Three Chile Enchilada Sauce


Perhaps part of the purpose of a food blog is not just to give recipes that you have never tried before (which is getting more difficult to do), but to remind you of things you have not thought about in a while.  Maybe there is an unconscious appetite that we tap into, and the reason I was thinking of enchiladas is because you wanted them for dinner, but had not yet come to that realization.



This is a relatively simple recipe, though it does mean having access to dried chiles.  There are numerous varieties…here I used anchos because they are very mild and I am cooking this for people whose spice-threshold is unknown to me.



The second chile variety I used was the Chile Cobanero from Guatemala which has been smoked, and cooking with them fills your house with the aromas of barbeque (in a good way).  They have more heat than the anchos, so I used them sparingly.


The third choice was a bag of ground red chiles that my cousin hauled back from New Mexico and I don’t know the exact variety—it could be a New Mexico chile.   The aroma is a cross between paprika and cayenne.  Divine.

Note the “Chile Power” to the People!  Sometimes typos really rock.


And then the question arises….When is it an enchilada sauce, and when is it a móle?

In my little mind, an enchilada sauce can be a quick-cooked or a slow-cooked sauce, but móle is generally simmered for ages.

Móles are delectable with enchiladas, but if time is short you can blend chiles and tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes for an easy sauce.  Some of the more common enchilada sauces are a tomatillo-serrano green sauce, and a tomato and chile red sauce.


This is my understanding of Móle Basics:

Móle always contains dried chile peppers.

These chiles are dried and sometimes smoked, and often ground into a powder.   That mixture is combined with other ingredients and simmered for long hours into a deep, complex and luscious substance.   It can also be a somewhat generic term for ‘sauce’, but to much of the world móle must have chiles.

Along with the dried chiles, móle usually has: garlic, nuts, dried fruit, and something tangy like lime, tomatillos or tomatoes.  Often everything would be ground into a sauce or pureed.

Móle becomes more specialized depending on the variety of ingredients—chiles (pasilla, poblano, chipotle, mulato, de arbol), nuts (peanuts, sesame seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds), fruits (raisins, dried apricots, prunes),  spices (anise, oregano, cinnamon, clove), and other (chocolate, tortillas, bread), to name just a few.



So what is this sauce?  I call it a quick-cook enchilada sauce with the ingredients of móle.

You can vary the amounts and the types of chiles—-other peppers like pasilla would give a little more warmth.


¡A comér!


Three Chile Enchilada Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes    Cooking Time: 20-30 minutes


Remove seeds and stems, then rehydrate in warm water for 20 minutes:

1 – 2 Dried Ancho Peppers

Drain the peppers.


Saute for a few minutes in a large saucepan on high heat:

1 Tbsp Canola Oil

Rehydrated Ancho Peppers

2 – 3  Chiles Cobanero

4 – 6  tsp  New Mexico Chiles, ground  (mild or medium, depending on your heat tolerance)

1 Onion, coarsely chopped

2 large Garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

Reduce heat.

Add and simmer for another few minutes:

1 tsp dried Oregano (Mexican, if  you can find it)

1 tsp Coriander, ground

1 tsp Cumin, ground

1 tsp Sea Salt

1 1/2 tsp  Honey

1 Tbsp Cider Vinegar

1 12 oz can Diced Tomatoes

1 12 oz can Tomato Puree

2 1/2 cups water

Puree everything in a food processor.

Add everything back into saucepan and simmer 15-30 minutes.


For the Enchiladas:

Steam or lightly fry the tortillas to make them pliable.

Fill with your favorite filling and some of the sauce, then roll into a little log.

  • If your filling and sauce are hot, place the rolled enchilada on a warm plate, ladle with sauce and sprinkle a pungent cheese on top.
  • If your filling is not hot, set the rolled enchiladas in an oiled baking pan, ladle more sauce on top, and sprinkle with cheese.  Cover and bake at 350 degrees until warm.


Enchilada Filling Ideas:

-Sautéed Greens with Goat Cheese and Roasted Corn

-Grilled Chicken and Sour Cream

-Roasted Tofu with Grated Zucchini and Grilled Mushrooms

-Roasted Squash, Pinto Beans and Tomatillos with an Aged Cheese


3 thoughts on “Three Chile Enchilada Sauce”

  • ruth this sounds exactly what i need to make. i looked at a can of enchilada sauce today and on second thought i said i could make it myself much fresher and tastier. thank you!

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