Deeply flavored, rich, this authentic enchilada sauce is wonderful earthy with flavor. Making enchilada sauce from scratch is quick and easy and using cocoa powder is the secret ingredient. And it’s ready in under 30 minutes. This quick enchilada sauce is a perfect red sauce for enchiladas, tacos, burritos and beyond.
This recipe was first published October, 2018 and updated January 2021 to include step by step photos and instructions.
Flavor is such a subjective thing. A personal thing. Our tastebuds all crave different flavors, seasonings and spices. It’s what makes the world go round … as they say.
But in my book, this is simply the best homemade authentic enchilada sauce recipe that I’ve found. It’s got everything you’d expect from a Mexican enchilada sauce.
It comes from a friend, who served this rich brick red saucy blanket of goodness over over enchiladas. Oh-my…g-o-o-d-n-e-s-s good.
Reasons To Love This Recipe
- If you don’t dally, this recipe comes together in just about 20 minutes. Which means, you can easily ditch the canned versions from the store.
- This sauce is full of authentic Mexican flavor. It gets it irresistible flavor from Mexican spices, tomato sauce and the key ingredient = cocoa powder.
- This enchilada sauce is thick and creamy, just like you’d expect of an authentic enchilada sauce.
- It’s made using authentic chile powder, which saves time from preparing enchilada sauce using chile pods.
- Adding a splash of vinegar at the end brings out the brightness in the final flavor.
- It’s fresh and preservative free. This recipe is so easy you can ditch those canned enchilada sauces.
Making enchilada sauce authentic in nature is easy. One pan, cooked on the stovetop, and using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry … let’s take a look.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- The Roux: To make this thick and luxurious, we’ll make a roux with flour and water.
- Spices: This quick enchilada sauce gets its ‘ole from a good quality Chile Powder. We prefer a New Mexico version such as Chimayo chile powder. Ancho Chile powder will work also. Garlic salt, Mexican Oregano, and the secret ingredient, Cocoa Powder. What makes this enchilada sauce authentic? Cocoa Powder. Nothing fancy, I just use Hershey’s Cocoa.
- Seasoning: Chicken Bouillon gives this enchilada sauce just the salty savory kick it needs.
- Tomato: Every enchilada sauce needs a tomato component. For this recipe we’ll use Tomato Sauce.
- Cocoa Powder: Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder tastes very bitter and brings a deep chocolate flavor to this enchilada sauce. It’s your secret ingredient to make enchilada sauce a very special enchilada sauce.
Note about chile powder: The recipe calls for three tablespoons of pure chile powder. As opposed to chili (with an i) powder. The later is a blend of ground chile peppers with added seasonings. It’s used to season soups like Chili with Beans.
With a broad range of pure ground chile powders available, you can make this as spicy or as tame as you want.
Ancho chile pepper is a milder powder that delivers lots of chile flavor. I like using any red New Mexico Chile powder.
Chimayo chile powder is my favorite, which can be quite spicy. I’d test the waters if I were you, adding a tablespoon at a time, tasting as you go, until you reach the spice power you’re looking for.
Other Ingredients You Can Use
- Make it a gluten free enchilada sauce: Simply switch out the all purpose flour with gluten free all purpose flour. A high quality like Bob’s Red Mill is a good choice.
- Mexican Chocolate: I’ve used a deep rich flavored cocoa powder for this recipe. If you want to make this a more authentic Mexican Enchilada Sauce, use Mexican Chocolate in place of cocoa powder.
- Make it smoky: In place of the New Mexico Chile Powder, use Chipotle Chile Powder. Chipotle chile powder is made purely from dried chipotle peppers. Chipotle chile peppers are dried smoked jalapeno peppers. It has a sweet smoky flavor and packs a little heat, so be careful.
- Mexican Oregano: I prefer Mexican oregano for all Mexican food recipes. With slightly citrus notes, it pairs well with the flavors in Mexican recipes. If you don’t have Mexican oregano, just use regular oregano.
- Tomato Paste: Don’t have tomato sauce on hand, but you do have a can of tomato paste? Perfect. A substitution that will work well. Just mix 1/4 cup tomato paste with 1/4 cup water.
How To Make This Recipe
- Step 1: In a bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Simply stir them with a whisk to combine.
- Step 2: Stirring constantly, slowly add enough of the water to the dry ingredients to make a thin paste.
- Step 3: Pour the mixture into a sauce pan and add the rest of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Stir in tomato sauce and stir until the mixture is hot.
Voila! Done! Now that’s some quick enchilada sauce! We love this sauce and I’m certain you will too.
Once the enchilada sauce has cooled to room temperature, pour it into an air-tight container. It will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks.
Absolutely! Store in an airtight container and it will keep in the freezer for up to three months. I like to use a freezer-safe zip lock bag. You can fill the bag, squeeze the air out and then store it flat, which saves room in the freezer.`
The best substitute for enchilada sauce is Authentic Mexican Red Sauce made from dried chile peppers and Mexican spices. It’s best use if a sauce for tamales, but it will work equally well for enchladas, tacos and burritos.
That’s up to you. This recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of pure Mexican red chile powder. As opposed to our American Chili Powder blend we use for chili soups. Some of these powders can be hot. Start with one tablespoon and then gradually add more until you achieve your tolerance to the heat.
Ways to use Enchilada Sauce
Here’s this homemade enchilada sauce recipe in action. I’ve made beef and bean burritos and generously bathed them with the sauce before heaping on plenty of cheese and baking.
- Enchilada Burritos
- Chorizo Chile Stuffed Chicken Breast
- Homemade Easy Ground Beef Enchiladas
- Homemade Red Chile Sauce for Enchiladas and Tamales
Authentic Enchilada Sauce Recipe
I hope you give this Mexican enchilada sauce recipe a try, and if you do, please come back and give the recipe a star rating. I appreciate the feedback and always love hearing from my readers.
And if you have a favorite way to use enchilada sauce, let me know, I’d love to give it a try.
And if you’re looking for more Mexican Recipes, don’t miss my Mexican Food Category. You’ll find lots of recipe to spice up your meal plans, including the most popular on my site for Hatch Green Chili with Pork.
- Homemade Taco Seasoning
- New Mexico Hatch Green Chili Sauce
- Homemade Red Chile Sauce for Enchiladas and Tamales
Quick Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe
- 3 tablespoons chile powder good quality. New Mexico or Ancho
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder Hershey's is what I use
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt or granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano or regular oregano
- 3 cups water
- 8 ounces Canned tomato sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon Vinegar Apple Cider or White vinegar
- Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl. Using a whisk, stir to blend.
- Stirring constantly, slowly add enough of the water to make a thin paste. It should be the consistency of gravy.
- Pour into a sauce pan and add the rest of water.
- Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. About 5 – 10 minutes.
- Stir in tomato sauce and continue to heat until the tomato sauce has blended and the enchilada sauce is hot. About 2 minutes.
Authentic Enchilada Sauce …. It’s what’s for enchiladas
Why Trust These Recipes? Lea Ann Brown has lived, worked and played in Colorado for 45 years. She has immersed herself in the Colorado Culinary space, is a Culinary School Graduate and publishes her Colorado food Blog, Cooking On The Ranch.