Enchilada sauce is a thick, spiced, tomato-based sauce used in the classic Mexican dish, enchiladas. There are many variations of enchilada sauce, and most sauces contain chili powder, tomato paste or sauce, garlic and onion powder, and flour.

Combine enchilada sauce with meat and veggies and use the mix as a filling for baked enchiladas. Enchilada sauce can also be used in soups, casseroles, and Mexican-style pasta bakes.

Difficulty LevelEasy
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook TimeLess than 10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes or less
Serving Size2 cups
No. of Ingredients11 (some ingredients optional)
CourseMain course

Ingredients & Equipment

Easy Enchilada Sauce

The equipment needed for easy enchilada sauce is:

  • 1 small mixing bowl
  • 1 medium-sized pot
  • 1 tablespoon
  • 1 teaspoon
  • 1 whisk

The ingredients needed to make this homemade sauce are:

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose, whole wheat, or gluten-free flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano, dried
  • Sprinkle of salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste or sauce
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

The spices used in enchilada sauce are commonly available in supermarkets and online. Adjust the spices based on your tastes.

How to Make Easy Enchilada Sauce (Step-by-Step)

Easy Enchilada Sauce

Follow the instructions below to make easy, authentic enchilada sauce:

Step 1: Measure the Ingredients

Measure the spices and flour into a small bowl. Prepare the broth and the tomato paste in separate bowls from the dry ingredients and place the ingredients near the stove.

Step 2: Warm the Oil

Place a medium-sized pot over medium heat on the stove. Warm the olive oil for around 2 minutes. Check that the oil is warm enough by adding a sprinkle of the spice mix to the pot. If the spice mix sizzles, the oil is ready.

Step 3: Add the Spice Mix

Pour the spice mix into the pot and whisk the ingredients until they’re fragrant and well-combined.

Step 4: Pour In the Broth

Slowly pour the broth into the pot, whisking constantly to prevent lumps.

Step 5: Simmer the Mixture

Increase the heat to medium-high until the mixture begins to bubble. Gradually reduce the heat until the mixture is gently bubbling. Continue to whisk for up to 7 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened slightly.

Step 6: Add the Final Ingredients

Remove the sauce from the heat before it reaches the desired thickness. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools, and leaving it to simmer for too long will result in an overly-thickened, paste-like sauce. Whisk vinegar and black pepper into the mixture.

Step 7: Use the Sauce in Enchiladas

Mix the sauce with fried onions and peppers, and a pre-cooked protein such as chicken or beans. Add the sauce mix to enchiladas and bake according to the recipe.

Tips for the Perfect Enchilada Sauce

To perfect your enchilada sauce recipe, follow these tips:

Adjust Spiciness If Necessary

Adjust the heat of the sauce to suit your spice preferences. To make the enchilada sauce spicier than the recipe, add another ½ tablespoon of chili powder. To reduce the heat of the sauce, use half the amount of chili powder stated in the recipe.

Carefully Measure the Flour and Oil

Getting the right ratio of flour to oil is essential for thickening the sauce. If the sauce doesn’t thicken after 10 minutes, more flour can be added—but adding flour too late in the process increases the likelihood of lumps. Measure out the flour and oil carefully to ensure the sauce will thicken before adding the broth.

Keep Whisking

Whisking the sauce is a tiring job, and it’s tempting to stop whisking before the sauce has thickened. A watery sauce won’t mix properly with other enchilada ingredients, so whisking the sauce until it has begun to thicken is important.

Reduce Bitterness With Sugar

Some people find enchilada sauce too bitter for their liking. To reduce the bitterness of enchilada sauce, add 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of applesauce, or 1 teaspoon of agave syrup to the recipe along with the vegetable broth.

Make Bulk Batches of Sauce

This homemade enchilada sauce can be made in bulk batches and frozen for convenience. Double or triple the recipe, then pour the cooled sauce into freezer-safe mason jars, leaving space at the tops of the jars for the sauce to expand. Freeze the sauce for up to three months.

Easy Enchilada Sauce Substitutes

Enchilada sauce can be amended or substituted to suit different dietary preferences. The sauce is already naturally vegetarian and vegan.

Some of the best enchilada sauce amendments and substitutes are:

Gluten-Free Enchilada Sauce

To make enchilada sauce for a gluten-free diet, swap plain or whole wheat flour for gluten-free flour. Check that none of the other ingredients use gluten, and use gluten-free versions if necessary.

Tomato-Free Enchilada Sauce

Eliminating the tomato paste from enchilada sauce prevents symptoms in people who commonly experience acid reflux and heartburn. Use barbecue sauce in place of tomato paste to add flavor and consistency to the sauce.

Green Enchilada Sauce

Easy Enchilada Sauce

Green enchilada sauce has a fresh, earthy flavor and is a nice change from red enchilada sauce. To make green enchilada sauce, combine olive oil, flour, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, black pepper, chicken broth, oregano, dried green chilies, salt, and one jalapeño. Simmer and whisk the mixture for up to ten minutes until the mixture thickens.

Creamy Enchilada Sauce

For a creamy variation on the classic enchilada sauce, whisk ½ cup of heavy cream into the sauce just before you take it off the heat. Cream can also be added to reduce the heat if too much chili powder is added.

Mild Enchilada Sauce

Enchilada sauce is already mild, but if you don’t like spice at all, replace the chili powder with equal parts smoked sweet paprika powder.


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