Killer Enchilada Sauce

Enchilada sauce dry ingredients
As a kid growing up around Eagle Pass, Del Rio, Ciudad Acuña, Brackettville, and San Antonio I got used to a certain kind of enchilada sauce. But then the enchilada sauce I knew and loved disappeared. I think it was companies like Ben E. Keith who came along and started mass producing things like salsa, enchilada sauce, white gravy, and preformed chicken fried steak patties that changed everything around here. None of the restaurants in my neck of the woods seem to make enchilada sauce like they did when I was growing up here. I've spent the last decade trying to find the perfect enchilada sauce recipe.

This recipe for homemade enchilada sauce may not be perfect, but it's really close. Maybe it needs stock! It's the taste and texture I remember. It's still missing something, I'm not positive what, but it's close enough! I actually found it at A site I've really come to appreciate.

Here is the recipe as it was posted at Recipe Zaar. And below is how I tweaked it to suit my tastes and special dietary needs. Oh, and I know it calls for tomato sauce which made me nervous because tomatoey enchilada sauce isn't enchilada sauce, it's marinara and has no business on my tortillas. But you don't taste the tomato in this sauce at all.

Mexican Enchilada Sauce Recipe
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
5 tablespoons cornstarch OR 3 tablespoons of flour. I prefer the cornstarch, makes the sauce a little silkier.
2 teaspoons oregano (preferably the Mexican variety)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder -- this is not an optional ingredient
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups water (or chicken stock)
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce

Photo to the right shows sauce before adding tomato sauce.

Combine all dry ingredients in a small sauce pan. Whisk constantly while slowly adding the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until mixture thickens. Stir in tomato sauce. Use in your favorite enchilada recipe.

Completed enchilada sauce
How to make enchiladas:

My favorite way to make enchiladas now is to use my microwaveable tortilla warmer to heat as many tortillas as I'll be using. I wrap the corn tortillas in a paper towel, put them in the warmer, put the lid on and microwave for one minute. The steam makes the tortillas pliable enough for rolling without tearing. The warmer keeps them warm and moist as you build each individual enchilada. However, if you want a more authentic taste, the way to really prep your tortillas is to soften them up in hot oil. And if you really really want an authentic taste, the tortillas would be hand made and they wouldn't be stuffed, rolled, and swimming in sauce--they'd be served with fixings where you could kind of make your own little tacos and you'd dip your little tacos in the enchilada sauce. Sometimes I make quesadillas and just serve them with a some enchilada sauce as a dip. Drizzle a snack like this with a little bit of Mexican cream and you'll be in heaven.

For the inside of the enchilada, it's really up to what you have available or what you are craving. Ground and seasoned beef or venison is excellent. Shredded turkey or chicken is also wonderful. But my favorite tends to be just cheese. Although a turkey and black bean mixture runs a close second.

If you want these the way you'd get them in a restaurant:

Prepare each serving of enchiladas on an oven-proof plate. In each enchilada add your meat (if using any), a bit of cheese (or a lot if they're cheese enchiladas), and a bit of the sauce on top of that. Roll, then start with the next one. For my own enchiladas, I prefer a combination of half cheddar and half Kraft American. I like the texture very much. Hubby hates American cheese. I hate admitting how much I like it but oh well. Using even a little American cheese really improves the texture and you don't get gloopy melted cheddar. Using mild cheddar instead of sharp cheddar also improves the texture, it melts better in my experience. Also, the American cheese seems to melt into the sauce and gives it a much better flavor over all to me. I'd never ever use JUST American cheese, but some (I like half) helps a lot.

By the plate or by the pan, they're delicious!
Once you've got a plate full of rolled enchiladas, cover them with enchilada sauce and sprinkle with cheddar. I like mine swimming in sauce, but you may prefer to be more moderate. Heat the plate in the microwave or in a 350 degree oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly. While the enchiladas are heating, chop some onion and put them in a sieve and run them under cold water. Rinsing your chopped onions really mellows the flavor. It makes them taste fresh but not bitingly strong. It's something I picked up from watching Rick Bayless on PBS and it was a fabulous tip. Sprinkle these onions over your enchiladas before serving. Garnish with cilantro. And if you are feeling especially gourmet, drizzle lightly with Mexican Cream.

This enchilada sauce can be used just like any other enchilada sauce for enchilada casserole. Click Here For My Mom's Enchilada Casserole. If you are making chalupas, cincos, or pericos, this sauce is very good drizzled over the beans but under the melted cheese. And Mexican cream is nearly always a good addition when drizzled over any Mexican entree or appetizer.

NOTE: Do you like Ranch Style Beans? If so, add a few tablespoons of this enchilada sauce to a bowl of homemade pinto beans and you'll have your own, homemade Ranch Style Beans. Cheap, fast, and Tasty! Maybe not as fast as opening a can but...


Jean Levert Hood said...

I can't wait to try this one!

Photographer In Training said...

It's so easy, I love having a batch of it in the fridge so I can just whip up a few cheese enchiladas whenever I feel like it. Wish I could figure out how to thicken it in a low-carb way, oh well.

Mommy's Kitchen said...

That sauce looks awesome. I have the exact same tortilla warmer, I got mine in San Antionio about 3 years ago at a little mexican market place. + a bottle of real vanilla extract they were the best gifts i returned home with.

Genie said...

Hey Tina! I'm lucky to live so close to Mexico where I can get Mexican vanilla by the liter.

I don't know how I went so long without a tortilla warmer. I can't believe a .99 cent item made such a huge difference in my cooking!

The sauce is really good, but it's not perfect. If you ever make it you'll have to let me know what's missing. I'm thinking it's the quality of the chili powder I buy and that I just need to order some better chili powder from SF Herbs or something. If you make it and find it too harsh, a little olive oil mellows it out considerably.

Anonymous said...

i made this sauce and you're right, it was off. so i got a can of red enchilada sauce from the store and added to half of my home made sauce and it was absolutely perfect. i have to say though, i've used a different brand of enchilada sauce and it came out awful. stick to the one in the yellow can!!! (it's las palmas i believe) also, you'll have a ton left over to freeze and use for next time!

Genie said...

Hey anonymous, you know my cousin came by and she remembered how my mother made her sauce. It was the cure that this sauce needed.

It was simply a matter of using flour and oil to make a gravy before adding the rest of the ingredients. This screws it all up for using corn starch, unfortunately, but the taste was amazing.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo
Fresh, cool, delicious.

Anasazi Beans

Anasazi Beans
Dang, that's a pretty bean.

Mom's Beef Enchiladas

Mom's Beef Enchiladas
Except we used ground Axis.

My Solar Cooker

My Solar Cooker
Needs some refinements but it works!