Easy Recipe for Red Enchilada Sauce With Tomato Paste

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This is the absolute best (and easiest) recipe for red enchilada sauce. Not only can you make it in five minutes from start to finish, but it’s packed with flavor and is completely customizable.

With just a few simple ingredients from your pantry, you can make this easy enchilada sauce for your family right now.

Five minute enchilada sauce in mason jar

When I was in graduate school, my roommate made the best enchiladas from scratch. We would often make a big dish of enchiladas and have them for lunch throughout the week.

When grad school was over, we went our separate ways, and I never forgot those enchiladas. She gave me a loose description of how to make the sauce via text message, and I recreated it from her description, to taste.

This is the recipe we use in our family every time we have enchiladas. We love it, and everyone who’s tried it does too.

Tools needed to make this recipe for red enchilada sauce

Ingredients needed to make this enchilada sauce from tomato paste

  • Tomato paste – This is the secret ingredient to this enchilada sauce. It adds a rich tomato flavor and sweetness that you just can’t get from tomato sauce. We use this kind and love it because it only has one ingredient!
  • Avocado oil (or olive oil) – Use oil with a neutral flavor (like this avocado oil). Garlic powder (or granulated garlic) – It provides a yummy savory flavor to the sauce.
  • Chili powder – Chili powder is one of the main seasonings in this sauce. You can get a mild variety or hot – pick the one that works best for you.
  • Ground cumin – Cumin is key in this easy enchilada sauce recipe. Cumin is a spice that is used in a wide variety of savory cuisines from all over the world, so it’s totally worth it to have in your spice cupboard.
  • Water – The water in this recipe thins out the sauce (since the tomato paste is so thick).
  • Salt – Don’t forget to add salt to your sauce. It’ll make the flavors pop. We use this kind because it still has trace minerals in it – unlike refined table salt.

How to make this easy recipe for Red Enchilada Sauce With Tomato Paste

This enchilada sauce really couldn’t be easier. Use the pictures below to walk you through the process every step of the way.

  1. Heat the oil and spices in your saucepan
  2. Add the tomato paste and stir for a minute
  3. Add water & stir to combine

1. Heat oil in a small saucepan and add granulated Garlic, cumin and chili powder.

oil and spices in sauce pan
oil and spices mixed in pan

Whisk the spice/oil mixture and continue to heat it while stirring. You can use garlic powder or granulated garlic. Don’t use garlic salt or it’ll be too salty.

2. Add the tomato paste

Add tomato paste to spice, oil mixture
Stir the tomato paste around with the spices.

Next, turn the heat down to low and add the tomato paste and stir to mix the spices throughout.

3. Add water

Water added to enchilada sauce in pan

Add water. After that, continue stirring until everything is evenly distributed throughout the mixture (try to get the clumps out).

FAQ & Recipe Tips

How do use your red enchilada sauce to make enchiladas?

To make the pan of enchiladas, first drizzle a little sauce on the bottom of your 13×9 pan. Then take your tortillas and roll them up with the filling inside (veggies, beans, rice, cheese, meat, – you decide).

Next, line the rolled up tortillas in the pan and then cover them with more sauce. Top it with cheese. After that, cook it until the cheese is melted on top but you can always omit the cheese for dairy-free enchiladas.

Related: Homemade Tortillas Made Easy With A Tortilla Press

Another way to use this easy enchilada sauce is in a burrito bowl or on a taco salad. You can also mix it in with meat or veggies for a boost of flavor anytime you want it.

What can I use as a substitute for enchilada sauce?

Homemade enchilada sauce is the best substitute for store bought enchilada sauce, and you can make it without preservatives by seasoning it with your chosen spices and altering the heat level. You could potentially swap enchilada sauce for tomato sauce, taco sauce, salsa sauce, ranchero sauce, or picante sauce but the flavor will be different, for sure.

What’s the difference between red sauce and enchilada sauce?

Green enchilada sauce has a mild flavor and is produced using different components than red enchilada sauce. On the other hand, red enchilada sauce has a distinct earthy flavor and aroma.

Can you make this enchilada sauce ahead and how do you store it?

Yes! You can definitely make a double or triple batch of the easy enchilada sauce and freeze it to use it at a later time. Just make sure to store it in a container that won’t let air in (mason jars work great).

Is enchilada sauce gluten free?

The enchilada sauce with tomato paste in this recipe is gluten free since the ingredients only include tomato paste, garlic powder, salt, ground cumin, avocado oil, and chili pepper which are all gluten-free ingredients.

Finished red enchilada sauce in mason jar
Easy Enchilada Sauce From Tomato Paste

Easy Enchilada Sauce From Tomato Paste

Yield: 3 cups
Prep Time: 1 minute
Cook Time: 4 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Homemade enchilada sauce made with tomato paste and simple ingredients.


  • 2 Tbsp oil (avocado oil or olive oil)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt


  1. Heat the oil in a small saucepan on medium heat.
  2. Add spices to the oil and cook until fragrant, while stirring (about 1 minute).
  3. Turn off the heat and add the tomato paste, stir to get spices mixed in tomato paste.
  4. Add water and stir until clumps are gone and everything is mixed well. 


  • Use single ingredient tomato paste (should only have tomatoes in it).

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1/4 C
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 50Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 136mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 2g

Did you make this recipe?

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easy red enchilada sauce from tomato paste
Easy enchilada sauce in mason jar

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    1. Yes! I’m happy to do that. While I work on a new post (it takes a while to get pictures done and measuring ingredients, etc.)…here’s an overview of the process…Cook the meat and veggies that you want inside the enchiladas. Add 1/4 cup (ish) of this sauce to the mixture and stir it around. Add about 1/4 cup of this sauce to the bottom of your pan you’re cooking them in (any baking dish works). Then, using your tortillas, add a little bit of the meat/veggie mixture to a tortilla, wrap the sides up and flip it over so it’s sitting on the edges. Continue to do this until you’ve filled the pan in a single layer. Then pour some sauce on top and cover with shredded cheese (omit for dairy free). I usually cook it at about 350 (F) until the cheese is melted, or it’s hot all the way through. I love serving it with fresh guacamole and any sauce that’s left over. Let me know if you have any questions! I’m happy to help.

  1. I did not care for this sauce. It is over powering. I suggest using only 6 oz tomato paste, not 12 oz.

    1. Lisa, I’m sorry to hear you didn’t like the sauce. It definitely has a lot of flavor (that’s how we like it). Thanks for stopping by and leaving a suggestion!

  2. We love this sauce! It has the perfect flavor, not too spicy, and is easy to make. We have made it many times and it has quickly become a family favorite. It is the only recipe we use for enchiladas anymore!

  3. Great recipe. We love cumin. I didn’t have any garlic powder so substitute 2 TBSP of salsa verde (parsley and garlic sauce O had in the fridge). Thanks for posting this.

  4. I am in love with this sauce and will NEVER buy canned sauce again. I made Beef Enchiladas and got LOTS of compliments. I am thinking of canning this for quick use. I LOVE my food saucy and this is perfect!!

    1. Carrie! Thanks so much for your comment. If you do decide to can it, let me know how it goes! I love that idea. Also…happy to see that you’re a fellow sauce lover :).

    1. Sandra – Yes, absolutely. Freeze the sauce in ice cube trays or smaller jars to use in the future. Thanks for your comment!

  5. I usually don’t leave comments on things like this but I thought I need to for this one this sauce is horrible it doesn’t taste anything like enchilada sauce I don’t even know what it taste like but it’s no good

    1. Valerie, I’m sorry it didn’t turn out for you. This sauce is one of my top recipes and I have a lot of great reviews of it from people who have tried it. I hope you find a recipe you like!

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