A bright and flavorful topping, authentic New Mexican red chile (chili) sauce is a staple around the southwest. Sometimes confused with enchilada or tamale sauce, red chile sauce has a spicy kick to it. BTW, did I mention this is a super easy recipe to make?
New Mexico cuisine is synonymous with New Mexcian chile, both red and green. Both chiles are often made into sauces, red chile sauce, and green chile sauce.
In New Mexico and Colorado where I live, food flavored with chile sauces is very popular. A common mistake thinking red chile sauce and enchilada sauce is the same. While they are similar, they are also very different. Red chile sauce is spicier and has more complexity.
Fun fact you might not know about New Mexican food; It has evolved over a few hundred years and is a fusion of Pueblo Native Americans, with Hispano Spanish and Mexican cuisine (thank you, Wikipedia for that ). The distinctive ingredient of New Mexican food is chiles.
Broth - 2 cups - I use vegetable broth, however you can also use chicken stock with this recipe.
Cumin - ½ teaspoon - of ground cumin
Fresh garlic cloves - up to 5 cloves minced - If you do not have fresh cloves, you can use garlic powder. In either case, adjust the recipe to fit your personal preference.
Mexican Oregano - ½ Teaspoon - Note that Mexcian oregano is different than Italian oregano. If you cannot find Mexcian oregano, I would recommend skipping it rather than adding a different type of oregano
Olive oil - 1 tablespoon - I use extra virgin olive oil. If you do not have olive oil, you can substitute it with any flavorless oil such as canola.
Red chile pods - 20 dried or 10 fresh
White onion - ½ cup diced - Yellow onions or shallots will also work with this recipe. Because everything ends up in the blender, the onion cuts can be rough.
Salt - 1 teaspoon - Standard table salt or sea salt works well with this recipe
Sugar - 1 pinch (optional) - I like a little sugar to sweeten up the sauce. Note, a little goes a long way.
Tomato Paste - 4 tablespoons - From time to time I receive messages about adding tomato paste. However, I stand by it. Tomato paste works as a thickening agent. Fresh pods are very meaty and create a thicker sauce. However, most people do not have access to fresh pods and therefore use dried pods. The dried pods cause the sauce to become water-like. Tomato paste thickens the sauce and adds flavor.
If you feel strongly against tomato paste, try mixing four tablespoons of water with four tablespoons of flour. Mix thoroughly before adding to the red chile.
Red chiles can be found at most grocery stores or Walmart. It is common to see red chiles in up to 3 different forms; dried pods, powder, or puree.
The recipe instructions are for dried chile pods, as these are the most common. I did include substitution measurements in the notes.
In the Mood for Something Else?
- Dried Chile Pods - Available at most grocery stores in the Hispanic section. Look for dried chili pods in clear packaging and hanging by their label.
- Red Chile Powder - You can find this at most grocery stores in the Hispanic section as well. This powder is different then the chili powder you find in the seasoning section. This also is typically sold in a clear package hanging by the label. I do not recommend using powder with this recipe.
- Frozen Red Chiles - The frozen red chilies are in a tub at the end of the vegetable section in my store. You might have to search in your store to find them. But if you can find them, it is worth it. These chiles are close to fresh, roasted, and peeled, and are super easy to make a sauce with.
- Fresh Red Chiles* - In some of the larger cities in the west, you can find roadside stands where the chiles are being fire-roasted on site. It is fun to watch the roasting, and the flavor is amazing.
* Fresh chiles are not pictured due to lack of availability in most places.
How to Hydrate Dried Chile Pods
Most dried chiles are New Mexican dried chile pods and can be found year-round in most grocery stores. As a result, this is the most common form of red chile used when making sauce. Hydrating the pods are very easy.
Time needed: 45 minutes.
- Roast The Dried Pods
To get the best possible flavor out of these chiles, you will want to roast them in the oven. Start by preheating your oven to 425. Spread the chiles out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the chiles in the oven for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.
- Clean The Pods
The next step is to clean the pods by removing the stem and seeds.
- Hydrate The Pods
Place the chile pods in a pot and cover them with cold water. Place the pot on the stove, bring it to a soft boil, reduce to a low heat, and cover it for 10 minutes. Once cooled, remove from the water.
Pro-tip: Save the water. You might want to use it in place of broth when blending the sauce.
Ways To Enjoy Chile Sauce
In my house, spicy red chile sauce is used on just about everything. My husband uses it in place of hot sauce, and I pretty much use it on anything made with eggs or cheese. Here are some of our favorite dishes to use this sauce with.
- Breakfast Burritos
- Huevos Rancheros
- Frito Pie
- Chile Beans
Frequently Asked Questions
In the spectrum of chiles, the red ones are mild. However, spice is really up to personal preference. If you are concerned about spice, purchase mild chiles and only add in half the recipe amount. You can add more chiles to increase the heat to your desired preference.
Excellent question. Enchilada sauce, red chile sauce, and even Mexican red sauce are all very similar. The terms are often used interchangeably. However, some would consider calling them fighting words.
Yes, this red chile sauce recipe is vegan
The two are often confused. I have even confused the spellings within this blog. However, the two are very different. Here is the best way to keep them straight.
Watch How To Make
I like to make red chile sauce in large batches. I keep some, and I give some away as gifts, usually around Christmas. Here is the best way I have found to store red sauce:
- Refrigerator - Store in a glass container or a mason jar. The sauce will keep for one week.
- Freezer - Store in a freezer-safe container or bag. The sauce will keep for up to three months.
- Canning - Every fall I make this recipe in large batches and can in mason jars. When canning, I use an instantpot for pressure canning. Whenever canning, always follow safety precautions. You can find the national standards here.
Read Before Working With Fresh Chiles
Fresh chile oil is hot and can stay on your hands for a day or two. Before working with fresh chiles, remove your contacts. I also strongly recommend wearing gloves.
New Mexican Red Chile Sauce
- 20 dried red chile pods
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ white onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 4 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 pinch sugar (optional) *See notes for fresh chile, paste, or powder, substitutions.
- Prepare the Chiles: Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the chiles on the baking sheet and roast them in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the chiles from the oven and cool. Once cooled, clean the chiles by breaking off the stems and removing the seeds. Place the cleaned chiles in a pot and cover with 1 -2 inches of cold water. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.20 dried red chile pods
- Prepare the Onions and Garlic: While the chiles are in the oven, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add the diced onions and saute for 2 minutes. While the onions are cooking, season with cumin, Mexican oregano and salt. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute.1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ white onion, diced, 5 garlic cloves, minced, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon cumin
- Blend the Ingredients: Place all the ingredients in a blender (chiles, onions, garlic, broth, and tomato paste.) and blend until smooth. Optional - add a pinch of sugar to offset the bitterness of the tomato.2 cups vegetable broth, 4 tablespoon tomato paste, 1 pinch sugar (optional)