Two jars of homemade fresh enchilada sauce.

Several years ago, I learned a super quick enchilada sauce recipe. It called for broiling onions and garlic, then simmering them for 7 minutes with a can of peeled tomatoes, 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, and a little bit of water.

For the effort, the sauce tasted incredibly complex with notes of smoke and char as well as a good balance of acidity and sweetness.

Last week, when the tomatoes began arriving both in the farm share and the garden, I made the sauce using fresh tomatoes in place of the canned. And, inspired by this salsa roja recipe, I broiled all of the vegetables — the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and jalapeño — together.

In 10 minutes, when the vegetables had blistered, I puréed them with a chipotle in adobo sauce and enough water to thin the sauce to a pourable consistency. The purée alone tasted delicious, but a touch too sweet thanks to all of the peak season produce. To balance this sweetness, I added a few tablespoons of fresh lime juice — just the job!

Friends, this enchilada sauce is so tasty. It has all the elements you expect from this type of sauce — heat, smoke, acidity — but it has a freshness and brightness that its forerunner lacks. What’s more, it’s truly a snap to throw together. It yields about a quart of sauce, enough to make many servings of your favorite enchiladas. Find a few of mine below.

PS: Quick Sautéed Cherry Tomato Sauce

5 Favorite Enchilada Recipes

  1. Lasagna-style enchiladas: Here, you layer tortillas in a casserole dish with enchilada sauce, cheese, scallions, cilantro, and shredded chicken (or grilled, rotisserie, roasted, etc.). Then you bake it for 15 minutes — so simple, so good.
  2. Roasted vegetable enchiladas: In place of the chicken in this recipe, use roasted vegetables: eggplant, peppers, onion, summer squash — whatever you have on hand. Leftover corn, stripped from the cob is a great addition.
  3. Black bean and cheese enchiladas: The success of this recipe relies on using well seasoned black beans. These slow-cooker black beans are so tasty and so simple — the base recipe has become my favorite way to cook beans.
  4. Chicken tinga: I learned this recipe many years ago while working at Fork. I typically use tinga for tacos or tostados, but recently I’ve been using it as an enchilada filling with Monterey Jack cheese. (I recently made this in the Instant Pot … recipe soon!)
  5. Kale and mushroom: Sauté a mix of mushrooms with a little bit of garlic. Add finely slivered kale. Cook briefly until the kale wilts. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Layer with Monterey Jack cheese.

Here’s the play-by-play: Gather your ingredients: tomatoes, 1 onion, 6 cloves garlic, and a jalapeño. You’ll need 1 chipotle in adobo sauce as well as a lime.

A bowl of tomatoes aside a head of garlic, an onion, a lime, a jalapeno and a chipotle in adobo sauce.

Spread the vegetables onto a sheet pan. Toss with a tablespoon of oil and a teaspoon of salt.

Tomatoes and roughly chopped onions, garlic, and jalapeño on a sheet pan.

Broil for 10 minutes or until nicely charred.

Broiled vegetables on a sheet pan.

Transfer to a food processor, and purée until smooth.

Broiled vegetables in a food processor, ready to be puréed.

Add a chipotle in adobo sauce, and purée again.

Puréed enchilada sauce in a food processor with a chipotle in adobo sauce added.

Add fresh lime juice and salt, and purée again.

Puréed enchilada sauce in a food processor with fresh lime juice and salt added.

Taste, and adjust with salt. Add water to thin.

Puréed enchilada sauce in a food processor.

Transfer to storage jars until ready to use.

Enchilada sauce in jars.
Two jars of homemade fresh enchilada sauce.
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An overhead shot of quick red enchilada sauce.

Quick Red Enchilada Sauce

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This recipe is inspired by a few recipes, namely this one that calls for canned tomatoes, and this blistered salsa roja, which calls for charring vegetables stovetop. Here, the vegetables are broiled for 10 minutes, then puréed with fresh lime juice and a chipotle in adobo sauce.

To freeze: I like using these quart containers for freezing. Freeze for up to 3 months. 


  • 1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded if you are sensitive to heat, roughly chopped
  • 28 ounces (5 heaping cups) cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1 chipotle in adobo
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice


  1. Heat the broiler to high.
  2. Place the onion, garlic, jalapeño, and tomatoes on a sheet pan. Toss with the oil and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Transfer to the oven and broil for 10 minute or until the vegetables are nicely charred.
  3. Transfer vegetables to a food processor. Add the chipotle, the lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Add 1/2 cup water. Purée until smooth. Taste. Mixture should taste both sweet and spicy with a nice balance of acidity. Adjust with salt to taste. Add water by the 1/4 cup till it is thinned to the right consistency — it should have some texture because of the vegetables, but it should be pourable as well. 
  4. Use in your favorite enchilada recipe or store in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 3 months. 
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Broil
  • Cuisine: Mexican, American