Red Enchilada Sauce (Quick Version)

5 from 6 votes

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This red enchilada sauce is tasty enough to use as a dip and really quick and easy to make. Make a batch in minutes and never use canned sauce again.

red enchilada sauce in a glass measuring cup


Sometimes called Salsa Roja, Mole Rojo, or simply Mexican red sauce, red enchilada sauce is a must-have staple in any well-stock pantry.

This recipe is my down and dirty, quick version of enchilada sauce, but if you are looking for an authentic Mexican version, try my authentic red enchilada sauce recipe!

A combination of tomato paste, chicken broth, chili powders, and seasonings, this recipe comes together in just a few minutes and you’ll have a hard time resisting using it as a dip as you watch it thicken to perfection on the stovetop. 

Just wait until it’s cool, then dip away, because this stuff is delicious. Or try it on Carnitas Enchiladas or Ground Beef Enchiladas. All you steak and potato lovers, try it on Potato and Beef Enchiladas. You’ll be happy you did.   

enchilada sauce in glass measuring cup with a spoon

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Lard – I use lard because it gives this recipe a more authentic texture and flavor, but olive oil can certainly be substituted if you prefer.
  • Flour (or Masa Harina) and dry seasonings – The flour or masa harina, of course, is the thickening agent that achieves that beautiful viscosity, and this blend of common seasonings adds great flavor to the finished product.
  • Mexican Oregano – This is the ingredient that sets this recipe apart. It’s a little harder to find than other types of oregano but well worth searching out. By using Mexican oregano you’ll get a uniquely authentic flavor, but if you don’t have any on hand, use whatever oregano you do have. *Read more about the different varieties of oregano here.
  • Cayenne Pepper – I prefer to keep this enchilada spread on the mild side, but feel free to add a little extra cayenne if you enjoy the heat.
  • Marjoram – As oregano’s herb cousin, this seasoning adds a special flavor. Don’t have any on hand? That’s okay. In a pinch, just add a little extra oregano, since these are similarly tasting herbs. 
  • Tomato Paste – This is the dominant flavor to smother your enchiladas in, and a little goes a long way. Just take your time to really whisk this in until smoothly blended.
  • Chicken Stock –  As your liquid base, chicken stock will help smooth everything out and add additional flavor.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar –  After the Mexican Oregano, this is my other stand-out ingredient. After you’ve cooked everything up, this adds a little brightness of flavor to the mixture.
step by step photo collage shows how to make an enchilada sauce recipe

This simple Mexican Red Sauce couldn’t be easier to make, and it cooks to the perfect thickness in under ten minutes. 

How to Make Quick Method Red Enchilada Sauce

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  2. Melt lard in a saucepan and whisk dry spice mixture into the lard then stir in the tomato paste.
  3. Whisk the chicken broth in next and allow to simmer until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in apple cider vinegar.
  5. Serve and marvel at the delicious ease of this recipe.
Mexican casserole in a pan with cheese and sauce, before baking

Recipe Video

*For complete instructions and a demo, refer to the full recipe card below and be sure to watch the video!

Recipe notes and tips

  • Using lard will give your sauce a more authentic flavor, but feel free to use oil instead.
  • If you enjoy spice, increase the cayenne to ½ teaspoon
  • Distilled white vinegar can be substituted for Apple Cider Vinegar if you prefer
Mexican red sauce being poured into a glass mason jar

How to Freeze Red Enchilada Sauce

The sauce will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 5-7 days, and it freezes well too!

To freeze, let it cool completely, then transfer to freezer-safe glass jars, (it will stain plastic) or freezer bags. Label and date.

Place it in the freezer and be sure to use it within three months. When you’re ready to use it, thaw completely in the fridge before reheating.

Add chicken stock or water if needed to restore consistency.

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overhead: jar of red enchilada sauce

Red Enchilada Sauce (Quick Version)

5 from 6 votes
This red enchilada sauce is tasty enough to use as a dip and so easy to make you’ll never use canned sauce again. Whip up a batch today.
Makes about 3 1/2 cups.
Servings: 8 servings
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 8 minutes
Total: 18 minutes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl whisk together the flour (or masa harina), chili powder, cumin, garlic and onion powders, oregano, cayenne, marjoram and salt.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat add the lard or oil. After a minute add the flour spice mixture and whisk to coat with oil, cooking for a minute or two.
  • Whisk in tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes. Whisk in the chicken stock, breaking up any lumps and cook on high for 5-6 minutes. Sauce will bubble and thicken.
  • Remove from heat and whisk in the vinegar. Season to taste with salt and use immediately. If using later, allow to cool and note in airtight container, or freeze.

Video

Notes

  1. I like to use Mexican oregano in my Latin cooking as it has a more authentic flavor. If you can’t find Mexican oregano, please, by all means use whatever oregano you have on hand. You are going to love this red enchilada sauce!
    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.
  2. If you like a little more kick like I do, double the cayenne to 1/2 teaspoon.
  3. Feel free to substitute with distilled white vinegar.

Nutrition

Calories: 91kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 550mg | Potassium: 182mg | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 445IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 1.1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Sauce
Cuisine: American, Tex Mex
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image for Pinterest (and shown in glass measuring cup): Red Enchilada Sauce

Kevin

Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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29 Comments

  1. The enchilada sauce was awesome and so simple. I did not have any lard and thought it needed more flavor than olive oil so I used bacon fat. Other than that I followed the recipe as written. It was the best.

  2. Hi Kevin, I just made pickled Mexican vegetables with apple cider vinegar. My sister told me I should’ve sterilize the jar. I did not sterilize the jar. Will my vegetables be safe to eat?
    thanks and merry Christmas 🙂 🎄

    1. As long as you are not canning them and the jar was clean, they should be fine. See recipe Notes for canning information. They never last more than a week in the fridge anyways because they get eaten so quickly. Enjoy!

  3. 5 stars
    Made this sauce today, and it’s a keeper! Loved it. I didn’t alter anything. I made it in the early afternoon so that the flavors could blend by dinner.

  4. 5 stars
    Thoughts on a substitute for flour to make this low/no carb and gluten free? Not sure coconut flour or almond flour would work – anyone tried a substitute? I do like the idea of making my own so I can reduce the sodium as well.

    1. Hi Randy. As I mentioned to Debi I did a little research and found this, although I have yet to try it myself… What We’re doing in the recipe is using the flour and fat (lard or oil) to make a roux (a thickener for sauces and soups using flour and butter usually). I hope this help. Let me know!

      Unlike other gluten-free recipes, you don’t need to substitute the wheat flour used in roux with several gluten-free flours. Sweet rice flour, ground from glutinous rice, makes a velvety gluten-free roux and nicely replaces wheat flour measure for measure

    2. I used corn tortillas ground into a powder worked soedefully and added some texture this recipe is a keeper!

  5. Hi, I love to have homemade items on hand and we love enchiladas. Do you think I could substitute gluten free flour for traditional flour?

    1. Hi there Debi! Thanks for asking. I did a little research and found this, although I have yet to try it myself… What We’re doing in the recipe is using the flour and fat (lard or oil) to make a roux (a thickener for sauces and soups using flour and butter usually). I hope this help. Let me know!

      Unlike other gluten-free recipes, you don’t need to substitute the wheat flour used in roux with several gluten-free flours. Sweet rice flour, ground from glutinous rice, makes a velvety gluten-free roux and nicely replaces wheat flour measure for measure.

  6. 5 stars
    I have to admit, I’ve been lazy in the past, and I’ve used canned enchilada sauce Kevin. This looks so easy and so good! Next time I’ll be making homemade! Thanks for the recipe! Love the video!

  7. I’m SO happy I revisited your site. My hubs LOVES enchiladas. The last time I made them I used store bought sauce. Whelp, not anymore!!! The next time I make enchiladas I’m making YOUR sauce! Pinning! 😀

    1. No more store bought canned version for you Christina! Make the effort too to seek out Mexican oregano, it makes all the difference. Thanks so much for stopping by to let me know, too. 🙂

  8. Hey Kevin. Wish I’d had this recipe yesterday. I made enchiladas for dinner last night. I’ve starting using corn tortillas in m enchiladas as I like the texture and corn flavor better, they also hold up better for leftovers. I much prefer this to canned because I know what is in it.

    1. Hey there Dorothy! I love the corn ones too, so they can easily be used as a substitute here or in any other enchilada recipe, although they will be a bit smaller! Check out Monday’s post for the shredded beef enchilada recipe. Tell Gary HELLO!