Easy Enchilada Sauce

Easy Enchilada Sauce

Learn how to make an authentic red enchilada sauce that’s smoky and packed with flavor, and has just enough heat. It tastes like it came from your favorite Mexican restaurant!
This easy gluten free enchilada sauce is rich, smoky and packed with flavor—with just enough heat. Make anything taste like an enchilada!

I make this versatile, authentic-tasting sauce every single week. My husband loves it so much that he is always looking for excuses to use it on pretty much anything and everything.

It’s a tiiiiiny bit sweet, with just the right amount of smokiness, and it can make anything taste like an enchilada. And it makes your kitchen smell like an enchilada (in a good way). Make it as hot ? or as mild as you like.

The most versatile sauce ever

It takes less than 10 minutes to make the sauce, and it can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to a week. You’ll always be moments of prep away from a hearty, crowd-pleasing meal. We use this sauce to make enchiladas, to serve on a random Taco Tuesday, or even just as a tomato sauce with ground beef over rice and beans.

We use this sauce to make enchiladas, to serve on a random Taco Tuesday, or even just as a tomato sauce over rice and beans. Try it over ground beef, or bake your meatballs in it for a new twist on an old favorite.

Enchilada sauce being made in an orange Dutch oven with a whisk

How it’s made

The sauce begins with a simple gluten free roux, made of melted butter to which you add my simplest flour blend, which is an easy mix of white rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch/flour. Simply whisk in the flour and cook briefly.

You can also use superfine sweet rice flour alone to thicken the roux. I recommend against using cornstarch, as sauces thickened with cornstarch tend to separate and leak moisture as they cool.

Next, whisk in the chicken stock, and cook until it thickens. Then add the spices and tomato puree, and stir to combine. That’s all there is to it.

A white casserole dish with cheese on top of enchiladas and a spatula

How to make enchiladas (bonus!)

About half the time I make this authentic-tastin sauce, I use it to make enchiladas.Once you have the sauce prepared, making the enchiladas is really just about assembly.

Just warm 10 to 12 of your tortillas of choice until they’re soft and pliable, either in the microwave or in a hot, dry cast iron skillet or pan. Grease a 9-inch x 13-inch baking dish, and set it aside. You can use whatever fillings you like.

I often shred about 1 pound of cooked chicken (or cooked ground beef) and mixing it with about 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce, 1/4 cup sour cream, a can of drained and rinsed black beans, and about 8 ounces of shredded cheese (a combination of Monterey Jack and sharp yellow cheddar is nice). Cover the bottom of the baking dish with about 3/4-cup of the enchilada sauce.

Spoon some of the filling across the bottom half of a softened tortilla and roll away from yourself until closed. Place the filled tortilla into the greased pan, seam side down. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, placing them side by side in the baking dish.

Pour the remaining enchilada sauce on top of all of the enchiladas and sprinkle with another 3 to 4 ounces of shredded cheese. Finish the dish by baking it in a 375°F oven or about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling.

If you assemble it all and cover it, the whole prepared dish will keep really well in the refrigerator for at least a day until you are ready to bake it. It also “freezes beautifully.” For Cinco de Mayo—or any day!

An orange pot with enchilada sauce and enchiladas in a casserole dish with a spatula

Like this recipe?

Prep time: Cook time: Yield: About 4 cups enchilada sauce


6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, chopped (or neutral oil, like canola)

6 tablespoons (54 g) basic gum-free gluten-free flour (36 g superfine white rice flour + 12 g potato starch + 6 g tapioca starch/flour) OR an equal amount superfine sweet white rice flour

1 1/2 cups (12 fluid ounces) chicken stock

1 to 2 tablespoons chili powder (depending upon how spicy you like your sauce)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon (6 g) kosher salt

1 tablespoon (12 g) granulated sugar

1 28-ounce can tomato puree (or 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes in their juice, pureed)

1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)


  • In a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour whisk until well-combined and smooth.

  • Whisking constantly, slowly add the chicken stock. Continue to cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, about 1 minute. Add the chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, salt and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the tomato puree, and whisk, then stir until well-combined.

  • Add the optional cream to thin as necessary to adjust the heat in the sauce. Taste, and add more spices to suit your own tastes, but in the same ratios as in the original ingredient amounts or the sauce will taste unbalanced. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature, transfer to a sealed container and store in the refrigerator for up to a week. For longer storage, freeze flat in gallon-sized zip-top bags. Defrost by running the frozen bags under warm water before heating and serving.

  • Originally published on the blog in 2011. Method and photos updated, recipe tweaked slightly. Video added in 2017, some text added.


Comments are closed.

  • Christina
    November 16, 2016 at 12:05 PM

    Thank you! This is an easy recipe. And delicious!

  • Mare Masterson
    April 12, 2016 at 1:24 PM

    I echo the request for a green chili enchilada sauce recipe! Time to put that request in in the proper channel!

  • Anneke
    April 12, 2016 at 12:27 PM

    Made this last night — fabulous! My kids thought it was funny that we just vacationed in Mexico, and the first meal I made when we got back was enchilada casserole. Since none of them actually ate enchiladas in Mexico, I didn’t see a problem!

  • Amber
    April 12, 2016 at 12:17 PM

    Do you have a green chili enchilada sauce recipe?? We like the green one with chicken much better than the red one.

  • Susan Beckman
    April 11, 2016 at 2:52 PM

    Hi Nicole and glutenfreebies, I am concerned about the Consumer Reports about the high levels of Arsenic in our rice products. There is a lot of information on this subject by the Celiac Community of California- frightening news for all rice users! Susan

  • Darlene
    August 7, 2011 at 2:46 AM

    Aye yi yi!! This looks muy bueno!! I’m going to cook this in mi cocina pronto! <–Google translate isn't perfect.

    I always put some encheelatha (I can write with an accent) sauce in a fry pan, warm it up, and then dip the corn tortillas in that before I start rolling. But too long and they will disintegrate. I want to try the flour tortillas though, this will give me a good excuse to cover my kitchen with flour again. Did I mention I made the pita bread again tonight? I should send you the lemon/yogurt/cucumber/tomato/caper/salt sauce recipe that I use for drizzling. Oh, I just did.

    Now to your "I'm this type of person" point… I always laugh when someone says, "I'm a good person". I've driven with these people! I've seen them beat the old lady to the best parking spot, speed up to prevent someone from merging into traffic in front of them, or flip off someone for pointing out THEIR mistake. They aren't good!! If you drive.. it's impossible to be good! I know because I drive and I'm not good! Thankfully, I'm the type of person that realizes this (humble curtsy with finger aside chin).

    And seeing that Angelina Jolie pout I now understand the whole Facebook Fish Face. I wondered why all those women kept making that ridiculous face on their profile pics. I'd tell them all they ain't no Angelina Jolie but.. I'm just not that type of person.

    • Nicole
      August 7, 2011 at 3:58 PM

      Hi, Darlene,
      Google translate is bien, but not muy bueno. This sauce is, in fact, muy bueno. :)
      Dipping the tortillas in the sauce does make for a very saucy encheelatha, but it makes them much harder and messier to work with. With store-bought corn tortillas, I think you can make a good case for dipping. But with fresh flour tortillas (or even fresh corn ones), I like to taste the tortilla itself.
      Oh, and good people don’t tell you they’re good people. Just like real tough guys try to avoid a fight, and good cooks are happy to have someone else cook for them (not afraid of being shown up).
      The Facebook Fish Face sounds like the next in a long list of reasons that I really don’t care for Facebook. I only do it for the book/blog (the fan page), but can’t remember the last time I did anything personal on it.
      You’re such a good person. And a good cook. And a tough guy. And humble. And Angelia Jolie.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Amanda
    August 6, 2011 at 4:24 PM

    Yum Mexican

    I want to make something that freezes beautifully is from Steel Magnolias :-)

    • Nicole
      August 6, 2011 at 6:06 PM

      Hi, Amanda,
      Yay! You got the quote! “This is in the Freezes Beautifully section of my cookbook, and I wanted to bring something that freezes beautifully.”
      “Yum Mexican” is now your quote. :)
      xoxo Nicole

      • Amanda
        August 11, 2011 at 8:12 PM

        I always wondered how her beans that hadn’t been soaked turned out… I have visions of the Julia Robert’s family sitting down to a dinner of crunchy beans :-)

        I’ll take the quote “Yum Mexican” I think I could eat Mexican 24*7

  • Carrie
    August 6, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    Yum! I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be making this tonight. I was craving enchiladas today, and look at you, you put a delicious recipe on here for me. It’s like you can read my mind. Cause we’re so close like that.
    And by the way, I finally got my Better Batter and cookbook, and the first thing I made was the white sandwich bread. And after I took a bite I had to do a huge happy dance. Because it was PERFECT! Now I’m ready to make french bread, sourdough bread, and pretty much every other bread-like object in the cookbook. I’m so excited that I don’t have to mix a million different flours and hope that it makes something edible. It makes me feel like maybe I won’t fail at this gf cooking thing… We’ll see!

    • Nicole
      August 6, 2011 at 6:08 PM

      We are so simpatico, you and me, Carrie. No daylight between us. :)
      You made awesome GF bread, and now you have Kitchen Confidence! Woohoo! As long as you remember that everyone has a recipe ‘fail’ every now and again (and I do mean everyone), you’ll never feel like a GF cooking failure. You’re a GF cooking whiz!
      xoxo Nicole

      • Anonymous
        August 7, 2011 at 4:44 PM

        You are an angel. These enchiladas are an angel. (If you’ve ever seen the movie Dan In Real Life then you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, you should watch it, so you will know what I’m talking about and not think I’m a huge lunatic! And because it’s one of the best movies ever.) We had them for supper last night, and everyone loved them. I made the tortillas out of your cookbook, and they were SO much better than the ones I have been making. They were so soft and delicious! I’m pretty much loving this Better Batter. It rocks! But back to the sauce, it was so smooth and saucy and smoky, just like you said. Delish!

        • Nicole
          August 7, 2011 at 4:51 PM

          Yay, Carrie! Better Batter, flour tortillas, enchiladas with smooth smoky saucy sauce, and you and me. We all ROCK!
          I have never seen Dan In Real Life! I will see it. When someone quotes a good line from a movie they love and I haven’t seen, I see it. I will see it. I will do as I am told.
          I am indeed a documented lunatic. It’s well documented on this here blog. I live in a glass house. I do not throw stones at lunatics. :)
          xoxo Nicole

  • August 6, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    Air quotes! They make me think of the film Say Anything, which I just ordered from the library. I assured my husband that we weren’t going to watch it because Lloyd Dobler is my romantic ideal (he’s not), but as part of a retrospective on the Eighties “Stalker” Movie genre (picture me doing air quotes there). Remember when it was considered romantic in films (NOT real life) for the protagonist to follow his/her romantic interest at a distance? Think Sixteen Candles, Flashdance, the aforementioned Say Anything….Oh wait, it *still* hasn’t gone away. Cue Twilight and all its ilk.

    I think “We are not parsley people. That’s just not who we are.” should go on a tee-shirt. But then, I’m not a put-sayings-on-tee-shirts kind of person. I am, however, a Big Silly Head. But I didn’t need to tell you that.

    The cherry pops are in the freezer. I am eager to try them. Before I forget, I wanted to tell you that my new favorite gf party-dish offering is based upon Vietnamese spring wrap rolls. The wrappers are made of tapioca flour, and they do not need to be cooked, just soaked in hot water for 10 seconds. My daughter likes the all-vegetarian ones, but my husband and I like to put in shrimp or smoked salmon. The greens can be anything, but I’ve been using pea shoots, cilantro, and arugula. The dipping sauce is what brings it all together: gf hoisin, peanut-butter, thinned out with wheat-free tamari.

    All this has nothing to do with enchiladas, unless you look at the big picture, i.e. The Whole Enchilada.

    • Nicole
      August 6, 2011 at 6:13 PM

      Hi, Farida,
      I love all of the John Hughes movies. The very best thing the 80s did was produce movies. Even the bad 80s hair looks great in those movies. I still have a crush on Jake Ryan. And my crushing crush on him was only heightened when I learned that, after the movie, he returned to a full life off-screen as a husband, father, and woodworker. *dreamy sigh* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Schoeffling Funny, but you’re right about Twilight just being the modern-day equivalent of those movies. I’ve never seen or read them. I’m officially too old. And not the least bit unhappy about that fact.
      I want to get a T shirt that says “We are parsley people.” I love parsley. It freshens my breath.
      I love rice papers for spring rolls and even a quickie egg roll type deal.
      Nice work, getting in that Whole Enchilada reference. I can’t believe I didn’t use that in the post! Didn’t even occur to me. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • August 5, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    Hi Nicole, trust this has been a good week for you. I’ve looked in on your blog a few times this week, but felt so lousy I just couldn’t write. We went out last Sunday and I’m sure I was floored by some gluten. Got sick about mid-way into my meal. Toilet hugging, tummy twisting and bargaining with anyone who would listen to make the pain go away. I was a SICK puppy. (Probably more information than you wanted…sorry.) When I saw your recipe for granola bars I wanted to hug you to pieces. Bless your heart! When I’m up and at ’em again that will be first on my list. Mr. C made the cherry pops for me, but more like a smoothie. Mmmm good. How’s that cute white pooch? Feeling better?
    Tell me Nicole, is smoked paprika much different than regular paprika? Does it have a bite?
    About you sharing too much…I don’t think so. I really, really love your blog. You kinda feel like a neighbor, giving me good eats and good stories. What’s not to love. Thanks for all you do for us Nicole. xoxo

    • Nicole
      August 6, 2011 at 6:21 PM

      Hi, Ruthe,
      Lovely to hear from you. Much lovelier than how you were feeling earlier in the week. I’m sure this is small consolation, but it’s quite the survival tactic that gluten makes you so ill. I always think that so-called Silent Celiacs, who have no outward symptoms, have the toughest row to hoe. I only say that now that you’re (hopefully) feeling better. And I say it with l-o-v-e.
      A cherry pop smoothie sounds perfect for working your way back to eating.
      Smoked paprika is definitely different than regular paprika. It isn’t spicy in the ‘hot’ sense. It’s just, well, sweetly smoky. It’s hard to explain. Spanish smoked paprika is just … unequaled. But any smoked paprika will do.
      I’m so glad you enjoy the blog, and the silly day-in-the-life stories. Connecting with you on the blog is the only way that I can stay, well, connected, since otherwise what I do would be so isolating. And my creativity would shut off speedy quick. So thank you for reading (even when you’re not feeling yourself), and thank you for writing so I can feel the connection. And so my white fluffy dog is on record as being insane. If anything happens to me, you’ll point the authorities in the right direction. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • Sarah D
    August 5, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    Mmmmm…this is going on the list of food to make 1 and freeze 2 for the hubby to have when he gets home from deployment. I always try to fill the freezer with meals when he’s gone so I’m not tied to the stove when he’s home.

    We love enchiladas and I’ve always used (gasp!) canned sauce in the past (I know, don’t hate me). :) I finally got my flour yesterday so my next task is to get one of those cool tortilla presses from the latin market so I can make tortillas easily. I’m not so good at the rolling out.

    • Nicole
      August 5, 2011 at 8:59 PM

      Hi, Sarah,
      I could not would not hate you. I have used jarred enchilada sauce before, and I’ll use it again. I love me a good shortcut when time is tight, and the more GF shortcuts on the market, the better off we all are. Then we have choices.
      I think this is a great meal to make ahead and freeze just before baking them. Then I would just bake them from frozen, starting at a low temperature and building up. I use a basic, mechanical tortilla press to get mine started, and then I roll them out with a rolling pin the rest of the way so I get them just how I like them. A tip: take a gallon-sized ziploc bag. Split it down the sides and cut it across the center into 2 pieces. Then cut off the ‘zippers’ (or they really get in the way), and line your tortilla press with them – and then roll them out between the two pieces of plastic. They’re so much more stable than plastic wrap, and I just wash and reuse them. I keep them with my tortilla press, in fact. Every so often, I toss and replace them. It really works better than anything else I’ve tried.
      I thought your husband was in the military, but then I thought maybe I had imagined that since you hadn’t referred to deployment in a while. These would be perfect. I am pretty focused on foods that ‘freeze beautifully’ right now, so I will be sure to note which recipes fall into that category in the future.
      xoxo Nicole

  • Kadren
    August 5, 2011 at 3:01 PM

    You never fail to please my palate. :) Can’t wait to make these. I’ll be printing off this weekend so I can take some recipes up north with me to no man’s land. (AKA no electricity) Gotta love my new grill!!!

    • Nicole
      August 5, 2011 at 8:48 PM

      Hi, Kadren,
      I have a friend who has a cabin north of us, in what she also describes as no-man’s land. She says it’s ‘very rustic,’ which I’m fairly certain is code for no electricity and no running water. Yikes! Good luck up there. :)
      xoxo Nicole

  • bookladyDavina
    August 5, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    Oh that sounds lovely! I’ve been doing lots of enchilada casserole lately. Hubby and the kids are loving it, though I’ve been just cheating and using canned (gf) products and just layering everything like a lasagna.. It’s summer and things are usually crazy and it makes things so much faster that way.. but, I’m going to have to try this sauce and making my own tortillas sometime this winter when things slow down and I want the heat from the stove top in the house :) Have only been gf a few months and still learning (love your book btw!!) and trying to convince the rest of the household that, yes, they can in fact live just fine without gluten, though they still have some hold outs.

    • Nicole
      August 5, 2011 at 8:50 PM

      Hi, Davina,
      Yes! They can all eat gluten-free! What are their holdouts? We are Gluten Free Superheroes. We will prove it to them. So glad you’re enjoying the book. Now tell me what they think they can’t have unless it is made with gluten…
      xoxo Nicole

  • August 5, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    These sound sooo darn good. I think I know what’s for dinner tomorrow (pizza night tonight).

    • Nicole
      August 5, 2011 at 11:58 AM

      Hi, Heather,
      I always know that Fridays are pizza nights for you! They’re usually pizza nights for us, too. It’s so easy, it’s almost like a night off (almost!).
      xoxo Nicole

      • August 7, 2011 at 2:38 PM

        I made the sauce last night and wow it was better than I was expecting, better than anything out of a jar. All i changed was the oil since we don’t do buy canola oil. Instead I used coconut oil. Thank you so much for your wonderful recipes.

        • Nicole
          August 7, 2011 at 3:49 PM

          Hi, Heather,
          I’m so glad you enjoyed the sauce. I know, right? It’s surprisingly lovely sauce. Smoked paprika is the cat-is-out-of-the-bag secret ingredient.
          You’re very welcome.
          xoxo Nicole

  • Danielle Wootton Lassen via Facebook
    August 5, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    I seriously needed this! Think I can multiply the sauce and freeze it? Thanks so much!

  • Michelle Dunton Olejar via Facebook
    August 5, 2011 at 7:56 AM

    Nicole…I want and you deliver! How did you know I was a googling fool last night trying to find an enchilada sauce? :) Thanks! I just ordered some Better Batter and it should arrive today. I am thinking enchiladas are in my future. Big happy grin as I have missing them.

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