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Enchiladas are a great gluten-free option for dinner because they are traditionally made with corn tortillas. You can stuff them with anything you like from grilled vegetables, refried beans and corn to roasted chicken.  When I started on my gluten-free journey, I was frustrated to find out many enchilada sauces are made with wheat flour.  Making a homemade enchilada sauce fixes that problem.

I used to search high and low for a bottled enchilada sauce that didn’t contain wheat or any refined sweeteners and gums. I always came up short, so I created my own recipe. Today, you can find gluten-free sauce options at the market, but I still enjoy preparing it myself with lots of dried chilis I find at local markets or at Penzey’s online store.

Homemade sauces bring so much more life and flavor into your meal. Plus, you can control the quality, seasonings and level of heat. If you want a bit more kick, for example, just stir in a pinch of cayenne pepper. It’s all up to you!

gluten free Enchilada Sauce in pan

Don’t worry about making too much. Drizzle the sauce on these Individual Huevos Rancheros for breakfast and then freeze the rest in a jar for another time. You can prepare this recipe in advance so you have it ready when you want to make enchiladas for dinner. The flavor will get better as it sits.


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enchilada sauce

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

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  • Author: Andrea Sprague
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 3 cups 1x


Homemade enchilada sauce for extra delicious enchiladas, or huevos rancheros. Feel free to customize as you like to get the taste you want – that’s the beauty of homemade sauces!


  • 3 dried ancho chilies, about 2 oz.
  • 1 dried guajillo chili, ½ oz.
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. brown rice flour
  • 2 tsp. tapioca starch
  • 1 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin
  • 1 ¼ tsp. garlic powder (I especially love this one from Penzey’s)
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • ¼ tsp. smoked paprika
  • Couple turns freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 oz. tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 ¾ tsp. salt
  • Juice of 1 lime, about 2 Tbsp.


  1. In a medium pot, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Turn off the heat.
  2. While waiting for the water to boil, wipe dried chilies with a wet paper towel. Carefully rip out the stems. Using a scissor or your hands, open the chilies and scrape out the seeds and any membranes. Place chilies in the pot of hot water and let sit, submerged, for 15 minutes. Drain chilies and reserve soaking liquid.
  3. In a medium pot or high-sided pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add flour and starch, and stir with a rubber spatula until toasted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Reduce heat to low and add all the spices (up to black pepper) and the tomato paste. Stir for 30 seconds. It will be thick, so stir well.
  5. Add the stock and salt, and whisk until smooth. Increase the heat slightly and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime juice.
  6. Place tomato mixture, soaked chilies and a ¼ cup of soaking liquid into a food processor. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides if needed. If the sauce is too thick, add a little more stock or water until the desired consistency is reached. (Enchilada sauce is typically a little thin when used for enchiladas. The uncovered baking causes a lot of moisture to evaporate. When using this for other dishes like Huevos Rancheros, it can be a little thicker.)
  7. Let cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.


  • Measure all the spices ahead of time and store them in a small container. Do the same for the flour and starch in a separate container. This will reduce the cooking time when you’re ready to make the sauce.

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