A complex and flavorful red chile sauce that can be used as a staple in a variety of Mexican recipes – from tamales to enchiladas, posole & more.
Red Chile sauces are a staple in Mexican cooking. Used in dishes like enchiladas, tamales and even sometimes as a sauce on burritos, they are well enjoyed.
There is no right or wrong way to make red chile sauce. You’ll find that there are different recipes for different parts of Mexico. Different chiles are incorporated in various recipes that give each region of Mexico a different regional twist.
Here in Phoenix, Mexican food is so diverse.
You can find red chile as part of your posole, used to make chile and nopales (cactus), and used as a topping for beans.
Making your own red chile sauce requires simple ingredients. Opting to make your own at home is similar to making your own pasta sauce, or bread. It’s no more time consuming than jumping in the car and buying the sauce in any local store.
In fact, it might just be easier than leaving the house.
Ancho or Pasilla Chile Peppers?
Ancho chile peppers are the dried version of the poblano, while Pasilla chile peppers are the dried version of the chilaca pepper. Both are similar, yet different. They are often times mislabeled in many grocery stores.
Most large grocers carry a single variety of dried chile peppers – here in Arizona, it’s common to find New Mexico Chiles in most stores (Safeway, Kroger, Albertsons).
To find a wider variety, however, you may have to visit a Latin market and you will often times find them in the same area as the dried spices.
How to Make Red Chile Sauce
Pull the stem off the chile and shake (as many of) the seeds out of the dry, red chiles. If they are smaller chiles then throw in an extra one for good measure.
Lightly toast them on low heat for 10-15 seconds per side, being careful not to burn the chiles.
Toasting them will draw out more flavor but…. if they are over-toasted then they can result in a bitter sauce. (If you do happen to over-toast, don’t panic.. I shared a few tips far below that’ll help you save your sauce in the end!)
Once toasted, add the chiles to a small saucepan and add water just until covered. Bring to a boil then turn off the heat, allowing the chiles to rehydrate for up to 10 minutes.
Remove the chiles from the heat, and add to your blender along with 1 1/2 C. (or more) of your soaking water. Add your garlic and puree for 1-2 minutes, adding more water as necessary.
Pour the sauce through a fine strainer into a skillet along with a little olive oil. Simmer the red chile sauce for 8-10 minutes. Then, add your salt and additional (optional) ingredients, tasting as you go.
Take care to remove the foam and discard. Remove from the heat and store in a glass jar.
***Please make sure that you wear gloves when working with chiles. Avoid touching your eyes and face after handling chile peppers.
Red Chile sauce can be quite bitter if you toast the chiles too long before soaking. It’s tempting to think that a few seconds on each side isn’t quite enough.
Feel free to make the following changes to remove any bitterness:
- Using a tsp of chicken bouillon to the chiles as they simmer in the water (before being pureed)
- Adding a pinch of any of the following:
- brown sugar
- cacao powder
- ground whole cloves
- pinch of cinnamon
- spoon of tomato paste
Add ingredients based on your preference. To ours, I love to add a pinch of cumin, brown sugar, and cacao powder and it mellows into a rich, beautiful sauce with a deep flavor.