Homemade Enchilada Sauce

For the past few years I’ve been compiling my culinary bucket list, and near the top has been to make a killer enchilada sauce.  I think I get to check that one off the list now.  Finally.  It has taken me way too long to figure this out and the most frustrating thing about it is that the path to this great sauce was right under my nose.

A couple of years ago I started my enchilada sauce quest with Rick Bayless’ recipe and quickly decided that whatever recipe I ended up with, it had to be much simpler than that.  A few more trials and errors led me to the answer which happened to be right there on my too-neglected cookbook shelf… “Mexican Family Cooking”, a collection of family recipes handed down from Mothers, Aunts and Grandmas.  You can always count on the Grandmas, right? 

Of course, I did a bit of tweaking to the recipe, but nothing major, and what I ended up with is a pretty simple, yet authentic, and delicious enchilada sauce.  Here’s pretty much how it goes…

We start with dried New Mexico chiles, which have lots of flavor without being super spicy (I buy them in bulk off the internet).  Just cut off the top, open ‘em up and remove the seeds...

After they’re all cleaned, just boil them for about 20 minutes and then drain..

Run them through the blender (1/2 of them at a time) with some water and garlic...

Strain through a sieve or strainer, or you can use a food mill, to separate whatever chunks of skin or seeds might still be left..

Cook up some flour in a little oil,

add some tomato paste and the strained chiles, simmer, add some salt, chili powder, a little sugar and some cayenne if you want to spice it up. 

Let this simmer for a few minutes to get the flavors all developed

and then you can either use it right away, can it, or freeze it for later.  I have canned this sauce with excellent results using a pressure canner (11 lbs pressure for 20 minutes), I cannot recommend canning it using the boiling water method, given that the PH is probably not right for that.

We here at the Circle B Kitchen love our enchiladas, so it’s about time we had a scrumptious sauce to go with them. 

So the bucket list just got a little shorter, and our enchiladas a little happier.  Here’s the recipe…


Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from Mexican Family Cooking

Makes 5-6 cups

10-12 New Mexico or Guajillo dry red chiles (3 oz)

5 cups cold water

1 tablespoon tomato paste

4 garlic cloves

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons salt

3-4 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cumin 

1 tablespoon chili powder +1 teaspoon

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Stem and seed the chiles. Boil in a medium-sized saucepan in 1 quart of hot water, stirring often.  Be sure to push the chiles deep into the water, as then tend to rise.  Cook, covered, over medium heat for 20-30 minutes. 

Drain the chiles and puree in a blender, 1/2 at a time, each batch with 1 1/2 cups of cold water and 2 cloves of garlic.

Strain the chiles over a large bowl, using a stiff spatula to work all of the sauce through the strainer.  You should be left with just some seeds and skins in the strainer. You can also use a food mill for this.

When the chiles have been pureed and strained, heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large skillet or dutch oven and brown the flour in the oil to a light golden color.  Stir in the tomato paste and then the strained chiles, and the remaining 2 cups of water, whisking to create a smooth sauce.  When it's slightly thickened, add the salt, cumin, sugar, and chili powder.  Stir well and let it simmer for about 10 more minutes.  Taste for seasoning and add cayenne powder if you would like it spicier.  Stir to blend and simmer a few more minutes. At this point, the sauce will keep for several days in the fridge or frozen for longer storage.  I have canned the sauce with good results using a pressure canner (11 lbs pressure for 20 minutes), but cannot recommend canning this using the boiling water method.

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