Tex-Mex flavors combine in this flavorful, easy red enchilada sauce recipe that’s made in just minutes. Try this on your favorite enchiladas!
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Enchiladas are such a cheap, easy meal to make. You can throw just about anything into them, too, which makes them especially easy to adapt to anyone’s tastes.
I personally love using plant-based meat for a filling in my enchiladas–with a flour tortilla, like a typical American. (Authentic enchiladas, on the other hand, are usually made with corn tortillas.) Then I like to add a deep-red, flavorful enchilada sauce on top before adding some cheese to bake onto it.
However, today I decided to use mini flour tortillas with a cheese, onion, and pepper filling using the most amazing easy, homemade red enchilada sauce you could imagine. I also cooked these up on the stovetop in a saucepan rather than baking them in the oven.
(This is also the way to do it if you’re only cooking for one or two people and don’t want an entire pan of leftovers for the week.)
Let me tell you, I think I’ve been missing out all this time by using pre-made enchilada sauce. I don’t know why it never crossed my mind to experiment with making some from scratch. It’s just too easy and the taste is beyond measure.
Most things are better homemade, but I have to admit I sometimes choose convenience over flavor when it comes to condiments or sauces. How much can it matter? Well, actually quite a bit.
This easy red enchilada sauce has a deeper flavor profile than what you’d get from a can.
I did cheat and use some canned tomato paste with the base, simmering it on the stove to allow it to develop a deeper flavor. Coupled with fresh herbs from the garden and fresh garlic and some other spices… I’m convinced I’ll never go back (surprise, surprise, that happened when I started making homemade marinara from scratch, too!).
Now that I have you convinced, why don’t I go through all the steps of crafting a delicious, easy red enchilada sauce you’ll be making time and time again…
Easy Red Enchilada Sauce
What is the difference between red and green enchilada sauce?
Other than the difference in color, red and green enchilada sauces have completely different flavors. For one, different types of peppers are used in the sauces. In a red sauce, red chilies are used, usually in the form of ground up, dried red chilies or a chili powder. In a green sauce, green chilies and tomatillos are used as the base of the sauce. Green sauce tends to be milder in flavor, too, unless of course lots of extra jalapeños are added in. They both have their place in the world of Mexican food, but today I’ll be using a classic red enchilada sauce for my enchiladas.
What else can I add for more heat or flavor?
Authentic enchilada sauce usually doesn’t need more heat added to it because it’s made mainly from pureed peppers, not tomatoes like this recipe here. That being said, most Tex-Mex food here in America tends to use more tomato bases in enchilada sauce recipes. Maybe we just can’t handle the heat, but I’m okay with using tomatoes and flavoring it with a few chilies or other peppers for a little more spice.
Feel free to increase the amount of chili powder or to add your favorite type of pepper in this recipe. I personally do not like a smoky chipotle flavor, so I tend to stick to milder chilies or spicy hot peppers to season Mexican dishes. If you are making a milder enchilada sauce, I’d recommend enhancing the flavor with more garlic, herbs like cilantro, or even some bell peppers pureed into the sauce.
Can I double the recipe?
Of course. This recipe is easy to double for making a large batch of enchiladas. You can also make extra to store for later. Fill a glass jar almost to the top with enchilada sauce, leaving about 1 inch of room at the top. Secure the lid and let it cool at room temperature. After it is cooled, store the glass jar in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Tools You’ll Need | Easy Red Enchilada Sauce
Measuring cups and spoons
Pot or saucepan
Ingredients | Easy Red Enchilada Sauce
Olive oil – I prefer using healthy oils in cooking and use olive oil in this recipe. Avocado oil can also be used in place of olive oil.
Flour – All-purpose flour is used to thicken the sauce, but cornstarch could also be used.
Tomato paste – Tomato paste is used as a base for the red sauce.
Chili powder – Chili powder adds the flavor and heat that is iconic of red enchilada sauce.
Garlic – Garlic makes everything taste better. Use fresh garlic to saute into the oil to infuse the sauce.
Vinegar – Vinegar adds a little more acidity to the sauce giving it the classic flavor.
Salt – Use salt to season it to your liking.
Cumin – Cumin adds some depth of flavor to the enchilada sauce.
Oregano – Although many know of oregano’s use in Italian cooking, it is also widely used in Mexican dishes to enhance the flavors. Use just enough to add some flavor.
How to Make Easy Red Enchilada Sauce
Start by heating the oil in a saucepan on medium-low heat until it’s hot.
Add the pressed garlic clove to the pan and stir often as it cooks to a light golden brown.
Sprinkle in the flour and make a roux by whisking it until a thick mixture forms.
Add in the tomato paste and vinegar, using a whisk to combine it with the oil and garlic.
Slowly begin adding in water, stirring as you pour it.
Flavor with cumin, oregano, chili powder, and salt. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes until it reaches your desired thickness.
Remove from heat to cool for storage or add the warm sauce directly to enchiladas.
Tips for Success | Easy Red Enchilada Sauce
Be sure to saute the garlic long enough to roast it slightly and release some of the flavors, but keep a close eye on it so it does not burn. Garlic burns very quickly.
Add water slowly when mixing it into the tomato paste-roux mixture. Pour about ¼-⅓ cup at a time and whisk until mixture is homogeneous before adding more. This helps everything combine more evenly.
More Family Favorite Recipes
Easy Red Enchilada Sauce
- measuring cups and spoons
- garlic press
- pot or saucepan
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp vinegar
- 1 garlic clove pressed or minced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- Start by heating the oil in a saucepan on medium-low heat until it’s hot.
- Add the pressed garlic clove to the pan and stir often as it cooks to a light golden brown.
- Sprinkle in the flour and make a roux by whisking it until a thick mixture forms.
- Add in the tomato paste and vinegar, using a whisk to combine it with the oil and garlic.
- Slowly begin adding in water, stirring as you pour it.
- Flavor with cumin, oregano, chili powder, and salt. Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes until it reaches your desired thickness.
- Remove from heat to cool for storage or add the warm sauce directly to enchiladas.