Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Who’s with me on the whole “make your Mexican food at home” thing?  Sure, it’s awesome to be crooned to by a mariachi band singing Happy Birthday in Spanish over strawberry frozen margaritas while a pile of warm, salty chips and a 15 pound natural stone bowl of guac sits waiting to be devoured.  Believe you me, we’ve got a place like that in town that we’ve been frequenting for years.  And they have take-out.

But there comes a time in one’s life when a noisy night out in a restaurant just doesn’t cut it anymore.  You get old[er].  The margaritas don’t flow as easily as they used to and the day-after effects linger longer than ever.  So you (and by you, I mean me) turn to conquering the enchilada at home.  At first it’s easy!  A box full of the ingredients you need, minus the protein of choice, takes care of the hard part.  Sometimes you opt for a can of enchilada sauce if you have a recipe to use.

You know what though?  Make your own enchiladas, from scratch, at home – just take the leap and do it.  Use this sauce.  It’s phenomenal and it’s still really easy!  You don’t have to make your own tortillas (though they are amazing) but this sauce will take you 15 minutes, tops.  It’s a slightly adapted version of the sauce I use for my chicken enchiladas and it’s versatile enough to be used for all kinds of red enchiladas.  I even dip my tortilla chips in it like it’s salsa!  Serve some black beans or refried beans on the side of your enchiladas with some rice and you’ve got yourself an authentic restaurant meal at home.  Sign.me.up.


Homemade Enchilada Sauce
source: adapted from America’s Test Kitchen The Healthy Family Cookbook

Canned tomato sauce on its own has a fair amount of sodium to don’t be tempted to add salt to this sauce unless you taste it first and feel that it needs it.


  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water


  1. Heat the oil in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic, chile powder, cumin, and sugar.  Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.  Pour the tomato sauce into the saucepan.  Use the water to rinse out the tomato sauce can and pour that in to the saucepan as well.  Stir everything together, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes.
  2. Set a mesh strainer over a large bowl and pour the sauce into the strainer.  Stir with a spatula to strain the sauce through and press the onions with the spatula to squeeze out as much of the sauce as possible.  Discard the onions or add them to your enchilada filling mixture, if appropriate for the dish.  Stir the sauce for a couple of seconds until it takes on a uniform consistency.  Use immediately, store in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze in an airtight container for later use.


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  • January 31, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    I’ve been making an easier version of enchilada sauce, which uses garlic powder and onion powder and adds oregano, too. I think it’s the only thing I use onion powder for actually, but it lets you skip the straining part. But this looks good too! And I’d always rather make something like that. If you have a can of enchilada sauce in the pantry, that’s all you’ve got. If you’ve got a can of tomato sauce, you can turn it into many different sauces!

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