Easy Enchilada Sauce

$0.80 batch
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.79 from 114 votes
Jump to RecipeStep by StepPrint Recipe

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Enchilada sauce is one of my very favorite things, ever. I love when it soaks into tortillas while baking and makes everything all tangy, spicy, and good. Mmmmm. 🤤 But when the selection of enchilada sauce at my local grocery store was less than impressive, I decided it was high time to make some red enchilada sauce myself. This Easy Red Enchilada Sauce is a total game-changer and now I can never go back to store-bought. It has ten times more flavor than anything I’ve ever had from a can and literally takes minutes to make. It’s a total winner.

Originally posted 8-4-2012, updated 4-30-2022.

red enchilada sauce dripping from a wooden spoon into a glass jar.

Quick Method, Big Flavor

This EASY enchilada sauce is not an authentic enchilada sauce made with dried chile peppers that you’ll find in Texas or Mexico, but it’s a quick and easy version that anyone can whip up in their kitchen using basic pantry staples. But I promise, once you taste it, you won’t regret the shortcuts. It’s still bursting with flavor and you’ll want to pour it over everything. If you want a made-from-scratch with dried chiles enchilada sauce, check out this Authentic Enchilada Sauce recipe from Isabel Eats.

How Spicy is Red Enchilada Sauce?

The “chili powder” listed in the recipe below is a store-bought mix of spices used to season chili. It is not straight chile powder, or pure ground chile peppers, which can be extremely spicy. The brand of chili powder I use is completely mild, but other brands can sometimes carry some heat. If you are using a spicy chili powder, simply reduce or eliminate the cayenne powder from this recipe to compensate. The heat level of the recipe below, using McCormick’s chili powder, is medium spicy, like a medium salsa.

How to Use Enchilada Sauce

Enchilada sauce is not just for Enchiladas! Here are some other great ways to use red enchilada sauce:

  • as a simmer sauce for meat (in a slow cooker or skillet)
  • as a rich sauce to smother burritos
  • combined with eggs and fried tortillas for Migas
  • combined with sour cream to make a creamy and spicy dip
  • as a replacement for taco sauce
  • a soup base (30 Minute Posole)
  • to sauce up casseroles like Mexican lasagna, enchilada casserole, or Taco Stuffed Shells

But if you do want to use it for enchiladas, make sure to check out these great enchilada recipes: Chorizo and Sweet Potato Enchiadas, Black Bean and Avocado Enchiladas, and Weeknight Enchiladas.

enchilada sauce being poured from a glass jar over a casserole dish full of enchiladas.

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Easy Red Enchilada Sauce

4.79 from 114 votes
It only takes 10 minutes to make this super easy red enchilada sauce that is bursting with flavor.
close up of enchilada sauce dripping off a wooden spoon into a jar.
Servings 8 ¼ cup each
Cook 10 mins
Total 10 mins


  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.10)
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour ($0.02)
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder ($0.30)
  • 2 cups water ($0.00)
  • 3 oz. tomato paste ($0.27)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin ($0.03)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder ($0.03)
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper ($0.02)
  • 3/4 tsp salt or to taste ($0.03)


  • Add the cooking oil, flour, and chili powder to a sauce pot. Turn the heat on to medium and whisk the ingredients together. Continue to whisk as the mixture begins to bubble. Whisk and cook the mixture for one minute once it begins bubbling.
  • After one minute, whisk in the water, tomato paste, cumin, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper until smooth. Allow the sauce to come up to a simmer. Once it reaches a simmer it will begin to thicken slightly.
  • Starting with a 1/2 teaspoon, add salt to taste. I used about 3/4 teaspoon total. The sauce is now ready to use!

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


The water can be replaced with either vegetable broth or chicken broth for more depth, just be sure to reduce the salt added at the end to compensate.


Serving: 0.25CupCalories: 53kcalCarbohydrates: 5gProtein: 1gFat: 4gSodium: 338mgFiber: 1g
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Enchilada sauce in a sauce pot with a wooden spoon.

How to Make Enchilada Sauce – Step By Step Photos

chili powder, flour, and oil in a sauce pot.
Start by adding 2 Tbsp flour, 2 Tbsp chili powder, and 2 Tbsp oil to a pot. I use McCormick’s chili powder, which is not spicy, just flavorful, so don’t be frightened by the large quantity in the recipe. All of the heat comes from the cayenne pepper.

boiling chili powder and roux in a sauce pot with a whisk.
Whisk these ingredients together and allow them to come up to a bubble over medium heat, whisking the whole time. Whisk and cook for one minute. This will toast the flour and chili powder, adding to the flavor depth and making sure that the flour doesn’t taste like paste.

water being poured into the pot with tomato paste and spices.
After one minute, add 3oz. tomato paste, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne, and whisk in 2 cups water (or broth).

Simmered enchilada sauce in the sauce pot.

Let the sauce come up to a simmer and it will begin to thicken. Taste the sauce and add salt to your liking. Start with about 1/2 teaspoon and add more if needed. The salt will really help bring out the flavors. If you’re using broth in place of water, you might not need to add any at all.

close up of enchilada sauce dripping off a wooden spoon into a jar.

And now you’re good to go! Drizzle this thick and flavorful enchilada sauce over all of your favorite foods and enjoy!

side view of a jar of enchilada sauce with a spoon.

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  1. Thank you for this recipe. I thought I had enchilada sauce when I went shopping. Not! This was easy, and probably better too.

  2. Do you ever make big batches and can it? If so, what are your canning directions?

    1. I’ve made big batches and frozen it in recipe-sized portions many times. The sauce will separate when thawed, but a quick blitz with an immersion blender and it’s as good as fresh made (which is excellent). Would be interested to know if canning works!

  3. I was just making lazy enchiladas b and the big can of enchilada sauce in my pantry didn’t look, smell or taste quite right so off to Google I went. I ended up here. When I tell you I will never buy canned enchilada sauce again. I will never buy canned enchilada sauce again. I scaled way back on the cayenne and added a bunch more garlic. It was perfect. Thank you!

  4. I made adjustments on this recipe to make about 1 1/2 gallons for Mens weekend retreat and it was a hit. My crew used it in beef enchiladas for about 120 men, the guys used it to top there tacos , they were putting on eggs in the morning. I’ve made it numerous times for my family. Always a hit.

  5. I usually have to adjust the flour ratio to get this to work, but it always tastes spectacular. My current favorite use: Inspired by Beth’s Quick Curried Chickpeas, I simmer chickpeas in the finished enchilada sauce, then top with cilantro and cotija cheese. It’s a fast and easy way to deliver more enchilada sauce to my mouth!

  6. We loved this sauce with the black beanenchillada recipe.
    My question is:
    How long before serving can I prepare this sauce?
    Can I freeze it?

    Thank you so much!

    1. I usually just use it right away, but other people have commented that they keep it refrigerated a few days. I haven’t tried freezing it but I’m almost certain a couple other people have commented that they do so. :)

    2. I have been using this recipe for awhile. I printed it off the internet a long time ago. Then I looked it up on Pinterest so now I have it were I can get it anytime without pulling out a paper copy. I love this recipe.

  7. I make double batches of this recipe often! It’s the best. So easy, flavorful and reliable every time. I make enchiladas, enchilada casserole, and have successfully used it to make easy refried beans and taco “meat” with lentils, mushrooms and beans. I add oregano, personal preference, but otherwise follow directions as they’re written. 

  8. A bit too much chili powder for my preference, but that might be because the stuff I use is pretty strong. Otherwise fantastic, I’d just cut the chili powder to about 1-1/2 tbsp next time, maybe adding some back after tasting.

    1. Unfortunately, I’ve never used Wondra, so I’m not sure how it would perform in a recipe like this.

  9. I’m stunned at how fabulous this enchilada sauce is! Better than any restaurant’s and easy, too! I’ve never found a canned enchilada sauce that is good, and when I’ve tried other recipes they’re too tomato-y. This recipe, however, is PERFECT! It has the exact flavor I’ve been hunting for years to find. Thank you so much!

  10. I made this sauce and then it sat in the fridge for a day because I got busy and didn’t make the enchilada casserole immediately. I’m glad I got busy, because by the next day – wow! The flavours really developed overnight! Huge winner and will be making this again and again! Thanks Beth for all your amazing recipes that become staples in this household! 

  11. How long does this last in the fridge?
    I would love to make this on the weekend and use it during the week.

  12. I totally agree, best enchilada sauce ever. After spending too much on a few different brands from the grocery store and not liking them, I always make this! Great for vegetarians as well as meat eaters in my family! And so easy!