Spicy Red Enchilada Sauce

A jar of red enchilada sauce.

Make your own spicy red enchilada sauce with this simple recipe. This red sauce is perfect for making chicken enchiladas, beef and pork, and it comes together in 10 minutes. Try this enchilada red sauce for your next Mexican-inspired meal.

There’s nothing like a casserole of homemade Mexican enchiladas loaded with your favorite fillings, plenty of cheese, and delightfully tingly Mexican red enchilada sauce.

Did you know that that spicy enchilada sauce is super-easy to make right in your own kitchen and it’s way better than store-bought canned enchilada sauce?

This recipe uses fresh garlic and dried chipotle chili powder, chili and spices for a smoky red chipotle sauce for all your Mexican casseroles.

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The ingredients for red enchilada sauce.

Believe it or not, enchilada sauce has its roots in French cooking. The sauce starts with the exact makings as a roux (the classic thickener for a béchamel).

Instead of flour and butter, however, this one uses vegetable oil with the flour and classic Mexican spices with a pinch of cinnamon.

It’s ready to use in minutes, but you can also make this chipotle enchilada sauce a few days ahead. You can just keep it refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

Why you’ll love this recipe:

  • Ready to use in 10 minutes.
  • It can be made ahead of time.
  • It lasts up to 5 days in the refrigerator and can be saved longer in the freezer.
  • Works well for chicken enchiladas with red sauce, beef enchiladas, pork or even tofu or scrambled egg filled.
  • You’ll love it because you can adjust this homemade enchilada sauce to your tastes.
Blooming the spices in hot oil and adding flour.


  • Vegetable Oil – You need a neutral oil like this to cook the seasonings. Olive oil is too distinct. If you don’t have vegetable oil, try canola.
  • Flour – Use all purpose flour to thicken the red enchilada sauce and give it body. Using more or less flour will change the texture of the sauce.
  • Garlic – freshly minced garlic adds a spicy, pungency.
  • Chipotle Powder – chipotle powder is smokier than plain chili powder and gives the enchilada sauce depth.
  • Chili Powder – plain chili powder is usually a blend of several different types of chilies. Use your favorite.
  • Cumin – ground cumin amplifies the smoky flavor in the red sauce.
  • Oregano – try to use Mexican oregano for this recipe.
  • Kosher Salt – I recommend Diamond Crystal kosher salt instead of Morton’s as it is less salty by volume and easier to manage the sodium.
  • Black Pepper – freshly ground will give you the best flavor.
  • Cinnamon (I know, cinnamon? Yes. just a pinch) it adds a warmth and a homey spice.
  • Tomato Paste – you can’t make red enchilada sauce without tomato paste.
  • Chicken Stock from Rotisserie Chicken or Homemade Vegetable Broth (to make it vegan)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – just a touch of ACV gives the sauce a bit of tanginess.

Cooking the roux until it's smooth.


  1. Place a medium skillet or saucepan over medium high heat and add the oil.
  2. When the oil starts to shimmer and moiré in the pan, it’s hot enough to add the garlic. Stir it constantly until it’s fragrant, but don’t let it brown.
  3. When the garlic is tender (after about 30-40 seconds) add the flour and spices and stir so that the dry ingredients are coated with the oil. Cook for about 1 minute to bloom the spices and cook the raw-flour.
  4. The chipotle and chili spices add heat and a little color to the enchilada sauce, but to get that classic red sauce look, add tomato paste and mix it in well, stirring constantly until you have a very thick paste.
  5. Stir in the chicken broth, about half a cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until its smooth.
  6. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly for about 1 minute until the sauce has thickened.

Why acid?

When the spicy enchilada sauce is smooth and saucy, you’ll want to stir in a bit of apple cider vinegar.

Why? That little bit of acid brings just enough tang to the red sauce to wake up the Mexican spices, otherwise the sauce would have heat, but be bland.

If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you can also use wine vinegar (red or white) or even a good squeeze of lime juice.


  • Before you start assembling your Mexican red sauce, I advise measuring out all of your ingredients in advance, specifically the flour and spices.
  • This sauce comes together so quickly that you’ll risk burning the red sauce if you’re measuring out each ingredient while the sauce is over the heat.
  • Chop the garlic and measure the flour and spices in advance. Trust me, it’ll make life easier.
After the sauce thickens, season with just a bit of apple cider vinegar.


Can I use whole chipotle peppers?

I’ve used dried chipotle chili powder in this red enchilada sauce, but I’ve also made it with canned chipotles in adobo sauce.

How to swap canned chipotle in adobo

To make the switch, skip the chipotle powder and use one chipotle pepper and one teaspoon of adobo sauce.

Chop the pepper very finely and add it to the roux with the adobo sauce while adding the tomato paste. This will intensify the smoky chipotle flavor.

What can I substitute for chipotle in the enchilada sauce?

Use one tablespoon of regular chili powder instead of 2 teaspoons.

Can I make it vegan?

Yes. To make this Mexican red sauce vegan, use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth.

Storing the red enchilada sauce in a jar.

After cooking the sauce is the consistency of many canned enchilada sauces. However, the sauce will thicken as it cools, and if refrigerated will thicken even more, but still be very spreadable.

How much does it make?

This recipe makes slightly more than 2 cups of sauce, which is good for a medium dish of enchiladas (about 8). If you want more sauce, the recipe is easily doubled.


If you’re not ready to assemble your recipe, transfer the spicy red enchilada sauce to a jar and refrigerate it. The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

For longer storage, transfer the enchilada sauce to an airtight storage container and freeze it for 2-3 months. Defrost before use.

A jar of red enchilada sauce.

This zippy sauce is tongue tingling good and can be used in everything from your favorite enchiladas, burritos and soft tacos or even as a sandwich spread to add a spicy flair. Try it with smoked chicken and cheese in a panini — SO GOOD.

More Mexican Inspired Sauce Recipes:

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a jar of homemade red enchilada sauce.
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4.42 from 12 votes

Smoky Spicy Enchilada Sauce (Mexican Red Sauce)

This quick and easy enchilada sauce comes together in about 10 minutes and makes about 2 cups of sauce. It’s spicy, smoky and utterly delicious with chicken, pork, beef, even bean or sweet potato enchiladas. Make this sauce vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead of chicken.
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Condiments
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword enchilada sauce, mexican sauce
Dietary Restrictions Dairy-Free
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 8


  • 3 tablespoons vegetble oil or canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • teaspoons cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups chicken stock from rotisserie chicken (or low-sodium broth or vegetable broth for vegan sauce)


  • For this recipe, it’s important to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready BEFORE YOU START because it comes together very quickly once you start cooking and you don’t want to be futzing around assembling the ingredients once you start.
  • In a small dish, combine the chili powder, chipotle powder, cumin, oregano, kosher salt, black pepper and cinnamon. Set aside. Have the minced garlic, flour, tomato paste and chicken broth measured and ready to go.
  • In a medium skillet or saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmery add the minced garlic and quickly saute, stirring constantly for about 30 seconds. It should be aromatic and slightly softened, but not browned.
  • Add the flour and the spice combination and stir constantly as the dry ingredients are absorbed to form a fragrant paste. Cook and stir for about 1 minute, then add the tomato paste and stir until well combined.
  • Add the broth in ½ cup additions, not adding more until the previous addition is fully combined. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring constantly and cook for one minute. Remove from heat.
  • Enchilada sauce can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.


Calories: 67kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Sodium: 405mg | Potassium: 109mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 283IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 1mg

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  1. 5 stars
    Used a bit more chipotle. Good recipe! Did run a quick zip in my Ninja to smooth out.

  2. 5 stars
    Lovely – thank you. I lived the apple cider vinegar added at the end which really lifted the whole thing!

  3. Just for Foodies says:

    5 stars
    this looks so easy and delish!

  4. 5 stars
    Super smooth and smoky. A great enchilada sauce that pairs well with any filling!

  5. Veena Azmanov says:

    5 stars
    Homemade and so many uses for best of dishes . Amazing combination. Need to make a batch soon.

  6. 5 stars
    Love how simple and flavorful this enchilada sauce looks! Trying this ASAP. 🙂

  7. Taylor Kiser says:

    5 stars
    Homemade for the win! So much better than anything from a jar!

  8. 5 stars
    I need to give this a try. I have NEVER enjoyed any of the bought ones. We love Mexican food, and this would be pefect for sure.