Easy Red Enchilada Sauce

Considering how much we love enchiladas, it’s insane that we didn’t have a go-to enchilada sauce recipe on the blog. Obviously, that had to change.

Meet your new best friend: saucy, spicy, red enchilada sauce ready in 30 minutes. Swoon! It’s so easy. Let us show you how.

Origin of Enchilada Sauce

It’s believed that enchiladas may have originated from a similar Mayan dish called papadzules. But the first written recipe of enchiladas was in an 1831 cookbook called El Cocinero mexicano (source).

The word “enchilada” is a form of the verb “enchilar” which means “to season with chile.” And chilies are the heart of enchilada sauce!

How to Make Enchilada Sauce

The base for this hearty sauce is sautéed onion and garlic and a mixture dried chilies. We went for New Mexico chilies, which are milder in spice, as well as chilies de arbol for a little more heat. This combination can be tweaked to increase or reduce heat as needed (see the recipe below + notes!).

The peppers are cooked down and softened in some vegetable broth, and tomato paste, and a handful of spices bring it all together.

For a more traditional recipe, check out this recipe from Isabel Eats!

We hope you LOVE this sauce! It’s:

Bold in flavor
Easy to make
& Perfect for enchilada night

This sauce is perfect for adding not only to your favorite enchilada recipe – like our Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchiladas – but also to things like Quinoa Taco Meat or Tortilla Soup to bring more depth of flavor. Be sure to make a double batch so you can store leftovers in the freezer! For more Mexican-inspired recipes, check out these 14 Vegan Mexican-Inspired Recipes!

If you try this sauce, let us know how it goes by writing a comment, leaving a rating, and tagging a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Easy Red Enchilada Sauce

Smoky, rich, spicy red enchilada sauce made with simple ingredients and ready in 30 minutes. Perfect for taking your enchiladas to the next level.Author Minimalist Baker Print SAVE SAVED

4.75 from 35 votes Prep Time 2 minutes Cook Time 28 minutes Total Time 30 minutes Servings 7 (1/2-cup servings)Course SauceCuisine Gluten-Free, Mexican-Inspired, VeganFreezer Friendly 1 monthDoes it keep? 5 Days

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US Customary – Metric


3 Tbsp vegetable broth (or sub water or neutral oil, such as avocado)1 cup white or yellow onion (chopped)4 cloves garlic (peeled and smashed)


7 mild dried chilies (such as New Mexico (our preferred), Ancho, or Guajillo)1-2 dried arbol chilies* (stems removed (for heat // add more or less to adjust spice level)2 cups vegetable broth (or store-bought – we like Imagine brand // or sub water)1 cup water


1/4 cup tomato paste1 tsp ground cumin1 tsp ground smoked paprika1/2 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)1 tsp dried oregano (Mexican oregano if possible // optional)


Heat a large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add vegetable broth (or water or oil), onion, and garlic. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and slightly browned.Add dried chilies and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Then add vegetable broth and water (see photo). Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes.Add tomato paste, cumin, paprika, salt and oregano (optional). Stir, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes or until peppers are tender.Transfer to a high-speed blender and blend until creamy and smooth. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more paprika or cumin for smokiness, salt for saltiness, or a pinch of cayenne pepper for spiciness (although it should be plenty spicy).Use immediately. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days or in the freezer up to 1 month.



*In place of the arbol chilies, you can also sub 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce or 1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (per 2 arbol chilies) when blending for added spice. Omit if you don’t like spicy sauces.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate.

Nutrition (1 of 7 servings)

Serving: 1 half-cup serving Calories: 50.1 Carbohydrates: 9.7 g Protein: 1.6 g Fat: 0.7 g Saturated Fat: 0 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.14 g Monounsaturated Fat: 0.06 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 285 mg Potassium: 206 mg Fiber: 2.9 g Sugar: 4.2 g Vitamin A: 4591 IU Vitamin C: 4.71 mg Calcium: 23.63 mg Iron: 0.97 mg

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