- A recipe for enchilada sauce that brings a little heat and a lot of flavor. -
I have two separate enchilada recipes on my site – one vegan enchiladas recipe with potatoes, Swiss chard, and toasted pumpkin seeds, and another super hearty enchilada casserole with chicken and brown rice – but no enchilada sauce recipe of my own. So last week I posted a recipe for making super easy homemade enchilada sauce from scratch, and that recipe used tomatoes. Oooooh, that post caused all sorts of drama with the purists!
Anyone deeply familiar with Mexican cuisine knows that traditional enchilada sauce doesn’t actually contain tomatoes – as several folks flamed me last week to remind me. Traditional sauce is made with dried chilies that have been rehydrated and then toasted until they take on a nice, hot, smoky flavor. While dried chilies are indeed more traditional method of making the sauce, the standard American palate is used to tasting tomatoes in red sauce, and every time I’ve made traditional enchiladas for my friends and family, they don’t take to it right away. Americans love their tomatoes, and that’s the whole reason I developed my easy enchilada sauce recipe to begin with. Since it’s been repined on Pinterest over 4,000 times, I’d say it’s doing pretty well!
Now, I’m not a food snob – I want people to enjoy the food I make. So when people give me flack for putting tomatoes in a red sauce and calling it “enchilada sauce,” I don’t really care. It’s a tasty recipe and that’s all that matters.
That said, I have a huge appreciation for traditional recipes. As I advance my own tastes, I find myself liking new flavors and textures that aren’t familiar to many American tastebuds. But I still need to feed the ones I love, and if they won’t eat it, where does that leave me? Or you, my reader, for that matter? I’ll tell you where: Nowhere.
So I set about developing a hybrid enchilada sauce that uses both tomatoes and dried ancho chilies, calling it [Mostly] Authentic Mexican Enchilada Sauce. This recipe has the tomatoes Americans appreciate, while adding in a handful of the smoky, slow-burn chilies you’d find in more traditional dishes.
I hope nobody takes offense. If you do, please don’t flame me. My index finger cramped up from deleting all the bummer comments last week.
You can make this red sauce as hot as you’d like. As it stands now, it’s not too spicy but will give you a little bit of a sweat if you’re not used to spicy food. If you want to take it up a notch (or five) use a total of four or six dried chilies while keeping the rest of the recipe the same.
I love this recipe because it’s the best of both worlds: It’s familiar while encouraging folks to try new flavors. Consider this a “gateway sauce” for those that want to start exploring more authentic Mexican flavors without jumping cannonball-style into the pool.
You can make this red sauce as hot as you'd like. As it stands now, it's not too spicy but will give you a little bit of a sweat if you're not used to spicy food. If you want to take it up a notch (or five) use a total of four or six dried chilies while keeping the rest of the recipe the same.
I love this recipe because it's the best of both worlds: It's familiar while encouraging folks to try new flavors. Consider this a "gateway sauce" for those that want to start exploring more authentic Mexican flavors without jumping cannonball-style into the pool.
- 2 large dried ancho chiles (use 4 if you like a little extra heat)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 small cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
- One 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes or 1 pound tomatoes, seeded and chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Rinse the ancho chiles with warm water and pat them dry. Carefully rip out the stems and remove the cores. Slice the chiles in half, then scrape out seeds and veins. Chop the chiles into 1-inch chunks.
- Add chiles into a heavy bottom pan with no oil. Turn the heat to medium-high and toast the chiles until they turn brown in some spots, about 4 minutes, but do not let the burn. Add onions and toast until they begin to turn brown also. Add cumin and toast for 30 seconds, just until fragrant. Add olive oil and garlic, cooking for 1 minute, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add boiling water and chicken stock.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes, or until the chile pieces are soft and pliable. Remove from heat and stir in oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper. Add more seasoning to taste, if necessary adding more chili powder. Allow the sauce to cool about halfway, just until you can stick a finger in it without burning yourself.
- Pour the sauce into a blender. Secure the top of the blender and cover it with a towel to prevent it from leaking. Start the blender on low, then gradually turn it up to puree the sauce. Add tomatoes, sugar, and lemon juice, and continue to blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt, sugar, or lemon juice if necessary, blending for a few seconds after each addition.
- Return sauce to pan and cook another 15 minutes. Pour over your favorite enchiladas or enchilada casserole.