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Homemade Enchilada Sauce, a Delicious Ingredient

Deliciously deep, bold flavor with some serious heat! Friends, my Homemade Enchilada Sauce changed my mind about enchiladas.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce in a glass mason jar on a wooden table with lime segments and sprigs of fresh cilantro
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Past experience had convinced me that I hated enchilada sauce. Every brand of canned sauce I had ever tried tasted muddy and bitter to me. Enchilada sauce was definitely “on the list” of things I did not eat.

After years of seeing gorgeous pictures of enchiladas being served and people seemingly enjoying them, I knew I had to be missing something.

I did a little research and holy cow! The wide variance in ingredient lists and in the quantities was astounding.

I found recipes with as little as a couple teaspoons of chili powder and others with as much as 4 Tablespoons! Each of those were for recipes that made about 2 cups of sauce. No wonder some taste muddy and bitter.

Enchilada Sauce Spices in a pan

Choose the Right Pepper Powder for the Job

American chili powder, isn’t just chili peppers. It’s usually a blend of any number of varieties of chili peppers, cumin, paprika, salt and oregano. Many chili powders contain onion powder and garlic powder, too.

Because you can never be 100% sure what chilies were used, you can’t be 100% sure of the heat level, either.

For me, plain chili powder has more influence on the FLAVOR of a dish than on the spiciness, but that can vary from brand to brand. And if you go overboard, it can get a little bitter and sort of muddy tasting.

That’s why I don’t use plain chili powder by itself, in my enchilada sauce.

If you enjoy a heat level that can range from mild to hot depending on how much you use, choose chipotle powder. It’s made from roasted and dried jalapenos. Chipotle powder won’t muddy the flavor of your enchilada sauce. And it adds some delicious smoky notes.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce in a glass mason jar on a wooden table with lime segments and sprigs of fresh cilantro

Cayenne is another alternative to chili powder in enchilada sauce. For much spicier enchilada sauce, you can add cayenne. Keep in mind that cayenne has a heat level 8-12 times hotter than chipotle powder. If substituting cayenne for the chipotle powder in this recipe, you’re going to want to use significantly less of the cayenne. Start with 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon.

Cayenne is all about the heat and not much flavor. Chipotle powder can bring the heat and add nice flavor, as well. I prefer chipotle powder in my Homemade Enchilada Sauce because it’s so much easier to adjust the spiciness that I want.

To reduce the spiciness of your enchilada sauce you’ll need less of whichever chilies you choose. So, start conservatively. You can always add more, but it’s difficult to remove.

The Ingredients

  • oil (I use avocado, but choose your favorite.)
  • all-purpose flour
  • chili powder
  • chipotle powder
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • oregano – I happen to love Mexican Oregano, but it’s not always easy to find. I have made this recipe successfully with plain oregano and it is scrumptious!
  • cinnamon
  • Tomato Powder [affiliate link] – OR – Caldo de Tomate [affiliate link] (tomato bouillon) which I buy at Walmart or on Amazon.
  • water or vegetable stock
  • apple cider vinegar
pan of Homemade Enchilada Sauce

How to Make Homemade Enchilada Sauce

  1. Make a spicy roux by placing the flour and all the spices in a sauce pan.
  2. Add the oil and whisk everything together to combine.
  3. Begin cooking the roux over medium heat, allowing the flour taste to cook out and the spices to toast. Continue heating over medium heat until the roux bubbles and thickens. (One or two minutes)
  4. In a separate bowl, dissolve the Caldo de Tomate and vinegar in the chicken stock.
  5. Add the chicken stock and vinegar to the roux in the pan, whisking to keep the sauce smooth.
  6. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce cook for an additional 5-7 minutes. It will reduce down and become slightly thicker.
  7. Taste and add salt if it’s needed.
  8. Serve.

How to Use Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Beef Enchilada Casserole on a White plate sitting on a wooden table.

Use this rich, flavorful Homemade Enchilada Sauce in recipes like Beef Enchilada Casserole, Barbacoa, or even a cheesy enchilada dip for game day!

It will be perfect for chicken or beef enchiladas and if you love enchilada-style soups, it will take their flavor over the moon!

Homemade Enchilada Sauce is great for dipping taquitos or tater tots! It’s also amazing in burritos.

Give it a try. You’re gonna love it!

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Homemade Enchilada Sauce in a glass mason jar on a wooden table with lime segments and sprigs of fresh cilantro

Delicious Homemade Enchilada Sauce

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  • Author: Glenda Embree
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1/2 cups sauce 1x


The flavor of this enchilada sauce is so superior to any canned version I have ever eaten, that there is really no comparison.  It is definitely spicy.  The perfect level of heat for our family.  You could cut the chipotle powder in half for a milder sauce, however.


Units Scale
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons oil (I use avocado. Choose your favorite.)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or gluten free flour blend)
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano (Mexican oregano if you can find it)
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup tomato powder or Caldo de Tomate
  • 6 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar


  1. Add the flour and all the spices to a medium-size sauce pan.
  2. Whisk in the oil and continue stirring until everything is thoroughly combined. You will have started a thin, spicy roux. 
  3. Begin heating your roux over medium heat and cook for 1-2 minutes, to toast the spices and cook out the flour taste. 
  4. In a separate bowl, dissolve the Caldo de Tomate and vinegar in the chicken stock.
  5. As the roux begins to bubble and thicken slightly, add the chicken broth mixture to the pan.  Stir constantly until everything is combined and the sauce is smooth, with no lumps.
  6. Reduce the heat to low, just to keep the sauce simmering, and let it cook down for 5 – 7 minutes.  Though it is not a super thick sauce, it WILL thicken slightly.  (Don’t think gravy, but something more the consistency of hot syrup.  It will easily coat the back of a spoon, before slowly dripping off.)
  7. Taste and add more salt if you feel it’s needed.
  8. Remove the sauce from heat and use in your favorite recipes, like my Family Favorite Enchilada Casserole.
  9. I have successfully kept enchilada sauce in the fridge for up to 7 days and in the freezer up to 4 months.


This recipe usually makes 6 or 6 1/2 cups of sauce for me.  That’s the equivalent of about 3 (15 oz) cans purchased at the store.  You could cut the recipe in half if you need less; but this sauce freezes well, so any leftovers are easy to store.  Having it pre-made saves time the next time you need some.

Reduce the Spiciness

Cut back on the amount of chipotle powder to reduce the spiciness of your enchilada sauce.

Increase the Spiciness

Add more chipotle powder or add very small amounts of cayenne pepper to make your enchilada sauce more spicy.  Begin with 1/8th teaspoon and cook it in.  Taste.  Add another 1/8th teaspoon if you want more heat.  Cook it in .  Taste.  Repeat until the desired heat level is achieved.

  • Prep Time: 5 min
  • Cook Time: 10 min
  • Category: sauce
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: Mexican-American
glenda embree

About Glenda

I believe cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated and that YOU can do it. My simple recipes, tutorials, and cooking tips will help you get weeknight dinners on the table with less stress. Forget takeout or the drive-thru. Let me show you how to make homemade easy. Read more...

4 thoughts on “Homemade Enchilada Sauce, a Delicious Ingredient”

  1. I have a spice mix almost exactly like this that I keep mixed up and ready to go. About the only difference is I have never added the vinegar.


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