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?
When I think of New Mexico cuisine, I think of chile sauces, both red and green. Of the two, red chile sauce is my personal favorite; it has a rich flavor from tomato and a spicy kick from the chile!
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.
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 pods - Available at most grocery stores in the Hispanic section. Look for them in clear packaging and hanging by their label.
- 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.
- Frozen - 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 fine them, it is worth it. These chiles are close to fresh, roasted, peeled, and are super easy to make a sauce with.
- Fresh* - 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 availability in most places.
How to Hydrate Dried Chile Pods
Dried chile pods are 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 with cold water. Place the pot on the stove, bring it to a soft boil, reduce 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, 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.
- Huevous Rancheros
- Frito Pie
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 on 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 - When canning, I use an instapot 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
- Baking sheet
- Medium-sized pot with lid
- 20 dried red chile pods
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ white onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons 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, 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, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 pinch sugar (optional)
- 10 fresh fire-roasted red chiles
- 2 tablespoons of dried chile powder
- 2 - 3 tablespoons of the chile puree