With canned enchilada sauce, you use just one item -- but the sauce doesn't taste as fresh as sauce you make yourself with as few as five ingredients. Choose between a red sauce to go over beef, chicken or cheese enchiladas, or a green sauce, which works well with chicken or pork. If you have the time, budget and inclination, be generous and opt for a sixth ingredient to add.
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A simple, red enchilada sauce takes about 1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce, or a 15-ounce can, for about six medium-size enchiladas; for more sauce add a bit of water. Spice it up with about a tablespoon of chili powder and cumin. For smoky flavor plus heat, add 1 teaspoon or more to taste of chopped or blended chipotle chilies in adobo sauce. You could stop here or add 1/2 cup of salsa for a fifth ingredient to give the sauce more texture and flavor.
Instead of roasting tomatillos and serrano chiles for an authentic enchilada verde, or enchilada with green sauce, use a small can of green chilies for spiciness and color. Begin with a roux, cooking about 3 tablespoons of flour for each 1 tablespoon of oil for one or two minutes. Then add about 1 cup of chicken stock for every four enchiladas you plan to make and cook the sauce until it's thickened. Season the mix with about a teaspoon of cumin.
Variations and Substitutions
Red and green sauce take even fewer than five ingredients if you use commercially prepared red or green enchilada sauce as the sauces already include a mix of chili powder, cumin and other spices. For authenticity, grind your own cumin seeds and toast fresh chilies to deepen the flavor of the sauce. If you use prepared green enchilada sauce, substitute about 1/4 cup of sour cream in place of the chicken stock and roux.
Optional Sixth Ingredients
Red sauce gets a creamy texture if you stir in about 1/4 cup of sour cream into the sauce after you make it. Green sauce gets heightened color and flavor from an additional 1/4 cup of chopped, fresh cilantro, an authentic Mexican ingredient. Salsa in either color adds depth of flavors to enchilada sauces since it typically includes onions, garlic, tomatoes or chilies; add 1/4 to 1/2 cup to any sauce recipe.