Easy Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

January 27, 2014 • Kitchen Tips, Recipes

Weather: 36 degrees, rain in the forecast (which is crazy for this time of year)
What I’m listening to: Phillip Phillips radio on Pandora

Way back in 2011, I posted one of my favorite family go-to recipes for Chicken Enchiladas with a basic, yet much-better-than-store-bought homemade enchilada sauce. Being one of my earlier posts, and being that the photos are admittedly not my best work, it never got much traction on the blog. But, I still make the recipe regularly, serve it for company, and find excuses to use this sauce on anything I possibly can, like my Quinoa & Egg Enchilada Skillet. I also think it would make a delicious base for an enchilada soup… I had better write down that idea for future recipe testing, come to think of it!

IMG_8927The sauce only takes 15 minutes to make and you can make it in advance and refrigerate it to use up to 5 days later or even make big batches of it and freeze it or can it in jars for your pantry as you would other tomato-based sauces.

To make the sauce, simply sauté some onions together with jalapeño and garlic, add chili powder and cumin, salt and sugar, then add tomato sauce and water. Simmer everything together briefly to allow the flavors to meld, then blend the sauce until smooth. Mission accomplished.


Once you’ve tried it once, you can customize it to suit your tastes. Want it spicier? Add more jalapeño and chili powder. Want it smokier? Add more cumin or even swap out the jalapeño for chipotles in adobo instead. Too hot for the kids? Add more tomato sauce/water and more sugar to balance the heat. Make it your own.

Easy Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

An easy, customizable Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce recipe that only takes 15 minutes to make and tastes much better than store-bought enchilada sauce. Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen.

Yields: 2+ cups; enough sauce for one 9x13 inch pan of enchiladas

  • 2 teaspoons neutral-flavored oil
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1-2 cups water

Heat the oil in a skillet or pot over medium heat. Saute the onions, jalapeño, and garlic until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, sugar, and salt and stir in the pan for another minute so that the spices can get slightly toasted and fragrant. Add the tomato sauce and water.* Bring the sauce to a simmer and left cook 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt as needed.

Transfer the sauce to a blender and whirl until smooth. Store in a jar or an airtight container for up to 5 days. The sauce can also be frozen or canned as you would other tomato-based sauces. This recipe makes enough sauce for one 9x13 inch pan of enchiladas.