There are two different types of Red Chili Enchilada Sauce:
- Authentic Red Chili sauce that requires an involved process of toasting, soaking, and pureeing dried red chilis.
- Easy, simple "cheater" enchilada sauce recipes that rely on dried spices and/or tomato paste as a replacement for puréed red chilis.
This recipe gives you the best of both worlds. It's BOTH quick and easy AND made from real red chili.
The secret is to start with frozen Red Chili Purée, found in the freezer section of most major supermarkets.
Frozen Red Chili Purée is simply dried red chilies that have been toasted, soaked, and pureed for you. It produces a rich, flavorful, absolutely delicious homemade enchilada sauce that is also incredibly quick and easy to prepare. 👏👏👏
Enchilada Sauce Made from Real Red Chili
I love, love, LOVE cheese enchiladas with red chili sauce. They are seriously one of my favorite things to eat.
As such, I am also quite picky about them. Because that's how it is with things we love.
For starters, the red chili sauce must be amazing and made from actual chilies, not tomato paste. None of that canned stuff. For example, here's the ingredient list of one of the most popular brands of canned red enchilada sauce:
It's really just watered down tomato paste with some chili pepper seasoning and a bunch of other crap, reminding me why I cook so many things from scratch.
The big problem to making a chili based sauce that it's traditionally a giant pain in the you-know-what. Before dried chilis can be used to make sauce, they have to be toasted, soaked and then pureed.
The process takes a long time, is kind of messy, and fills the air with eye-stinging chili oil.
I've done it. The red chili sauce was absolutely delicious. And it's not something I really want to do again.
The Secret to the BEST Super Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce: Red Chile Puree
There are two kinds of red chili puree:
- Frozen red chile puree
- Heat sealed red chile sauce
This stuff is genius. As long as the ingredient list looks something like this - Chili Peppers, Water, and maybe some salt - you're golden.
Frozen Red Chile Puree: I've purchased a few different brands, mostly dependent on what my local market happened to have in it's freezer case. I've also ordered frozen red chile puree on amazon. Here's the brand my local supermarket is stocking at the moment:
I generally purchase one bag of hot and one of mild and mix them together for a spice level that's on the medium-to-hot side.
The other good option is El Pinto Hatch Red Chile Sauce. This is basically the same thing as frozen red chile puree, but each container is heat-sealed and does not require refrigeration.
I've never El Pinto Hatch Red Chile Sauce in a supermarket but have ordered it many times on Amazon. It's now something I keep in my pantry at all times so I have it available to me whenever I want to make Enchilada Sauce or Mexican Adobo.
Homemade Enchilada Sauce Ingredients
Besides frozen red chili puree, you only need a few ingredients to make really good red enchilada sauce:
- Minced garlic. I usually use a heaping tablespoon, and sometimes even more than that. But, please adjust the amount of garlic in your enchilada sauce to your personal preferences, adding more or less as you wish.
- Spices: Dried oregano, ground cumin, and onion powder add flavor and freshness to this enchilada sauce.
- Sugar. Just 1 ½ tablespoons of sugar in this sauce is a delicious compliment to the heat and smokiness of the chili. That little bit of sugar softens the edges of this sauce, creating a smoother flavor.
- Salt. Obvi.
- Butter and flour. This enchilada sauce is thickened by making a roux. A roux is a simple mixture of flour and fat, cooked over low to medium heat, that acts as a thickening agent.
- 48 oz red chile puree, thawed if frozen. As previously stated, this is the KEY to making this enchilada sauce. When using frozen, I like to use one 24 oz bag mild and one 24 oz bag hot. But, please use all mild or all hot, depending on the heat level you prefer.
- Chicken Broth. Or, vegetable broth, or just water.
- Worcestershire sauce. This is a very non-traditional ingredient for Enchilada Sauce, but I love it in there. Just 1 tablespoon gives this sauce a richer flavor that's almost meaty.
How To Make this Red Chili Sauce in 2 Easy Steps:
- Melt some butter and add some flour to make a roux that will thicken the red chili slightly.
- Then just add the red chile puree, some spices, and broth or water and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes.
That's it. Seriously. It doesn't get much easier than this.
How to Freeze Red Enchilada Sauce:
This recipe makes quite a bit of sauce - about 5 cups. If you're making something like Cheese Enchilada Casserole, you'll only need about 3 ¼ cups, leaving you some leftover.
I like to divide leftover red chili sauce into little baggies with about 1 cup of sauce in each. It's really awesome to have on hand if you're making tacos, burritos, or huevos rancheros, or to add a nice kick to pretty much any kind of soup.
Ways to Use Enchilada Sauce:
- To make the BEST Pork Green Chili ever
- Pour enchilada sauce over the top of Crispy Corn Tortilla Quesadillas
- My favorite way to use this Enchilada Sauce is to make Cheese Enchilada Casserole
- In the filling and to drizzle over the top of these Stuffed Poblano Peppers
- In the broth for this hearty Southwest Summer Corn Chowder
- To add some smoky heat to these Black Bean Tostadas with Corn Salsa and Enchilada Cream
- To make this super quick and easy Chicken Tortilla Soup.
FAQs and Expert Tips
A: The age-old question. I have looked up the correct spelling for chili so many times and here is the general consensus:
In American English, chili is the most common spelling. In British English the preferred spelling is chilli. In Spanish-speaking countries and in many regions of the US, chile is the most common variant.
So, the answer to, Is it Chili or Chile? is .... yes. And, also chilli.
A: Salsa is more like a chutney. It has a chunky texture with visible pieces of vegetables in the sauce. Enchilada sauce is perfectly smooth. The other main difference is that salsa is often made with tomatoes and enchilada sauce is made from red chilis.
A: If your local market doesn't stock frozen red chili puree, the first thing I would do is ask them if they are willing to get some in. Many grocery stores and supermarkets are happy to order items that their customers request.
If that doesn't work you can order it. Amazon sells it in packs of 6 and 12, which means you'll have plenty in your freezer for whenever you want to make another batch.
Or, you can order El Pinto Hatch Red Chile Sauce, which is heat-sealed and does not require refrigeration.
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 ½ tablespoon granulated sugar (plus more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
- 6 tbs butter
- 6 tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 48 oz frozen red chili puree, thawed (I use one 24 oz bag mild and one 24 oz bag hot)
- 3 cups chicken broth or water
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Add the garlic, oregano, cumin, onion powder, sugar, and salt to a small bowl and set aside.
- Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, until the flour is beginning to brown slightly.
- Add the minced garlic and spice mix and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute longer.
- Add the red chili paste and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer, stirring often, for 10 minutes, until the paste has darkened and thickened a bit.
- Stir in the water or broth and Worcestershire sauce and let simmer, uncovered, for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and add more sugar and salt if desired.
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Serving Size:½ cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 257Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 1122mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 11g