Red Enchilada Sauce from scratch (Easy and Delicious!)

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Red Enchilada Sauce from scratch will totally amp up the flavor of any dish that calls for a can of red enchilada sauce.  It’s bursting with chili flavor, rich, and delicious.  You’ll never go for the can again!

red enchilada sauce from scratch from above with dry chiles

red enchilada sauce from scratch horizontal with dried chiles

I’ve been wanting to find a great recipe for red enchilada sauce from scratch for awhile now.  First off, I really don’t think the canned stuff is that tasty.  Second, after checking out the can of enchilada sauce it didn’t seem like there was much to it, and ya’ll know if I can make something from scratch without tons of work, I do it.

Turns out there are about a bajillion recipes out there for red enchilada sauce, however as I delved deep into recipe land I found that most of them were just a combination of tomatoes or tomato sauce and chili powder/other spices.  While these probably make a pretty good substitute for the canned stuff, I wanted to get my hands on some dried chiles and do this the old fashioned way.

Red Enchilada Sauce From Scratch

red enchilada sauce from scratch horizontal with dry chiles

So next, I delved into the world of authentic red enchilada sauce from scratch, and I found about a bajillion more recipes.  Most of these recipes, however, only included rehydrated dried chiles and some spices made into a sauce.  I didn’t think they would make a very good substitute for storebought enchilada sauce because storebought sauce is tomato-based.  I was stumped and almost gave up the hunt for the perfect red enchilada sauce recipe.

Don’t get too upset, we’re at the best part of the story when I happened upon a little food website that I had never been to before and I fell in love with called The Culinary Life.  There I found a recipe for (Mostly) Authentic Red Enchilada Sauce.  Score!  It was like the author had read my mind with a recipe that included tomatoes like storebought sauce, but also included dried chiles like traditional enchilada sauce.

Toasting the Dried Chiles

Pouring Red Enchilada Sauce from Scratch over tortillas

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I used a combo of ancho and guajillo chiles in this recipe. Toasting the guajillo chiles was the most difficult part of this recipe as these little peppers are thin and tiny so they can burn VERY quickly.  Only toast them for 30-40 seconds on each side until they are aromatic and only slightly turning color.

I am seriously NEVER turning back to storebought red enchilada sauce.  This sauce has such an amazing depth of flavor.  It was also very inexpensive and quick to make.  The recipe made a lot, so I ended up freezing about half of it to use later, which is always a bonus!

I used my sauce to make one of my favorite dishes, <”>homemade cafe rio sweet pork! This version from  Creme de la Crumb is pretty great, and even better with homemade enchilada sauce!

Want to try some other homemade sauces? Be sure to check out my 5 minute pizza sauce, and my super simple lasagna which features a SUPER easy homemade marinara sauce.

Red Enchilada Sauce from scratch

Red Enchilada Sauce from scratch

Yield: 4 Cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

This recipe for red enchilada sauce from scratch is bursting with rich flavor, you'll never want to reach for the can again.


  • 2 dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves medium garlic, minced
  • 1 C hot water
  • 1 C chicken broth
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 medium lemon, (about 1 1/2 Tbsp Juice)


  1. Rinse dried chiles and pat dry. Cut off stems and remove seeds. Dice into ~1 inch pieces.
  2. Heat a skillet over medium high heat, when heated add  ancho chiles to the dry pan. Toast for 1 minute on each side before adding the guajillo chiles.  The guajillo chiles burn easily so toast only 30-40 seconds on each side).
  3. Add diced onion and cook until they start to brown as well, add cumin and heat until aromatic. Add olive oil and and garlic and heat for about 30 seconds. Add hot water and chicken broth.
  4. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.  If you choose to use a regular blender, wait until the mixture has cooled slightly so you don't burn yourself. 
  6. Add oregano, chili powder, salt, tomatoes, sugar, and lemon juice and blend until the whole mixture is smooth.


If subbing for storebought sauce, substitute about 1 1/4 C sauce for a 10 oz can or 2 1/4 C sauce for a 19 oz can.

Adapted from The Culinary Life
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: C
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 62


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