This enchilada sauce recipe is made completely from scratch for true, authentic Mexican flavor. The red sauce has dried chiles, onions, garlic and herbs. I’ll show you step by step how to make it, and you’ll never used canned again. Be sure to watch the recipe video in this post, too!
Using Authentic Spices
To achieve authentic Mexican flavor, it’s important to use Mexican oregano. If you can’t find Mexican oregano in your local grocery store, it is usually available in specialty shops. Otherwise, whatever you have on hand will work fine.
Some info on the two forms of oregano:
- Mexican oregano is a relative of Lemon Verbena and is native to Mexico. It is pungent like Mediterranean oregano but has notes of mild licorice and citrus.
- Mediterranean oregano is a member of the mint family and is most often used in Greek and Italian recipes. This is the one most often found in spice racks and supermarkets.
How to make red enchilada sauce
- Heat your skillet and add the chiles to the dry pan.
- Toast for about 30 seconds per side. This makes them more pliable and releases their essential oils.
- Remove from the pan and let cool before removing the stems and seeds.
This enchilada sauce recipe is perfect to use in my Carnitas Enchiladas.
- In the same dry pan, roast the tomatoes (my add, not traditional), onion, and garlic to get a little char flavor.
- Add the chiles back in with the spices and water. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Transfer everything to a blender and purèe until smooth.
- Strain the purèe and scrape the bottom of the sieve to get anything left behind.
- Heat some vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the strained sauce to quickly fry it, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Once the sauce has thickened, add more salt or sugar to taste.
- Make ahead: Store this authentic enchilada sauce in an airtight container for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Use all at once for a big batch of enchiladas or a little at a time for other recipes.
- Wear gloves: It’s important to wear gloves when handling chile peppers, especially the hot ones. The oils can stick to your hands, then transfer to other parts of your body, which can burn!
Other uses for authentic enchilada sauce:
Because red enchilada sauce is such a staple in Mexican cooking, it can be used for much more than enchiladas. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Watch how to make the recipe below!
Authentic Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe
- 4 ancho dried chiles
- 4 pasilla (negro) dried chiles
- 1 onion (large, trimmed and cut lengthwise)
- 2 Roma, plum tomatoes (See Note 1)
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp Mexican oregano (See Note 2)
- 1 tsp marjoram
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- sugar (optional)
- Toast the chiles in a hot, dry skillet for about 30 seconds per side. Allow chiles to cool and then remove stems, and shake out as many of the seeds as you can.
- In the same hot, dry skillet char the onion, tomatoes and garlic.
- Place the chiles back in skillet with the charred onion, tomatoes, garlic and add the Mexican oregano, marjoram and salt. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Carefully remove boiled chiles, vegetables, herbs and the water and put in a blender. Purée until smooth. If too thick, add a little water to blend completely.
- Strain chile vegetable mixture through a sieve into a bowl and be sure to scrape bottom of sieve to get all the pulp.
- Heat the skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. Quickly and carefully add the strained sauce to fry it. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened stirring often.
- Add salt and or sugar to taste.
- I like to add Roma tomatoes, although this is not traditional. Cut these lengthwise if using.
- Mexican Oregano A little information for you on the two different oreganos. Mexican oregano is a relative of Lemon Verbena and is native to Mexico. Similar in that it’s pungent like Mediterranean oregano, Mexican oregano has notes of mild licorice and citrus. Mediterranean oregano is a member of the mint family and most often is used in Greek and Italian recipes. Mediterranean oregano is the one most found in spice racks and supermarkets.
- Cool completely, cover and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.