Mexican red enchilada sauce, salsa roja, this is the brick red sauce that bathes and brightens stuffed and rolled tortillas, enchiladas. It’s a basic cooked not-too-hot Mexican sauce with deep earthy pure chile flavor. Salsa roja is what makes enchiladas “en-chil-ada”, or “seasoned with chile.” Make this easy blender sauce once, and the next time you won’t even need a written recipe.
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Hanging out in Baja Mexico, my goal, call it a New Year’s resolution if you wish, is to get a couple of Mexican sauces down pat, to be able to make them from memory. This rusty red enchilada sauce is one of those recipes. It’s in my brain for good right now, but check back with me in a year. Because if I had a nickel for every baking recipe I knew by heart and forgot, I’d be rich.
Read more: Boom Boom Sauce | Family Cuisine
The chile essence, slightly tart, smoky and fruity, is like nothing you can buy in a can. You could make my quick enchilada sauce out of chili powder if you are in a big hurry and want homemade red sauce. But if you have thirty minutes to soak the dried chiles, make this authentic red enchilada sauce. One taste and you’ll get what I mean.
Round out your red enchilada sauce with a little dried oregano and cumin, if you like. But really, they aren’t essential. Here in my trailer kitchen I’ve been making my red enchilada sauce uncomplicated, with just onions and garlic as aromatics.
Two see-through bags of dried chiles, one with anchos, one with guajillos, (affiliate links) jumped into my bolsa the first day we were here. I’m trying to use them up before we leave, though one bag lasts quite a while.
This is the sauce you want for vegetarian chard enchiladas. Red enchilada sauce is a flavorful “barbecue sauce” that brightens grilled potatoes, eggs, and meats, and of course enchiladas!
You will also love this sauce with spinach and black bean enchiladas!
About the chiles used in red enchilada sauce:
- Guajillo (gwah-HEE-yoh) chiles have a tapered shape and reddish-brown color and mild tart flavor.
- Ancho chiles are darker than guajillo with wrinkle-y skin; they add a raisin-y fruity accent to sauces.
- Before drying, anchos are poblanos, the chiles often used for chile rellenos. Because this is a basic recipe, feel free to use all of one dried chile or the other, or the ratio you please.
- One time I started soaking the chiles but never got around to the sauce. (I may have had a beer or two.) I put the submerged chiles in their bowl in the refrigerator and finished the sauce the next morning. No problem.
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