Delicious Red Sauce Recipe for Tamales and Enchiladas

There are some recipes that are simply essential to have in your culinary arsenal, and red sauce for tamales or enchiladas is certainly one of them. This versatile sauce is a fundamental ingredient in many Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes, from classic enchiladas and tamales to smothered burritos and huevos rancheros.

If you’re a fan of bold, fiery flavors, then this red sauce recipe is for you. Made with a handful of simple ingredients like ancho chilies, garlic, onions, tomato puree, and crushed tomatoes, this recipe packs a serious punch of flavor and spice.

But don’t worry if spice isn’t your thing – this recipe can easily be adjusted to suit your taste preferences. With just a few tweaks to the ingredient list, you can make a mild or medium heat version that is just as delicious.

Whether you’re an experienced home cook looking to expand your repertoire, or a novice looking to try something new in the kitchen, this red sauce recipe is sure to become a staple in your cooking routine. So roll up your sleeves, grab your favorite apron, and get ready to whip up one of the best red sauces around.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Red Sauce for Tamales or Enchiladas Etc...
Red Sauce for Tamales or Enchiladas Etc…

Are you a fan of spicy and flavorful sauces? Look no further than this delicious red sauce recipe! Perfect for tamales, enchiladas, or any other Mexican-inspired dish, this sauce is sure to impress your taste buds.

What makes this sauce so special, you may ask? Well, for starters, it boasts a perfect balance of heat and acidity, thanks to the inclusion of ancho chilies and tomato puree. And with just the right amount of ground cumin and garlic cloves, it is sure to add depth and complexity to any dish.

But perhaps the best thing about this recipe is its versatility. Use it as a base for chicken or beef tamales or pour it over enchiladas filled with your favorite toppings. The possibilities are truly endless.

Plus, with the option to make multiple substitutions and variations – including using canned enchilada sauce or adding hot sauce for an extra kick – you can tailor this recipe to suit your tastes and preferences.

Don’t settle for bland and boring store-bought sauces – this homemade red sauce is the perfect addition to any Mexican-inspired meal. Trust us when we say that once you try it, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

Ingredient List

 A satisfying red sauce that packs a punch of flavor!
A satisfying red sauce that packs a punch of flavor!


  • 4 ounces dried chiles: ancho chilies or New Mexican dried chile peppers or combine both for flavor.
  • 2 cups water: used to blend the chili mixture later in the recipe.
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper and ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 medium onion, chopped coarsely
  • 1 can 28 ounces crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Note: You can also add tomato paste or hot sauce to the recipe for more complexity and heat.

The Recipe How-To

 Give your tamales the perfect topping with this easy red sauce.
Give your tamales the perfect topping with this easy red sauce.

Now, the time has come to dive into the most important section of this recipe article – The Recipe How-To. This is where the magic happens and your Red Sauce for Tamales or Enchiladas Etc… takes shape.

Gather Your Ingredients

Before getting started with cooking, make sure that you have all of the ingredients at hand. The recipe calls for a mixture of ancho chilies, garlic cloves, onions, tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, and various spices such as ground cumin, salt and sugar.

Preparing the Ancho Chilies

Begin by preparing the ancho chilies for use in the sauce. Start by discarding the stems and seeds from a few large dried chilies. While it is best to use new Mexican or Anaheim chilies, you may also substitute with other dried varieties like chili ancho, pasilla or even chipotle.

To get the best flavor, lightly toast the peppers in a warm dry skillet until fragrant but not burnt.

Creating the Red Sauce Base

Next, heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add finely chopped onions to the pan and cook them for 5 minutes or until translucent.

Add minced garlic cloves and toasted ancho chilies to the mixture along with tomato puree and crushed tomatoes, stirring occasionally on low heat.

Adding Seasonings and Simmer

Now it’s time to add some seasoning to your red sauce. Add ground cumin and salt along with ¼ teaspoon of black pepper for that extra kick. Also stir in some sugar to balance out the acidity in the sauce.

For that authentic flavor, you may add dried chili powder or hot sauce according to your preference.

Let it simmer over low heat for around 15-20 minutes until thickened but not too much so that tamales become hard to eat when dipped in it.

Blend Into Smooth Consistency

Finally, blend the mixture into a smooth consistency using an immersion blender or a regular blender.

And there you have it – delicious Red Sauce for Tamales or Enchiladas Etc… that is perfect for any occasion!

Happy Cooking!

Substitutions and Variations

 Spice up your enchiladas with this deliciously rich red sauce.
Spice up your enchiladas with this deliciously rich red sauce.

For those who would like to experiment with different flavors, there are several substitutions and variations that can be made to this red sauce recipe. Here are some suggestions:

– Ancho chilies: If you’re having trouble finding ancho chilies, you can substitute them with other types of dried chilies such as guajillo or California chilies. However, keep in mind that each type of chili has a different level of heat and flavor, so the taste of the sauce will vary.

– Tomato puree: While tomato puree is preferred for this recipe, you can also use canned crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce as a substitute. However, be sure to adjust the amount of sugar and salt accordingly as tomato sauce tends to be sweeter than tomato puree.

– Hot sauce: If you like your sauces spicier, you can add hot sauce or cayenne pepper to the recipe.

– Vegetarian version: For an entirely vegetarian version of the sauce, you can omit the meat broth and replace it with vegetable broth.

– Gluten-free version: This recipe is naturally gluten-free, but if you are making it for someone who is sensitive to gluten, be sure to use certified gluten-free ingredients such as spices and broth.

– Vary the protein: This red sauce is versatile enough to be used with various proteins beyond chicken and beef. It pairs well with pork tamales or vegetarian enchiladas made with beans or tofu.

By making these substitutions and variations, you can create your unique version of the classic red sauce recipe. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find your perfect balance of flavor and heat.

Serving and Pairing

 Perfect for when you want a little heat in your meal!
Perfect for when you want a little heat in your meal!

The versatility of the red sauce for tamales or enchiladas makes it a perfect accompaniment to a variety of dishes. This savory and tangy sauce pairs very well with Mexican staples such as burritos, tacos, nachos, huevos rancheros, and more. It enhances the flavors and adds a touch of heat to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

For a traditional meal, serve the sauce with chicken enchiladas or pork tamales. You can take it up a notch by pairing it with beef or chicken tamales drizzled with hot sauce. The combination of textures and flavors will leave you satisfied and craving more.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try using the red sauce in breakfast dishes like eggs benedict or omelets. It also makes a great dipping sauce for crispy fried appetizers like taquitos or flautas.

To complement the tangy notes of the red chile sauce, consider serving it with a side salad featuring fresh vegetables such cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and avocado. Alternatively, pair it with rice or cornbread as they perfectly absorb its bold flavors.

Whether eating out at your favorite Mexican restaurant or cooking up your dish at home, this recipe is a sure way to add an authentic taste to your meal that will have everyone coming back for seconds. Don’t hesitate to experiment with various cuisines; this versatile sauce is sure to elevate any dish it’s paired with.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 The delicious aroma of this sauce will leave your taste buds in anticipation.
The delicious aroma of this sauce will leave your taste buds in anticipation.

The beauty of this red sauce recipe is not just in its delicious taste, but also in its versatility when it comes to storage and reheating. This sauce can easily be made ahead of time and stored for later use, making it the perfect time-saving option for those busy weekdays or special occasions that require a bit more planning.

If you decide to make this sauce ahead of time, simply let it cool down to room temperature before storing it in an airtight container. The sauce will keep well in the refrigerator for up to a week or in the freezer for up to three months. When needed, allow the sauce to thaw overnight in the fridge or briefly defrost it in the microwave.

As you reheat the sauce, consider adding a little bit of water or chicken broth to thin it out if it has thickened. You can easily heat up individual portions in the microwave or warm up larger quantities on the stovetop over low heat.

Note that while storing and reheating won’t take away from the flavor of this red sauce, it can deepen its color and make it richer over time. This makes the sauce even more flavorful and versatile than when freshly made. Overall, this red sauce recipe is a keeper that can be enjoyed anytime, including last-minute meals or big gatherings.

Tips for Perfect Results

 Easy to whip up, this red sauce adds a whole new level of taste to your dishes.
Easy to whip up, this red sauce adds a whole new level of taste to your dishes.

When it comes to making the perfect red sauce for tamales or enchiladas, there are a few key tips and tricks to keep in mind that can help ensure great results every time.

Firstly, make sure to use high-quality ingredients. While it may be tempting to use canned enchilada sauce or pre-ground cumin, using fresh and high-quality ingredients such as dried chiles, whole cumin seeds, and fresh garlic will really make your red sauce stand out.

Another important tip is to toast your dried chiles before using them in your recipe. This will help to bring out their natural flavor and aroma, giving your sauce a richer and more complex taste.

Additionally, be sure to use a combination of crushed tomatoes and tomato puree in your red sauce. This will give it a nice depth of flavor and also help to thicken the sauce without the need for added thickeners or flour.

Finally, take the time to let your red sauce simmer on the stove for at least an hour. This will allow all of the flavors to meld together nicely and develop into a rich and complex sauce that is perfect for tamales or enchiladas.


As you begin to master this delicious red sauce recipe, you may still have a few questions regarding certain steps or ingredient substitutions. These frequently asked questions (FAQ) will provide helpful insights and solutions to common issues encountered during the sauce-making process. So, let’s dive into some of the most commonly asked questions and provide some expert answers to guide you towards perfecting a mouth-watering sauce.

What is the difference between tamale sauce and enchilada sauce?

Enchilada sauce and tamale sauce have similar recipes, making them interchangeable. It is worth noting that sometimes, enchilada sauce incorporates tomatoes or tomato sauce into the recipe. This spiced sauce, known for its versatility, offers room for customization with the addition of tomatoes, extra chile powder, or other seasonings.

What kind of sauce do you serve with tamales?

When it comes to condiments to pair with tamales, the options are endless. Nevertheless, the classic red chili sauce is the undeniable favorite among them all, even though it should not be mistaken for the ranchero sauce mentioned earlier.

Is there a difference between red enchilada sauce and enchilada sauce?

When it comes to enchilada sauce, the distinguishing factor between the green and red varieties lies in the type of chili pepper utilized. Green enchilada sauce is prepared using green chilies, whereas red enchilada sauce is crafted using red chilies.

Can you use canned enchilada sauce for tamales?

When preparing this recipe, keep in mind that there are various options for the filling of the tamales. You can opt for beef, chicken, or pork, and you can use store-bought or homemade versions. Additionally, you have the choice to use canned enchilada sauce or follow my homemade recipe.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, this red sauce recipe for tamales, enchiladas, and more is a must-try for anyone who loves Mexican cuisine. With its blend of savory spices, garlic and onion, and a touch of sweetness, it’s sure to add depth and richness to any dish you use it in.

Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a beginner, this recipe is easy to follow and can be customized to your liking with various substitutions and variations. The best part? It can be made ahead of time or stored for later use, making it a versatile addition to your kitchen arsenal.

So what are you waiting for? Try out this delicious sauce for your next meal and experience the bold flavors of Mexico right in your own home. Trust us, your taste buds will thank you.

Red Sauce for Tamales or Enchiladas Etc...

Red Sauce for Tamales or Enchiladas Etc... Recipe

Another adopted recipe! A nice mild sauce for tamales or enchiladas. Can be prepared ahead.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Course Sauce
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 8 cups
Calories 168.7 kcal


  • 10 ancho chilies (dried poblano)
  • 4 dry Mexican chilies
  • 4 onions, quartered
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 -4 2 -4 cups chicken stock or 2 -4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomato puree or (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2-1 tablespoon salt, please start with the smaller amount, sample and adjust to your taste


  • Seed the chiles, rinse and set aside. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the chilies, pushing them down with a spoon so they are fully submerged.
  • Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, boil the onions in water until soft, about 25 minutes. Drain. Or alternatively you can put the onions under the broiler to blacken.
  • Remove the soaked chiles from the water, reserving 2 cups of the liquid. In a food processor, blend the chilies, onions and garlic until pureed.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil. Stir the cumin into the hot oil, being careful not to burn it.
  • Add the chile mixture and simmer for 3 minutes. Add 1 cup of the stock, 1 cup of the reserved chile liquid and the tomatoes.
  • Add just enough additional stock and reserved liquid to make a sauce the consistency of thin gravy.
  • Add the 2 T sugar and 1/2 T salt and cook for 10 minutes longer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is the consistency of a thin gravy.
  • Taste and add more salt and sugar if needed.
  • Set aside to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days, or in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 1495gCalories: 168.7kcalCarbohydrates: 29.4gProtein: 5.1gFat: 5.6gSaturated Fat: 0.7gSodium: 477mgFiber: 7.5gSugar: 10.3g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Mexican, Peppers, Sauces, Vegetable
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Dora is a chef well-versed in Brazilian and American cuisine. After a hard day's work in the kitchen of her restaurant, she finds the time to jot down recipes for her food blog. Her recipes are sure to delight foodies everywhere, as she strives to make each one unique and enjoyable to read.