Authentic Mexican red enchilada sauce made in the blender with just a few ingredients ~ dried guajillo chiles, garlic, salt and oregano.
I’m always asking questions when it comes to food. Always. I’m curious and that’s how I learn. The little Mexican market I go to is no exception. So many conversations with the owners led to me learning how to make red enchilada sauce from scratch. Among other things.
Amelia cooks in the back while her husband works the counter up front. She graciously shared how to make enchilada sauce from dried chiles. So easy, so flavorful and not at all what I expected.
First, the sauce is made completely from dried chiles which have been reconstituted with hot water. No tomato, no onion, just a little salt, garlic and dried oregano. I love the deep brick red color and pure chile flavor of this sauce. This is definitely an authentic version of red enchilada sauce, or salsa roja.
What type of dried chiles to use?
Amelia says only use guajillo dried chiles. That’s what I use here but there certainly are variations on this. Some recipes use a combination of guajillo and ancho chiles, some throw in an arbol or two for added heat. Try it this way with just guajillo first, then see if you want to mix it up another time.
How to make Mexican red enchilada sauce
- Prepare the guajillo chiles by trimming off the stem ends and shaking out as many seeds as possible.
- Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water and let sit about 15 minutes.
- Transfer chiles to a blender, add garlic, oregano, salt and a little of the soaking liquid to start. Blend, adding water as needed until smooth and thick.
- Press through a fine mesh wire sieve, leaving a couple tablespoons of seeds and skins behind.
- That’s it! Store in a jar in fridge or freeze.
What to make with homemade enchilada sauce?
So many possibilities, but here are just a few:
- Enchiladas, of course! Try these ground turkey enchiladas with this sauce.
- Tamales, which I’m waiting on my mom’s friend to teach me how to make her authentic tamales!
- Red posole (or pozole rojo), another dish on my list to try, I’m sure Amelia will share her tips.
- I like to spoon some over the top of stuffed acorn squash with cheese before baking.
- Anything else that calls for enchilada sauce, this is so much better than canned.
Recipe Notes and Tips
- Use dried guajillo chiles for this recipe, they can usually be found in the Mexican section of the grocery store or at a Mexican market.
- You can use a mix of chiles, try swapping out a few of the guajillos with a couple of dried anchos, and an arbol or two for added heat.
- I have seen some recipes include a small piece of chocolate, like Abuelita Mexican chocolate. It does not make this a mole sauce, just gives it a little something, something in the back note.
- I like to make batches in this amount but you could certainly double this recipe. Just watch the water amounts because it can get too thin and watery quickly. Also taste for salt and oregano amounts if making a larger batch.
- This sauce doesn’t taste great on it’s own, although I like the earthy chile flavor when I make it and taste for seasonings. It comes to life when you add it to or into other dishes. So much more flavor than canned enchilada sauce.
Lots of versions and names for this Mexican enchilada sauce out there. Whatever you call it or use it for, this is something you’ll make over and over again once you’ve mastered how easy it is. It’s just so much better than canned. Thanks Amelia! Enjoy ~ Kelly
Red Enchilada Sauce
- 12 dried guajillo chiles
- 4 cups boiling water
- 1 small clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste
- Prepare chiles. Snip off stem ends. Empty out as many seeds as possible, discard seeds. No worries about the seeds, you'll be straining the blended sauce later.
- Place chiles in bowl, cover with boiling water and top with a plate. Let reconstitute for about 15 minutes.
- Remove chiles from water to blender, reserving soaking liquid. Add garlic, oregano and salt. Add some soaking liquid, about ¼ cup to start. Blend until smooth and thick, adding more soaking liquid as needed, up to about ½ to ¾ cups total. I find ½ cup soaking liquid to be ideal. Taste for salt, adding another ½ teaspoon, if needed.
- Pour sauce into fine mesh strainer over a bowl and press through, leaving a small amount of solids behind. Transfer sauce to jar or container and store in refrigerator, or freeze. Makes about 1 cup.
- Totally optional: add a very small piece of Mexican chocolate to the blender (preferably Abuelita brand).
- Can use a mix of dried chiles, like 8 guajillo, 2 ancho and 1 arbol.
- If you make more or double the recipe, watch the amount of soaking liquid you add so it's not too thin/watery and taste for seasonings.