The Ultimate Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce on

- Why eat the canned stuff when you can make your own easy homemade enchilada sauce? -

I mentioned a few months ago that I lost my grandmother, and I lamented how sad I was that it didn’t look like I was going to be able to get her recipes from my relatives. Not much progress has been made on that front, but it made me think of something my grandmother was always famous for: her enchiladas.

For year people begged my grandmother for her homemade enchilada recipe, but she refused to give it out. This was strange, because my grandma loved to share recipes. All, but this recipe. My other grandmother, my mom’s mom, bugged her for it, as did my aunts and family friends. For years it remained a mystery, to everyone’s dismay.

Many years later, when I’d grown and she’s gotten much older, I asked her why she never shared the recipe. She paused and glanced down at the ground, then looked up sheepishly. “I don’t want anyone to know that I use canned enchilada sauce.”

Here’s the thing – even though my entire family haled her as THE cook in our lives and we would have gleefully inhaled anything in her cooking repertoire as our last meal, my grandmother never had any confidence in her cooking. She wasn’t just being humble; she truly did not believe that she had any talent in the kitchen.

Grandma wasn’t one of those people who could just throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and call it delicious, and she always had to follow a recipe because she couldn’t remember the steps or ingredient amounts for dishes she’s made a hundred times. According to her, those were the hallmarks of a good cook – and there was no convincing her that she was anything but a housewife with a recipe box. When someone called her a good cook, she said it made her feel like a fraud. On more than one occasion I watched her toss out wonderful dishes because she thought they were crap.

I am definitely my grandmother’s granddaughter. I can wing it in the kitchen, but would you believe that when I want to make a recipe from Melt, I still need to whip out the book because half the time I can’t remember the finer points of a dish that I myself created? Thankfully I’m not nearly so critical of my skills in the kitchen. I understand that for most folks, unless one makes a dish everyday for weeks on end, it’s pretty difficult to commit an entire recipe to memory and hold it there into perpetuity. Please let this be your guide if you are like my grandmother and believe you’re a lousy cook just because you need to refer to a cookbook. It’s no big deal.

So to celebrate my grandma’s enchilada recipe – which I eventually did get ahold of, decades later – I developed my own super easy homemade enchilada sauce recipe. I think she would like it a lot if she were still here.

5.0 from 13 reviews
The Ultimate Easy Homemade Enchilada Sauce
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Homemade enchilada sauce is quick and easy to make, with only a few ingredients and fifteen minutes worth of work. Never eat the canned stuff again! Makes about 3 cups of sauce.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped (about a cup)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Pour onions and garlic into the carafe of a blender and add tomatoes, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, oregano, rosemary, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Puree the sauce until completely smooth.
  2. Wipe out the skillet with a paper towel to remove any leftover onions. Pour the sauce into the skillet and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and pour over enchiladas.



  1. My grandma was a great cook too! Do you have a full recipe for enchiladas?

  2. Sean Casey says:

    Easy peasy!

  3. My grandma was my first teacher in the kitchen; I miss her every day; she made it such fun!

    Your topic is interesting; who in the world does remember every ingredient from every recipe they make. Beyond that? Many years ago I worked for a company called Priority Management; their entire premise of showing people how to maintain a system of their schedule and to do list stressed this point. Write it down; get it out of your head and free up your brain space for creative ideas. I’ve always believed that so I don’t worry at all about not recalling recipes from memory; I’m too busy thinking up new stuff!

    This will be made; I’m on a roll lately with homemade Mexican dishes; so thanks!

    • Stephanie Stiavetti says:

      Indeed! I totally agree that it’s important to get it out of your head and free up your brain space for creativity.

  4. Oaktown Spice Shop says:

    This would be good with New Mexican red chile powder too.

  5. Eleanor Snyder says:

    Just to be picky

  6. most food from cans is designed to slowly kill us with salt and sugar

  7. Pretty please submit to Punk Domestics? (Also there’s a small typo in the recipe — olive olive.)

  8. This looks delicious!

  9. Terry Markiewicz says:

    OMG, was just thinking I’d love to make fresh enchiladas!!!! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!

  10. Christopher Nelson says:

    This made me miss her.

  11. So simple, and so awesome, Stephanie! And easy to use local ingredients, or better yet, your homegrown produce for it! Thank you so much for sharing!!

  12. Sarah Olson says:

    I have to confess, I never knew what went into enchilada sauce that made it different than any other sauce, so in the handful of times I’ve made enchiladas I bought the sauce. I printed out your recipe, and it’s going in my book for the next time!

    By the way, if I’m making green, then I just swap out the tomatoes for tomatillos, and add them with the onions, right?

    • Eleanor Snyder says:

      I like to toast my tomatillos in their skins first, tossing them around in the wok with no oil or very little and leaving just a few of the outside leaves on before swirling them in the food processor.

  13. Thank you so much for posting this, Stephanie! I always assumed I’d never be a “great cook” because I am fairly recipe dependent as well. (That is to say, I often use them as a base to riff off of.) You’ve given me back some of my kitchen confidence. :)

  14. Ambelleina says:

    How many fresh tomatoes do you guesstimate would work for this recipe?

  15. Delicious, Clean and EASY! Thank you so much for sharing :-)

    • Stephanie Stiavetti says:

      Thanks so much, Christy. :)

      • Justin Powers says:

        Do you think it would be a good idea to liquify the final product in a blender to perfect the texture and really emulsify the flavors?

        • Stephanie Stiavetti says:

          You could totally do that, or even cook up everything in the skillet *before* blending. Just be careful if you blend everything after you’ve cooked it – I’ve seen the steam from hot food blow the top off a blender and send scalding napalm all over the kitchen (and its inhabitants)!

  16. Hello,

    2 tablespoons chili powder

    is it pure chili or is it the chili blend?



  1. […] posted two different recipes for enchilada sauce, both of which will work great for casseroles: one super easy sauce, and one somewhat traditional sauce. Use whichever of these you like best, or feel free to used a […]

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