Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Earthy guajillo chiles are the key to this robust and easy-to-make (if not slightly spatter-prone) sauce.

A plate with two red sauce enchiladas garnished with sour cream.

Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Why This Recipe Works

  • First toasting the guajillo chiles in the oven adds further depth to their already rich and earthy flavors.
  • Simmering the strained chiles, garlic, tomato, cumin, and black pepper purée with oil creates a concentrated base that's thinned with chicken stock and seasoned to taste.

Cinco de Mayo is my all-time favorite food holiday—there can never be enough Mexican or Tex-Mex in my life. Most Mexican cooking I know I learned from Rick Bayless's Mexican Everyday at Amazon, which I've used so much that it's less a book than bunch of loose pages with a broken spine. Luckily, I have most of my favorite recipes memorized, like this incredible red enchilada sauce.

It's the procedure that develops the deep and rich flavors of this sauce. It starts with toasting moderately spicy guajillo chiles, followed by pureeing them with garlic, tomatoes, cumin, and black pepper. The sauce is then strained into a saucepan with hot oil and cooked into a thick paste. This is the messy part—as the sauce reduces, it also wants to splatter everywhere. Constant stirring helps combat this, but doesn't alleviate it completely... you've been warned. Finally, chicken stock is added, the sauce is simmered, seasoned, and it's good to go.

The guajillos really define the sauce, giving it an earthy heat throughout, while the reduction step creates a very robust tomato base. Spread this sauce over chicken-stuffed corn tortillas, top with cheese, bake, and you'll be in enchilada heaven.

May 2012

Recipe Details

Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Active 30 mins
Total 30 mins
Serves 8 to 10 servings
Makes 4 cups

Earthy guajillo chiles are the key to this robust and easy-to-make (if not slightly spatter-prone) sauce.


  • 4 medium guajillo chiles (about 1 ounce)

  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled

  • 1 (28-ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes (such as Muir Glen)

  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Sugar, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C). Place guajillo chiles on a baking sheet and heat in oven until puffed up and aromatic, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Stem and seed chiles; tear into pieces.

    Guajillo chiles on a baking sheet for making red enchilada sauce.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  2. Place chiles, garlic, tomatoes, cumin, and black pepper in jar of a blender. Purée until as smooth as possible.

    Pureeing chiles, garlic, tomatoes, cumin, and black pepper in jar of a blender for red enchilada sauce.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

  3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Set a fine-mesh strainer over pan and pour in sauce. Press sauce through strainer into saucepan. Cook sauce, stirring constantly, until thickened to consistency of tomato paste, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour in chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste sauce and season with salt and sugar to taste.

    Pressing homemade red enchilada sauce through a fine-mesh strainer.

    Serious Eats / Joshua Bousel

Special Equipment

Blender, fine-mesh strainer

Read More

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
32 Calories
2g Fat
4g Carbs
1g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 32
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 2%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 1mg 0%
Sodium 497mg 22%
Total Carbohydrate 4g 1%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 1g
Vitamin C 14mg 71%
Calcium 31mg 2%
Iron 1mg 3%
Potassium 174mg 4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)