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How to Make Enchilada Sauce

Authentic Mexican enchilada sauce for beef or chicken enchiladas with a richer, more intense flavor than canned enchilada sauce.

Beef Enchilada and Sauce

Last week I made beef enchiladas for a friend and for David and me. They quickly became one of our favorite meals thanks to this authentic Mexican enchilada sauce. Most recipes for homemade enchilada sauce start with flour and oil, making a roux, then adding tomato sauce and spices. I wanted something more authentic, so I kept looking and found a recipe by Nathan, on, that sounded more like it, with dried chilis and fresh tomatoes.

Pasilla chilis

After tasting the end result however, I found that I'm too used to American enchilada sauce and I wanted more tomato flavor so I added tomato paste. 

A few more tweaks and we had authentic enchilada sauce that can be used with chicken enchiladas, beef enchiladas, tacos, or almost anything that you'd like to spice up a bit. You could even drizzle this over chicken tortilla soup.

The flavor is deeper and more intense than canned sauce, and I suspect better than the flour/oil based sauce as well. The chilis are mild with just enough heat to let you know you're eating Mexican food.

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Seeds inside chili

The recipe is not complicated although it will take a little more time than just putting ingredients in a saucepan and heating. You have to scrape out the seeds from the dried chilis and cut the stems off. That's the most labor intensive part. Then you just put everything into a blender.

Tortillas and enchilada sauce

Really easy and you'll have enough sauce to save for another batch of Mexican food. You can even put the leftover sauce in the freezer. Beef enchilada recipe coming soon!

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How to Make Enchilada Sauce

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An authentic Mexican enchilada sauce using dried chilis in a blender. It's not complicated but has a much richer, intense flavor than canned sauce.
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prep time: 20 mins
total time :40 mins
servings :8 servings
author: Lucy Brewer


  • 7-9 dried chilis, I used Pasilla because that's what Publix had--can also use Guajillo or California chilis
  • 4 roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup water


  • Stem and deseed the chiles. Rinse the chiles then place in a pot with tomatoes and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Place chiles, tomatoes, and the rest of ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth. If necessary, strain through a fine mesh strainer. (I did not need to do this.)
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Serving: 8servingsCalories: 15kcalCarbohydrates: 3gSodium: 349mgSugar: 1g
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Recipe Rating


Thursday 13th of March 2014

I wonder why sugar would be added to enchilada sauce. I notice that many southern recipes put sugar in non-dessert type foods. I never add it because some things are just sweet enough naturally and adding sugar makes things too sweet for my personal taste. I am thinking it must be some regional taste thing going on. But I can't help but be curious why in southern type cooking, the recipes add sugar to almost everything.


Thursday 13th of March 2014

Hi Nance, It might be regional, I'm not sure. I generally add a touch of sugar when I'm cooking with tomatoes. Not enough to make it sweet but just enough to cut the acidity in the tomatoes. I think it helps balance the recipe. But Southerners do tend to like things more sweet...except usually cornbread and grits!