Enchilada Sauce

Flavorful and easy to make, this homemade enchilada sauce is so much better than the canned kind. Use it in your favorite enchilada recipes!

Jar of enchilada sauce

When I’m craving enchiladas on a weeknight, I first make this red enchilada sauce recipe. It’s the perfect starting point for fast, flavorful homemade enchiladas. It takes minutes to make, and it calls for simple pantry ingredients. Still, its balance of tangy, earthy, and savory flavors really packs a punch. Swap it in for the store-bought stuff, and I promise, you’ll taste the difference.

Overhead shot of tomato puree, avocado oil, spices, and all-purpose flour in small bowls on a metal tray

Homemade Enchilada Sauce Recipe Ingredients

Growing up in the Midwest, I thought of enchilada sauce as one thing: the tomato-based stuff that comes in a can. But when I moved to Austin, I learned that in Mexican and Tex Mex cooking, enchilada sauce doesn’t always look one way. It can have a base of zingy tomatillos or be a chili gravy made from broth and spices. Or it can be a mole or a piquant blend of rehydrated dried chiles. All that’s to say that this recipe is just one type of enchilada sauce, basically an upgraded version of the canned kind. Though I love experimenting with other styles of enchilada sauce as well, I often come back to this one because it’s so easy to prepare.

Here’s what you’ll need to make it:

  • Tomato sauce – It creates the sauce’s tangy base.
  • Avocado oil – For richness. I like its neutral flavor here, though if you don’t have it on hand, olive oil would work too.
  • All-purpose flour – To thicken the sauce.
  • Chili powder – For heat and smoky flavor. Use store-bought, or make your own.
  • Cumin – It adds earthy flavor.
  • Garlic powder – It makes the sauce intensely savory.
  • Dried oregano – For aromatic, herbal notes.
  • Vegetable broth – It loosens the sauce, giving it the perfect consistency to pour over enchiladas.
  • And sea salt – To make all the flavors pop!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Whisking red enchilada sauce in saucepan

How to Make Enchilada Sauce

This homemade enchilada sauce recipe is quick and easy to make! Here’s how it goes:

  • First, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for one minute, then add the spices and whisk for another minute.
  • Next, add the tomato sauce and broth. Gradually pour them into the pan, whisking continuously.
  • Then, simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 12 minutes. It will thicken more as it cools.

Season to taste and enjoy in your favorite enchilada recipe! (We love this cheese one and this black bean one.)

Wooden spoon lifting out of jar of homemade enchilada sauce

Enchilada Sauce Recipe Tips

  • Know your chili powder (and your spice tolerance). Chili powders vary widely in spice level. Taste yours before making the sauce to get a sense of how spicy it is. If you prefer a mild enchilada sauce, you might want to use as little as 1 tablespoon chili powder. If you like a spicy sauce (or if you have a very mild chili powder), feel free to add more. I typically use 2 to 3 tablespoons of chili powder in my red enchilada sauce.
  • Add the tomato sauce and broth slowly. Instead of dumping all the liquid into the saucepan at once, pour in the tomato sauce and broth gradually, whisking continuously while you do it. This will make your final sauce thicker and smoother, free of any clumps of flour or spices.
  • Get ahead. This enchilada sauce recipe will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Make it on the weekend, and you’ll be able to throw together homemade enchiladas on any night of the week!

Enchilada sauce recipe

More Favorite Homemade Sauces

If you love this recipe, try one of these homemade sauces next:

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Enchilada Sauce

rate this recipe:
5 from 9 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serves 4
This homemade enchilada sauce is flavorful and easy to make! Use it in any recipe that calls for red enchilada sauce.



  • Heat the avocado oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and oregano and whisk for 1 minute. Slowly add the tomato sauce and then the broth, whisking continuously until smooth.
  • Simmer for 12 minutes, or until thickened. The sauce will thicken more as it cools. Use in your favorite enchilada recipe.
  • Makes 1¾ cups.


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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Tudi

    Is there a way to make the enchilada sauce gluten-free? Thanks!

  2. Joyce

    I don’t like chili powder. Is there something you might recommend for a substitute or would you just leave it out?

  3. Mary

    5 stars
    An easy recipe to make enchilada sauce in a pinch. I honestly won’t go back to buying enchilada sauce from the store, it’s that good.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Mary, I’m so glad you loved the enchilada sauce!

  4. Reba

    Excited to try today! I just finished a tomato sauce, so it’s perfect timing!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I hope you love them!

  5. Cindy

    Can I use a different oil like Olive oil ?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Cindy, you can use olive oil or any neutral oil like vegetable oil.

  6. ellen

    5 stars
    I tried this and it was so good! Thank you for this recipe. Will switch to making this one over buying the can from now on!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.