Easy Red Chile Sauce for Tamales or Enchiladas

red chile sauce on tamaleA good red chile sauce is so soul-tinglingly delicious, and, it turns out, really easy to make, too. I like to use New Mexico chiles because I think they have the best flavor, but discovered recently that California and Anaheim chiles are descendants of the New Mexico chile so either are a fine substitute.

red chiles for red chile sauceTo make my red chile sauce, I toast the chiles ever so briefly in the saucepan I’m going to soak them in. Even with just a hint of toast, I find that the chiles alone can become too bitter for my taste, so I add plump, dark raisins to the sauce. These are soaked in hot water along with the chiles, and then pureed into the sauce. They add a deep, rounded sweetness that balances the smokiness of the chiles.

This easy red chile sauce goes well with just about any type of meat-, cheese-, or vegetable-filled tamale or enchilada. Make a double batch and you can keep half in your freezer for a quick and easy meal down the road.


Easy Red Chile Sauce for Tamales or Enchiladas

This red chile sauce has deep flavor–a smoky spiciness from lightly toasted dried chiles and the round, deep sweetness of dark raisins. It goes perfectly with tamales and enchiladas, whether they’re stuffed with pork, chicken, cheese, or vegetables. Whenever I make this recipe, I make a double batch and stash half in the freezer for another meal.

  • Author: Robin


1 (4-ounce) bag dried New Mexico or Anaheim chiles (12 to 15 chiles), stemmed and with the seeds removed
½ cup raisins
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon crumbled dried oregano
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add the chiles and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, just until the chiles become aromatic. Cover the chiles completely with water (about 4 cups) and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, stir in the raisins, and let sit for about 30 minutes.
  2. Transfer the chiles and raisins to a blender, reserving the soaking water. Add the garlic, cumin, oregano, and salt, along with about 2 cups of the soaking water, and process to a smooth puree. Add the remaining water and process to combine.
  3.  Heat the butter in the saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the pureed chile mixture, and simmer until the sauce thickens, 10 to 15 minutes. Use immediately or let cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator for up to a week or in a resealable plastic bag in the freezer for up to 3 months.
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