Homemade Smoky Enchilada Sauce

So despite the fact that I’ve been complaining about my fruitless (teehee) efforts in the garden, I did plant four roma tomato plants this summer. Well, actually, I only planted three. The fourth sprouted up from unfinished compost that was comprised of last year’s end-of-season withered plants. This lonesome plant also happens to be my most productive. Go figure! What I’m getting at is I have had a steady influx of tomatoes that, truth be told, aren’t tasty enough to eat as is (unlike my sun gold tomatoes which are delicious!) so I’ve had to plan accordingly on how to preserve this harvest, if you will.

Last weekend I attempted to can some, but had a few hiccups during the process and my fear of botulism outweighed my desire to fish out my canned tomatoes from the pantry come January. And so with that I made my baked eggplant parmigiana, but that’s for another post. So I was talking to my husband Paul about it and we decided that it just might be best to make his grandmother’s famed sauce and freeze it. Now I don’t get in the way with a man and his Italian roots so that will be his Sunday chore in between football games. But Paul was out of town and I needed something to do (or cook, rather). Coming home from work and cooking dinner is so ingrained in my schedule that if I don’t have to make anything, I still wind up messing around in the kitchen. Even if it involves eating ice cream out of the carton while standing up. I’m compulsive, what can I say?

I don’t know about your household, but Mexican is an easy go-to for us. Plus, with my push to eat pasture-raised and grass-fed local meat products which gets expensive and ultimately leads to fewer and fewer meat dishes a week, I can use a meat analog (Boca crumbles or Beyond Meat’s Beef-Free Crumbles which is comprised of pea protein instead of soy) that even my husband and step-kids seem to enjoy. And so I’ve been expanding my Mexican repertoire beyond burritos and taco salads to include a Mexican lasagna with corn tortillas and enchilada sauce. Have you checked out the ingredient list on some popular brands of enchilada sauce?! 1.) water 2.) pureed tomatoes 3.) modified corn starch. 98% of that can is comprised of those ingredients. Certainly I can make a better one! And so I did!

When I research recipes I tend to search for the ones that are in line with what I have in mind or what I have on hand. So I didn’t have any fresh chili peppers like ancho or guajillo which are traditionally used in enchilada sauce and I wasn’t using tomato sauce because I had my fresh romas. So here is what I came up with. And look, readers! Actual measurements!


Smoky Enchilada Sauce

1 1/2 pound of tomatoes (or 1-28 oz. crushed tomatoes)
1 small onion
2-3 garlic cloves

3 tbsp. vegetable oilIMG_1685
3 tbsp. flour
1 tbsp. chili powder*
1 tbsp. smoked paprika*
1 tbsp. ancho chili powder*
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. sugar**
1 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp. black pepper


1.) If you’re using fresh tomatoes, you’ll need to peel and seed them. Start by slicing an “x” on the bottom of the tomatoes and dropping them in boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute and then submerging them in ice water. The skins should come right off. Slice the top off and squeeze out some of the seeds.

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2.) Throw your fresh tomatoes (or pureed) into the blender with a small chopped onion and 2-3 garlic cloves (depending on their size) and buzz it up until smooth.

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3.) Heat your oil over medium heat and then whisk in your flour. This is called a roux (used as a thickening agent and/or flavor enhancer) which is the basis for many wonderful dishes (béchamel sauce, macaroni and cheese, gumbo, velouté sauce). Just remember: equal parts of flour and fat (butter, oil or bacon fat). No need to brown it as it’s just meant to bind the enchilada sauce. It should be done after a few minutes of whisking on low heat.

Ok, I did brown it a little…

4.) Add your pureed mixture and the rest of the ingredients. I also added a little of the water that I boiled the tomatoes in to thin it out a tad. Simmer for 20-25 minutes to meld flavors.


*Feel free to use a combination of different chili powders depending on preference. Smoked paprika is another of my can’t-IMG_1679live-without ingredients, but if you buy it at the grocery store, you’ll be spending between $6 and $8. Instead, check out your local home goods store. I paid $5.99 for this tin and it is lasting me a long time.

**The sugar helps to mellow out the bitter taste of the spices.

And you are ready for anything enchilada! Margaritas, anyone?