How to make flavorful enchilada sauce using pantry staples in under 15 minutes. This simple homemade enchilada sauce lasts for days in the fridge and can even be frozen.
You can make enchilada sauce a few ways. You can make it by using whole dried chilies, like we did in this red chili enchilada sauce or make it green, like we’ve done in this sauce with tomatillos as a base.
In this quicker, easier version, we call on pantry staples like chili powder, cumin, tomato paste, flour, and broth to make it. I honestly love this sauce just as much as the one made with dried chilies and much more than any of the canned options at the store. It’s perfect for making homemade chicken enchiladas as well as these veggie enchiladas. Let me show you how we make it! It’s so easy.
What you need to make enchilada sauce
To make this ultra-flavorful enchilada sauce, you’ll need the following ingredients (the full recipe is found below):
- Chili powder gives the sauce lots of flavor and color. I love using my homemade chili powder blend, but when I don’t have that in the pantry, I love using ancho chili powder. If you don’t have ancho chili powder, don’t worry, regular chili powder will work, too. Just use what you have.
- Cumin, coriander, garlic powder or fresh garlic and Mexican oregano are the secondary spices in our sauce. I typically use fresh garlic, but garlic powder will do the trick if that’s all you have. Mexican oregano is a fun spice to have in your pantry. It’s a bit different to Mediterranean oregano and has more of a grassy, citrusy flavor, while Mediterranean oregano has more sweet, anise undertones. We buy it from a local Mexican grocery store, but you should also be able find it online. If you cannot find it, don’t worry, the flavor profiles might not be exactly the same, but you can substitute marjoram, dried verbena and even Mediterranean oregano for Mexican oregano.
- Oil and flour combine to thicken the sauce. I use all-purpose flour, but a gluten-free flour blend will work just as well.
- Tomato paste, broth and apple cider vinegar are what brings all the spices in the sauce together. I typically use vegetable broth, but any stock you have on hand will work. Water will even work in a pinch!
How to make enchilada sauce
I said earlier that you really only need 15 minutes to make this enchilada sauce recipe. Here are the basic steps to follow (the full recipe is below):
- Cook the oil and flour until thick and light brown. This easy step is crucial in making sure the sauce thickens correctly. It takes 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the spices and tomato paste, and then let them toast in the pan for a minute. This really helps to bring out the flavors of each spice you’ve added, which makes the enchilada sauce extra flavorful.
- Whisk in broth or stock and allow the sauce to thicken.
- Season with salt, pepper, more spices, and a small splash of apple cider vinegar.
How to use enchilada sauce
I love having a container full of this simple sauce in my fridge. There are so many ways you can use it! Here are some of my favorites:
- Make enchiladas! Mix shredded chicken with the sauce, wrap and bake for amazing chicken enchiladas. Or fill tortillas with black beans and roasted vegetables (like in these veggie tacos), add sauce and bake for vegetable enchiladas. Here’s our creamy green enchiladas for some more inspiration.
- Toss roasted shrimp with some sauce and top salads or rice bowls.
- Stir enchilada sauce into a frittata before baking or into scrambled eggs.
- Add a spoonful to soups, like this chicken tortilla soup. I love to turn regular chicken noodle soup into chicken enchilada soup.
- Spoon over roasted vegetables or tender cooked meats and add to salads or rice bowls.
Easy Enchilada Sauce
How to make flavorful enchilada sauce using pantry staples in under 15 minutes. This simple, homemade sauce lasts for days in the fridge and can be frozen.
You Will Need
2 tablespoons neutral oil like olive oil, grape seed, avocado oil or safflower
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
1 tablespoon chili powder, see notes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or substitute 2 minced cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, optional
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, see notes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1Heat oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring often until the flour smells nutty, about 1 minute.
2Stir in the chili powder, cumin, garlic powder (or fresh garlic), coriander, oregano, and the tomato paste. Stir, breaking the tomato paste up a bit, for 30 seconds to one minute more.
3While whisking, gradually pour in the broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer until thickened. If the sauce seems too thin, continue to simmer until reduced and thickened slightly.
4Season with salt and stir in the apple cider vinegar.
5Use straight away or save for later. Store homemade enchilada sauce in the refrigerator up to a week. Freeze it for a month or more.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- Chili powder: Unlike other countries, in the United States, store-bought chili powder most often found is mild and very flavorful. Here’s our homemade chili powder recipe to guide you. We also love using ancho chili powder. This makes up most of the flavor of the sauce, so using a quality chili powder will make the best sauce.
- Mexican oregano is different than the more common Mediterranean oregano found in the spice aisle. They actually come from different plants. Mexican oregano has grassy, citrusy undertones, while Mediterranean oregano has more sweet with anise undertones. We buy our Mexican oregano from a local Mexican grocery store, but you should also be able find it online. If you cannot find it, don’t worry, the flavor profiles might not be exactly the same, but you can substitute marjoram, dried verbena and even Mediterranean oregano for Mexican oregano.
- Nutrition Facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA database to calculate approximate values.