Homemade Enchilada Sauce

This is how enchilada sauce is supposed to taste! Fresh and spicy. A little tomatoey, peppery, and full of heat (if you like spicy). Oh, and it’s vegan!

homemade enchilada sauce tipped over on its side

I don’t know about you, but the term ‘enchilada sauce’ doesn’t exactly conjure up fresh and summery images. It mostly makes me think of that dark, musky aisle in the already dingy international grocery store where you have to brush the dust off the can before picking it up and throwing it into your cart.

This off-putting imagery doesn’t happen with all Mexican food. In fact, tamales conjure up wonderful memories of watching my step-mother whipping up several dozen in our kitchen when I was little. And tacos make me think of fresh grilled pineapple and strong margaritas. But I don’t know – there’s something about that enchilada sauce…something about the old-fashioned design on the cans that make me think it’s been on the shelf since that art was in style in the 80s (maybe even 70s?).

That was until I decided to start making my own. And everything changed in the enchilada world for me. It doesn’t taste like the enchilada sauce from the can…it tastes so much fresher. And though it’s not the flavor your tongue is expecting at first, you will glow with the realization that this is how enchilada sauce is supposed to taste. Fresh and spicy. A little tomatoey, peppery, and full of heat. Of course, the amount of heat you’d like to create is up to you.

PS – Oh…and it’s vegan!

What’s in Enchilada Sauce?

This enchilada sauce from scratch is completely from scratch. No canned anything in this recipe — except the tomato paste. Does that count?

Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy enchilada sauce recipe:

  • Fresh red chiles
  • Vegetable broth
  • Tomatoes
  • Jalapeños
  • Olive oil
  • Red onion
  • Garlic
  • Tomato paste
  • Ground cumin
  • Dried oregano
homemade red enchilada sauce in glass pitcher resting on wood spoon

How to Make Homemade Enchilada Sauce

This red enchilada sauce recipe isn’t challenging, but there are lots of little steps — mostly simple ways to remove the outer peels from the tomatoes and peppers to create a creamier sauce. Don’t feel discouraged by the wordy directions below, it won’t take long and you’ll have deliciously fresh enchilada sauce in no time!

  1. Bring veggie broth to a boil, then add red chiles and simmer until softened. Set aside and do NOT drain.
  2. Char jalapeños using gas stovetop or broil in the oven. Immediately seal in a baggie and let steam until you can easily remove the skins.
  3. Blanch tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or two, then dunk in ice bath. Remove skins.
  4. Sauté onions and garlic in a little olive oil until translucent.
  5. Finally, add everything to a blender and blend until smooth.

How Long Does Enchilada Sauce Last?

This easy homemade enchilada sauce will last up to 4 days in the fridge.

Can I Freeze Enchilada Sauce?

Absolutely! Let it cool completely, then freeze up to 3 months. To thaw, reheat from frozen in a saucepan or place in your fridge overnight.

homemade enchilada sauce ingredients laid out on countertop

Tips for Making Homemade Red Enchilada Sauce

Different peppers will result in different spice levels, so go ahead and get acquainted with what peppers work for you (okay, so maybe that link is a little over-kill but it’s sort of fun to realize that all these peppers exist.)

Any variety of tomato will work in this recipe. Just be sure to cut an X on the bottom so the peels come off easily after being blanched.

For much spicier homemade red enchilada sauce, leave the ribs and seeds in the jalapeños after peeling them.

Want More Vegetarian Mexican Recipes?

Homemade Enchilada Sauce
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
25 mins
Total Time
45 mins

This is how enchilada sauce is supposed to taste! Fresh and spicy. A little tomatoey, peppery, and full of heat (if you like spicy). Oh, and it's vegan!

Course: Sauce
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: enchilada sauce
Servings: 4
  • 2 fresh red chilis , sliced in half with the seeds removed
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 large tomatoes , cut a large X in the bottom of both
  • 2  jalapeños (or 1 poblano pepper)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion , diced
  • 2 garlic cloves , chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • salt/pepper , to taste
  1. Add vegetable broth to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add chili peppers and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat but DON’T drain the broth. Set aside.

  2. Char the jalapeños by placing them directly over a gas burner flame until blackened on all sides (or broil in your oven). Remove from heat and immediately transfer to a plastic sandwich bag. Let steam in the bag for about 15 minutes and peel the skins right off. Cut in half and remove seeds. Set aside.

  3. Bring another saucepan full of water to a boil and get a bowl full of ice water ready. Add tomatoes and blanch for a minute or two or until the skins peel right off. Remove from heat and transfer tomatoes to the bowl of ice water. Peel tomatoes and then dice.

  4. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent (about 7 minutes). Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chilis with the vegetable broth liquid, jalapeño, oregano, and cumin. Let simmer for 10 minutes and remove from heat. Once slightly cooled, transfer to a blender and blend until smooth.

Recipe Notes
  • Use right away or store in the fridge for up to 4 days.


  • Sarah
    July 9, 2013

    Wow, the colour of that sauce is so vibrant. Looks fresh and lively – not like something that’s been fermenting since ’74!

    • Shellywest
      July 11, 2013

      Haha – exactly, Sarah! Fresh and lively but not neon like you often times find in those cans…

  • Harriet
    July 10, 2013

    This sauce looks incredible! I feel like it would have so many uses as well: enchiladas, quesadillas, on burrito bowls. delicious!

    • Shellywest
      July 11, 2013

      Yes! Mmmm…I think you just inspired a burrito bowl dinner in my near future – thank you!

  • Alanna {The Bojon Gourmet}
    July 11, 2013

    Oh boy! I LOVE enchiladas, but I’m usually too wimpy/lazy to make my own sauce. The dried chilies in most recipes freak me out. But this recipe looks totally doable, and delicious! I love all the fresh vegetables that go into it. Mmmm! Definitely making it soon! Also, I love your styling. 🙂

  • becca
    July 11, 2013

    brilliant. enchilada sauce it totally creepy, I never use it and therefore lack some flavor in my mexican food. but this is beautiful and fresh, and perfect. thanks so much!

    • Shellywest
      July 11, 2013

      right?! Creepy is totally the perfect word to describe enchilada sauce…like I didn’t even have a clue what it was until I looked into making my own.

  • carey
    July 12, 2013

    YUM. I definitely hear ya on the weird mystery sauces. (I feel the same way about ranch dressing. Which I secretly love, but eat with a bit of guilty hesitation.) When the heat/humidity dies down a bit and I can bear being in the kitchen again, it’s enchilada time!

  • Patty
    July 16, 2013

    Oh wow wow wow!!! I saw this LAst night and I made it tonight, It is HEAven! yesterday was the first time I have read your blog, and with food like this, I am now a dedicated follower! Thanx again for the great recipe!

  • Patty
    July 16, 2013

    OK…I don’t type like that. Everything was coming up in small letters and I was fighting it!

    • Shellywest
      July 19, 2013

      Hey Patty! Sorry about that – I’ve been having trouble with that happening to a lot of my comments. Try to get it worked out with my webhost provider…so frustrating.

      But am SUPER stoked that you are into the Enchilada Sauce!

      • Patty
        July 19, 2013

        Yep, I all ready promised my kids that when our tomatoes and hot peppers are ready, we will be making this in bulk and canning it 🙂

        • Shellywest
          July 21, 2013

          That is a FANTASTIC idea – think I may have to do the same!

  • Daes
    October 26, 2013

    “Creepy?” Really? What’s so creepy about pureed chili, broth, some herbs and spices, and a roux base? Enchilada sauce has a distinct flavor that comes mainly from the sun dried ancho chilis, oregano, and roasted garlic.

    At least, that’s how I was taught to make enchilada sauce in my family.

    The color of this sauce looks wonderful. Definitely look forward to making a comparison.

    • Shellywest
      October 30, 2013

      It’s not the ingredients in the sauce that make it creepy – there is just something about the way it’s neon in the canned bottles that doesn’t sit right with my stomach. However, I love when it’s made fresh and the vibrant color is a reflection of all the delicious chilies that went into it!

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