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enchilada sauce

I am cooking enchiladas for a large group of decent cooks and feel pressed for time. Is it a mortal sin to use a canned sauce? Is there a brand you would recommend?

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  1. When my family makes what we call "lazy mans chile colorado" we use a can of Las Palmas. To pretend we are actually cooking we make a roux with some masa harina and also add some cumin and new mexican red chile powder.

    4 Replies
    1. re: l0b0SKI

      Las Palmas is good. Dunno what's available in other areas, so if you have a Kroger-branded store (Smith's, Fred Meyer, QFC, others?) in your area, we recently tried their store brand, in a jar, and it was tasty (we tried the red).

      1. re: juster

        A while back there was a thread in which the OP throught Las Palmas was horrible. But turned she like the consistency of Old El Paso, which has tomato and starch thickener. The thin, mostly chile consistency of Las Palmas was not what she expected, even though it can argued that it is more authentic.


        1. re: paulj

          Never been a fan of Old El Paso or putting tomato in chile colorado. But to each their own.

          Making our familys chile colorado recipe from scratch is very labor intensive so I only make it once a year for xmas tamales.

      2. re: l0b0SKI

        We use that "shortcut, lazy" method in our corporate restaurant. Customers love it.

      3. A sin. Certainly not, but what kind of enchiladas are you making? If it's basic beef and cheese no problem.

        1. Trader Joe's Enchilada sauce comes in a bottle- only one strength but spicy enough for us and not to thin, not too thick.

          1 Reply
          1. I recently posted about this in a 'what's for dinner' thread.

            I used two cans of hatch green enchilada sauce and loved it. It did feel like a sin as I've always made it from scratch before. It made me feel.... guilty, whatever.

            But that hatch sauce from a can was really good. I won't be making it from scratch any more. Also, the can said no preservatives, no msg, etc. , etc.

            They make a red sauce too. Haven't tried that one yet.

            6 Replies
            1. re: thymetobake

              May I ask where you bought the Hatch enchilada sauce? I don't think I've seen it at Safeway nor Target (in Northern California).

              I usually buy Las Palmas green chile enchilada sauce but mix with fresh salsa verde from the store (fresh can get expensive) as the can by itself is pretty muted. LP red sauce is more flavorful.

              1. re: ceekskat

                I bought it at HEB (in Texas), which you don't have in CA. I googled it and the company has a website where you can order it. Or you might just email them to see what stores have it in your area.

                The cans I used the other day didn't need any doctoring at all. But I suspect it's like canned tomatoes. They vary according the the quality of the harvest.


                1. re: thymetobake

                  Hah, just might have to ask mom & dad to schlepp some cans up here from the Heart 'O Texas! Will keep a look out for it locally...thanks.

                2. re: ceekskat

                  I've seen Hatch products at Albertsons and Sprouts. I'm in So. CA. In fact, I just got a can of the green enchilada sauce yesterday from Sprouts.

                    1. re: ceekskat

                      I've gotten the Hatch sauces at Whole Foods.

              2. If it's a good one, I'd say it's okay. I'd dress it up a bit. Add some spices, maybe onions and simmer meat in it for a little bit. Then strain.


                1. I really appreciate the feedback. Another reason I am leaning toward a canned sauce is my last attempt at making it was mediocre at best. It was from New Best Recipes (International Cookbook) and had a tomato sauce base. It didn't taste authentic at all. I am cooking for approx. 20 people and some are vegetarian. Therefore, I was thinking of making variations...perhaps cheese and chicken. I live in Olympia, WA and we have both large supermarkets and a couple of independent Mexican grocery stores. I'll let you all know how it turned out.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: linzandchris

                    If you want a scratch receipe for a simple red enchilada sauce, just give me a holler. I've got one that's easy and produces good results.

                    1. re: DiningDiva

                      DD, would you kindly post it here?
                      Thanks, Veg.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Here you go Veggo

                        Take 4 (1-1/2 lbs total) fairly large, red, globe tomatoes, 2 chile serranos (destem, but leave seeds in) and 1-3 (unpeeled) cloves of garlic and roast/toast them under the broiler until charred, turning as needed. Cool to about room temp.

                        Put the tomatoes and any accumulated juices, the chiles and (now peeled) garlic in a blender and blend until very, very smooth. You should end up with at least 2 cups of puree, if not add some chicken stock, but you will need at least 2 cups. If you end up with more than 2 cups, that's good, no problems.

                        In a skillet, heat about 2 Tbls of vegetable or corn oil until really hot but not smoking. Add the puree which will splatter like crazy. Stir and keep stirring, then reduce the head to medium and simmer for about 5 minutes until the puree has reduced to the consistency of heavy cream. If it gets too thick, just add more chicken stock to thin it down. Add salt to taste. Turn the heat off and let the sauce cool to luke warm.

                        (While the sauce is cooling, you can prep the filling and garnishes)

                        Once the sauce has cooled, turn the heat back on low and add about 1/2 cup crema, sour cream or creme fraiche. Whisk to combine well. Heat the sauce to just below simmer and keep warm. The sauce should still be the consistency of heavy cream even after the crema has been added, if not, thin with a bit of water or chicken stock.

                        This makes enough enchilada sauce to lightly coat about 12 - 6" corn tortillas. There will not be much sauce left over. The resulting enchiladas are more like the lightly sauced ones you get in Mexico rather than the soggy drenched ones served in the U.S.

                        When using this sauce recipe I usually fill the enchiladas with shredded chicken or cheese or vegetables. For some reason I don't really prefer this recipe with a beef filling, YMMV.

                  2. My favorite is actually cheating since it's not enchilada sauce... but it's the Chile Colorado sauce from Las Palmas.

                    My SO is fine with Old El Paso mild... if we're going that route I prefer medium.... sometimes I can't find the Las Palmas.

                    1. When I moved from Az/Ca to Boston my craving for home cooking increased
                      not being able to find many mexican ingredients, this site
                      has become a life saver:

                      also I always keep a bunch of mexican ingredients on my Amazon wish list:

                      Getting the ingredients to make green sauce in this area is really easy and it is easy to make so I never tried the green.

                      Someone also said that the Hatch sauce is good too I agree and it is available at our local Whole Foods.

                      1. Enchilada sauce is simple to make. After eat your superior results will never buy it again. Every canned sauce I've tried is bland and frankly sucks. So figured out how to make. Enchiladas are a personal favorite.

                        3 T vegetable oil (corn or light olive oil works)
                        3 T flour
                        3 T chili powder
                        1/2 tsp cumin
                        1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste if like hotter
                        2 cups water (can use stock if have - not necessary)
                        6oz can tomato paste
                        1 tsp garlic powder (granulated)
                        1/2 tsp onion powder (granulated)
                        1/2 tsp salt

                        Directions: Heat oil and four together a few minutes. Long enough to cook the flour and make a roux. Add the rest. Mix to combine (I use a whisk). Bring to a boil to completely thicken. Then turn down to a slow simmer at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

                        Optional - Add more seasoning and spices if desired but not necessary.

                        Note: quality fresh chili powder is best.

                        DiningDiva's scratch sauce above looks tasty. This is a fast and proven way to make your own I know works from eating often. Now the OP has a couple of options.


                        1 Reply
                        1. re: smaki

                          Sometimes it's not about what tastes best but what tastes right. If I use anything but Las Palmas brand red enchilada sauce--mild--when I make cheese and onion enchiladas, it will not taste like my Mom's. That is the only dish where I follow her recipe.

                        2. It's not a sin - mortal or otherwise - AT ALL!!

                          I use canned enchilada sauce all the time - both red & green - & have always received rave reviews & thoroughly clean plates when I make enchiladas or my Baked Stuffed Poblanos or really any recipe that calls for enchilada sauce.

                          As for brands, I've pretty much used them all at one time or another, & apart from differences in heat, never saw much difference.