Enchilada Sauce


My enchilada sauce is a simple red sauce that is enriched with ancho chile paste and Mexican seasonings.

It is a rich and hearty sauce that I make to top black bean enchiladas, or just about any kind of enchiladas or burritos. It’s also good on meat, from chicken to ribs.

There are many authentic Mexican sauces in older cookbooks by Diana Kennedy, the queen of Mexican cuisine, as well as more recent cookbooks by Rick Bayless, who I consider the king of Mexican cuisine.

The problem with following those recipes is that they contain multiple chile peppers and other ingredients that I cannot get my hands on, so it does no good to use the recipes.

Because of this, I fall back on my “default” enchilada sauce, using home-made ancho chile paste. And it will taste different depending on the chile peppers used in the chile paste.


Enchilada Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 – 8 cloves garlic, minced
1 26.46 ounce carton Pomi tomato sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
Grindings of black pepper
2-4 tablespoons home-made Ancho chile paste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté for about five minutes. Turn down the heat if they brown too much. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds or so.


Add the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Mix in the cumin, oregano, coriander, salt, and pepper.


Bring the sauce to a boil gently, then lower the heat and simmer the sauce gently, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, or until isn’t no longer “watery.”

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare your black bean enchiladas by placing refried black beans and Queso blanco, or your choice of cheese on a tortilla. Roll up, place in a greased baking dish, and continue with the remaining tortillas.

Add the desired amount of ancho chile paste to the red sauce and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning.

When you are ready to bake the enchiladas, ladle the enchilada sauce over the enchiladas. Some people like them smothered in sauce, others, like me, like the enchiladas only partially smothered.


Bake for approximately 30 minutes.


Let the enchiladas set for about 10 minutes, then serve.


I love a dollop of sour cream on my enchiladas.


The sauce goes well with any burritos or enchiladas, with or without meat. And it’s fun to use different kinds of cheese in the tortillas.

The good thing about this enchilada sauce is that you can control the amount of ancho chile paste and other seasonings. If you want it smokier you can always add some ground chipotle pepper and paprika. But always use cumin and oregano if you want a truly Mexican-flavored sauce.

57 thoughts on “Enchilada Sauce

  1. Thanks for sharing. Ironically I was looking for a sauce recipe a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t decide on one. I love the dark color of your sauce. Nice palette of veggies on the side also. :)

  2. I am lucky to be able to get most of the chiles in the Kennedy and Bayless books – but your recipe is just as enticing as theirs! So what kind of monarch does that make you? Enchilada Empress?

  3. I’m not one to make enchiladas, Mimi. It;s a lot of work for one person. I will save this recipe, though, and use it with barbecue meats. Delicious! Thanks!

    • I understand. I do a lot of work for just two of us. If you do a lot of meat grilling – check out “The Other Red Sauce” on my blog. It’s also spicy but you can control the heat with the dried peppers. It’s incredible.

  4. Absolute YUMM Mimi! I also see you sprinkled some of your dried jalapenos on the enchiladas. Don’t you just love those things? And I agree, the vegetable medley with this looks fantastic too. :)

  5. Wow, this looks delicious! I’m always up for veggie enchiladas. Can’t wait to give your sauce a try with my butternut squash and black bean enchiladas :)

  6. This looks great, Mimi. I’m definitely going to prepare more Mexican food next autumn/winter. Perhaps I’ll order some books by the queen and king you mentioned. I can order a decent selection of dried chiles online and Richard’s stash hasn’t completely run out yet.

    • Thanks Stefan. Richard and I actually discussed cookbooks, and we had many of the same, including the classic by Diana Kennedy. I’ll email you the name. It’s old, no photos, many authentic ingredients, lots of serious recipes – most of which I can’t use. Rick Bayless has a more modern approach, but he has also lived and studied in Mexico, and that’s where his culinary heart is. We went to one of his restaurants in Chicago and it was fantastic.

  7. Looks lovely. I have Diana Kennedy’s Mexican bible too but I often give up because living in UK the ingredients aren’t always easily available (tho’ there’s always the internet) so it’s great to have a home-made alternative. Thanks, Mimi.

  8. The real skill of a chef is on roasting and in sauces. The wide variety of sauces you deliver here are amazing. Remember you asked me once which chilli sauce I like the most. Thanks for this great share chef.

  9. I really should invest some time and energy and making sauces and condiments from scratch. I think it is an area that I neglect in my cooking.

    Oh, well – something to strive for, and when I need inspiration, I know where to stop! ;-)

    • You don’t have to cook any of their products long to reduce them – sauce, diced, crushed, strained – because they’re not watery. Plus they have real tomato flavor.

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