Easy Enchiladas with Homemade Red Chili Sauce


Yes, you really can make easy, gooey, delicious restaurant-style enchiladas at home, and for cheap!

I love Mexican food. I blame Dad. He grew up on the border of Arizona and Mexico, and ate a lot of real, authentic Mexican food. So of course, that’s what he wanted when he ended up on the East Coast with Mom and us kids. We often went out to the best Mexican restaurants they could find in the Washington, DC area.

I still have great memories of the incredible salsa and calabacita at the Tortilla Factory, but my all time favorite Mexican restaurant in the area was Anita’s. I believe they are still in business. I hope so. I still have food dreams about that place! They served the most amazing red chili sauce over everything, and we couldn’t get enough of it on Carne Adovada and Huevos Rancheros.

Mom (also an Anita) would often duplicate our favorite recipes at home. We could never find the right red chili sauce though. Heaven knows we tried. The canned stuff was expensive and not very good. Recipes for red chili sauce were varied and none tasted quite like what we wanted.

After looking for a long time, I was surprised to find the perfect one hiding in a cookbook called Recipes for Life: From the Fitonics Kitchen by Marilyn Diamond. I’ve always loved Fit for Life and the healthy, creative vegan recipes she’d come up with, but it was the last place I expected to find one for enchilada sauce. Go figure. But then I discovered she just came out with a new book called Young For Life: The Easy No-Diet, No-Sweat Plan to Look and Feel 10 Years Younger
and now has added animal products back into her diet, which she claims has saved her life. I bet it was the enchiladas! I can’t wait to find out!

Anyhow, we can’t get enough of this sauce, so I’ve quadrupled it below and pour it on everything. It never lasts long!

As for my enchilada recipe, I confess. I’m a lazy enchilada maker. In traditional recipes, you dip corn tortillas in the chili sauce and then roll them up. That’s just too messy and fussy for me. Instead, I coat the bottom of the pan with sauce, place the rolled up tortillas in the pan, and then “paint” them with sauce (or drizzle, dump, slop, etc), then top with cheese.

Painting, drizzling, slathering enchiladas. It's ok to be messy.

Painting, drizzling, slathering enchiladas. It’s ok for this part to be messy.

I cover them with foil and let them bake for 20 minutes. Easy, peasy, delish!


Just out of the oven. Mmm!

And I use flour tortillas, because I like them better. But you can use whatever tortillas and whatever shredded or ground meat you like. I often use leftover meat from another dish. This week I used leftover cooked chicken breasts and stock from making Mom’s Awesome Curry Chicken. I whipped up the sauce and the enchiladas in about twenty minutes, then stuck it in the oven for twenty more. Not bad eating for a workday!

A few stray ones. I had too many for my ugly old pan. I'll have prettier photos next time I make them!

A few stray ones. I had too many for my ugly old pan. I’ll have prettier photos next time I make them!

If you don’t have any precooked meat, stick some chicken breasts in a crockpot with a cup of water all day while you’re out. Let it cool just enough to shred and then make the dish. (I did this when I made the Curry Chicken, on a work day).

Or use no meat at all and make veggie enchiladas. Stuff them with black beans, corn, roasted veggies, whatever you like. Just be sure to make that sauce!

Gluten free version: Use GF flour for the sauce and GF tortillas. It really is a forgiving recipe!

So now you know my deepest, darkest enchilada secrets. They are even Mom and Dad approved.

Enjoy the recipes!

Homemade Red Chili Sauce
Cook time
Total time
I use this wonderful recipe from Recipes for Life from the Fitonics Kitchen, by Marilyn Diamond on my enchiladas, huevos rancheros, carne adovada, refried beans, and anything else I can slather it on! Delish!
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 8 cups
  • ⅔ cup flour
  • ⅔ cup olive oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 4 tsp cumin
  • ½-2/3 cup chili powder (I use ⅔ and it's great, if too spicy, reduce. I buy big canisters of chili powder at Sam's, you want the regular red chili powder, not the hot stuff!)
  • 8 cups of water or broth (beef, chicken, pork or veggie works fine)
  • 4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp or less of sea salt or regular salt
  • 2 tsp oregano
  1. Mix flour and oil in sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until smooth
  2. Add cumin and chili powder, stir, add water or beef broth
  3. Add remaining ingredients
  4. Simmer, uncovered, stirring frequently, until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of your mixing spoon.
Kim's note: Original recipe served 8-10, this is quadrupled. It makes about 8 cups.
I often use leftovers to make huevos rancheros a few days later. The sauce will keep for at least a week in the fridge. I used to freeze it in 2 cup portions, but it never makes it that far. If you do freeze it, it will separate a little after thawing. Just mix it up again and it should be fine.

Easy Enchiladas with Homemade Red Chili Sauce
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Yes, you really can make easy, gooey, delicious restaurant-style enchiladas at home, and for cheap! This recipe is great for using up leftover cooked meats. Make the red chili sauce ahead of time, and this becomes an easy, quick recipe to make on a work day. It gets even better in the fridge and also freezes well.
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 8-10
  • 2 cups of chopped turkey
  • 1 package of flour tortillas
  • 2 cups of homemade red chili sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • Optional toppings:
  • diced fresh tomatoes
  • shredded lettuce
  • sliced olives
  • sliced scallions or garlic scapes
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Put two cups of chopped turkey, shredded beef or pork in a mixing bowl and add ½ cup red chili sauce and ½ cup of cheddar cheese.
  3. Place ¼ cup of this mixture on to a tortilla and roll up, placing seam side down in a pyrex dish. Do this until all of the mixture is used up, this should yield 8-10 enchiladas.
  4. Using a pastry brush, "paint" the enchiladas, completely covering them with all of the sauce. If that's too much work, just ladle the sauce over the top of the enchiladas and swirl it around till they are covered!
  5. Top with remaining cheese and cover pan with foil.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.
  7. When done, top with tomatoes, lettuce and olives, or scallions, garlic scapes, avocados, sour cream. Whatever you like. Or don't top them at all. They will still be awesome! And if in doubt, just add more sauce. You really can't go wrong!
I serve this with refried beans, homemade or store bought. I put them in a casserole and put a little of the red chili sauce and cheddar cheese on them. This dish winds up tasting like the authentic Mexican restaurants that I grew up with! Que magnifico!


This entry was posted in Food.


  1. maryperk says:

    Looks yummy. I’ve recently started to make enchiladas. They look complicated, but really it’s just rolling some meat up in a tortilla, covering them with sauce and cheese, and sticking them in the oven. Enchilada sauce is all the same to me, I’m afraid, and I’ve discovered I like green sauce better.

  2. Kim says:

    Thanks, MP! I do love me some chili verde sauce! I was planning on growing and making my own this year. I have some tomatillo seedlings I’ve been wanting to get into the garden if the rain (and the bunnies) ever stop!

  3. Gwen says:

    Kim, I was anxious to look up your enchilada sauce recipe, and found it funny that it is basically the same as mine. I use cornstarch instead of flour, and not that much cumin, but the rest is pretty much it~! The recipe I have is from my sister’s first MIL who was born in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Her recipes were kept “close to the vest” but she taught them to my sister, and told her she could share them with Mom and the rest of her sisters. I always say Arizona has the best Mexican food!

    • Kim says:

      I would agree! My parents live in Arizona now and every time I visit we have the most wonderful fiesta of food, both at home and at the restaurants! So good!
      Glad to know your recipe and mine are that similar. We must have great taste. 🙂

  4. Gwen says:

    My tip for getting the sauce completely covering the ends is to pour some sauce in a bowl or soup mug, and dip the ends in it before you place them in the dish and finish pouring the sauce on. No dried out ends that way.

  5. Addienasa says:

    Not specifically a betetr recipe, but in any stew/chilli/whatever where you are braising (which is what you are doing here) beef, the very first step is always to dry the beef thoroughly, season it with salt and pepper, dredge it in flour and brown it well on all sides before adding it to the other ingredients. Not only does this much improve the taste of the beef but the flour used on it will thicken the sauce. If it is still not as thick as you like, there is a method to correct it. I forget for the moment the French term for it, but take cold butter and knead it into flour until you get a mixture that is not greasy (much more flour than butter). Break off pellets of the mixture and, at a low simmer, stir it into the stew etc. a bit at a time until it reaches the thickness you want.

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