Satisfy your craving for Mexican food in minutes. This easy homemade enchilada sauce recipe is full of the authentic flavors you love.
Poor planning led me to try a homemade enchilada sauce recipe the first time. I’d had something healthy and light our dinner menu. Salad, no doubt. At the last minute, though, I got a craving for Mexican food. We were out of enchilada sauce, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me. My craving was strong. (Related: Homemade Margarita Mix from Scratch.)
Have you always assumed that it would be hard to make homemade enchilada sauce? I had. Getting a sauce full-bodied enough to layer on tortillas without disappearing into them? Balancing flavors to deliver a spicy kick that doesn’t hurt? It seemed to me that it would take a ton of work. But it doesn’t!
How to Make Enchilada Sauce
You need 10-15 minutes from start to finish. The ingredient list isn’t complicated, either. You don’t even need a blender or fancy equipment, but you’ll find it easiest to use a whisk.
With canned enchilada sauce, it’s hit-or-miss on the spiciness. Some brands are fiery, which is great if you aren’t feeding kids. Other brands are so meh that the only flavor you taste is the can it comes in.
Adjust Spices to Suit Your Tastes
When you make homemade enchilada sauce using this recipe, you can adjust it. If you have kids who don’t like spice, reduce the amount of chili powder. Want more spice? Add a pinch of cayenne. Two ingredients are essential to giving homemade enchilada sauce an authentic flavor: cumin and cocoa. Don’t skip them, please.
Why Is There Cocoa Powder in This Enchilada Sauce?
Cocoa is an important ingredient in Mexican cooking and has been for thousands of years. The Ancient Mayans and Aztecs grew cacao trees. So, it’s not surprising that their dishes incorporated it.
If you love hot chocolate in the winter, you can thank the Aztecs and Mayans for it. They ground cacao seeds into Xocoatl, the ancestor of the hot cocoa you know and love.
And, of course, cocoa is the secret ingredient in mole, one of the most popular sauces in Mexican cuisine. That one’s complicated. Homemade Enchilada Sauce is not.
Uses for Enchilada Sauce
Despite the recipe’s name, Homemade Enchilada Sauce is versatile. That’s not surprising for one of the mainstay sauces in one of the world’s great cuisines. So, consider doubling the recipe and freezing some for one of these other uses, too.
Tostadas. Bake a corn tortilla until crisp. Smear it with some refried beans and drizzle it with enchilada sauce and grated cheese. (Pepperjack is fantastic. So is queso fresco.) Serve topped with shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, and sliced jalapeño peppers.
Tex-Mex Shredded Chicken. Pour homemade enchilada sauce over four boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours then shred the chicken two forks. Use this tender, flavorful meat in tacos, burritos, and or a quesadilla.
Frijole Dip (a/k/a Bean Dip). Stir 2 cups of refried beans and 1/2 cup of homemade enchilada sauce together in a greased, oven-proof bowl. Add 1/4 cup each diced white onion and sliced black olives. Top it with shredded cheese and bake at 350°F until the cheese bubbles. (About 15 minutes.) Scoop with chips or your favorite veggies. Yum!
Nachos. Whip up some Homemade Nacho Cheese Sauce. Drizzle it, along with enchilada sauce, over tortilla chips. Add your favorite nacho toppings and bake at 350°F for 5 minutes. Serve with a side of Authentic Guacamole.
And, of course, you can use it in enchiladas. (My recipe is coming soon!)
Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe
Once you measure out your ingredients, make a paste of them using water. Mix well, so the flour doesn’t clump together when you transfer it into the saucepan.
At this point, it will smell like enchilada sauce, but it doesn’t quite taste like it yet. Constant whisking while you heat the sauce helps it thicken without clumping. Then you add the tomato sauce.
Now’s the time to bump up the spice if you want. Don’t skip a taste test — the older your spices are, the more you’ll need to use.
And it’s fine if you find yourself tempted, as I was, to grab a tortilla chip and give that stuff another taste. Really. No one will blame you if you have three or four because it’s so good. How else are you to know when it’s ready, right?
Enchilada Sauce Recipe
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- 3 cups water divided
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- Combine the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the water at a time until you form a paste.
- Scoop the paste into a sauce pot and whisk in the remaining water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until slightly thickened.
- Add tomato sauce, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste then pour directly onto enchiladas before baking.