Hot Fun in the Summertime–Red Enchilada Sauce

by Sarah on August 30, 2011


Summer took her own sweet ass time coming to Sacramento and it looks like she might be settling in. High 90’s all last week and around the 90* mark this week too. I can’t (and won’t) complain because 90-degree weather in the Central Valley of California is playtime. We don’t consider it HOT until it reaches at least triple-digits.  Now that doesn’t mean I won’t be sweaty and it doesn’t mean I won’t try to shirk all responsibilities for being outdoors between 3 and 5 but it’s not all that bad.

One nice way to look at things is that the weather stayed so mild, for so long, that I was able to cook some things that I may not have otherwise wanted to even look at, much less cook.  That pretty much boils down to just about ANYTHING that goes into the oven.  But hey, it’s only 85*, why not make some nice and spicy enchiladas?

Today’s recipe will just be for the sauce.  You know, I’ve been making enchiladas for YEARS—it is literally one of the very first things I learned how to make for myself as a full-fledged grown up.  While tedious work, it’s easy going and the leftovers are great.  But I always used canned sauce.  The yellow can was my go-to brand.  A few years passed and I started doctoring up the sauce to suit my taste.   Then a year or so passed again and I started doctoring up plain tomato sauce to use.  Finally I figured out that actually making a quick enchilada sauce is just as easy as doctoring canned sauce and I can make it to suit my own taste.  Duh.

We’re not talking rocket science here.  Brown some onion and garlic and add dry spices to develop their flavors.  You can be fancy and grind your own dried peppers or be a lazy-pants like me and buy those packets of already-ground spices at the Mexican market or just in the Mexican aisle of your local grocer.

Next step is adding a couple cans of tomatoes.  You can use regular tomatoes, or Ro-Tel, or whatever.  I tried out these specialty tomatoes that were at Raley’s–a chipotle style tomato (SPICY!) and a fire-roasted tomato.  I love that fire-roasted one, I use them a lot now.  Thanks Raley’s!  Good thing I didn’t use 2 cans of the chipotle, it was pretty spicy with one.

Add chicken stock to the mix and let it bowl so that the sauce thickens up some.  Then I buzzed it with an immersion blender so that it was smooth.

So listen, the above was just a blueprint for red enchilada sauce.  You can change it up by using different tomatoes, by using different stock or even by using a different combination of spices.  Or just wing it and use what you have in the house.  I do this all the time (which you probably already know, right Readers?).

Now the blueprint for the rest of it.  Look at the picture above.  The end.

No, I’m just kidding.  I jest!  Ha ha.  First you need a filling.  I like to make enchiladas with leftovers.  Leftover pork, chicken, beef, beans, whatever.  Even vegetables from the grill.  Or just cheese.  A good filling is shredded chicken, green chilies (can), jack cheese and green onions.  Or leftover grilled vegetables, beans, cheese and some onion.  Or like above.  Plain shredded roast pork.  You can do whatever you want or use whatever you have on hand.

I like to set this up assembly-line style, as much as possible on your stovetop.  I’ve got corn tortillas frying to my right, filling right behind, the pan of sauce to my left and the baking dish right in front.  Lightly fry the tortilla, dip in briefly in the sauce to coat, place it in the baking dish and fill, roll up and put in place.  Fry.  Dip.  Fill.  Roll.  Fry-Dip-Fill-Roll.  Frydipfillroll.  Etc…

Once you get these beauties all rolled up and put into place you’ve got to top them off.  With sauce.  Well, I like cheese and something green on there too–for looks but also because it tastes good and gives you a bit of crunch.  Then just bake ‘em till everything is nice and bubbly.

Serve them up with some crema or sour cream and a nice pile of cilantro.  Unless you are one of those freaks who doesn’t like cilantro.

Then you’re fired.

Just kidding, you’re not fired.

Use green onions.

Undercover Caterer :: Red Enchilada Sauce


  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 Tbsp ground chile de arbol (if these chile powders aren't available, just use the same amounts of regular chile powder)
  • 1 Tbsp ground chile pasilla
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 4 Tbsp oil
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2-15 oz cans tomatoes


  • In a heavy Dutch oven, heat oil and add onion, saute until soft and light brown, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and all the dried spices. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently so that the spices do not burn. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Let cook, uncovered for several minutes until the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Puree the sauce using an immersion blender, regular blender, food processor or food mill.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings (including salt) as necessary.
  • Use sauce for any favorite enchilada recipe. Makes 2 large pan enchiladas. Freezes well.

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