California chiles for enchilada sauce

California chiles for enchilada sauce

If you enjoy cooking Mexican food at home, you’ll no doubt need a decent go-to homemade enchilada sauce recipe. It isn’t hard and I don’t know about you, but it always makes me feel a little better knowing I cooked this up myself at home. That’s true for most things though.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve bought and used plenty of canned enchilada sauces over the years, but I find that I enjoy making it at home more. Different brands of sauce have different levels of heat and some of them just downright taste weird.

Our son Nathan absolutely loves most Mexican food – enchiladas being no exception. The funny thing however, is that he doesn’t like anything that’s even remotely spicy. So I find it a bit strange that he’s okay with enchilada sauce which does have just a little heat to it.

Steamed California chiles

I would much rather be in charge of how much dried chile powder goes into the sauce. And for this recipe we decided to go with California chiles, which are usually a very mild pepper. For those who may not know, California chile peppers are simply dried Anaheim chiles, and are about 8 times less spicy than a jalapeño pepper.

Enchilada sauce

One important thing about making your own homemade enchilada sauce, is that you’ll have complete control over the amount of salt you use. Most of the store bought brands contain a lot of sodium. I guess that’s the trade off for convenience though.

Apart from being the tasty sauce used to smother enchiladas with, it also goes great when poured over a monster beef and cheese burrito. Drop a few spoonfuls of sour cream on top and garnish with some shredded lettuce and you’ve got yourself one delicious meal.

Enchilada sauce

You can also use this homemade enchilada sauce for Mexican lasagna, or it can be mixed with sour cream to make a nice dip for something such as taquitos or jalapeños poppers. It can also be mixed with ranch to make a dressing for taco salads.

Enchilada sauce

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

By: Semiserious Chefs
Serves: Varies ~ about 4 cups


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 10 – 12 dried California chiles
  • 2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic (peeled)
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin


    1. Remove stems from chiles, rinse with water, rip one side open lengthwise and remove seeds. Place the chiles in a steaming basket and place the peeled garlic on the chiles. Cover and let steam over simmering water for 30 minutes.
    2. In a blender or food processor, add the steamed chiles, garlic cloves and one cup chicken broth and blend until smooth. Make sure to blend well to get rid of as many little chunks as possible.
    3. In a medium sauce pan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook until just starting to turn light brown, making sure to stir on a regular basis to prevent burning.
    4. Gradually stir in the rest of the reduced sodium chicken broth, water, tomato paste, puréed chile and garlic, vinegar, onion powder, salt, and cumin. Stir until smooth.
    5. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover with a lid, and let simmer for approximately 20 minutes so the flavors can blend. Be sure to mix periodically though, so it doesn’t overcook on the bottom of the sauce pan. Otherwise, the enchilada sauce might begin to taste a little ‘off’.

*Note: You can leave out the additional teaspoon of salt and just use the salt content of the reduced sodium chicken broth. But honestly, I find the additional salt makes the sauce taste much better.

*Note: If your lid isn’t snug fitting, water is going to escape while the sauce simmers at the end. If this is the case, you will get a marginally thicker sauce that yields roughly 3 1/2 cups.

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