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.
*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.