When you have a recipe that lists enchilada sauce as an ingredient and you do not have it, using a substitute or an alternate can be done. For quick enchilada sauce replacements, try one of these other ingredients. These are all the best substitutes for green or red enchilada sauce. You can also mix up a quick homemade enchilada sauce with the substitute recipe shared below that is not authentic but works in a pinch.
For alternatives when you are without enchilada sauce, this list includes so many choices that there is likely something you have already that you can use in a pinch. There are many ingredients that can be used as a substitution. They all have that similar Mexican spice flavor that works well in many recipes. All of these substitutions work to replace the sauce for chicken, beef, pork, seafood, or vegetable enchiladas.
What is Enchilada Sauce?
To help figure out the best alternative to enchilada sauce in a recipe, it is best to at first know exactly what enchilada sauce is. Many homemade or restaurant varieties are thick and start with a roux of flour and oil. Then the sauce is made up mostly of chiles and spices. There is a bit of tomato in some recipes but traditionally pureed chiles are the main ingredient.
Store-bought enchilada sauce however tends to be thinner and many times without a roux. Therefore, many are gluten-free and often paleo or keto-approved. I love enchiladas and have tried a lot of store-bought kinds. Trust me when I shared about so many brands in the Best Store-Bought Enchilada Sauces.
The Best Enchilada Sauce Substitutes
Here is a quick glance at the best options to save your supper. I am sure you will recognize several of these and hopefully have a few in your refrigerator or pantry already.
- Taco Sauce
- Tomato Sauce
- Ranchero Sauce
- Quick Homemade Enchilada Sauce Replacement Recipe - see recipe card
Easy 1:1 Enchilada Sauce Replacements
These two items are the best substitutes when you need enchilada sauce but are all out and you cannot find it or are unable to run to the store. I suggest using taco or ranchero sauce. Both have great acidic tomato as a base and include similar spices and seasonings as enchilada sauce has. Here is more information on both so you can decide which you will prefer to use as an alternative the next time you run out of enchilada sauce.
Taco sauce has a similar consistency as enchilada sauce. The ingredients are only slightly different with taco sauce tending to use paprika & cayenne for heat versus chiles which is what enchilada sauce uses. They are pretty close and will give the same level of medium heat.
Therefore, it makes an ideal substitute for use. If you have enough taco sauce for your recipe, you can substitute it on a 1:1 basis. So if you need 8oz of enchilada sauce, simply replace it with 8oz of taco sauce.
Ranchero sauce too has a similar consistency as enchilada sauce does. Ranchero is more of a tomato-based sauce where enchilada sauce is made mostly from the puree of chiles, with some broth, and just a bit of tomato. They are similar enough to use them interchangeably. Replacing enchilada sauce with ranchero sauce is easy to do and can be replaced in equal amounts. See the small differences between these two in Ranchero Sauce vs Enchilada Sauce.
Tomato Sauce or Salsa as an Alternate
These two items are also great alternatives to enchilada sauce. The bases of tomato sauce and salsa are a great start that just needs a bit of doctoring to use as a substitute. Since enchilada sauce is thin with spices, each of these is close but needs a bit of a quick and easy recipe idea. Here is how to mix up a quick replacement with each of these ingredients.
This is a quick just open can of tomato sauce and add a few spices sort of recipe. When you are in a pinch and need a quick topping for your enchiladas, this is a tasty replacement. To make a full-on recipe for enchilada sauce using canned tomato sauce, see the recipe card below.
Salsa - Green or Red
This is a healthy alternative for enchilada sauce that is gluten-free and with whole ingredients. The main difference between salsa and enchilada sauce is the texture and consistency. Salsa is a chunky condiment where tomatoes are the main ingredient, with the addition of onions, & chiles. On the other hand, enchilada sauce is thin and chiles are typically the main ingredient.
To get a texture and thin consistency like enchilada sauce, it is best to blend the salsa. Jarred salsa tends to have more of a sauce to it than fresh chopped salsa, pico de gallo. I suggest taking jarred salsa and blending it for a smooth sauce. You can use a tomatillo green salsa or a red salsa in place of enchilada sauce.
You can also make enchilada sauce from taco seasoning. So if you have a shaker or a packet of a taco spice blend, that is a great substitute too. You can cook up this easily with a recipe from Girl Gone Gourmet. It calls for tomato sauce, taco seasoning, and a few other ingredients to whip up quickly.
How to Stretch Enchilada Sauce
All of the above ideas are for when you do not have any enchilada sauce. However, you may also find yourself having enchilada sauce but not enough for the recipe you are making. Here are the best 2 ways to stretch it so you have enough to make those enchiladas or soups.
To stretch enchilada sauce, you can use a combination of any of the above replacements along with the sauce you already have. I suggest adding taco sauce to enchilada sauce to have the amount you need. This is the best way to have enough for the recipe.
You can also blend salsa with enchilada sauce to make more. The same is true with stirring together some ranchero sauce to add to your existing enchilada sauce to stretch it to make a big batch of enchiladas or a casserole for a crowd.
What to Use Enchilada Sauce For
It is of course needed to make enchiladas. But enchilada sauce is also great to use it in other recipes that are not just enchiladas. It adds so much flavor such as in my homemade chicken tortilla soup recipe. Here are some great Mexican recipes that use enchilada sauce or are great to enjoy with them.
Product Recommendations for this Recipe - #ad:
The Short Order Cook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission on the sale at no additional cost to you. This helps with the costs of running the blog. Thank you!
Substitutes for Enchilada Sauce
- 15 ounce canned tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon oregano
- salt & black pepper to taste
- Add all ingredients to a blender.
- Blend for 15 seconds to smooth out the sauce and combine the flavors.
- Use as you would enchilada sauce in your favorite recipe.
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 0.5g||1%|
|Saturated Fat 0.1g||0%|
|Total Carbohydrate 5g||2%|
|Dietary Fiber 1.5g||5%|
|Total Sugars 3.2g|
|Vitamin D 0mcg||0%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.|