Red Enchilada Sauce

I’d been wanting to make my own enchilada sauce for a while now and I had a couple of failed attempts before hitting it out of the park with this one. The best part was trusting my own instincts – I searched in vain, for quite some time, for a recipe I felt was “right” before realizing that the right one would, of course, be the one I made all by myself.

And so it was. It knocked our flippin’ socks off.

Red Enchilada Sauce
(makes 5 to 6 cups, enough for two standard enchilada recipes)


6 dried New Mexican chiles
4 dried ancho chiles
4 dried chiles de arbol
2 cups chicken stock
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1/2 tablespoon Kosher salt


Cut the heads off the chiles and shake out all the seeds. Cut the chiles up with a pair of scissors (or rip them by hand) into large pieces.

Heat a large skillet on medium low. Place the dried chile pieces on the skillet to heat, pressing down to blister. Turn the chiles over and heat a few seconds more.

Bring a small pot of water to boil. Place the chiles into a non-reactive bowl and pour enough boiling water into the bowl to cover the chiles. Place a lid over the bowl and allow to sit for at least an hour, to soften the chiles.

Pull the chiles out of the soaking water and place in a blender with the chicken stock, tomato sauce, garlic, cumin, oregano and salt. Blend until liquefied, about a minute.

At this point, you can strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl or pan, but I don’t bother. I’ve done it before, but since my blender works well enough to only leave a little chile piece or two, I like to leave it as is. I think the sauce has more character that way.

There is no real sweetness or tartness here, except what you get from the blend of pure chiles and tomatoes. This is a smoky, savory, slightly spicy enchilada sauce. Just as I wanted it.


14 thoughts on “Red Enchilada Sauce

  1. I usually make a big batch of enchilada sauce and then freeze the extra.. in fact, just pulled some out last night.

    I find that the most important step is to blister the chilies before soaking them — with a dry roast as you did, and/or frying them in oil. Otherwise, they give off a bitter/off flavor.

    Well done!


  2. I need to find some dried chilis, I don't come across them very often. Would Penzey's have them you think? We just got a store not far from my house…haven't been yet but have been wanting to. Do you just find them at your grocery store? Maybe my Fresh Market will have them…


  3. Aggie, you should be able to get them at Penzey's – I've been there before, too – but typically I find them at either a) a Mexican market or b) Albertson's, Ralph's or the like (Publix for you, yes?) in the Mexican foods section. It's usually the latter since even though I have a bajillion Mexican markets nearby, I don't find myself going to them as often as I should. πŸ˜‰


  4. Pingback: Chicken Enchiladas | Hunt, Cook, Eat

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