Everyone should have a few enchilada sauce recipes in their repertoire; a green, a white, and a red sauce. Because these flavorful sauces are not just for enchiladas. You can use them for a plethora of dishes like chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, chicken tortilla soup, tamale pie, and the list goes on and on. In fact, I made enchilada sauce today just so I had a fantastic sauce for chicken tamale pie, which will be my next post. Let me recollect myself as I start thinking about that tamale pie...
Enchilada sauce is very customizable. It can be mild or extra-spicy; complex in flavor or very basic; gourmet or budget friendly or somewhere in between. My enchilada sauce falls somewhere in between the spicy and complexity range while still being budget friendly. If you don't have an ingredient or don't like one of the peppers/heat sources, you can probably omit them and still end up with a pretty fantastic sauce. As long as you keep the base of tomato paste, chicken/vegetable bouillon, and cocoa powder. This sauce is also:
- easily freezable; make and freeze in 2 cup batches. Defrost when needed and apply liberally. Always apply liberally. Always.
- stores well in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.
- makes a big batch- we're talking 8-9 cups.
- deliciously addictive. You have been warned.
If you know me at all, you know my deep-rooted relationship with heat. But it's more complicated than a love-hate relationship. I love heat when it's complex, with deep, rich flavors. If it's spicy for the sake of being spicy, it loses its general appeal and becomes relevant in very (few) specific instances. And I've discovered that (dried) chili peppers + unsweetened cocoa=BFFs. It's a very surprising combination but the cocoa powder mellows out the heat in the chili peppers while subtly highlighting the rich, deep sweetness that can be found in peppers and pepper (chili) powders. My cocoa infused chili is proof of that. My father-in-law made it for his Superbowl party this year and got rave reviews (total attempt at humble-bragging happening here)!
The other unique thing about this enchilada sauce, other than being super easy and fast, is that it's made with dried pasilla and guajillo peppers. Pasillas are very mild peppers with sweet undertones while guajillo peppers have a spicier and more bold and punchy finish. The key is to use scissors to split the peppers open, carefully de-seed them, cut them into strips with the scissors, and add them to the sauce. These peppers have become more popular over the years and even some big box stores carry them. They also hold up very well to the acidity of the tomato base, even cutting the tartness and giving the sauce more body.
Once the ingredients are in the pan, they cook for 5-10 minutes, until the flavors mingle and have a chance to mellow out and the peppers become soft. Then puree and cool and store until ready to use or freeze for deliciousness later.
And don't forget to apply liberally!Print
Quick and Easy Red Enchilada Sauce
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 10 mins
- Total Time: 15 mins
- Yield: 8-9 cups 1x
- 6 tbsp tomato paste
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 3 guajillo peppers, de-seeded and cut into strips
- 3 pasilla peppers, de-seeded and cut into strips
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes*
- 6 cups water
- In a medium saucepan whisk in water to tomato paste and bring to a boil on medium heat. Add remaining spices (except flour) and continue boiling, stirring to prevent the sauce from boiling over, until peppers are soft, about 5-8 minutes.
- Whisk in flour until fully dissolved. Some lumps may remain. Cook for 2-4 minutes, until sauce thickens, coating the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat.
- Pour into the cup of a blender and puree until sauce is completely smooth.
- Store in an airtight container, in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
*use vegetable bouillon if you want to make this a fully vegetarian sauce.