Homemade red enchilada sauce is genuinely a personal affair. Recipes vary from region to region from Southern Mexico, all the way to Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, and within those regions, from family to family.
Enchilada Sauce by Region
My formative years were spent in West Texas, where the red enchilada sauce is generally what you’d expect to find in Northern Mexico. This is the style of enchilada sauce that I like.
When comparing West Texas-style red enchilada sauce to New Mexican, the most significant variance you’re likely to find is in the chile peppers people use. In New Mexico, the New Mexico red chile is almost always used (a red anaheim chile grown in the region, sometimes called a Chile del Norte).
In other parts of Texas, you’ll find a Tex-Mex variety of enchilada sauce they call chili gravy. Chili gravy is a hybrid of Southern-style brown gravy and Mexican-style enchilada sauce. Like a brown gravy, it uses a flour roux.
If you want to make Tex-Mex chili gravy, you can find my recipe here.
- Try one of our 12 salsa recipes to help you master Taco Night.
My West Texas-Style Sauce
In West Texas, I’ve found the enchilada sauce to be more along the lines of what you’d find in Northern Mexico. In this case, the chiles used are guajillo and ancho chiles.
From family to family in the region, you can find additional chiles being used. Some add chile de arbol for heat or pasillas for their earthy and smoky flavor.
I add a small amount of cloves and cinnamon to my red enchilada sauce. That’s more along the lines of something you might find in Colima, Mexico, West of Mexico City.
I don’t know how those two ingredients found their way into my enchilada sauce, but I love the complexity that it adds. When we lived in Barstow or Pecos, I assume one of our neighbors moved to the region from Colima and introduced it to us.
If you want to make a more traditional West Texas-style red enchilada sauce, just omit the cloves and cinnamon. Everything else should remain the same.
Red Enchilada Sauce
- De-stem, de-seed, and de-vein the chiles. Toast both sides of each chile on a hot comal, pressing down with a metal spatula. Be careful not to burn them. It should only take a few seconds on each side.
- Add the chiles to a small pot of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside for 20 minutes to re-hydrate the chiles.
- While the chiles soak, toast the white onion slices on the comal until they start to blacken. About 4-5 minutes per side. Set aside. Toast the unpeeled garlic cloves until blackened. About 5 minutes.
- Strain the chiles through a fine mesh sieve. Peel the garlic, then add it, along with all of the other ingredients to your blender and puree on high speed until it is as smooth as you can get it. Strain into a pan (if you have a high-power blender, like a Vitamix, you can skip straining it).
- Cook over medium-low heat for an additional 15 minutes.