Homemade red enchilada sauce is incredibly easy to make at home for all of your enchilada needs! With only 7 ingredients and in 20 minutes, you can make your own and forget about buying the canned stuff from the grocery store ever again.

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]. 

Hand pouring homemade enchilada sauce over enchiladas.

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 from the grocery 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 an actual enchilada recipe to use.

And then after some attempts and some mediocre recipes, you decide to make your own enchiladas, from scratch, at home. And you LOVE making your own! You even start to use your Instant Pot for the chicken along with this red enchilada sauce! 

This homemade enchilada sauce is phenomenal and it’s SUPER easy to make! 

To make outstanding enchiladas, you don’t have to make your own tortillas (though they are amazing) but this sauce will take you 20 minutes to make, tops. It’s a slightly adapted version of the sauce I use for the best chicken enchiladas ever and it’s versatile enough to be used for all kinds of red enchiladas. 

I love this sauce so much that I even dip my tortilla chips in it like it’s salsa!

How to Make Enchilada Sauce

You’ll need 7 ingredients (plus water) for the sauce and 20 minutes of time to make it. Here’s a quick run down but be sure to check out the recipe card below for the full list of ingredients and instructions:


  • Canola oil
  • Yellow onion
  • Fresh garlic
  • Ancho chile powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Granulated sugar
  • Canned tomato sauce
  • Water

STEP 1: Heat the oil in a saucepan and cook the onion until softened. Add the garlic, chile powder, and cumin, and cook until fragrant.

STEP 2: Stir in the sugar, tomato sauce, and water. Simmer for 10 minutes.

STEP 3: Press the sauce mixture through a sieve into a bowl. Use the sauce in the bowl for your enchiladas. Either discard the onion mixture or stir it into your enchilada mixture for extra flavor.

Then just serve some black beans or refried beans on the side of your enchiladas with some cilantro lime rice and you’ve got yourself an authentic restaurant meal at home. And please invite me over!!

More Homemade Versions of Store-Bought Stuff:

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Yield: about 2 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Homemade enchilada sauce is an essential staple recipe to make whenever your cravings for enchiladas arise. It takes 15 - 20 minutes and 7 ingredients to make and makes enough for a large batch of chicken enchiladas. Leave the canned enchilada sauce, with all of its unprounceable ingredients, at the store and make your own!


  • 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
  • ½ 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.


adapted from America's Test Kitchen The Healthy Family Cookbook

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Leave a Comment

  • 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!