Enchilada Sauce for the Freezer

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Make enchiladas healthier and convenient by mixing up a big batch of enchilada sauce for the freezer.

Enchilada Sauce for the Freezer - Make enchiladas healthier and convenient by mixing up a big batch of enchilada sauce for the freezer.

Enchiladas rank high on my list of favorite foods. Whether at a restaurant or at home, I am drawn to corn tortillas wrapped around cheesy fillings and stopped with spicy sauce and more cheese. At least one of my children mandates a meat filling as well, but I could take it or leave it. I’m good with cheese and luscious sauce.

One of the wonderful things about enchiladas is that they are super easy to make-ahead and freeze. Bonus points: if you forget to thaw (cough, cough) they heat well from frozen. This month it’s on my menu plan to make a triple or quadruple batch of enchiladas to stash in the freezer for winter. Yum-O.

But, what if you don’t have the room to store many pans of enchiladas in your freezer? Well, the next best thing is making a big batch of sauce and stashing it in jars in the freezer.

(Psst, )

Homemade enchilada sauce?

Yes, I’m a firm believer in homemade enchilada sauce. I wasn’t always. In fact, when we lived in Kansas, I had my mother-in-law ship me cases of Las Palmas Enchilada or Red Chile Sauces because my local stores didn’t carry it. It is, by the way, the commercial brand that I would deem most authentic in flavor and texture.

Note: just as I am a stickler for corn (not flour) tortillas in enchiladas, I don’t think tomato sauce has any place in enchilada-making. It must be red chile sauce. That’s one thing that makes Las Palmas great — no tomatoes.

However, since those days, I’ve made some efforts to improve our family’s diet. And the ingredients list on the enchilada sauce kinda makes me cringe. Cottonseed oil? Blech.

So, last winter I started exploring my options for homemade enchilada sauce. What I found is that making my own enchilada sauce is really not that difficult; it takes just a little more time than opening a can. Plus, the added flavor and improved ingredient list make it totally worth it.

I experimented with making the sauce from whole ancho chiles. Oh my word! I’ll be sharing that recipe soon. It’s authentic and tastes real. I don’t know how else to describe it. We’re going to be doing a big tamale-making/red chile sauce-making extravaganza, FishPapa and me. Details to follow.

Enchilada Sauce for the Freezer - Make enchiladas healthier and convenient by mixing up a big batch of enchilada sauce for the freezer.

Any who, an even quicker method is to make the sauce from dried spices and broth. I found this Enchilada Sauce recipe from Gimme Some Oven and have been making some version of it for a year now. It’s always good. And it calls for NO tomato sauce. Amen. Hallelujah.

The adaptation I’ve landed on includes ancho chile powder and a doubling of the other spices. The ancho chile powder really gives it a comparable flavor to the sauce made from whole dried chiles. I also like using fresh garlic to up the “fresh” flavor. And I’ve used water instead of chicken broth to lower the overall price. It’s great with chicken broth, but it’s nice to keep the cost down. I don’t notice a huge difference in flavor when I just use water. I think the ancho chile speaks for itself.

Uses for red enchilada sauce

Red enchilada sauce is not just for enchiladas, though that would be perfectly sufficient. I use it in chili, like my Chihuahua Chili and atop nachos, like 6-Layer Nachos for the Freezer or these skillet nachos. I drizzle it in burritos and over chimichangas. It’s even great served over grilled meats.

Red enchilada sauce plays a starring role in these recipes:

Making enchilada sauce for the freezer

The process of making homemade enchilada sauce is similar to making gravy. (Yes, you can freeze gravy, too.) You’ll create a roux with hot fat and flour. Add spices and then broth or water. Simmer until thickened. The sauce will then be ready to use in recipes or you can cool it and freeze it to use later.

Enchilada Sauce for the Freezer - Make enchiladas healthier and convenient by mixing up a big batch of enchilada sauce for the freezer.

You’ll want large containers of enchilada sauce (about 2 cups) if you’re going to use it for enchiladas, but I like to stash smaller portions as well for those times when we want just a splash of sauce.

If you love homemade sauces, then it’s in your best interests to make a mega batch of your favorites and store them in freezer-safe containers in your freezer. It’s so wonderful to reach in on a busy night and grab a jar of homemade sauce. It makes your meal taste like a million bucks and saves you loads of time. Freezer cooking, in general, has saved my bacon many a time.

As I’ve moved toward using more glass for food storage, I’ve wanted to freeze in glass as well. I didn’t have much success until I saw this tip for freezing in canning jars, from Aimee at Simple Bites:

Tips for freezing in jars: Leave 2 inches of headspace to allow for expansion. Cool overnight in the fridge. Place on a flat surface in freezer. Freeze with lids off. Add lids when [liquid] is solid and label with the date.

If you don’t follow that tip, you’re likely to have broken jars. Ask me how I know. And glass jars are great for storing enchilada sauce.

Make a batch of this and you will be set for all kinds of good cheap eats this winter.

Enchilada Sauce for the Freezer - Make enchiladas healthier and convenient by mixing up a big batch of enchilada sauce for the freezer.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Kathy says

    I am gluten free and mexican is a type of food that is usually easily made gluten free. Has anyone made this with corn starch instead of flour? That is the switch we make in white sauces based dishes and in gravies.

    • My friend Lynn suggests a GF flour blend or potato starch.

      • Kathy says

        I follow Lynn’s site too. I usually try both my flour mixture and cornstarch just wondered if anyone had tried one that worked for sure. Thanks for the input.

    • Michele Gartner says

      I’ve made it with tapioca flour and didn’t notice a difference.

  2. Jenni says

    As a former so cal girl, turned nor cal girl, I LOVE good Mexican food. I’m able to do it at home, but enchiladas don’t work. My tortillas end up soggy and nasty. Any tips? Thanks!

    • Are you using corn tortillas? Are you frying them in oil and then dipping them in sauce? That really makes a difference.

  3. Nia says

    I’m so glad you posted this.. You and I have talked about frying homemade corn tortillas and how they fall apart. Well I finally tried Masa Harina from Bob’s Red Mill and the tortillas held up fine when fried. I used the 2 cups of water suggested on the bag and they were so good. After removing from the griddle I put tem in a plastic bag and they were so pliable they didn’t need to be fried for enchiladas because they rolled very well without tearing. I fried them anyway so they’d have the flavor I grew up on. I tried the homemade sauce from gimme someoven too. It was the best sauce I’ve ever tasted. BTW I used to make enchilada sauce by starting with tomato sauce and if you season it well with cumin,chili powder and bouillon granules its very tasty too.

    • I’m so glad to hear that about BRM. We’re going to make tamales with it this weekend.

      • Nia Hanna says

        How’d your tamales turn out? I made some last week and I think I needed more that 4 cups of broth. They were a little dry. But that’s my fault for not paying attention. Nothing to do with the BRM masa harina. They still tasted good, just more dry than normal.

  4. Becca says

    I don’t have much freezer space, was wondering if this sauce could be canned?

    • I have no experience with canning enchilada sauce. I would call your county extension office or check the Ball Blue Book.

    • Michelle C says

      I was going to post the same question as Becca about canning instead of freezing. I have a friend who cans a lot of food and will see if she has made enchilada sauce and canned it. If so, I will report her results but I agree with Jessica to check with an extension office or Ball/Mason as well to make sure you (I will check also) have the right information.

      • Martha B says

        I’ve canned red enchilada sauce, but only using a pressure cooker. Growing up in the southwest, there were always stories of families who made themselves sick with poorly canned chile products.

  5. Sara says

    This is probably the third recipe from your site I have tried to Pin in about the last month and not been able to. Since I don’t see in a Pinterest button on this page, I’m trying to copy the web address and use the upload feature on Pinterest, but that doesn’t work either because it is not “finding” an image when I do that. Any ideas?

    • teresa says

      Select the post you want to pin, go to the picture you want pinned and hover over the upper left corner of the picture. The Pin symbol should appear. Left click and the pinning information should come up on your screen. Proceed as usual. Hope this helps.

    • Sorry for my delay in getting back to you. Glad Teresa could help. Thanks for pinning!

  6. Stacy says

    Where do you get that much ancho spice? Also, how would you rate this in terms of spiciness? My husband loves heat, but my son and I don’t.

    • I buy it in the packets in the Mexican food aisle. I don’t think it’s terribly spicy. My littles don’t complain, so I think it’s okay. Use less if you want to be cautious.

  7. Peggy says

    FINALLY!!!! You are the first person who uses flour as a base for your enchilada sauce! This is very authentic. I was given this exact recipe from an elderly friend of mine who owned a Mexican restaurant. She was originally from Mexico City. These beat out enchilada sauces that have tomato sauce in it by far! My family loathe eating enchiladas out because of the sauce selections offered. In fact, my hubby (who is very unfiltered…bless his heart) has no problem letting a restaurant know that my enchiladas would put theirs to shame. It’s all in the sauce! And I don’t take credit for it…it goes to my dear little friend who is no longer with us 🙁 .Now, for those of you concerned about gluten sensitivities, try this alternative solution. Use Einkorn flour to make your roux! Google it and educate yourself on whether this is for you. My daughters cannot have gluten. This works for them. Thanks, Jessica, for sharing this recipe and all your awesome advice! Bon appetit!!!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Peggy! I’ve also used masa as a thickener and that worked well. Obvious corn flavor, but still yummy.

  8. Epicurious says

    I’d love to see the sauce from whole Ancho! You gonna post that? Will try this too, thx.

  9. Anne B says

    Takes a little messing with, but is better than doing it on my own and possibly getting it completely wrong. Copied and pasted the print preview version which finally worked. Guess that is simple txt format. HERE’s the link: http://mykitchencalculator.com/recipeconverter.html

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