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.


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