How to make homemade enchilada sauce

How to make homemade Enchilada Sauce - A recipe for Low Fat, chicken and spinach enchiladas on GEEZ LOUISE!

I can’t remember one single instance in my life where my mom actually showed me how to cook anything, let alone how to make homemade enchilada sauce.  But I watched her make homemade enchiladas my whole life, and I’ve been eating this sauce on everything from tostadas, to tacos, tamales, and enchiladas since I was a little girl.  I’ve even reinvented it to make a homemade Tortilla Soup.  I spent my childhood experiencing delicious, heartwarming, comfort food made for me with love.

Quite frankly, I believe the most valuable lessons in life are experienced rather than taught.

How to make homemade Enchilada Sauce - A recipe for Low Fat, chicken and spinach enchiladas on GEEZ LOUISE!

So a couple of tips about this recipe:

This enchilada sauce is made from dried Hatch chile powder (pretty spicy).  However, you could also use mild chile powder from the spice section of your grocery store, or you could try a combination of dried New Mexico chiles found in those  little clear plastic packets in the Mexican aisle at your grocery store (not sure if you have that aisle, but we have it in California).   I would also suggest that if you use mild chile powder that you would also add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper to give it a little heat to taste. When adding your oregano, always rub it between your palms to release all its flavor, at least that is what I saw my mom doing…

How to make homemade Enchilada Sauce - A recipe for Low Fat, chicken and spinach enchiladas on GEEZ LOUISE!


If cheesy chicken enchiladas are what’s for dinner, who says they can’t be healthy? I use spinach or kale in the enchiladas so that I don’t have to add another vegetable on the side.  Be sure to cook it long enough to remove all the moisture so that your enchiladas are not soggy.


How to make homemade Enchilada Sauce - A recipe for Low Fat, chicken and spinach enchiladas on GEEZ LOUISE!


Part of the reason I think more people don’t make homemade enchiladas is because it’s too much work,  but it’s really not. I skip the step of frying the tortillas because I just don’t taste the difference and not frying is both a time and calorie saver.


How to make homemade Enchilada Sauce - A recipe for Low Fat, chicken and spinach enchiladas on GEEZ LOUISE!


Another way I cut calories in the enchiladas is by using 2% organi cheese, honestly will all this flavor you will not taste the difference.


How to make homemade Enchilada Sauce - A recipe for Low Fat, chicken and spinach enchiladas on GEEZ LOUISE!


If you love to have extra sauce on the side, I would suggest doubling the recipe for the sauce.  This sauce is also amazing cooked with diced potatoes and then served with fried eggs and tortillas for breakfast. You can also use it to make “wet” burritos, chilaquiles, and is the absolute best base for braising pork, then shredding the pork  for tamales.  You might even want to try it as Tortilla Soup

Leftover Turkey Tortilla Soup on


How to make homemade enchilada sauce
5.0 from 4 reviews
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 6 cups organic baby spinach leaves, about 6 handfuls
  • ¼ cup organic tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons of white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 4 garlic cloves minced or pressed
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium organic white onion, thinly sliced or cut into small dice
  • ¼ cup whole wheat white flour or all purpose white flour
  • 2 Tablespoons mild chili powder (found in the spice aisle) or ground New Mexico chili (found in the Mexican food section of the market) or ground Hatch Chili powder (available through Melissa's produce branded under the name Don Enrique)
  • 3 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth, warmed
  • 3 cups finely shredded chicken
  • 1 ½ cups, about 5 ounces - loosely packed 2% low-fat Mexican blend shredded cheese - ½ cup reserved for top,
  • 10 - 6" Mi Rancho Organic corn tortillas
  • Fresh cilantro roughly chopped for garnish
  • Organic Light sour cream or Organic Greek Yogurt for garnish
  • Onion- roughly chopped for garnish
  1. Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over low/medium heat; add in oil; and once hot, add the spinach. Cook spinach until wilted and most of the moisture has cooked out, about 4 – 6 minutes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper, then remove from the pan and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any remaining moisture. Once the spinach has cooled, give it a rough chop.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil 9x13 baking pan and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl mix tomato paste, vinegar, cumin, oregano, garlic, salt & pepper, and bay leaf – stir to combine and set aside
  4. Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat; add in the 3 Tablespoons of oil and then the onions. Sweat the onions with a pinch of salt for 1 - 2 minutes or until they become slightly translucent.
  5. Sprinkle the ¼ cup of flour and the chili powder over the onions and stir to combine, cook for 1 minute- stirring constantly.
  6. Add in tomato paste mixture and stir to combine, cook for an additional minute.
  7. Slowly add in hot broth in thirds, while whisking to dissolve the flour and tomato paste mixture. Continue whisking until all of the broth is incorporated and the lumps are out ( there will be some bumps in the sauce from the onions).
  8. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.
  10. In a medium bowl combine chicken, spinach, and 1 cup of cheese, mix in 1 cup of sauce.
  11. Stack tortillas and wrap in damp paper towels or a clean dish towel; microwave on high for 2 minutes.
  12. Spoon 1 cup of enchilada sauce onto the bottom of the prepared baking dish.
  13. Fill each tortilla with a heaping ¼ cup of filling; roll up tightly and arrange, seam side down, in prepared baking dish.
  14. Pour remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining ½ cup of cheese.
  15. Cover with foil and place into the preheated oven for 15 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 5 additional minutes uncovered
  16. Serve warm with fresh cilatnro, chopped onions, and sour cream.


31 comments… add one
  • Valentina September 10, 2013, 4:02 pm

    Absolute perfection!

    • Chef Louise Mellor September 10, 2013, 6:15 pm

      thanks Valentina… you cold totally make these all veggie

  • Robert September 10, 2013, 4:32 pm

    Looks like a great recipe here!

  • Lentil Breakdown September 10, 2013, 5:00 pm

    How is it that you even make enchilada sauce sexy? I haven’t made enchiladas in so long, and now you got me lusting. Marvelous photos!

    • Chef Louise Mellor September 10, 2013, 6:16 pm

      Sexy enchiladas… I like that

  • Paul McCool September 10, 2013, 6:31 pm

    Your ingredients list has onions for garnish, but you don’t specify how much onion to use when making the sauce. You holding out on me, Louise?

    • Chef Louise Mellor September 10, 2013, 6:54 pm

      AHHHH the details of editing… thank you, I fixed it to read- 1/2 medium yellow onion

  • Stephen Chavez September 10, 2013, 9:24 pm

    Those enchiladas look delish! I love the idea of mixing Spinach with the chicken and to skip the dipping of the tortilla in hot oil to cut down on calories. Nice photos!!

    • Chef Louise Mellor September 10, 2013, 9:53 pm

      The latino foodie like my recipe… YAY!

  • Christina September 10, 2013, 11:42 pm

    OMG, I am starving right now and these look and sound heavenly! My brother makes incredible enchiladas, but I pretty much suck. Maybe if I try your recipe, I may suck less. On the “to make” list!! Thanks, Louise!

    • Chef Louise Mellor September 10, 2013, 11:52 pm

      Throw some tortillas down and layer it… enchilada casserole!

  • sippitysup September 14, 2013, 11:04 pm

    The sorts of experience you’re describing I would describe as absorbed. Which isn’t as pleasant sounding an experience as it actually is. So maybe your way of saying it is better. GREG

  • Lucy September 15, 2013, 5:31 pm

    I think there is an error/omission related to the flour… there are two steps instructing me to stir in the flour..which step is it supposed to happen in? And the ingredient list calls is ‘whole wheat white flour’. Which is it – whole wheat, or white? Thanks!

    • Chef Louise Mellor September 15, 2013, 5:42 pm

      Lucy, my new favorite thing is “whole wheat WHITE flour” … there is such a thing. Give it a try you will love it. You can use white flour in this recipe if you have it on hand.

  • Lucy September 16, 2013, 12:31 pm

    For the record, my enchiladas turned out great!! I will definitely be making this recipe again 🙂

  • Kate September 17, 2013, 12:05 am

    So not only an amazing looking recipe but cookware eye candy too! Lusting after that pan. And that other pan. And that spoon…

    • Chef Louise Mellor September 17, 2013, 8:00 pm

      Thanks Kate!

  • Mick McNeil September 27, 2013, 5:59 am

    This is tomorrow nights dinner! Lovely photos too Louise, do you take them yourself?

    • Chef Louise Mellor September 27, 2013, 12:18 pm

      Ah thank you, yes all styling and photography is mine on the blog.

  • Carole October 23, 2013, 4:24 pm

    These enchiladas are AWESOME!!!!! I made them last night. Had to guess on how much and what type of onion to put in the sauce. Ended up using 1 small yellow onion, diced. Worked out great! For the chicken, I simmered (for 20 minutes) two large boneless, skinless chicken breasts in chicken broth with green onions. Shredded the chicken then strained the broth and used it for the sauce. Definitely gave it extra flavor! Recommend not adding all the salt and pepper to the sauce but rather season to taste. I almost used it all then realized that it would have been too salty. Other than all of that, these were some of the best enchiladas that I ever had! Thank you Louise!!!

  • Mike October 24, 2013, 7:02 am

    The dish was awesome! Very authentic flavor, which was exactly what I was looking for.

    • Chef Louise Mellor October 25, 2013, 10:34 pm

      Mike are you sweet talking me?

  • Karlie November 4, 2013, 6:05 pm

    This recipe is superb! I was a little skeptical about making the enchilada sauce from scratch, but I decided to try it out since I haven’t been able to find a decent Mexican food shop near my new place! I followed the recipe exactly, only substituting for different cheeses and omitting the chicken. I also added a heaping spoonful of pico de gallo on top before serving, and they were HEAVENLY! I was able to fit six, small enchiladas in my pan and it made two hearty portions for my boyfriend and I. Thank you so, so much for sharing this recipe–we love it! 🙂

    • Chef Louise Mellor November 5, 2013, 1:47 pm

      Yay!~ I’m so happy to hear you liked it!

  • Frankie February 6, 2014, 9:36 am

    Just came across your site as I’m looking to learn how to make enchiladas for my family. I’m Chinese but grew up in Southern California surrounded by Mexican food. Most of my friends were Mexicans and their mom’s made the best homemade Mexican food ever! Sadly I left after high school (I’m living in Canada now) and never learned to cook for them. Now I want to introduce Mexican food to my family and since I love enchiladas I’d like to start here. However, I do have a question. My husband and 3 boys (ages 4 1/2 years, 3 years and 14 months) do not eat spicy (I personally love spicy!!). Is your enchilada sauce spicy? can I made it non-spicy or more mild so my boys can eat it? Thanks for your help in advance! Can’t wait to try your recipe! They look so delicious!!

  • Venus September 12, 2014, 8:59 pm

    Made this for dinner tonight and it was a big hit. Three adults, one pregnant, and two children. Will definitely be making these again. Thank you!

  • Pat March 12, 2015, 5:58 pm

    I used your recipe for dinner tonight and have to tell you that dinner was awesome. I did tweak recipe a little because of ingredients I had on hand, I used lettuce instead of spinach and added chipolte peppers in Adobe sauce to chicken mixture. Now my wife thinks this Irishman should open his own mexican restaurant. Thanks.

  • Elyse April 25, 2016, 12:47 pm

    I just made this for the family. I was in a hurry, so I rushed it a bit. It was delicious! I’m saving it for future meals. It was very tasty.

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