Homemade red enchilada sauce – so much better than you’ll ever buy at the store! And it’s easier than you think to make it all from scratch!

I’ve been making enchiladas for years. Sometimes I buy sauce, and other times I make my own sauce. I never could quite get the homemade sauce to taste like I wanted it to. Until now! This is it!

A glass container with a wooden spoon. The container is filled with red enchilada sauce. There are tortillas, green chilies, and cilantro leaves surrounding the container of red sauce.

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There’s nothing like a pan full of enchiladas, but not all canned sauces taste good. Some are quite awful. Homemade red enchilada sauce to the rescue!

What Ingredients are Needed to Make Red Enchilada Sauce?

Enchilada sauce has such a complex flavor that you would think it has loads of complicated ingredients. The truth is quite the opposite! See for yourself:

  • Onion
  • Jalapenos
  • Canola Oil
  • Flour
  • Garlic
  • Chili Powder
  • Cumin
  • Sugar
  • Tomato Paste
  • Tomato Sauce
  • Vegetable Broth
  • Tomato
  • Salt
  • Pepper

You probably have most of those ingredients already on hand, right? I can smell the enchiladas in the oven already!

Small containers of chopped onion, chopped jalapeno, chopped tomatoes, spices, and a few garlic cloves.

How to Make Enchilada Sauce

Let’s jump into the steps for making enchilada sauce from scratch. The full details can be found in the recipe card below but here are the basics:

  • Place the onion, jalapeno and oil in a large sauce pan and cook over medium heat until softened.
  • Add the flour, garlic, spices and sugar and cook until fragrant.

A skillet with sauted onions, jalapenos, and garlic.

  • Mix in the tomato paste, tomato sauce, broth and tomato and bring it to a simmer.
  • Cook the sauce until it thickens a little and then strain the sauce through a large mesh strainer into a bowl.
  • Salt and pepper the sauce to taste.

A container of red enchilada sauce.

Is Enchilada Sauce The Same As Salsa?

It may seem like enchilada sauce and salsa are the same thing since they are often made with similar ingredients, but they are not the same. Salsa usually has tomatoes, onions, peppers (both sweet and hot), and vinegar or lemon juice. Sauce for enchiladas is chili based and tomatoes are optional.

Salsa also tends to be chunkier like our restaurant style homemade salsa.

A glass measuring cup with red sauce in it. There is a stack of tortillas in the background and a few cilantro leaves next to the cup.

What Kind Of Pepper Can You Substitute For Jalapeno?

We have found that serrano peppers are the best substitute for jalapeno peppers. They have a similar taste and appearance, but they are a hotter pepper so your enchilada sauce will have a little more kick.

How Long Will Enchilada Sauce Keep?

Homemade enchilada sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks if stored in an airtight container. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months. I like to freeze them in ice cube trays and then transfer them to a ziplock bag for storage. Then I can just grab what I need to make my next recipe. Each cube is about 1 tablespoon.

To reheat, just place the cubes in a sauce pan on the stove top until the cubes have thawed completely and the sauce is hot.

A glass measuring cup with red sauce and a wooden spoon that has been dipped in the sauce. There are tortillas and cilantro in the background.

More Red Enchilada Sauce Recipes:

This is the sauce I use now for all our recipes that call for red enchilada sauce:

It is the best enchilada sauce you’ll ever have! Make a side of the most fabulous refried beans and some cilantro lime rice and you’ll have the dinner of champions!

A glass jar filled with red enchilada sauce. There are tortillas, cilantro, and tomatoes in the background.

Don’t buy enchilada sauce ever again! This simple enchilada sauce recipe will convert you to making it homemade every time. Make a double or triple batch and save it for all your future enchilada sauce needs!

More Homemade Condiment Recipes You’ll Love:

Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

4.50 from 2 votes
Servings: 6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes


Homemade red enchilada sauce - so much better than you'll ever buy at the store!


  • 1 Onion, medium, chopped fine
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon Canola Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Flour
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
  • 3 teaspoons Chili Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 15 oz. Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Tomato, seeded and chopped
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste


  • Combine the onion, jalapeno and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
    1 Onion, 1 Jalapeno, 1 teaspoon Canola Oil
  • Cook, stirring often, until the onions and peppers have softened, 8-10 minutes.
  • Stir in the flour, garlic, chili powder, cumin and sugar, and cook just until fragrant, less than 30 seconds.
    2 Tablespoons Flour, 3 Cloves Garlic, 3 teaspoons Chili Powder, 2 teaspoons Cumin, 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • Mix in the tomato paste, tomato sauce, broth, and chopped tomato.
    2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste, 15 oz. Tomato Sauce, 1 Cup Vegetable Broth, 1 Tomato
  • Bring the sauce to a simmer, lower the heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
  • Strain the sauce through a large mesh strainer into a medium bowl, pressing down on the onions and tomatoes to extract as much liquid as possible.
  • Transfer the sauce to a bowl.
  • Season the sauce with additional salt and pepper to taste.
    Salt and Pepper


This will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks, or in the freezer for 3 months.


Serving: 1gCalories: 51kcalCarbohydrates: 10gProtein: 2gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 393mgPotassium: 359mgFiber: 2gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 833IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 28mgIron: 1mg
Author: Sweet Basil
Course: 50+ Homemade Condiment Recipes, Everyone's Favorite Mexican Recipes
Cuisine: Mexican


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