What Is Enchilada Sauce and Is It Spicy?

Easy as it might sound, you can’t just take any sauce and plop it on a piping hot plate of enchiladas. Pizza sauce, for example, is much more at home on, oh, a pizza for instance. No, enchiladas require a sauce all their own, and we must respect that. Luckily, the sauce designated for this occasion is a tasty one, and quite aptly named. Yes, today we’re talking about enchilada sauce! Sure, we know what’s inside the enchiladas themselves (Meats! Cheeses! Beans! Various vegetables and possibly potatoes!) but what’s in the sauce that puts this dish over the top and into our hearts? Let’s find out together! 

What is in enchilada sauce?

Though enchiladas always come with a sauce slathered atop them, there are a variety of different kinds. The most common “red” enchilada sauce may also be called salsa roja, salsa roja para enchiladas, or mole rojo. This is a sauce made out of ancho/pasilla/New Mexico and/or Cascabel chiles, onion, garlic, tomatoes, broth, cumin, oregano, etc. all blended together then simmered until thickened, to give the sauce a bit of heft. 

Enchilada sauce can also take the form of tomatillos (such as salsa verde), moles, or if you’re really feeling decadent, you can even go the queso route, like chili con queso. I’ll be honest, this is the hungriest I’ve ever made myself writing one of these. I may need to re-think my entire lunch order today. What was I thinking by making myself a sandwich? 

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Is enchilada sauce gluten free?

It may be a surprise to some of you that many store-bought enchilada sauces are NOT gluten-free, as they are often thickened with flour. To keep your enchilada sauce free of any gluten, be sure to use brands and/or recipes that are thickened with cornstarch, arrowroot, or gluten-free flour. Always check the labels, folks! 

Is enchilada sauce spicy?

How hot is enchilada sauce, really? Well, it depends, and not only on the tenacity of one’s own taste buds! The heat of the enchilada sauces can range from mild to hot, depending on the variety of chili pepper used in the recipe. For example, ancho chili-based sauces will be on the mild end of the spectrum, while a sauce made with serrano pepper will be hot. 

So there you have it. I take full responsibility for getting everyone who’s read this hooked on the idea of a delicious enchilada luncheon. I say we lean into it, save that brown-bagged PB&J for tomorrow (again, what was I thinking?), and take it south of the border for our next meal. Margaritas on me! 

About the Author

Joe Rumrill

Joe Rumrill is a fictional one-eyed spinach-loving sailor created in 1929 by E.C Se- Wait, no, that's not right... Joe Rumrill is a stand up comedian and writer currently based in Los Angeles. His favorite thing about food is a close tie between the taste and the nutrients one gets from it. His least favorite thing about it is the "gritty, dirt-like quality some food has", but he's most likely referring to the time in third grade he was dared to eat playground sand.

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