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    Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe

    Published May 3, 2024. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

    This rich, homemade enchilada sauce of slow-cooked blended chilis and spices is the ultimate compliment to your favorite enchilada recipe. You will be shocked at how flavorful this sauce is.

    We love Mexican food and eat it at least once a week. We can’t get enough from the big, bold flavors to amazing leftovers. If you want to try some classical recipes and get adventurous, try my Carnitas or Pozole Verde.

    enchilada sauce in a jar


     

    Enchilada Sauce

    Enchilada sauce is a spicy, savory Mexican sauce made from cooked and softened dried chilis, spices, and herbs that are pureed until smooth. The sauce is then used on rolled tortillas stuffed with cheese, meat, or vegetables and baked or fried to hold them together.

    This sauce has many variations, including the types of chilis and spices used. Chili-based sauces are more traditional than tomato-based sauces. Enchiladas are said to have been around for centuries and were created by the Mayans. You can alter this recipe depending on how much or little spice you like. This sauce is very rich in flavor and texture.

    Ingredients and Substitutions

    enchilada sauce ingredients
    • Chilis – I used dried ancho and guajillo chilis. You can use all of 1 or a combination, as I did.
    • Liquid Chicken stock is best for the most flavorful sauce, although water or vegetable stock can also be used.
    • Onion – You can use a red, white, yellow, or sweet onion. You’ll also need whole garlic cloves.
    • Spices — I used a combination of sesame seeds, black peppercorns, cinnamon, allspice berries, cumin, and cloves. You can use all, some, or just 1 if you’d like. The use of these spices in this sauce is subjective.
    • Herbs – Dry oregano is a classic ingredient in this recipe.
    • FatLard is the classic fat to use. However, you can also use a neutral-flavored oil like avocado. 

    How to Make Enchilada Sauce from Scratch

    Add the sesame seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, cumin, and cloves to a large-sized sauce pot over low heat and toast the seeds for 4 to 5 minutes or until they become fragrant and light brown.

    toasting seeds

    Transfer the seeds and oregano to a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, and grind until finely ground. Set the mixture to the side.

    grinding seeds in a mortar

    Next, add the lard to the same pan where the spices were cooked over medium heat until melted.

    lard melting in a pan

    Add onions, gently season with salt, and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned.

    caramelizing onions

    Turn the heat down to low and cook for 10 minutes while occasionally stirring.

    sautéed onions

    In the meantime, remove the pith and seeds from the dried chilis.

    seeding dried chilis

    Return to the cooktop, stir in the garlic cloves, and cook for 5 minutes while frequently stirring.

    cooking garlic and onons

    Stir in the seeded chilis and cook over low to medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until they slightly begin to change color.

    cooking chilis and onions

    Deglaze with chicken stock.

    adding stock to a pot of chili

    Stir in the ground spices, season with salt if needed, and bring the mixture to a boil.

    adding spices to chilis

    Once boiling, cover with a lid and turn the heat off for 20 to 25 minutes or until the chilis are very soft.

    covering a pot with a lid

    Transfer the mixture to a blender. Add on the lid with the center cap removed and replace it with a kitchen towel.

    kitchen towel on a blender

    Blend on medium speed until smooth.

    blending a sauce

    Return the sauce to the pot and cook for 20 to 25 minutes over low heat to further concentrate the flavor. Adjust the seasonings with salt.

    enchilada sauce in a pot

    Store or try using it in my chicken enchiladas.

    enchilada sauce with chilis

    Make-Ahead and Storage

    Make-Ahead: You can make this up to 3 days ahead for freshness.

    How to Store: Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. This will freeze well-covered for up to 6 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating.

    How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of enchilada sauce to a medium-sized pot and heat over low heat until hot. Mix in 2 to 3 tablespoons of water if it is too thick.

    Chef Billy Parisi

    Chef Notes + Tips

    • You add the spices and herbs after the stock because all dry spices need to be reconstituted, and this is the perfect scenario to do so while adding incredible flavors to the liquid and chilis.
    • If you can’t handle spice, use all ancho chilis. If you love spice, use all guajillo chilis.
    • If you find the sauce too spicy, add 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of red wine vinegar to remove some of the heat.
    • If you find the sauce too rich in flavor, you can thin it with water and re-thicken it with a slurry to get it to the right consistency.

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    Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe

    This rich, homemade enchilada sauce of slow-cooked blended chilis and spices is the ultimate compliment to your favorite enchilada recipe.
    Servings: 4 cups
    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

    Ingredients 

    • 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
    • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
    • 4 cloves
    • 10 black peppercorns
    • 2 allspice berries
    • ¼ cinnamon stick
    • 2 teaspoon dry oregano
    • 2 tablespoons lard
    • 1 peeled small diced yellow onion
    • 5 garlic cloves
    • 9 seeded ancho chilis
    • 3 seeded guajillo chilis
    • 4 cups chicken stock
    • coarse salt to taste

    Instructions

    • Add the sesame seeds, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, allspice berries, cumin, and cloves to a large sauce pot over low heat. Toast the seeds for 4 to 5 minutes or until they become fragrant and very light brown.
    • Transfer the seeds and oregano to a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, and grind until finely ground. Set it to the side.
    • Next, add the lard to the same pan that the spices were cooked in over medium heat until melted.
    • Add in the onions, gently season with salt, and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
    • Turn the heat down to low and cook for 10 minutes while occasionally stirring.
    • In the meantime, remove the pith and seeds from the dried chilis.
    • Return to the cooktop, stir in the garlic cloves, and cook for an additional 5 minutes while frequently stirring.
    • Stir in the seeded chilis and cook over low to medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes or until they slightly begin to change color.
    • Deglaze with chicken stock. Stir in the ground spices, season with salt if needed, and bring the mixture to a boil.
    • Once boiling, cover with a lid and turn the heat off for 20 to 25 minutes or until the chilis are very soft.
    • Transfer the mixture to a blender. Add on the lid with the center cap removed and replace it with a kitchen towel.
    • Blend on medium speed until smooth. Return the sauce to the pot and cook for an additional 20 to 25 minutes over low heat to further concentrate the flavor. Adjust the seasonings with salt.
    • Store or try using it in my chicken enchiladas.

    Notes

    Make-Ahead: You can make this up to 3 days ahead for freshness.
    How to Store: Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. This will freeze well-covered for up to 6 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating.
    How to Reheat: Add the desired amount of enchilada sauce to a medium-sized pot and heat over low heat until hot. Mix in 2 to 3 tablespoons of water if it is too thick.
    You add the spices and herbs after the stock because all dry spices need to be reconstituted, and this is the perfect scenario to do so while adding incredible flavors to the liquid and chilis.
    If you can’t handle spice, use all ancho chilis. If you love spice, use all guajillo chilis.
    If you find the sauce too spicy, add 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of red wine vinegar to remove some of the heat.
    If you find the sauce too rich in flavor, you can thin it with water and re-thicken it with a slurry to get it to the right consistency.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 381kcalCarbohydrates: 71gProtein: 16gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 422mgPotassium: 1878mgFiber: 25gSugar: 39gVitamin A: 21960IUVitamin C: 32mgCalcium: 109mgIron: 6mg
    Course: sauce
    Cuisine: Mexican