How to Make Enchilada Sauce That Will Rival Your Favorite Restaurant

green chile chicken enchiladas

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Enchiladas are one of those magical dinners that you can whip up with almost zero effort, and then feast on like you’re having a crazy night out at your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant. They're a meal that lets you off the hook so that you can focus on doing other fun things in the kitchen like making margaritas, or loading the dishwasher. All you need to do is roll your favorite filling in flour tortillas, nestle them together in a baking dish, smother with enchilada sauce, and bake — but, as with many “quick and easy” recipes, there’s a catch.

Your enchiladas will only taste as good as what you make them with, which is why you should spend a few extra cents for the quality flour tortillas, and jazz up that filling with good-quality seasonings and lots of fresh, not frozen, vegetables. And, of course, you have to make sure your enchilada sauce is top-notch because it would be such a tragedy to cover all those delicious ingredients with a blanket of salty, saucy disappointment, right?

poblano quinoa black bean enchiladas
Half Baked Harvest

Why Make Your Own Enchilada Sauce?

Fortunately, making the enchilada sauce of your dreams is almost as easy as popping open a pre-made jar, and all the ingredients you’ll need are probably already in your pantry. Making your own means that you get to control the seasonings: you can go crazy with the garlic, you can make it extra spicy, you can add toasted spices and dried chiles to create a remarkable depth of flavor. Just as with the rest of your enchiladas, your sauce is only as good as what you put into it, so use the best items you can find. Ounce for ounce, your finished sauce will still cost less than the store-bought kind, and it will taste twice as good.

Enchilada sauce also freezes beautifully, so make double or triple what you need, pack it up, and keep it in the freezer for those nights where even making something as simple as enchiladas seems to be an insurmountable feat.

cheddar enchiladas
Half Baked Harvest

How to Make Enchilada Sauce

In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté one small minced onion and two minced cloves of garlic in ⅓ cup neutral cooking oil (like canola) until soft and golden — about three minutes. Add ¼ cup of flour, ¼ cup of good quality chili powder and a heaping tablespoon of ground cumin. Cook while stirring constantly until the spices are intensely fragrant — about one minute. 

For red enchilada sauce, add one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes and 2 cups of best-quality broth. You can use beef, chicken, or vegetable broth — it's completely up to you. For green enchilada sauce, add two cups canned or fresh chopped green chili peppers, and two cups of broth. Bring the sauce to a boil, then drop the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. 

Taste the enchilada sauce for seasonings, adding salt and pepper as desired. If you’d like, you can puree your enchilada sauce in a blender to make it smooth, or pour over your enchiladas straight from the pot. We'd recommend keeping some extra on hand for low-maintenance weeknight burrito bowls or to spice up your favorite dish.

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