Guest Post: Jay’s Enchilada Sauce

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Jay’s mild, traditional enchilada sauce is definitely worth making if you (like me) normally buy your enchilada sauce or use taco sauce in it’s place, which really isn’t a very good substitution at all. If you crave that authentic, Mexican restaurant aroma and taste at home, this is a must try!

We found everything we needed at a regular grocery store (the dried peppers were in the produce section close to the dried mushrooms), and it wasn’t much harder than making a tomato sauce. The most time consuming part was removing the seeds from all of the dried peppers to get a mild sauce. However, if you want a spicier version, don’t worry about removing all of the seeds.

We were able to make one batch of this sauce for two 9×13 inch casserole dishes of lightly-sauced enchiladas, but depending on how saucy you like your enchiladas and/or if you want to serve sauce on the side, judge accordingly. Also, we used chicken broth for the sauce because we knew we were making chicken enchiladas and typically you match the broth to the protein. So, for beef enchiladas, use beef broth and for bean enchiladas, use vegetable broth.

I must admit that I was a bit of a skeptic about this sauce at first. I thought for sure it would be too spicy for me (I can take some heat, but not as much as Jay) and I think I mentioned adding crushed tomatoes to the sauce in order to mellow it out (before even tasting it) about a million times. Traditional enchilada sauce doesn’t contain tomatoes and this sauce was quite mild and perfectly smooth, so I am pretty glad he can ignore me sometimes.

 Jay’s Enchilada Sauce 

  • 7 dried guajillo chili peppers (2 oz)
  • 7 dried California or ancho chili peppers (2 oz)
  • 1 onion, sliced into 1/2 inch thick slabs, skin on
  • 6 cloves garlic, whole with skin on
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 4 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. honey

Preheat a griddle to 400 degrees F or frying pan on high heat. Remove the stems and seeds from all of the peppers, open them with a paring knife & flatten them out a bit (pictured below). Be sure to remove all of the seeds if you want a mild sauce. If you want some heat to the finished sauce, leave some of the seeds in tact.


Place the peppers (about 2 at a time) on the griddle or frying pan. Press down on them with a spatula for about 10-20 seconds per side. You should feel them slightly soften with the spatula as you are pressing down. They will lighten a bit as well and look almost copper in colour. As they are done, place them in a large bowl.


Cover the peppers in boiling water. Weigh them down with a plate or bowl because you want to keep them submerged. Soak them for half an hour.

Meanwhile, slightly blacken the onion and garlic in skins on both sides on the griddle or frying pan over high heat. This should take about 5 minutes and when they are done, they will look like the picture below and will have softened. Remove from heat and remove skins when they are cool enough to handle. Set aside.


Drain the soaked peppers and place them in a blender with the onion & garlic. Add 1 cup of chicken broth & blend until smooth. Taste the paste as a reference for later.

Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a large pot on med-high heat. Add the pepper purée. It should sizzle when it hits the pan. Whisk constantly to avoid it from splashing you and cook for about 8 mins. You know it’s done when it tastes a bit mellowed and less bitter from before it was cooked.

Add the oregano, cumin and the other 3 cups of chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When it’s done it will be a bit thicker and coat the back of a spoon. Add the salt & the honey and stir.

Strain the sauce into a bowl using a fine sieve. Be sure to press the pulp down with the back of a spoon to extract all of the pulp, but leave behind the tough skins. The dry pepper skins you will be discarding are pictured below. This is an important step because you will be left with a silky, smooth sauce that is ready to use. You can also store it in the fridge for about a week.


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