Everyone needs a good, easy red enchilada sauce recipe in their back pocket. Sure, you can buy canned red enchilada sauce, but why would you when making your own red enchilada sauce is way more flavorful, easy, full of natural ingredients and plenty affordable? Oh, and you can whip up a batch in 20 minutes, and this red enchilada sauce freezes well. The flavor tradeoff alone makes this easy red enchilada sauce worth it, but with those other perks, it's time to retire canned enchilada sauce.
This 20-minute red enchilada sauce is a staple in our house. Growing up in Houston, I've eaten a lot of Tex-Mex in my days. Enchiladas will always be one of my absolute favorite meals, so the cravings come frequently. And I'm definitely not complaining. Really, is there anything wrong with tortillas smothered in a spicy sauce and melted cheese? That's a hard no from me.
Besides enchiladas, you can use this easy red enchilada sauce in many different ways. Spoon it on tacos or these roasted chicken-butternut squash tostadas. Braise beef chuck roast in this spicy sauce for an amazing nachos or burrito meat. We could even use this sauce as a base for this Mexican beef pizza or add it to heavy cream to make a Tex-Mex pasta dish for a fun twist.
Now let's start cooking. In a dry pan, we toast chili powder and flour for about five minutes. This helps bring out the flavor of the chili powder and makes the sauce unbelievably fragrant. I tend to sniff a lot during this stage.
From here, we slowly pour in some chicken stock and then tomato sauce with garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cumin, cocoa powder, espresso powder and cinnamon. I love the level of depth the cocoa powder, espresso powder and cinnamon bring to this sauce, so even if you think they sound weird, please don't leave them out. Trust me on this.
Once we add all the ingredients, we keep whisking to smooth out the flour and let the sauce thicken. After about 10 or 15 minutes, the sauce should be just the right consistency. Give the sauce a try, add salt to taste and call it a day. See how ridiculously easy that was?
If you plan to use this sauce for enchiladas, it should give you enough for about three panfuls, assuming you use a 9-inch x 13-inch pan. I can fit eight enchiladas in a 9-inch x 13-inch pan by lining six enchiladas along the length of the pan and perpendicularly lining the last two enchiladas along the bottom of the six. I like to use one-fourth cup of sauce on the bottom of the pan before adding the enchiladas and then top the enchiladas with a cup of sauce.
While the pairings somewhat depend on how you're using this enchilada sauce, in general, an amber ale works well. The caramel-like malt counters the spice, and the crisp, bubbly finish cleanses the palate nicely. With spicy food, I always like a good palate cleanser to keep my taste buds from exhaustion, and an amber ale is always up to the challenge.
For wine, a zinfandel is great with this sauce. Zinfandel is low in tannins, which you want with spicy dishes, and it has enough acidity to balance the tomato. Plus, zinfandel is a fruity yet earthy red wine with peppery notes. The fruit balances the heat while the earthy, peppery undertones complement the spices.
Oh, and you can't go wrong with a classic margarita for obvious reasons.
This easy red enchilada sauce is one of my favorites, and I hope you love it as much as I do.
Looking for Other Mexican-Inspired Dishes?
- Tropical pico de gallo
- Ahi nachos with wasabi crema
- Tex-Mex avocado pasta with chili-tequila roasted shrimp
- Jerk chicken enchiladas
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20-Minute Red Enchilada Sauce
- 3 tablespoons medium-heat chili powder
- 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Salt to taste starting with about ½ teaspoon and adding more if necessary
- Over medium heat, add chili powders and flour in a large dry skillet and whisk constantly for about five minutes.
- Slowly stir in stock. Continue to whisk to keep the flour from clumping.
- Add tomato sauce, cocoa powder, cumin, garlic powder, espresso powder, onion powder, oregano and cinnamon. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10-15 minutes. Taste and add salt. Enjoy!
- I prefer the chili powder from the Mexican food section of the grocery store as opposed to the chili powder found in the baking aisle. However, I find the chipotle chili powder in the baking aisle.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.