Homemade Enchilada Sauce

This red homemade enchilada sauce has the best flavor! It’s all natural, cheaper than store-bought, and quick and easy to make.

Homemade enchilada sauce

Want a great enchilada sauce that’s fast and easy to make? This homemade enchilada sauce is so tasty and takes just 25 minutes! It’s all natural with no preservatives, and it’s vegan and gluten-free, too. Alex and I typically buy enchilada sauce at the store, since we didn’t have a go-to recipe. But when we created our Vegan Enchiladas, we knew we wanted a homemade version. Turns out, it takes just a handful of ingredients to get huge flavor. This full-bodied sauce is zingy, zesty, and you’ll never want to stop eating it.

What’s in a red enchilada sauce?

Guess what? You don’t need canned tomatoes to make this enchilada sauce. All you need is tomato paste, vegetable broth and some seasonings. Because you’re using tomato paste which is naturally sweeter, you’ll only need to simmer the sauce for 15 minutes. It turns into a full-flavored sauce with a creamy texture and a zesty flavor that’s irresistible. Here’s all you need for this sauce:

  • Yellow onion and garlic
  • Olive oil (to saute)
  • Vegetable broth
  • Tomato paste
  • Adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers; see below)
  • Spices: cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and chili powder

All you’ll have to do is saute the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 15 minutes. Blend it up and you’re ready to go!

Red enchilada sauce

Why make homemade enchilada sauce?

When it’s easy to find packaged enchilada sauce, why make it at home? Lots of reasons. Here’s why we’re now converts to making homemade enchilada sauce:

  • There’s no MSG or preservatives. You know exactly what’s going into this sauce: it’s all natural!
  • It’s vegan and gluten-free. Many red enchilada sauce recipes are vegan, but many are not gluten-free because they use flour as a thickener. This one has no need for flour or cornstarch!
  • It’s cheaper. When we priced out the enchilada sauce at our local grocery, 3 cups (to make our vegan enchiladas) would be about $12. This homemade enchilada sauce is about $5, depending on your local grocery store.

So, set aside 25 minutes and make this enchilada sauce the night before! It’s totally worth the time investment.

Homemade enchilada sauce recipe

What is adobo sauce?

Adobo sauce is a tomato-chili sauce that brings savory, smoky flavor to Mexican dishes. It’s packaged inside a can of chipotle chilis! Here’s some info about using adobo sauce in recipes:

  • Chipotles in adobo sauce are sold in most grocery stores here in the US, available near the Mexican products. The can includes chipotle chiles: smoked and dried jalapeños that are rehydrated and canned, and adobo sauce, a purée of tomato, vinegar, garlic, and other spices.
  • This recipe calls for adobo sauce only. You’ll just use a tablespoon to pull out just the sauce from the can. The sauce is lightly spicy, but not nearly as spicy as the chipotle peppers! Each brand of can has different amounts of adobo sauce, so you’ll have to experiment and find your favorite.
  • Refrigerate or freeze the remainder. You can use the remaining adobo sauce and chipotle peppers in recipes! See below for our favorite adobo sauce recipes.
Vegan enchiladas
Use this sauce in our best vegan enchiladas!

How to serve this homemade enchilada sauce

Enchiladas are one of our favorite recipes to make, because they always, always impress! Here are a few we’d recommend:

Red enchilada sauce recipe

More recipes with adobo sauce!

You’ll use only 1 1/2 tablespoons of adobo sauce in this recipe: so you’ll have plenty to use in other recipes! You can also use the chipotle chilis: finely mince them and add them to salsa.

This homemade enchilada sauce recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free.

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Homemade enchilada sauce

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (18 votes, average: 4.11 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: About 3 cups 1x


This red homemade enchilada sauce has the best flavor! It’s all natural, cheaper than store-bought, and quick and easy to make.



  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion (1/2 large)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste (10 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from 1 can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  1. Mince the onion. Mince the garlic.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes until golden and tender but not browned. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Carefully pour in the vegetable broth, and then add the remaining ingredients: tomato paste, adobo sauce, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, chili powder, and kosher salt. Bring to a simmer, where the sauce is gently bubbling, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Carefully transfer the contents to a blender (use a ladle to keep from splashing). Blend until smooth. Use immediately or place in a jar and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Mexican

Keywords: Homemade Enchilada Sauce, Red Enchilada Sauce

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.


  • Reply
    Lisa D.
    March 5, 2020 at 11:19 am

    How long can you keep a can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce once it has been opened?

    • Reply
      Alex Overhiser
      March 5, 2020 at 8:59 pm

      We keep our in the freezer indefinitely, or covered in the fridge for several weeks.

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