Canning Enchilada Sauce and Red Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Red enchiladas in a casserole dish
Canning enchilada sauce begins by creating the sauce using ripe tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, garlic, and spices. Once the sauce is cooked, hot pack it into sterilized canning jars and process it in a pressure canner or water bath canner for 25-55 minutes per altitude and canner type.

Is it Better to Water Bath Can or Pressure Can Enchilada Sauce?

Red enchilada sauce can be canned in a water bath or pressure canner, and the best method depends on the canner type you have. Pressure canning is recommended for sauces containing low-acid ingredients, such as green enchilada sauce.

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Red enchiladas on a plate

Homemade Enchilada Sauce Canning Recipe

  • Author: Adam
  • Total Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
  • Yield: 7 pints 1x


This canning recipe for enchilada sauce stands out due to its perfect blend of ripe tomatoes, aromatic chili peppers, and a harmonious combination of spices, resulting in a rich and robust flavor profile. Each spoonful brings the authentic taste of Mexico to your table, elevating your chicken enchiladas and tacos!


  • 6 cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • 12 dried Mexican chile peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 large chopped onions
  • 3 tablespoons flour (gluten-free, whole wheat, or all-purpose)
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper (plain red, cayenne, paprika, or chipotle)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1⁄2 cup brown sugar


  1. Sterilize the canning jars, lids, and bands. Use your dishwasher’s sanitize and rinse cycles for the jars or use boiling water and dish soap. Wash the lids and bands in hot soapy water.
  2. Rinse the tomatoes by placing them in a colander or bowl using cool running water.
  3. Dice the tomatoes into small, even pieces.
  4. Rinse the dried peppers in a sieve or bowl of running water to remove any dirt or debris.
  5. Toast the dried peppers on a hot frying pan, skillet, or griddle on each side for 8 to 10 seconds until they puff and blister slightly. Be careful not to burn them.
  6. Let them cool, then remove and discard the stems and seeds. Tear them into large pieces and place them in a bowl. Cover with boiling water and let them stand for 20 minutes or until softened. Drain, putting 1 cup of the water aside.
  7. Sauté the garlic in hot oil in a 6-quart pot over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Stir in the onion and cook, cover and stirring regularly, for 10 minutes or until the onion is tender.
  8. Uncover and cook, stirring regularly, for 5 to 10 minutes or until the onions are lightly browned.
  9. Add the diced tomatoes, sugar, chili powder, salt, cumin, ground red pepper, chilies, and the reserved soaking liquid to the pot. Remove from the heat.
  10. Purée the mixture in a blender in 2-cup batches until smooth. Put the purée back into the pot and bring it to a boil.
  11. Reduce the heat and simmer the tomato sauce, uncovered, stirring often, for 25 minutes or until it thickens and darkens in color.
  12. Use a ladle to fill the sterilized jars with the sauce, leaving ¼ inch headspace.
  13. Use a bubble remover tool to remove any air bubbles.
  14. Wipe the jar rims clean with a damp paper towel.
  15. Place the lids and screw bands on the jars, ensuring clean contact surfaces for a good seal. Adjust lids until fingertip tight.
  16. Put the jars into a pressure canner and process them for 50 – 55 minutes, adjusting for your altitude, jar size, and canner type:

Dial-Gauge Pressure Canner

  • 0 – 2,000ft: 11 lbs
  • 2,001 – 4,000ft: 12 lbs
  • 4,001 – 6,000ft: 13 lbs
  • 6,001ft and up: 14 lbs

Weighted Gauge Pressure Canner

  • 0 – 1,000ft: 10 lbs
  • 1,001ft and up: 15 lbs

Post Processing  

  1. When the time is up, turn the heat off and wait for the canner to return to zero pressure. Leave the lid on for an additional 5 minutes for safety. Open the lid carefully.
  2. Cool the hot jars in the canner for 10 minutes, then carefully lift them out using tongs or a jar lifter and place them in a draft-free area on a cushioned surface to cool for 12-24 hours.
  3. Remove the screw bands to prevent rusting. Check the seals on each jar by pressing on the center of each lid. If it flexes, it is not sealed properly and should be moved to the refrigerator and used within 3-5 days.
  4. Sealed jars should be wiped clean, labeled with the canning date and contents, and stored in a cool, dry place.
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Canning Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour


  • Serving Size: 60g
  • Calories: 24kcal
  • Sugar: 4g
  • Sodium: 520mg
  • Fat: 0g
  • Saturated Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 5g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Cholesterol: 0g

What Ingredients Are Used for Making Canned Red Enchilada Sauce?

To make a batch of homemade red enchilada sauce, use the following ingredients:

  1. Red chiles: Choose dried ancho chiles, guajillo chiles, or New Mexico chiles.
  2. Tomato paste gives a depth of flavor and richness to the sauce and adds color.
  3. Fresh garlic cloves or garlic powder enhance the savory profile of the sauce.
  4. Chopped onion adds aromatic sweetness and texture.
  5. Cumin, oregano, and paprika add complexity and depth to the flavor profile.
  6. Vegetable or chicken broth enhances flavor and provides a liquid base for the sauce.
  7. Vinegar or lime juice is added to balance the flavors and provide tanginess.
Enchilada sauce ingredients in a stone pestle
Enchilada sauce ingredients

Why Is Canned Enchilada Sauce Bitter?

Canned enchilada sauce can turn out bitter for a few reasons:

  1. If any of the ingredients are burnt or overcooked, it can taste bitter.
  2. Using an excessive amount of certain spices, especially ground cumin or chili powder, can lead to a bitter taste.
  3. Enchilada sauce typically contains acidic ingredients like tomatoes or vinegar; not balancing acidic ingredients with other flavors can result in bitterness.

How to Fix Bitter Enchilada Sauce

  1. If the sauce is too bitter, adding more liquid, like broth or water, can help dilute the bitterness and mellow out the flavors.
  2. Add a pinch of sugar, a teaspoon of honey, or a splash of maple syrup to balance out the bitterness.
  3. Add a little more salt to offset the bitterness of cumin or chili powder.
Honey, maple syrup, molasses, and table sugar on small plates on a table
Ingredients for fixing bitter sauce

How Can I Fix Canned Enchilada Sauce that is Too Sweet?

If your canned enchilada sauce turns out too sweet, there are several ways to balance the sweetness and adjust the flavor:

  1. Adding acids, such as lime juice or vinegar, can counteract the sweetness.
  2. Add heat in the form of diced jalapeños, red pepper flakes, or a pinch of cayenne pepper can balance the sweetness.
  3. Salt can help counterbalance sweetness by enhancing other flavors in the sauce.
  4. Unsweetened cocoa powder or a dash of espresso powder adds depth, complexity, and bitterness that balances the sweetness.
  5. Add additional spices such as garlic powder, onion powder, or a savory spice blend like cumin or smoked paprika.

How to Thicken Canned Enchilada Sauce

Thickening canned enchilada sauce before canning is not recommended, as thick purees are unsafe for the canning process. However, you can take steps to thicken the sauce right before using it:

  1. Reduce the sauce. Pour the sauce into a saucepan and simmer it uncovered over low to medium heat to reduce. This allows some moisture to evaporate, resulting in a thicker consistency.
  2. Create a slurry by mixing cornstarch or flour with a small amount of cold water until smooth. Add the slurry to the simmering sauce while stirring continuously. Cook for a few minutes so the starch thickens the sauce.
  3. Create a roux by combining equal parts flour and fat (such as butter or oil) in a separate pan. Cook over medium heat until it forms a paste-like consistency. Gradually whisk in small amounts of the canned enchilada sauce, allowing it to thicken before adding more. Combine the roux mixture with the enchilada sauce once the desired thickness is reached.
A large sauce pan with thickened fat and flour and a wooden spoon
Roux in a pot

What are the Differences Between Canned and Fresh Enchilada Sauce?

Canned enchilada sauce is typically pre-made and processed, often containing preservatives and additives for longer shelf life. A store-bought sauce provides convenience and consistency in flavor but may lack the fresh, vibrant taste of a homemade sauce.

Fresh enchilada sauce is made from scratch using fresh ingredients such as tomatoes, chilies, onions, and spices, resulting in a more authentic and customizable flavor profile that can be tailored to personal preferences.

What are the Benefits of Canning Enchilada Sauce?

Here are the health benefits and conveniences of canned enchilada sauce:

  • Consistency: Canned sauces offer a consistent flavor and texture, ensuring that each batch of enchiladas tastes the same.
  • Convenience: Canned enchilada sauce provides a ready-to-use option that saves you time and effort in the kitchen, eliminating the need for extensive preparation and cooking.
  • Cost-effective: Purchasing canned sauce in bulk or during sales can be cost-effective compared to buying fresh ingredients separately to make homemade sauce.
  • Efficiency: Canned enchilada sauce eliminates the need to gather and measure individual ingredients, making it a convenient choice for quick and easy meal preparation.
  • Preservation: Canning extends the shelf life of enchilada sauce for months or even years, reducing food waste.
Jars of red enchilada sauce
Canned enchilada sauce

How to Store Canned Enchilada Sauce

Follow these steps to store canned enchilada sauce:

  1. Keep the canned sauce in a cool, dry place with a stable temperature. Aim for temperatures between 50°F and 70°F.
  2. Store the cans in a pantry or cupboard away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and moisture.
  3. Place the cans in a single layer, preferably upright, to prevent them from rolling or getting damaged.
  4. Use the principle of “first in, first out.” Arrange the cans so that the oldest ones are at the front, making it easier to use them before the newer ones.
  5. Regularly inspect the cans for any signs of damage, such as dents, bulging, or leaks. If you notice any compromised cans, discard them immediately.

How Long Does Canned Enchilada Sauce Last?

Canned enchilada sauce has a shelf life of 1 to 2 years. The specific expiration or “best by” date can vary depending on the brand and the processing method. Any indications of spoilage, like an off odor, discoloration, or mold growth, mean you should discard the sauce.


Adam was fascinated from an early age by his father's car and his mum's kitchen. His love of home food preparation stems from her. From baking to roasting and freezing to canning, he has always followed the lessons she taught him all those years ago.

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