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Red Enchilada Sauce (df, v)

This homemade red enchilada sauce is SO much better than the canned stuff.
Use it for all your Tex-Mex favorites! (gluten free, vegan)

red enchilada sauce

I’ve got to admit, I’m not much for canned red enchilada sauce. I didn’t think I even liked red enchilada sauce at all for the longest time, not realizing I just didn’t like canned red enchilada sauce.

The green kind is usually okay (though better homemade), but the red canned kind just doesn’t do it for me. Luckily, my childhood friend Laura has a great recipe for red enchilada sauce.

I’ve adapted her recipe a bit, and it’s perfect. This recipe makes a little over 3 cups of sauce. For a large pan of enchiladas, Laura likes to double the recipe and serve any extra sauce in a gravy boat for people who like their enchiladas extra saucy.

I found that a single recipe was plenty for my black bean enchiladas, but you’re welcome to double it if you like. The recipe below is the equivalent of about a 28oz can, or two of the small cans.


Read carefully. When making this sauce, note that the recipe calls for half to one canned PEPPER, not half to one CAN of peppers. Your sauce will be mouth blistering if you use a whole can!

Storing the leftovers. When I buy a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. I use what I need for a recipe then freeze individual chiles on a plate covered with waxed or parchment paper for about 20 minutes or till set. Then, I transfer the chiles to a freezer zip-top bag to store. They will keep well this way for about 3 months.

Make it gluten free. This recipe calls for 2 Tbsp flour to help the sauce thicken. You can substitute 2 Tbsp cornstarch or 2 Tbsp all-purpose gluten free flour blend for the same effect. My favorite is Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten Free Baking Flour. You’ll also want to be sure you use gluten free chipotle peppers packed in adobo. We use La Costena Chipotle Peppers Packed in Adobo.

red enchilada sauce

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Red Enchilada Sauce


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp flour (white flour or gluten free flour blend)
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/21 canned chipotle chili (packed in adobo), rinsed and minced
  • 1/2tsp cumin
  • 1/4tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 (8oz) can tomato sauce
  • 2c water


  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and chili powder. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  2. Bring sauce to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer about 10 minutes.
  3. Makes about 3 1/4c sauce.



  1. I will definitely have to try this because I get enchilada sauce a lot! I’ve never even tried the homemade kind (ok, I didn’t even know they HAD a homemade version…).

  2. I’ll have to try it with the chipotle chili. Adam’s always complaining that I don’t make enough spicey foods. I’m glad you liked the recipe and don’t have to use gross canned enchilada sauce anymore.

  3. Mom always made the Enchiladas…she grew up in the southwest,enchildas sauce was made from scratch.and they were good enough so fellows in Dad’s squadron would eat 12 or 13 of them! I’ve always used the canned stuff, but it was such a let down… this looks like just the ticket!

  4. Genius idea for the chipotle peppers! I never know what to do with the leftovers and usually end up wasting some.

  5. Love this sauce! The chipotle peppers are so great! Most red sauce recipes I’ve seen only have powdered spices. This one is great! I made a double batch and froze the leftovers for future use. Thanks! 🙂

  6. Great recipe! I used it for your stuffed pepper recipe and I am using it again tonight to drizzle over layers in a Mexican lasagna. The only changes I made were to use fresh garlic instead of powdered and to add one pasilla/ancho chili pod, which I crushed into the mixture (we like things spicy around here). I am *so* picky about canned enchilada sauces too, but this is a BOMB SAUCE and it will be a go-to recipe for many dishes to come. Thank you!

  7. On the chipotle pepper…is it half to one of the just the pepper or the whole can?
    Thanks! Looking forward to making this!

    1. Christina – 1/2 – 1 PEPPER. That’s VERY important. I’m glad you asked. If you did the can, your mouth might just burn right off! Enojoy!

  8. I freeze the rest of the chipotles on a sheet of waxed paper and then put it in a Ziploc container and then take out what I need.

    1. Beth – I’ve never made it without flour. I know some gluten-free readers have used coconut flour, gluten-free flour, etc. But I’m not sure anyone’s made it without flour at all. It’s used primarily as a thickening agent in this case, so you could try to use cornstarch (not sure how much…). If you’d rather not use cornstarch, you could always just have thinner sauce or cook it longer to reduce. I’d love to know how it turns out for you if you give it a try!

  9. Emily, This recipe is excellent. I’ve never really cared for canned enchilada sauce, but I thought that’s all there was. Your recipe is so flavorful and oh, so easy. Once I made the sauce I had to use it so I made the black bean filling for enchiladas. Another great recipe. I don’t recall what I was searching for that brought me to your website, but I’m so glad it did. Red enchilada sauce and black bean filling recipes are both definitely a 5 star recipes!!!
    Thank you, thank you!

  10. This recipe introduced me to Adobo sauce for which I am forever grateful! I also have some on hand now. Have been making this and the quinoa stuffed peppers for years now– such a great recipe! ❤️ M

  11. Uhhhh hello beautiful sauce, where have you been in my Mexican fiesta of life!!! This was easy, tasteful, and full of flavor! I did experiment a bit on a batch. I wanted a sauce with bits of tomato…so I I cut out one cup of the water and the tomato sauce. Used a can of rotel and two tablespoons of tomato paste. SOOO GOOD!

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