Authentic Red Sauce for Enchiladas + Video
This delicious, bright and mildly spicy red sauce is the quintessential enchilada sauce recipe. This authentic enchilada sauce is made from dried chiles and garlic — it is a very simple yet flavorful sauce. This sauce comes together in under 30 minutes. What’s even better is that red chile sauce is the basis for a whole host of other authentic Mexican recipes!
I am so excited to share this classic enchilada sauce recipe with you. This recipe is from our published Muy Bueno cookbook and it is near and dear to my heart. There are so many ways to use this delicious red sauce, so I highly suggest you make a big batch and freeze it for easy Mexican meals on the fly.
Once you make this homemade red sauce for enchiladas, you won’t ever go back to the canned stuff. Luckily for us, we live in the age of blenders so we don’t have to use our bare hands to purée them like my grandma did!
Our history with red sauce
My mom remembers my grandma standing at her kitchen table squeezing the boiled red chile pods with her bare hands; this was before she owned a blender. She never quite figured out how she did this because the chiles were extremely spicy, but her hands never seemed to feel the burn.
Afterwards, she would strain the red chiles by turning a wooden pestle around and around in a conical strainer and pressing down on the chile pods. This would result in the velvety rich chile that she used for so many recipes.
How to make homemade enchilada sauce
First up, you’ll need to prepare your chiles. Simply tear off the stem and shake out the seeds. Then reach inside the chile pod to remove additional seeds off and pull off dried veins.
Now you’ll need to soften the dried chiles. Place your chiles in a pot and barely cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, then drop the heat to a simmer. Simmer the chiles until soft, about 20 minutes, turning halfway.
Drain your chiles and allow them to cool. If you don’t, the steam can build up in your blender and be dangerous!
TIP: Work in batches so as not to overwhelm your blender.
Add about half of your chiles to the blender with half the water, garlic, flour and salt. Blend until smooth. Tip into a conical strainer and use a pestle, spoon or spatula to push it through. Continue blending and straining until complete.
TIP: If you don’t have a conical strainer a mesh strainer will work too.
TIP: Have a high-powered blender? Straining the sauce might not be necessary, but I still do.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why not use the leftover liquid?
My family does not use the leftover liquid after simmering the dried peppers. I don’t recommend it. The liquid can sometimes become bitter and can ruin your chile sauce.
Why do you add flour?
My grandma used to toast the flour in a pot/pan similar to making a roux and then add the sauce to thicken and cook. My mom on the other hand blends the flour in the blender to prevent clumping. Feel free to omit the flour if you’d like, but the flour does thicken the sauce.
TIP: Are you gluten free? No problem! Just sub in a 1-to-1 gluten free flour substitute.
How do I use enchilada sauce?
Think of it this way: the French have béchamel, and in Mexico we have this red sauce. It is that ubiquitous. While many people are most familiar with this red sauce for enchiladas, there are so many other uses for it.
From stews and tamales, to soups and braised meats, the options for this homemade red sauce are nearly endless. Making the sauce from scratch takes a while, but once it’s made, it refrigerates and freezes well for other recipes in this blog.
Will this red sauce keep?
YES! I love making a big batch of this homemade enchilada sauce and storing it in the fridge in a glass bowl or glass mason jars or freezing it in these freezer-safe plastic containers. It’ll keep up to a week in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer. Trust me, this stuff is magical for whipping up a hearty, authentic Mexican meal at the drop of a hat.
What kind of chile should I use for this sauce?
Chile Colorado, also known as New Mexico chile, or California chile, has a thin flesh with an earthy chile flavor and undertones of wild cherries. This is the chile we use to make our red chile sauce.
TIP: Make sure the dried chile pods aren’t hard and brittle.
If you want more information on other chiles you could use in place of New Mexico chile, you can use Visit my post on Mexican Chiles for more ideas.
Watch the video below to see step by step how to make homemade enchilada sauce. Then try all these recipes that aren’t enchiladas to see just how versatile this sauce truly is.
Looking for recipes to use this homemade red chile sauce? Try these:
- Stacked Red Enchiladas
- Rolled and Baked Enchiladas
- Red Chile and Pork Tamales
- Pozole Rojo
- Pollo a la Brasa
If you loved this recipe for authentic homemade enchilada sauce and want more Mexican cooking inspiration, be sure to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest!
Homemade Red Chile Sauce (Chile Colorado)
- 8 ounces California or New Mexico red chile pods
- 6 cups water
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sub gluten free if necessary
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon salt
- Remove stems, seeds, and veins from the chile pods. Place in a colander and rinse well with cool water.
- Add the chiles to a large pot and add enough water so they are just covered. Bring water to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes turn the chiles over with tongs to make sure the chiles soften evenly. Drain cooked pods and allow time to cool down before blending. Discard water.
- Fill blender with 3 cups of water, half of the cooled chile pods, 3 tablespoons flour, 2 cloves garlic, and half of the salt. Blend until smooth. Strain sauce through a fine sieve to remove skins and seeds; discard skins and seeds. Repeat blending and straining process with remaining water, pods, flour, garlic, and salt. If necessary, season with more salt.
- Make sure the dried chile pods aren’t hard and brittle.
- Always wash your hands after working with chiles. You can wear gloves if you wish.
- Are you gluten free? No problem! Just sub in a 1-to-1 gluten free flour substitute.
- This sauce is un-cooked. This sauce can be stored uncooked or cooked.
- This sauce can be made in advance and kept in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer.
- Red chile sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week or frozen for up to six months.
LOOKING FOR RECIPES TO USE THIS HOMEMADE RED CHILE SAUCE? TRY THESE:
Photography by Jeanine Thurston & Jenna Sparks
Originally published: March 2017. This recipe is also published in the Muy Bueno cookbook.
63 Comments on “Authentic Red Sauce for Enchiladas + Video”
can you use dried chile powder instead of the actual chiles? I recently purchased some medium chile powder while in hatch.
Can this sauce be canned? If so, pressure or water bath?
Hi. I just discovered your website and I think I am going to love great many of your recipes. I buy bags of ground New Mexico chiles. Is it cheating to use this instead of the 8 oz. Of dried whole chiles?
Do you need to cook the the red Chile sauce before using on the enchiladas?
Great recipe! Do you do anything with the paste that’s left from the sieve?
Love the authenticity to it!
Just another reminder of how chili from New Mexico is the best!
How long should this sauce cook for?
Simply add to a hot pan with olive oil and bring to low boil and then lower heat to simmer. Follow the full ingredients in this blog post: https://muybuenoblog.com/red-enchiladas/
Easy, just a bit time-consuming. I added a touch of vinegar (1-2 tablespoons) for some acidity and a little more salt. It’s pretty thick as is, so I left out the flour at this point. I will be making your Pork Tamales later, so I can add flour if needed at that time. Thanks, Yvette!
You should clarify that this sauce needs to be cooked before it can be eaten. Raw flour carries salmonella and not stating it is not safe to eat at the end of the steps can get a lot of people sick.
The sauce will be cooked because you still have to steam your tamales to cook the masa. So no one is eating raw flour. If ur using it in something else, like enchiladas again you still need to put those in the oven & that will kill anything that might be lurking in the sauce.
I just learned that you are from El Paso as well. I was born and raised in El Paso too! I now live in Oklahoma and Mexican food outside El Paso just doesn’t do it for me so I always call my mom to ask for her recipes but my mom doesn’t make spicy food spicy due to her gastritis. I love spicy food even if it hurts me so sometimes I will adjust recipes a little bit. I found this recipe and page through a google search and the salsa is delicious! I will definitely come here for other recipes! Thank You so much!
Hey Aimee I’m from Chuco too!
I live outside of Dallas. What a small world & 100% agree about the food outside of EP.
This is the same exact way my Mom used to make the sauce (except the flour). I have been looking for something similar to Mom’s recipe. My Mom showed me when I was about 16 years old. She passed away in 2010 from breast cancer. We lived on Richmond Street near Copia in El Paso. Thanks a bunch for the recipe. My next recipe I want to duplicate is her cheese chile rellenos. She did teach me those also. I know she definitely used Muenster cheese. When I see the recipe I will know. It was not difficult either. I’ll look through your recipes. Thanks again. Enjoy your day.
It says this sauce is uncooked. What is the process to cook it? I’m going to use this recipe for enchiladas tomorrow. I hope it comes out well. If so I’ll use it for tamales.
Thank you for an honest authentic recipe that I will pass down! It was delicious and reminded me of my tias and and my grandma.
Thank you for an honest authentic recipe that I will pass down! It was delicious and reminded me of my tias ands and my grandma.
Gringo here, but I lived in Texas and So California so I’ve been making this sauce a while. I never used the flour tho;. it does sound good to toast it first. I’m glad to see you have the conical strainer, I inherited one and I love it.
I made some red chile sauce; however, the sauce is spicy hot. What can I do to decrease the spicy hot taste?
Use some tomatoes instead of using ALL chiles. The tomatos serve as a diluting agent against the capsaicin found normally in chiles but also give it a nice color and flavor.
Could a food processor be used instead of a blender? And if so, would a seive
drainer still be needed? Can’t wait to make the red tamales. I’ll keep in touch, thanks!
You need to post recipe for chili sauce, recipe of how to season pork n most importantly ALL MEASUREMENTS n should be done step by step as you’re making tamales. Found this very hard to follow jumping around. Thank you kindly.
Sorry found the measurements way after I posted , they are in the recipe itself not listed like normal recipes.
I couldn’t find any measurements for ex: garlic .
You rated a recipe one star because you couldn’t see the giant recipe card at the bottom of the page…?
How do you keep the Chiles brightness and orange-red color…?