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Enchilada sauce?

Anyone have a rec for a good standard red enchilada sauce?
It can be a recipe or something already prepared in a bottle.

I liked the Frontera one I found at Whole Foods, just looking for more to try.

Also, does anyone have any tips to successfully making enchiladas, mine never come out just right.


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  1. As to you last query...can you be a little more precise? What in particular don't you like (dry, wet, bland, bad tortilla texture, etc.)?

    2 Replies
    1. re: eight_inch_pestle

      I guess they're not wet enough and I can't get the tortillas to come out to the correct texture. They seem to come out as if they haven't been cooked, but then if I cook them longer, the sauce dries out and then I have the problem of them not being wet enough.

    2. FWIW, heres my simple enchilada sauce recipe

      handful chopped green pepper
      handful chopped onion
      handful copped cilantro
      3 TBL chopped garlic
      3 TBL ground cumin
      2 cans tomato sauce
      3-4C chicken broth

      Sweat the vegetables, add cumin and cilantro
      add tomato sauce
      add broth to desired consistency
      simmer 10 minutes

      You can tweak to your liking - add chile or hot sauce for heat, a pinch of chipotle in adobe for complexity, mexican oregano for rounding out, etc etc.

      Maybe explain your enchilada process and describe whats not just right?

      2 Replies
      1. re: porker

        Out of curiosity, is your green pepper of the bell or of the jalapeno/serrano variety?

        1. re: eight_inch_pestle

          I wasn't clear, but meant bell pepper.
          I later mention adding chile - this could be your hot pepper of choice (jalapeno/serrano/ cayenne/arbol/habanero/bhut jolokia etc etc). To be added along with the bell pepper and sweated.

      2. Try the cook's illustrated enchiladas recipe. You could find it by searching tastespotting. It's MAGNIFICENT. Best enchiladas I've ever had.

        1. Some enchiladas aren't baked, if they are it is just to melt the cheese on top. All ingredients are heated and assembled and thats it. That way you don't have a problem with stuff drying out.

          1. I found my enchiladas improved drastically when I added the step of dipping the tortilla in the enchilada sauce, frying it briefly, and then rolling it around the filling. Once I have a pan full, I pour the extra sauce and cheese over the top. You may already be doing this, but I've found many people don't. I also live in an area with an abundance of Mexican groceries so I try to remember to stop and pick up a big bag of the good corn tortillas as well.

            1. Here's my enchilada sauce:

              Enchilada Sauce:
              3 tablespoons oil
              2 tablespoons flour
              ½ cup Chile powder *
              2 cups water
              1 8 oz can tomato sauce
              ¼ teaspoon salt

              Heat oil, blend in flour, and cook until four is lightly browned. Remove from heat and blend in Chile powder. Stir until smooth, then gradually add water. Add tomato sauce and salt. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

              * yes, 1/2 a CUP. I use Mild Hatch red Chile powder from Native Seeds / Search.

              I put some sauce in the bottom of the pan, mix a little with the meat filling, fill warm corn tortilla's with meat sauce, cheese, maybe diced onion or olive, then put more sauce on top, along with cheese, green onions, olive. Then just heat in the microwave. My pan holds 8 tortillas, and I usually have a little leftover sauce.

              1. If you live near a Mexican market, you will find a number of canned enchilada sauces--try them and see what you like. As to preparing them, I make sure I have fresh corn tortillas. I heat each one over the open gas burner, dip in heated enchilada sauce and then set on a sided-cookie sheet to quickly fill, roll and put in pan that has a little sauce in the bottom. I've already preheated the oven to fairly high, so once they're rolled, I quickly pour on the hot extra sauce, throw on a little cheese and put into hot oven for about 10 minutes. Although I do love the oil frying technique, it's just not worth the extra calories to me and my method works as long as the tortillas are fresh. PS If you're making chicken enchiladas, you might want to try using the green sauce.

                1. Does anyone have a green enchilada sauce recipe they like?

                  I usually use the salsa from this recipe http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ty..., but would love to hear about your green sauce recipes.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: prima

                    I have made the enchiladas verde from the Mexico the Beautiful cookbook and wouldn't change a thing. The recipe is adapted here: http://www.eatingoutloud.com/2009/04/...

                    I would also second (or third?) the frying of the fresh corn tortillas in a bit of oil before dipping them in the sauce before rolling up the fillings and baking the whole thing. Never had a dry batch yet.

                  2. I make enchilada sauce by first seeding dried chiles - ancho, pasilla, whatever, and reconstituting them in hot water 'til they're soft. I roast or saute lots of garlic, some onion, and puree all that together with some tomatoes (fresh if they're good, canned if not). Add salt, pepper, a little adobo to taste, and thin if you like with either broth or cream. Treat the tortillas as alitria on this thread suggests. Add a little chopped onion to your filling, whatever it is. Ought to be delicious.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: rcallner

                      Beg to differ with alitria but I was taught to fry first then dip in enchilada sauce not vice versa

                      1. re: Berheenia

                        Me too. I use whatever I have handy because to me they all taste better than any concoction I've made. The Hatch brand chile verde and Pico Pica sauce (either Hot or Taco) are my perennial favorites. I dry-fry the tortillas and brush on the sauce, stacking them as I go, and then as quickly as I can fill and roll them into the pan. I can usually fit JUST a dozen into a 9x13. My enchiladas are almost always Suiza, made with cooked chicken thighs, though I've used supermarket rotisserie chicken and that's good too. This has become strictly a cool-weather company dish, so it's gonna be a while …

                    2. Traditonal New Mexico style:
                      Seed & vein NM chiles and stuff into blender, pour boiling water into blender, weight down chiles and let sit for an hour.
                      Hand dice and fry pork or beef.
                      Add salt & garlic to the chiles and blend.
                      Pour over the fried meat and simmer.
                      Dice raw onion and grate cheese.
                      Fry corn tortillas in wicked hot oil.
                      Top tortilla w/ sauce, cheese and onion.
                      Stack another fried tortilla on top, more sauce, cheese and onion.
                      Top w/ a fried egg and serve w/ pintos and a simple salad.
                      edit. I forgot the cold Tecate beer w/ lime and salt.
                      It's all bout the chile.

                      14 Replies
                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                        And you lucky dog, you, the Hatches are almost ready! Can I get 'em somewhere in Dallas? Seems like spittin' distance, compared with Florida.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          I just got 60 lbs of green in the freezer yesterday and am drying a 6 foot long ristra of red.
                          Rib eye w/ green chiles for supper.

                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                            you tease, you. By good fortune and a temporary lack of slothfulness, I have roast duck tonight, with peas and rice.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              I have to find a ducky source. Green winged teals at the cow tanks?

                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                Teals are too pretty. Gotta be a muscovy somewhere, but you are not near a flyway.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  Lots of snow geese at Bosque del Apache. Joking about the teals. Would rather eat dog.

                        2. re: Passadumkeg

                          This is a new one on me, I never heard of meat sauce on enchiladas. Despite comment below, can we assume you're using dried chiles? Actually, the whole dish is interesting, not like any enchiladas I know of- could you give some indication of quantities? Hard to guess when you aren't familiar with the dish.

                          1. re: oldunc

                            These are stacked "Sonoran" style enchiladas. I'm not a good one for recipes, but I'll try. I generally dice and fry 2 pounds of meat; I'm partial to pork. I have a huge sack and a ristra (string) of red chiles. I guess I use about about 8 oz. I just pull off the stems, empty the seeds and stuff as many as I can into the blender. I use no flour or spices and cook the chile down until it thickens. In my opinion, this recipe really lets the unique flavor of NM chiles shine. I make this recipe for my friends in Maine and they rave that they have never had such delicious Mexican food.

                            Carpe chow!

                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                              I appreciate the no flour, I have no idea why people do that. You are using garlic and salt, which I would categorize (very broadly) as spices. The numbers you give are sort of in line with what I use for more familiar style enchiladas (about 1/2 lb meat/ 2 oz chiles), but I do use more other stuff in my filling. I gather you're either very hungry or feeding a mob. If I can find a picture somewhere, I'd like to give your dish a shot- does it work without the beer?

                              1. re: oldunc

                                I find buttermilk goes well w/ Mexican food. I make enough sauce for several week nights. By spice, I was referring to cumin and/or oregano, which seems omnipresent in Tex-Mex.

                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                  Yuk- I usually go for Kern's mango nectar. My dislike of beer often leads me down such desperate roads. In the interest of completeness, my local paper recently published a recipe for Mexican street food style enchiladas, which was simply tortillas dipped in sauce and fried, with some grilled vegetables on the side. The sauce itself was a typical sort of red enchilada sauce, mostly dried chiles and chicken stock. The author used all Ancho chiles, which in my experience produce a deeply flavored but rather bitter sauce.

                                  1. re: oldunc

                                    I grew up drinking my grandmother's homemade buttermilk. I drink a gallon a week.
                                    ps There is a New Mexican style restaurant in the SF area. I can find the name and address, if you wish.

                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                      Thanks, but I really don't go to restaurants anymore- unfortunate, since that's about all the Chronicle food page seems to know about.

                            2. re: oldunc

                              to me, meat sauce on enchiladas is a classic, as in for cheese enchiladas, Tex-Mex style, which typically come with a chili sauce with ground beef, and fresh onion on top. Yum. The inside is just cheese--a mild cheddar.

                          2. Mine includes a diced onion, a chopped green pepper, 2 diced jalapenos (no ribs or seeds), a few cloves of garlic, some cumin, ground coriander seed, salt, pepper, lemon juice, and a can of either whole tomatoes that I break up with my hands or chunky crushed tomatoes. Sweat the veg, add the spices, add the tomatoes, and finish with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

                            Simple and great flavor!

                            1. this isn't even slightly considered homemade but a friend of ours used to work at a mexican restaurant and no lie this was their enchilada sauce - and for a quick sauce it's really delicious (and not authentic at all).

                              1 can prepared enchilada sauce
                              1 can tomato soup
                              2 cans cream of mushroom
                              a few dashes hot sauce - they used el yucateca

                              combine all the ingredients and heat through.

                              i know it's not chowy but it really is good in a pinch for something a little different then the norm.

                              i have made it in the past that prior to dumping the ingredients i saute a little onion, garlic and fresh chili peppers in a little oil then add the additions and a little broth to thin it out further, still good.

                              you could always go the extra mile and make all the canned items from scratch...that would probably be very good!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: pie22

                                That may in fact be a record for non-chowy, a marvelous expression I'll now be on the lookout for excuses to use.

                                1. re: pie22

                                  Hey, that looks like my gringo-style salsa for enchiladas - a can of red chile sauce or enchilada sauce, a can of tomato soup and enough buttermilk to get the right consistency.

                                2. This is pretty much the classic way of preparing a basic red enchilada sauce. It probably varies from family to family, but I was taught that enchilada sauce should be mostly chiles, hence the name, and doesn't have tomatoes cooked in. The secret seems to be to keep it very simple and to get the purest chile flavor possible. I usually add some chopped tomatoes, chopped green chile, cilantro, black olives and things like that when I assemble the enchiladas, but not in the sauce. I also think it makes a difference to use real Mexican oregano. It's actually from a whole different plant family than regular European oregano (it's a vervain, not a mint) and I think its flavor spreads through the sauce more gently, if that makes any sense. If I don't have the real stuff, I just leave it out.:

                                  12 large ancho chiles
                                  4 chiles de arbol
                                  1 small onion, quartered
                                  4 garlic cloves
                                  6 cups water or a combination of 3 cups water and 3 cups good quality stock
                                  1 teaspoon of Mexican oregano
                                  1/8 teaspoon of cumin
                                  salt to taste

                                  Rinse the ancho chiles and the chiles de arbol under cold water to take off the dust and to soften them just a bit. Pat them dry. Tear open the chiles and remove the stems, seeds and veins. You can add the seeds back to your mixture for heat later if you want, but for now leave them out or the sauce will get bitter.

                                  Warm a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium to low heat, and put the the chiles, the onion, and garlic in the dry pan over lowish heat until fragrant, pressing the chiles flat occasionally with a spatula for even toasting. This should take about five minutes. Keep turning the chiles and other vegetables so that they do not burn. (They will get a bit of char, though.)

                                  In a heavy sauce pot with a well-fitting lid, bring six cups of water or a water/stock mixture to a boil and add all of the chiles, onion, and garlic. Add the seeds back in now if you want. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for fifteen minutes, then allow to cool for about ten to fifteen minutes.

                                  When it's cool enough to blend, transfer the contents of the pot to a blender and add the oregano and cumin. Blend for two minutes until the mixture is very smooth.

                                  Return the contents of the blender back to the pot by forcing the mixture through a medium-fine mesh strainer with the back of a spoon to remove the bits of skin and seed that remain. Don’t skip this step. Those seeds and skin bits have already given all their flavor and will only add bitterness. You also want to achieve a rich, smooth velvety sauce.

                                  Simmer the strained enchilada sauce for 15 minutes more to blend the flavors. Add salt to taste.

                                  This recipe makes about 3 cups of sauce. You can double or triple it, blend and strain it in batches, and freeze the leftovers. It keeps very well in the freezer.

                                  Happy Eating!

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: ninrn

                                    This looks like an excellent chile puree, but where's the roux for thickness? Typically I'll start with a puree like this, then fold in a roux (lard or oil with flour) to give it some body.

                                    1. re: FoodMan88

                                      Yes, as Passadumkeg says, the chiles alone make for a nice, thick sauce, and that pure chile flavor is what, to me, makes an enchilada an enchilada. Otherwise it's more like a lasagna with tortillas. But some people here in New Mexico do cheat and add a flour slurry to their red chile, so I suppose a roux would be fine. I think if I wanted the sauce to be thicker, I'd sooner puree a corn tortilla into the chile mix. Pie22's canned cream of mushroom soup approach is pretty widespread around here, too, though usually with green chile enchiladas, not the red.

                                      1. re: ninrn

                                        As a reference, both Robb Walsh and Homesick Texan use a roux (about a 1/4 cup each of flour and lard/oil), maybe it's a TexMex thing.

                                        1. re: FoodMan88

                                          Or possibly a matter of having grown accustomed to commercial sauces, which tend to do this to cover a paucity of real ingredients.

                                          1. re: oldunc

                                            Doubt it considering they were taken from decades-old recipes, and there's nothing canned (unlike the tomatoes and cream of mushroom soup suggestions here)in any of the ingredients they suggest. In other words, do a little research next time. The addition of a roux wouldn't be to mask the "paucity" of real ingredients anyhow. Jeez.

                                            1. re: FoodMan88

                                              From Elena Zelayeta's seminal 1944 cookbook;

                                              "Typical Mexican enchiladas are not serve with a great deal of sauce; in my experience in cooking for American people, I have found that they like plenty of sauce and somewhat thicker than as made above. For them I would suggest that this recipe for sauce be doubled and just before adding the paste to hot oil, brown 2 tablespoons of flour in the hot oil in order to thicken the sauce." Of the dozen or more sources I consulted before deciding on my own recipe, this is the only one that mentions flour. Zelayeta's original sauce recipe is a fairly typical sauce- dried chiles, water, garlic, oregano, salt, and cumin as an option.
                                              I did not consult any industrial food handbooks..

                                              1. re: oldunc

                                                Roux=Industrial food? You've got a lot to learn in life.

                                                Mexican food is a lot like Italian food. There are significant regional distinctions. Recipes, ingredients and styles adored in one region may be disdained in another. That's why I suggested that adding a roux may be a TexMex thing, as opposed to a New Mexico, California, or any particular region of Mexico. Too bad you couldn't grasp it. Maybe in your next life. Or not.

                                    2. re: ninrn

                                      thanks for the detailed recipe!

                                    3. The blended dried chiles provide enough thickness to the sauce, that no flour is needed.

                                      1. I would suggest that anyone desiring petty arguments or p***ing contests try espn's forums. Like most Americans from the 50's on, my childhood memories of enchiladas are mostly of occasional frozen dinners or cafe versions (though my mother did become a Diana Kennedy devote later in life.) These enchiladas inevitably included flour thickened sauces of little substance. I was in fact rather well along in life before I realized that enchiladas were stuff in tortillas with sauce- the baked, floured sauce, soggy tortillas and textured fillings were virtually indistinguishable. And, like many Americans, I loved them. It doesn't seem excessive to suggest that someone who grew up on such fare should seek to emulate it in adulthood- that's a great deal of what most cooks work towards; recapturing memories.

                                        1. Oldunc, with all respect, though we seem to be the same age, my east coast childhood was very different. I never ate any Mexican food until a post Vietnam visit to my brother in New Mexico. The stacked red chile enchilada was as I describe above and was love at first bite. My brother flies in Thursday night and we return to the same family's restaurant that we ate at 42 years ago. In New Mexico, the flavor is all about the chile pod, red, green or Christmas. I think it spoils one for other styles.

                                          Carpe chow!

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                            I'll add "if any" to the published version.

                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                              The NM-style stacked enchilidas are awesome. We used to have a place in Houston that did NM-style Mexican and it was wonderful.

                                              1. re: FoodMan88

                                                Yes, I even found a NM style resto. in S. Hadley, Mass thanks to a NM/Boston hound. I was talking to some locals last night who were discussing the new chile harvest and we all agreed, NM is chile.