I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of enchilada sauce substitutes to find the best one for every cooking occasion.
Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.
The best substitutes for enchilada sauce are the homemade version, chile colorado sauce, or salsa ranchera. If you want a zestier kick, go with a green salsa verde. Mole Colorado is a great option if you want something heavier. And if you want something totally different, go with a cream sauce.
Ready? Let’s jump right in.
I made enchiladas to test a variety of different enchilada sauce substitutes (what else could I make?!).
Enchilada sauce is a tomato-based sauce that’s slathered over enchiladas before you bake them. It has a rich, zesty flavor that’ll have you coming back for more!
I was looking for a substitute that delivers a similar flavor and can complement the enchilada’s Tex-Mex flavors.
Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Substitutes||How to substitute||Verdict|
|Homemade enchilada sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Chile colorado sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Salsa ranchera||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||10/10|
|Salsa verde||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Mole colorado||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||9/10|
|Tex-Mex chili gravy||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
|Cream-based enchilada sauce||Replace in a 1:1 ratio||8/10|
Homemade enchilada sauce
All Recipe’s homemade enchilada sauce will save you the emergency grocery trip!
It’s incredibly easy to make and only requires a handful of pantry staples.
It uses tomato sauce as the foundation, and you can quickly build up layers of flavor with spices like cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder.
Plus, you can tailor the taste to your liking – a dash of smoked paprika or a splash of lime juice can elevate the sauce to new heights.
How to substitute: Replace store-bought enchilada sauce in a 1:1 ratio with homemade enchilada sauce.
Chile colorado sauce
Looking for a tomato-free alternative to enchilada sauce? Chili Colorado sauce has your back!
Epicurious has a simple recipe that utilizes New Mexico and guajillo chilies to create a sauce with a deep color and a rich, savory flavor to jazz up your enchiladas.
And instead of simply rehydrating the dried chiles, the recipe requires you to roast them for a bit, which intensifies their smoky flavors.
I slathered this sauce over my enchiladas, and I couldn’t get enough of them!
Pssst… craving for an extra kick? Toss in a couple of chili de arbol to turn up the heat.
How to substitute: Replace enchilada sauce in a 1:1 ratio with chile colorado sauce.
Salsa ranchera is the go-to alternative for enchilada sauce if you want to keep it authentic.
This chunky salsa is made from roasted tomatoes and jalapeno peppers. Jalapeno peppers give the sauce a mild-medium spice level.
If you want something spicier, use serrano peppers or even habanero peppers.
Check out the easy recipe from Chili Pepper Madness!
How to substitute: Replace enchilada sauce in a 1:1 ratio with salsa ranchera.
Salsa verde is a zesty alternative to traditional enchilada sauce that will have your taste buds dancing with delight.
This classic Mexican sauce is made with tomatillos, which give it a stunning green color and a tart flavor.
And if you want to tone down the sourness, throw in some pureed avocado for a touch of creaminess.
Psst… tomatillos aren’t the same as green tomatoes, but you can use them in a pinch.
How to substitute: Replace enchilada sauce in a 1:1 ratio with salsa verde.
Mole Colorado is another authentically Mexican alternative to enchilada sauce.
Its deep, reddish-brown colors mirrors that of enchilada sauce, but the taste is unique.
The addition of raisins and chocolate bring a subtle sweetness that rounds out this velvety sauce’s rich flavor profile brilliantly.
Pro tip: this sauce goes best with chicken enchiladas.
How to substitute: Replace enchilada sauce in a 1:1 ratio with mole colorado.
Tex-Mex chili gravy
Tex-Mex chili gravy is the lovechild of regular gravy and traditional enchilada sauce.
It starts with a roux and beef broth base, and then it’s seasoned with a medley of Tex-Mex spices (like oregano and cumin), infusing every bite with warm, savory goodness.
And don’t skip the tomato paste – it adds extra richness and body to the sauce, making it finger-licking good.
Pro-tip: use low-sodium beef broth. If you go for the regular version, cut back on the salt content in the recipe.
How to substitute: Replace enchilada sauce in a 1:1 ratio with Tex-Mex chili gravy.
Cream-based enchilada sauce
Tired of tomatoes? Why not try a cream-based enchilada sauce instead!
It’s not a traditional choice, but a luscious sauce is the perfect way to mix things up in the kitchen.
The velvety sauce starts with a roux, and the addition of sour cream imparts a tangy twist that still captures the essence of classic enchilada sauce.
I loaded my enchiladas up with extra cheese for good measure and they were a big hit!
How to substitute: Replace enchilada sauce in a 1:1 ratio with cream-based enchilada sauce.
Avoid sofrito base
I came across this suggestion during my research, but sofrito alone can’t stand in for enchilada sauce!
Sofrito is a savory paste made from a medley of tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, and fresh herbs.
It’s used as a base for different dishes, and you can definitely use it as a starting point for your enchilada sauce, like with this recipe.
7 Best Enchilada Sauce Substitutes + 1 To Avoid
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- ¼ cup New Mexico or California chili powder
- 2 tbsp self-rising flour
- 1½ cups water
- 8 oz can tomato sauce
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp onion salt
- Heat an oiled skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chili powder and flour, then reduce the heat. Cook until the mixture is fragrant. Continue stirring for a minute to prevent the flour from burning.
- Add in the water, tomato sauce, cumin, garlic powder, and onion salt. Mix everything until smooth.
- Continue cooking the sauce over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until it becomes slightly thick.
- Serve and enjoy immediately.