Smoky Chipotle Enchilada Sauce

This homemade enchilada sauce is easy to make and packed with flavor! Perfectly spiced with smoky adobo sauce, chipotle peppers, cumin, and oregano, then simmered with brown sugar and sherry. Double the recipe and freeze some for later!

Looking for more Mexican-inspired dinner ideas? Try these Quesabirria Tacos or these Black Bean Enchiladas.

This smoky enchilada sauce is another one of those recipes I have been making for years. It comes together quickly and makes your home smell like a Mexican restaurant while it simmers on the stove. The only thing I cook that makes my house smell even more like a taqueria is when I harvest green tomatoes from the garden and use them to make green salsa.

Beyond the heavenly aroma, this sauce has incredible flavor! The smoky adobo sauce is balanced with brown sugar, then perfectly spiced with cumin and oregano. This recipe freezes well too, so I usually will double the batch and then ladle some into freezer-safe mason jars to save for later. Although I have nothing against using storebought enchilada sauce, there’s something to be said for being able to pull a jar of homemade sauce from the freezer anytime you feel like it.

Avocado enchiladas on a plate with mexican rice

Tips & Serving Suggestions

Making enchilada sauce from scratch sounds like a lot of work, but it’s actually not. All you have to do is add the ingredients to a pot and then give it time to simmer and develop flavor. And you don’t need a lot of time either – start to finish this sauce is ready in about 30 minutes. I recommend dicing your onion and garlic finely so that you don’t have any large chunks in your sauce (small ones are fine).

This enchilada sauce is the one I use to make Avocado Enchiladas! Serve them with some Instant Pot Mexican Rice, and may even a Frozen Strawberry Margarita or Mango Mojito, depending on your mood.

How to Store & Freeze

If you are not using your enchilada sauce immediately you can store it in the fridge or freezer. Here’s how:

  • Fridge: Allow your sauce to cool to room temperature, then ladle into air-tight containers (I prefer mason jars) and store in the fridge for up to 4 days. When you’re ready to use it you can just treat it as if you were using canned enchilada sauce.
  • Freezer: Once your sauce has cooled to room temperature, ladle it into air-tight, freezer safe containers. Leave at least 1-inch of empty space at the top so that the sauce has room to expand. Store in the freezer. It will keep for up to 3 months.
  • Defrosting: When you’re ready to use your sauce either defrost overnight in the fridge or run under warm water to loosen the sauce, then drop the frozen sauce into a saucepan to finish defrosting over medium-low heat on the stovetop. You may need to add a bit of broth or water if the sauce thickens too much while it defrosts.

Smoky Chipotle Enchilada Sauce

Enchilada sauce in a bowl with a spoon
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This homemade enchilada sauce is easy to make and packed with flavor! Perfectly spiced with smoky adobo sauce, chipotle peppers, cumin, and oregano, then simmered with brown sugar and sherry. Double the recipe and freeze some for later!

  • Author: Rustic Family Recipes
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 1 batch of enchilada sauce
  • Category: Sauces
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: Mexican


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup sherry
  • 1 chipotle chili, diced + 2 tsps adobo sauce (I used canned chipotle chili peppers in adobo sauce)
  • 14 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth


Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat.

Add the onion, garlic, brown sugar, cumin, and oregano. Saute until the onion is soft, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the sherry, chipotle chili, adobo sauce, tomatoes, and vegetable broth.

Simmer for about 20 minutes, until thickened to a stew consistency.

Keywords: homemade enchilada sauce, red enchilada sauce

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. So amazing! I didn’t chop up the onions as fine as I should have, but the flavor is amazing! I kept eating it from a spoon haha.

    1. Rustic Family Recipes

      Oh yay! So glad you enjoyed this enchilada sauce. If you want to make it smoother, you can always use an immersion blender or put the sauce into a stand blender. (Just make sure it cools first so that your blender doesn’t explode it everywhere. Yes, I did learn that tip that hard way.)