Sunday, January 12, 2014

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

Like many of my recipes, this one has undergone several makeovers in my quest to perfect it. The most recent upgrade it has received is using dried chiles, a move I stole from my new favorite chili recipe

The trick is to toast, re-hydrate, and then puree the dried chiles, which gives the sauce a velvety smooth consistency (especially if you strain the puree). It might sound like a lot of work, but it goes quickly.

What I really love about this new method is how much control I have in determining the spiciness of the sauce: simply use milder chiles for a milder sauce and hotter chiles for a spicier sauce. (In general the larger the chile, the milder it will be.) 

The first few times I made this recipe I was a bit of a novice when it came to working with chiles, and I only used chipotle chiles in adobo sauce... I used a lot of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce... like a whole can.... While Will ate those blindingly hot enchiladas with gusto, relishing every spicy bite with nary a sip of water, I only managed a few bites (interspersed with four glasses of water) before I threw in the towel. Or rather threw the towel over my bright pink face to mop up all the sweat.

Never fear though. I've since learned how to use chiles effectively and no longer make and serve inediblely hot enchiladas. This sauce has a bit of heat, but it's very pleasant. 

However, if you're into melting your taste buds off, I have the secret -- just toss a whole can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce into your blender. Voila! 

Homemade Enchilada Sauce
Adapted from Circle B Kitchens 

This can easily be doubled or tripled and the extra can be frozen.

Yield: 2 cups

Total Time: 1 hour

5 New Mexico chiles, or guajillo chiles, or a combination of both
2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, separated
1 small onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce, depending on how spicy you want the sauce
1 1/2 cups cool water
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

Stem and seed the dried chiles. Over medium-high heat, toast the chiles until blistered all over, about a minute each side. Place toasted chiles in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a simmer and allow the chiles to soften completely, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add one teaspoon of oil and sauté onions until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more; remove from heat.

Drain the chiles from their cooking liquid. Add the re-hydrated chiles, chipotle chiles, and softened onion mixture into a blender. Cover with 1 1/2 cups fresh water and blend until smooth. Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl, and work the chile mixture through with a spatula.

Heat the remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Whisk in flour, salt, and cumin; cook for 1-2 minutes, whisking all the while. Whisk in strained chile mixture, chicken broth, and sugar and allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. If not spicy enough, whisk in cayenne pepper and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Use with your favorite enchilada recipe.

-Don't use the water that you re-hydrated the chiles in as your blending liquid. Though I was tempted to do so for "extra flavor," I've read from several sources that it will make your sauce bitter.
-Here's a guide to dried chiles and fresh chiles that I find useful.


  1. I absolutely love the depth of flavor this sauce has, plus there is more left over for a second batch of enchiladas

    1. The extra sauce freezes really well. I make mine pretty saucy so I used the whole batch.