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Homemade Enchilada Sauce - Every Little Thing

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

I love to eat out.

There, I said it.

I obviously enjoy cooking, but eating out? It’s an experience within itself. I love the ambiance, I love the conversation, I love the drinks, and boy do I love when professionals cook my meal. Yes, it gets expensive and yes, we should probably cut back a smidge, but it’s an experience we both enjoy, so I’m OK with it.

We eat out anywhere from 1-3 dinners per week, at a variety of places. Obviously, places that cook high end food with locally sourced ingredients are preferred. Places like Cleveland Heath, our beloved Edwardsville spot, or the many beautifully crafted meals we’ve eaten in St. Louis at places like The Libertine, Niche, Home Wine Kitchen, and Milagro Modern Mexican. Such talent in our Midwestern city – for people that love to eat out (we are those people, remember), we’re lucky to live here.

Speaking of Milagro, my taste for Mexican food has expanded over the years. Gooey white cheese, while at least a tiny bit tasty, does not do true Mexican cuisine any justice. So when we make Mexican food at home, we try and up the game a little bit to please our ever-expanding taste buds.

I like to think this enchilada sauce is at least somewhat authentic. After all, I did tweet Milagro to confirm I was on the right path by using dried ancho chiles (I was). They also suggested guajillo chiles but as this was a last minute idea, I had only ancho chiles to work with. But they worked in this enchilada sauce, and I’m so glad.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce | everylittlethingblog.com

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Serving Size: Sauce for 8 enchiladas


  • 10 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded (unless you love spice!)
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • Reserved chile water, divided
  • 2 tbsp vegetable or grapeseed oil (any neutral oil)
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 8 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Place dried chiles in a medium pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then cover and remove from heat for 20 minutes. Drain chiles and reserve chile water. Roughly chop chiles. If you have an immersion blender, add chiles back to pan. If not, put chiles in blender. Add oregano and 1 cup of reserved chile water to chiles, then blend until smooth (note: if using an immersion blender, this gets a bit messy!). Continue to add additional chile water if needed, until a paste is formed. Set chile paste aside (remove from pan, if using an immersion blender).
  2. Add oil to pan and heat over medium. Add onion and garlic and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add flour and continuously stir to create a roux. Heat for 2-3 minutes, then add chile paste, tomato sauce, cilantro, and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups chile water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Sauce will thicken.
  3. Remove pan from heat. If using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. If using a blender, carefully pour sauce into blender and puree until smooth.
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Homemade Enchilada Sauce | everylittlethingblog.com

This enchilada sauce has a smoky, hidden heat that suits enchilada filling perfectly. Speaking of the enchiladas themselves, we used a basic mix of chicken, black beans, red onion, fresh cilantro, cotija, and lime juice. You can go crazy with enchilada filling though (I even encourage going far from authentic, like these roasted summer veg enchiladas, or these layered enchiladas). We decided to stick with a somewhat traditional inside to match our somewhat authentic enchilada sauce on the outside.

The process itself is easy, but time-consuming and even a little messy. Pureeing the ancho chiles in chile water is a process that splatters – I’m just being honest here – but is ultimately worth it. Once you get past the droplets of chile paste all over your kitchen, you’ll thank me 🙂

Homemade Enchilada Sauce | everylittlethingblog.com

Ultimately, I know there are easier recipes for enchilada sauce out there. I know there are crockpot recipes, 5-minute recipes, even “pour from a jar and heat” recipes. Trust me, I’ve done them! But if you have the time and want to expand your taste for Mexican cuisine (as you should, as soon as possible), rehydrate a few ancho chiles then splatter chile paste around your kitchen, all the while boasting about your mostly authentic, homemade enchilada sauce.


  1. We don’t eat out quite as often as you, but I do love the experience of it all and I’d give up a lot of other things in the budget before our eating out budget 🙂

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