Kirsten’s Kitchen: Homemade enchilada sauce tastes so much better than the factory business

Coming late in life to Mexican food has only made it more of a favorite for me. Next to mashed potatoes and pizza, it is one of my favorite comfort foods, especially enchiladas. 

Loteria Grill at The Grove in Los Angeles (sadly no longer there) introduced me to the various rojo salsas that could be mixed into tacos or enchiladas and I was hooked! 

I learned from my co-workers that it was the dried chilies plus spices and herbs that made these amazing sauces. So I set out to make it myself. 

What a revelation!

Not only is it easy to make your own sauce, but it tastes so much better than a can or a jar (naturally) but truly doesn’t take much more time to make than the opening of said can or jar. 

You pour boiling water over dried chilies, spices, garlic and herbs, and let it soak for at least 30 minutes, then puree it with canned tomatoes and presto!

By the way, in case you didn’t know, any blender blade and cap will fit in a regular (not wide mouth) canning jar and then you can blend your sauce straight into the jar, no need to scrap it out of the blender carafe. 

I have been doing this for more than a decade, never using my carafe at all. It is wonderfully handy for making salad dressing too!

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DIY Enchilada Sauce
(makes 3 cups)

3-4 guajillo dried chiles (get them at a Mexican grocery store)

1 ancho dried chile

3 cloves garlic

2 teaspoons oregano (or Mexican oregano)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cacao nibs (optional)

1/2 teaspoon achiote seeds (check Mexican grocery stores)

1 cup boiling water

1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes


Rip off the stems of the chiles and gently rub chilies to release the seeds from within, rip into pieces and place in a quart mason jar and pour boiling water over them. Add in remaining ingredients except tomatoes and salt and push chiles below the water to submerge and soak. 

Soak for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours. When you are ready to begin cooking, add tomatoes to the jar, place blender blade and cap on top and puree until well blended. Taste for salt. 

Remember, the bitterness of the chiles will mellow with cooking and the heat will intensify; you can always add more heat in the form of hot sauce but cannot take it away! 

I usually sautee whatever protein (except refried beans) will be the filling in some of the sauce for added flavor. 

If you feel there isn’t enough to top your enchiladas, add more tomatoes and water to increase the sauce amount, slowly so as not to water it down too much.



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