Easy Red Enchilada Sauce

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Glass quart-sized jar filled with easy homemade spicy red enchilada sauce

Considering how much we love enchiladas, it’s insane that we didn’t have a go-to enchilada sauce recipe on the blog. Obviously, that had to change.

Meet your new best friend: saucy, spicy, red enchilada sauce ready in 30 minutes. Swoon! It’s so easy. Let us show you how.

Cutting board with onion, garlic, chilies, vegetables broth, tomato paste, salt, and spices for making homemade red enchilada sauce

Origin of Enchilada Sauce

It’s believed that enchiladas may have originated from a similar Mayan dish called papadzules. But the first written recipe of enchiladas was in an 1831 cookbook called El Cocinero mexicano (source).

The word “enchilada” is a form of the verb “enchilar” which means “to season with chile.” And chilies are the heart of enchilada sauce!

How to Make Enchilada Sauce

The base for this hearty sauce is sautéed onion and garlic and a mixture dried chilies. We went for New Mexico chilies, which are milder in spice, as well as chilies de arbol for a little more heat. This combination can be tweaked to increase or reduce heat as needed (see the recipe below + notes!).

The peppers are cooked down and softened in some vegetable broth, and tomato paste, and a handful of spices bring it all together.

For a more traditional recipe, check out this recipe from Isabel Eats!

Making our homemade gluten-free vegan enchilada sauce recipe in a pan
Blender showing the smooth texture of our Spicy Red Enchilada Sauce recipe

We hope you LOVE this sauce! It’s:

Smoky
Rich
Bold in flavor
Easy to make
Customizable
& Perfect for enchilada night

This sauce is perfect for adding not only to your favorite enchilada recipe – like our Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchiladas – but also to things like Quinoa Taco Meat or Tortilla Soup to bring more depth of flavor. Be sure to make a double batch so you can store leftovers in the freezer! For more Mexican-inspired recipes, check out these 14 Vegan Mexican-Inspired Recipes!

If you try this sauce, let us know how it goes by writing a comment, leaving a rating, and tagging a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Big jar filled with our recipe for Spicy Red Enchilada Sauce

Easy Red Enchilada Sauce

Smoky, rich, spicy red enchilada sauce made with simple ingredients and ready in 30 minutes. Perfect for taking your enchiladas to the next level.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Jar filled with a batch of our homemade Red Enchilada Sauce recipe
4.92 from 25 votes
Prep Time 2 minutes
Cook Time 28 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 7 (1/2-cup servings)
Course Sauce
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Mexican-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly 1 month
Does it keep? 5 Days

Ingredients

ONIONS + GARLIC

  • 3 Tbsp vegetable broth (or sub water or neutral oil, such as avocado)
  • 1 cup white or yellow onion (chopped)
  • 4 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed)

PEPPERS

  • 7 mild dried chilies (such as New Mexico (our preferred), Ancho, or Guajillo)
  • 1-2 dried arbol chilies* (stems removed (for heat // add more or less to adjust spice level)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth (or store-bought – we like Imagine brand // or sub water)
  • 1 cup water

SPICES

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (Mexican oregano if possible // optional)

Instructions

  • Heat a large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add vegetable broth (or water or oil), onion, and garlic. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and slightly browned.
  • Add dried chilies and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Then add vegetable broth and water (see photo). Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Add tomato paste, cumin, paprika, salt and oregano (optional). Stir, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes or until peppers are tender.
  • Transfer to a high-speed blender and blend until creamy and smooth. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more paprika or cumin for smokiness, salt for saltiness, or a pinch of cayenne pepper for spiciness (although it should be plenty spicy).
  • Use immediately. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days or in the freezer up to 1 month.

Video

Notes

*In place of the arbol chilies, you can also sub 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce or 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (per 2 arbol chilies) when blending for added spice. Omit if you don’t like spicy sauces.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

Nutrition (1 of 7 servings)

Serving: 1 half-cup serving Calories: 50.1 Carbohydrates: 9.7 g Protein: 1.6 g Fat: 0.7 g Saturated Fat: 0 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.14 g Monounsaturated Fat: 0.06 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 285 mg Potassium: 206 mg Fiber: 2.9 g Sugar: 4.2 g Vitamin A: 4591 IU Vitamin C: 4.71 mg Calcium: 23.63 mg Iron: 0.97 mg

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    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hm, strange! We’ve seen them in most grocery stores. You could also try a specialty international foods market or Mexican grocery store.

  1. Paige says

    I made this and it turned out really thick and dark! What should I add to thin it down or get it to the right balance?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Paige, we wonder if it maybe cooked too long or at too high or a temperature? You could thin with vegetable broth. Hope that helps!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      You’d probably need to cook them down first on the stovetop as tomato paste is a lot more potent than fresh. Let us know if you give it a try!

  2. Jacklyn says

    This is delicious!! I like a little heat so I used 5 arbol chilies, and a mix of guajillo, ancho and pasilla chilies because that’s what I had on hand. I also used chicken stock and only half a tsp of cumin. This will be my new go to enchilada sauce recipe. Thanks!!!

  3. Crystal Arauza says

    Excellent! I made exactly as per the recipe but used only 1/2 tsp smoked paprika because it is a very strong flavor. Very delicious. Thanks for all your great recipes!

  4. Rachel Roach says

    Hello from the UK!

    I didn’t have the chillies in the recipe, but used all the spices and my own home grown chillies -variety unknown. Labelling not my strong point. However I loved the method, and turned out well.

  5. Robert says

    Similar to many of the other MB recipe’s this has become the new staple that will replace store bought sauce. Came out incredible with using guajillo chilies and 2 fresh lemon peppers from the garden. Kept the Enchiladas simple and this sauce made them outstanding! Another incredible recipe!
    BTW – Froze the MB Veg Broth & Enchilada sauce successfully.

  6. Vanessa Ward says

    Just made, absolutely delicious!! So good am making another batch. Live in Vancouver, Canada but grew up in California. Thank you for giving me a taste of home. Made exactly as written.

  7. Jacqueline Griffin says

    I have made this 4-5 times, along with a few others that I have found on the internet, but this is by far my favorite. I don’t use the “spicier” chiles because someone in my house isn’t into any heat, and that’s easy for us flame throwers to add separately. This recipe is the reason to always have dried chiles on hand…I also add a pasilla chile because that’s my personal favorite.

      • Julie says

        Been looking for an enchilada sauce recipe for years! I can’t wait to try this, except half the people in my family can’t eat spicy, so I’ll have to omit a few. Also, I don’t have vegetable broth, can I just use water?
        Thanks!

  8. Emily says

    I LOVED this enchilada sauce. I made my best batch of enchiladas to date. I used two arbol chilis and 7 guajillo chilis. At first, I was worried it would be too spicy once I blended the sauce but once everything was compiled, it was perfectly spiced!

    Very easy – incredibly good! I will be using this recipe again.

    Next time, I will probably use a little oil to cook my onions though – it was difficult to keep my garlic from burning.

    • Nick B says

      I made this Tuesday night to use the next day. We’ve never made enchilada sauce from scratch before. I only had 4 of the ancho peppers and then used 3 arbols as well. This created such a thick and rich sauce. The only surprise for us was how Smokey it turned out. Definitely wasn’t an Americanized sauce. It was great, we’ll be making it again and we have plenty left to freeze! Thanks for the recipe.

  9. RichD says

    After searching enchilada sauce recipes, yours was the one I found using dried Chile’s. This is a keeper!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Rich. We are so glad you enjoyed it! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! xo

  10. Adrian Kingsberry says

    I made this with ancho peppers and it came out VERY bitter and way too thick. Was I supposed to remove the seeds??? I used the exact amount for each type of pepper.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hmm, we don’t suggest removing the seeds, but you can for less heat. And if it was too thick it can be thinned with vegetable broth or water. Not sure about the bitterness though. Almost makes me think one or some of the ingredients weren’t fresh?

      • Adrian Kingsberry says

        Ah ha! The peppers where in a bag but everything else was fresh. They were the only peppers available. I thinned it out with broth and added a little honey and a tad more salt to decrease the bitterness and it was delicious!!! Thank you!

  11. Erika says

    Muy querida Dana.
    Muy interesante tu receta. Pero la auténtica salsa para enchiladas no se prepara con tantos ingredientes. Es sencilla y simple.
    Esta receta me parece más bien para un guiso de carne de puerco o otro tipo de carne.
    No lo tomes a mal.
    pero si vas a prepara una receta mexicana te recomiendo que antes de prepararla conozcas la gastronomía mexicana Y procedas hacer la receta como lo es.
    Cómo mexicana me sentiría alagada de ver una receta mexicana en tu blog.
    #shareknowledge ??

  12. Marla says

    This sauce is delicious and rich. I chose to use New Mexico dried chilies and skipped the Arbol peppers because my husband does not like spicy heat. Even without the Arbol peppers, this sauce packed a spicy heat punch, so be aware of that. The flavor is wonderful though!

  13. Kasandra says

    I made this for the black bean plantain enchiladas. I debated getting store-bought because this looked like so much work. SO. WORTH. IT. And I was able to save half and put it in the freezer for next time!

  14. Isabel says

    First time making an enchilada sauce from scratch was a success thanks to this recipe! Super easy and tastes great! I did omit the arbor chilies as I was concerned about the sauce possibly being too spicy, and because I didn’t have any on hand. Without them the sauce is very mild. I plan on adding them next time I make this recipe.

  15. Camille says

    I love sauces from scratch and this one is easy and doesn’t disappoint. I use a mix of New Mexico Chiles and ancho and add a chipotle Chile when blending. I’ve made it a couple times and it’s my new go-to.

  16. Laurel Wong says

    I made it with guajillo, ancho, New Mexico and árbol chiles. Thank you for recommending which to use. I seeded and stemmed because my daughter finds everything too spicy. This was still a little too spicy for her but it was fantastic. Unbelievably easy and vegan too. I had to make it in a flash since I didn’t tealize I was out of enchilada sauce and the specialty store I get good sauce from was too far for me to leave in the middle of cooking. Thanks for this. Really turned out nicely.

  17. Anne Marie says

    Hi Dana!

    Where do you find the dried chilies? We live in Vancouver … I’ve never looked for them, so I wasn’t sure if they are an easy item to find.

    Thanks!

  18. KW says

    What kind of chilies would you recommend that are not spicy at all? Is that even possible? I love Mexican flavors but really can’t handle spice – so I’ve never cooked with chilies since I don’t know what’s spicy or not. But this recipe looks too good to pass up on!

  19. Lara says

    Made this last night and it was so easy and delicious! So, so much better than store-bought.

    I’m looking forward to trying again with different chillies and seeing how the flavour varies. I used 7 x dried guajillos and 1 x chipotle (from a can in adobo), and I used Vegeta as my veggie stock. I did find it was a bit too overpoweringly spicy (and I have a pretty high threshold) but I just put in a bit more tomato paste and about 100ml of cream and it fixed it right up.

    Definitely would make a double batch next time!

  20. Kay says

    Fabulously easy to make, with brilliant results. I used some home made veggie broth, guajillo peppers, and left out the extra chillies. It was the perfect level of medium spicy for me. The texture is velvety and the sauce goes with everything- I tried it on millet burgers, on pierogis and on avocados. Super yum in all cases. Thanks for your wonderful and inspiring recipes!

  21. Mims says

    Wow, I just made a crockpot chorizo black bean potato stew and it was missing something. Then I remembered I had about cup of your leftover enchilada sauce in the fridge. Bingo! It really added a depth of flavor that was missing. I love it when I can creatively use up bits and bobs in my fridge and appreciate when your recipes do the same.

  22. Whitley says

    QUESTION – What measurements should the broth (or water) be divided into? I didnt seen and amount in the directions. Thanks.

  23. Cassie Thuvan Tran says

    What a zingy and spicy hawt sawce! I would love to try this with some onion broth I make at home by soaking onion skins in water. I really hope that it works out!

  24. Michelle Smith says

    Love your recipes – I don’t have access to dried chilli (or any fresh mild chilli) in the part of Australia that I live. Do you think I can use fresh capsicum/red pepper instead?

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      I think so, but I haven’t tried it. I would recommend using a blend of fresh mild and spicy peppers.

  25. Mims says

    I used guajillo chilies but had no arbol. So for heat, I added one small can of el pato hot tomato sauce. Seriously, that stuff rocks, my Mexican neighbor turned me on to it. I also skipped the blender and transferred everything to a large mouthed mason jar and used my immersion blender. Really tasty and easy!

  26. Nara | SimpleFitVegan says

    Love that you’re using vegetable broth here! I’ve only used water in the past. I bet using vegetable broth adds so much more flavor! Will be trying soon :)

    • Brent says

      Friendly suggestion…try using vegetable stock (vegan), if your store offers it. It has a bit more flavor than the veggie broth.

      • AriaD says

        Thanks! Should have thought of that, used to make a lentil loaf and used that with a little lemon juice for acidity.

      • Pamela Underhill says

        Also look for the darker skinned sweet potato. I think it’s called Japanese sweet potato. It’s not sweet but has a drier profile and doesn’t come off as the sweeter carrot or sweet potato. Could add smoked paprika to give it more color and deeper flavor. Also Brags aminos and/or coconut aminos add depth of flavor

  27. Sylvia says

    Followed the recipe with exception of chilies (used ancho instead of New Mexico). When I removed the stems, I also discarded much of the seeds in the ancho and arbol chilies. It resulted in a very smokey, rich, dark sauce that we will definitely make again. We topped the enchiladas with cilantro, avocado, lime juice and vegan sour cream.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hmm, I think there is a certain magic to the dried chilies. But if you try fresh let us know how it goes!

  28. Rose says

    Oh mamasita! As a newbie to Mexican food (and loving it!), I’ve been looking for an easy, delicious red salsa for tacos and burritos for some time. My search is over!! When this arrived in my inbox, I knew I had to give it a try. So, I just made it and it is so easy and so delicious…I wish I would have followed your advice, Dana, and made a double batch! Having said that, the recipe as is makes a healthy amount of sauce. I did add a handful of cilantro to the blender at the end. A keeper of a recipe for sure! Muchas gracias, Dana!!

  29. Maureen Cram says

    You say the sauce is smokey… been vegan too long for me to do anything that is even vaguely smokey so which chilies should I use instead? Many thanks from South Africa.

      • Maureen Cram says

        Thanks… we are going to the US for three months in three weeks so will check out the chilies there. Over here it is basically chili powder unless you go for fresh chilies. Have bookmarked this so I can make it when we are there :).

        • Kitts says

          Honestly. We just roast our fresh chilis in the oven or over the gas stove to get that charred taste. We scrape off alot of the blackened skin

  30. Gail says

    I never realized how similar enchilada sauce is to a traditionally goan vindaloo. I usually make a paste and keep it in the freezer, then add to sauteed onion and garlic and add liquid. It’s great with rice when you need to make a grocery run but are already hungry.

  31. Carissa Nelson | Spoonful of Easy says

    I immediately stopped scrolling when I say “easy” – I’ve made homemade enchilada sauce once before and never wanted to repeat that process to be honest. Done in 30 minutes is totally my style!