9 Enchilada Sauce Substitutes to Keep that Spicy Kick in the Dish

What is enchilada sauce?

Enchilada is a well-known Mexican sauce made of tomatoes, chilies, beef broth, garlic, onion, and dried spices including cumin and oregano. They are all simmered until thickened. 

This super deciduous and spicy sauce pairs well with meats, veggies, soups, casseroles, and of course Mexican dishes such as tacos, nachos, tortillas, enchiladas, and tamales. 

You can find canned enchilada sauce from stores or make it at home with the same ingredients. In case you have run out of this sauce or it’s too spicy for you, you can use some of the enchilada sauce substitutes we offer in this article.  

The best substitutes for enchilada sauce are green enchilada sauce, salsa sauce, taco sauce, chiltomate sauce, spaghetti sauce with spices, ranchero sauce, picante sauce, and tomato sauce with spices. 

Best Substitutes for Enchilada Sauce To Try

1. Green Enchilada Sauce

Green enchilada sauce is made of roast green chilies, jalapenos, tomatillos, onion, garlic, and spices. It is made the same way as enchilada sauce and therefore gets the same thickness. It is green in color, and rich in taste with a tangy flavor, slight sweetness, and spiciness. 

If you decide to make it at home, you can add red chilies for extra spiciness. You can use it instead of regular enchilada sauce with many dishes including quesadillas, tortillas, burritos, eggs, vegetables, and beans. 

2. Salsa Sauce

Salsa sauce is another spicy sauce made of fire-roasted tomatoes, chilies, garlic, onion, and dry spices such as chili as cilantro, salt, and pepper. There are several varieties of salsa sauce and depending on the brand you choose the list of ingredients may vary but the taste is usually slightly sweet, savory, and zesty. 

If you make it yourself, you can add spicy condiments to bring spiciness and make it taste the way you like. This sauce is used with tacos, nachos, enchiladas, fajitas, and meats. You can use it as a salad dressing too and add it to casseroles and crock pot meals. 

3. Taco Sauce

Can taco sauce be substituted for enchilada sauce?

Taco sauce is perhaps one of the easiest substitutes for enchilada as it’s available almost everywhere. It’s a red sauce made of tomato sauce, onion, garlic and cumin powders, sugar vinegar, paprika, and hot peppers like jalapeno, cayenne pepper, etc. 

The taste is complex; from spicy to acid and from salty to mounth-numbingly hot. You can use it with tacos, pizzas, burritos, vegetables, meats, salads, and eggs. Compared to an enchilada, a taco contains more tomatoes rather than chilies. 

4. Chiltomate Sauce

Another spicy sauce native to Mexico is chiltomate sauce. It’s made of tomatoes, habanero chili peppers, onions, and coriander. Chilies, onions, and tomatoes are grilled due to which they get a more pronounced taste with pleasant smokiness. 

Compared to enchilada sauce, this sauce has a clearer spicy taste with sweet and smoky undertones. You can use it with enchiladas, tacos, papadzules, and many other Mexican dishes. 

5. Spaghetti Sauce + Spices

A quick and easy way to replace enchilada sauce is using a mixture of spaghetti sauce and some dry spices such as cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, and oregano. Spaghetti sauce is sweet on its own and if you add these spices it will resemble enchilada sauce. 

So, if you have spaghetti sauce in hand you can make a spicy version of it and use it instead of enchilada sauce in many dishes. You can find spaghetti sauce from grocery stores under the name “Ragu”. It’s a popular Italian sauce used with pasta, vegetable casseroles, soups, and pizzas or served as a dipping sauce. 

6. Ranchero Sauce

Ranchero sauce is made of jalapenos, tomatoes, oregano, garlic, salt, onion, and oil. It comes from Mexican cuisine and is used with many Mexican dishes including chicken tacos, fajitas, steak fajitas, carne asada, and tortillas. 

Since the tomatoes and peppers are fire-roasted they add a smoky flavor to the sauce and create a sweet-spicy combination of flavors with the rest of the ingredients. Ranchero sauce is quite similar to enchilada sauce but compared to enchilada it’s a bit thicker. 

7. Picante Sauce

Picante sauce is a thinner sauce made of tomatoes, chili peppers like jalapenos, red or green peppers as well as garlic, onion, and dry spices. It tastes spicy and tangy at the same time and goes well with enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and many other Mexican dishes. 

You can use it as a dip for tortilla chips too. Compared to enchilada sauce, picante sauce is less spicier. It’s a great choice for those who can’t tolerate spicy sauces. 

8. Tomato Sauce + Spices

If you are looking for another easy way to make a sauce reminiscent of enchilada sauce then take tomato sauce and add spices to it to get what you need. Spices like chili powder, salt, black pepper, cumin powder, garlic powder, and onion powder will enrich the tomato sauce and make it taste a bit spicy.

If you add vinegar and beef/chicken broth, the taste and consistency will be closer. You can use a blender to combine the flavors and get a smooth sauce-like consistency. There is no need to simmer it and as you see it’s quite easy and quick to make at home. 

9. Homemade Enchilada Sauce 

And here comes a good recipe for homemade enchilada sauce for you to make your own spicy sauce at home. 

So, all you need is tomato paste, chili powder, olive oil, flour, beef broth, garlic powder, onion powder, ground cumin, dried oregano, salt, black pepper, and vinegar. 

If you have all the ingredients, then start the preparation. Warm the oil in the pan, add the flour and spices, and whisk for a minute. 

Then add the tomato paste and the broth and mix them all well. Let it simmer until it gets thicker. Take it and add vinegar, salt, and black pepper. 

Let it cool and store it in an airtight container. 


Can I substitute sofrito sauce for enchilada sauce?

Sofrito sauce is generally used with cooked dishes. However, it can be used instead of enchilada sauce thanks to its thick paste-like texture, slight spiciness, and fresh flavor. 

It’s a Spanish sauce and is a great base for other sauces, soups, stews, beans, and stocks. 

How long can I keep homemade enchilada sauce?

You can keep it for up to 5-7 days if you store it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge. It will thicken in the fridge, so dilute it with some broth or water before using. 

How do you take the heat out of enchilada sauce?

If the store-bought enchilada sauce is too hot for you, you can add some sour cream or yogurt to it and mix it well. This way, you’ll tone down the heat and make it milder. 

Another way to take the heat out of this sauce is by adding more tomatoes to it. 


As you see, it’s easy to make enchilada sauce with the ingredients you have in hand but if you don’t have time for it, then use store-bought alternatives instead. 

They will add that fresh, spicy, and a little bit hot kick to your dishes making them more appetizing and delicious. 

Don’t forget to share your experience with us and tell us about the best enchilada sauce substitute for a particular dish you have tried with. 

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