on account of me being lazy how bad will it taste if I use regular oil vegetable oil?
you should be fine
I made this sauce about a month ago and it was a hit at my house. We are all fans of Tex Mex style and this was perfect. The folks who didn’t like the recipe are probably accustomed to interior Mexico sauces. My kids probably wouldn’t touch it if I put ancho chiles in it. Someone else commented that it ruined taco night?
Thanks so much. I’ve been looking for a recipe similar to the one my Mexican friend makes., with NO TOMATO! Can’t wait to try.
Can the enchilada sauce be made and canned ?
Scared this will be too spicy for 11 yr old????? How to spice it down? Or is is already “mild”?
oh no … this is not hot
This really was the best enchilada sauce! Goodbye store-bought! Hello home-made! Thanks for your creativity in this lovely dish!
This is awesome enchilada sauce. I made a recipe and a half and there was plenty for a whole pan of 8 enchiladas plus extra and we like our enchiladas saucy! The one change I made to this recipe was to use Knorr Tomato/Chicken bouillon instead of plain chicken broth. This recipe is SUPER easy and EXTRA yummy.
Thank you for the recipe, Debi (-:
thank you for the compliment Kristina! 🙂
I always thought enchilada sauce had tomatoes in it. Were those accidentally left out or am I totally mistaken about enchilada sauce?
there are no tomatoes in this recipe Ellen. Only some recipes contain tomatoes, most do not.
Thank you for your prompt reply.
you’re welcome 🙂
I was wondering about Weight Watchers information. Calories, fat grams, carbs, sugar, protein,.
I am Mexican and I loved your enchulda sauce. And I am thrilled that it is organic, thinner in consistency than “authentic”, sooooooooo tasty. Thank you. I have made it twice now. My husband and son love it!!!!!
Hi Mary – I don’t have the WW info for you. I don’t follow WW. I’m glad you and your family enjoyed the sauce!
This was absolutely wonderful! I’m just getting started cooking and am looking for recipes to replace “stock ingredients” that we use so often. Thank you!
thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Amanda! 🙂
I’m confused that this enchilada sauce has no tomatoes or tomato sauce of any kind
I like to garnish fresh lettuce and tomatoes on top of my cooked enchiladas. I’m from New Mexico, and I hardly ever see tomatoes in red enchilada chili sauce.
I will try this recipe in my posole tonight.
Real Mexican Red sauce has no tomato. Adding tomato dilutes the flavor of the chile. Thats American style, using tomato. Im also from las Cruces new Mexico, 15 minutes from Hatch, chile capital of the world. We will never use tomato either.
How long will this keep in the fridge?
I would say a few days Jocelyn. It freezes also.
Authentic Tex mex! Thanks just what I was looking for
This turned out so yummy. First batch I made with hot chili powder and then second with mild. Happy girl here because I hate buying sauces I would always rather make it myself.
Since I first made this sauce, I have never used store-bought again. I use it in enchiladas, as well as “enchilada stuffed shells.” I always have the ingredients, and making my own frees up some pantry space!
Tasted like the stuff you get at Mexican restaurants. Not like canned at all. We loved it. Next time I’ll add a little more “kick”.
I like a little more kick myself Danielle 😉
Made it today with homemade broth and a little fresh lime juice. It turned out great. I’m going to make a large batch and can it.
I will say that all of my spices were new from the store (and I made min wit a ltitle eXtra chili powder).
Powdered dry spices like chili powder and cumin can lose their good flavors and kind of absorb the other flavors they may be close to in the spice cupboard. So if folks made this and thought it bland or that it tasted “off” may want to try again with fresh supplies.
I agree with you Jean on the spices. I try (and I use try lightly) to use my label maker and put the date on the bottom that I bought them. But you are right, older spices will not produce the same flavors as freshly bought ones.
Can this recipe be canned in a water bath?
What makes it red? I’m missing something.
The chili powder
I made this tonight, it was sooo good! Added a little tomato juice for kicks and it turned out great. I will never buy canned again!
Could it be frozen?
I don’t recommend it Brea
Easy sauce, very bland.
The best is authentic. This is NOT authentic.
What would you do differently to make it authentic cab?
Hi. Use ancho chiles and take seeds out and throw in a pot that has boiling water throw in a few cloves of garlic and cover pot and let them soak like 30 minutes. Put chiles and garlic some sautéed onion, some salt a pinch of oregano and some broth and whirl away in blender. Add only a little broth at a time until desired thickness. I make a huge batch and freeze in quart size bags. This sauce is great for enchiladas.
Thanks Simona. I’m going to try that! 😀
I actually consider your recipe authentic Tex mex just what I was looking for thanks!
This sauce was quite good. A bit spicy for my taste, but my husband loves a little spice! 🙂
Thanks Katie! You can always dial it down a bit. I always make a recipe ‘as is’ the 1st go around and change it up to suit my taste the next time. Everyone in our family has a different tolerance when it comes to spices, my son being the spiciest and my husband being the lowest.
I followed this recIpe exactly as written and it didn’t taste good at all! Taco night was definitely ruined at our house…I’m not sure what could have gone wrong but the flavor was very off.
I’m sorry it didn’t turn out for you Justine.
I also did the same, and it did not taste like an enchilada sauce I have ever had. Kinda ruined dinner
i’m sorry to hear that tim
Simply the best sauce we have ever made
And easy too right Dawn?