Mexican Red Chili Gravy (aka Sauce)




I first discovered the "real" red chili sauce on a trip to New Mexico. A relative sent me home with a bag of roasted and dried red chili peppers - (ancho I believe). A year later I found myself without a can of enchilada sauce but all the rest of the fixings. Half an hour on Google and a phone call to a native Texan later, I was on the right track. This second batch comes from a bag of chilis sent east from Colorado. They're available from your average grocery that has a half decent Mexican food section.

The ingredients and steps are a combination of my Texas connection and this recipe from Simply Recipes.

Step 1: Gather Ingredients and Prepare Peppers

You will need:

8-10 red chili peppers
three cloves garlic
salt and black pepper
ground cumin
ground clove
concentrated bullion such as Better than Bullion vegetable base or chicken stock.

I've seen recommendations for using a roux to thicken the gravy - I tried this a while back and found it to be unnecessary. The sauce is plenty thick if you do it right and the leftovers don't seem to over thicken due to the flour.

cast iron pan or similar
sieve or screen
rubber spatula
2 qt sauce pan

Tear the ends off the peppers and remove the seeds and the inner parts. Use gloves if you are going to be rubbing your eyes, picking your nose, or touching any other tender bits. (Though it does not happen to me, some people's hands are irritated by the capsican in the chilis).

Step 2: Heat the Peppers

Supposedly, heating the peppers lightly brings out the flavor. Though I suspect that the previous roasting did the lions share of that task, I do heat them lightly in a cast iron pan - being careful not to burn or scorch. While they are heating, heat about 2 inches of water in a small sauce pan to boiling.

Step 3: Boil Peppers

Drop the peppers in the boiling water and stir with a wooden spoon. The water should just cover the peppers. Stir the peppers a few times to make sure they heat evenly. After about 10 minutes turn off the heat and let the peppers soak for at least 15 minutes. Longer won't hurt.

Step 4: Strain the Peppers

Strain out the water and reserve is a bowl.

Step 5: Blend Ingredients

Add the chilis, garlic, salt and black pepper to taste, 1 tsp or less bouillon (mixed with 1/3 c of the reserved stock) and optional 1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cumin and a dash of ground cloves. Use less salt if the bouillon is salty.

Blend until smooth. Add back in some of the reserved water - 1/3 cup at a time until the sauce moves freely in the blender but is thick enough to hang on a fork. Some like it thinner - its a personal preference.

My batch took about 1.5 cups water and I probably should have added more. Your amount will vary.

I would blend for at least 2 minutes.

CAUTION: If the peppers are still hot and your blend lid is tight, pressure can build up and blow the top off making quite a mess. I suggest holding the top down.l

Step 6: Strain the Sauce

Pour the sauce into a sieve or strainer and strain back into your saucepan. I use a screen sieve that has holes about the size of window screen which seems to work pretty well. Smaller and it will be a pain to get the sauce through, larger and you'll get chunks. As it is, you'll need to take a rubber spatula and work the sauce through the screen. Don't forget to wipe the back of the screen when you are done.

Step 7: Simmer the Sauce

Bring the sauce to a low boil, and simmer on low for 5-8 minutes stirring every minute or so. You'll want to cover the pot to keep it from splattering. This step blends the spices and turns the gravy a nice rich darker color.

Step 8: Serve That Gravy

Decant the gravy to your favorite vessel and you are ready to chow. I used this batch right away on enchiladas - but you can store in the fridge for a few days for use on huevos rancheros, tamales etc.

If you try the recipe, add a comment and tell us how it went.


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15 Discussions


3 years ago

I love this nice and very tasty


4 years ago

Oh yes i forgot; thank you for sharing!

delish ... we are Street Smart Chef s on facebook and this is delish... we are using it!


5 years ago on Step 7

There is a mexican food contest going on right now. This would be a great submission. I thought of making my own, but I looked around to see if there was already a good red chile/ enchilada sauce instructable here and this is great. I grew up with mom making her enchiladas with a sauce just like this. This is extremely authentic:] great job!


7 years ago on Step 8

Nice ible. This is pretty much the way my mom made it. She was Tex-Mex from the pan handle, so she knew her chili AND chile : )


9 years ago on Introduction

Here in New Mexico we differentiate between Chili and Chile. 
"Chili" is beans and Texas 3-Alarm Chili and
"Chile" is the actual pepper.... Hatch Green Chile sauce...

New comers always are in for a surprise when they order Chile Cheese fries and get a basket of fries with Green Chile smothered fries... it always makes me chuckle at their expressions....


9 years ago on Introduction

I just moved to NM and am pumped to give this a try - now I just need a good green chile recipe. However, I'm curious - how long does it keep in the fridge? If not long, can you freeze it?

1 reply

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

You should freeze it if you are not going to use it in a couple of days.  The best green chile recipe is the one you like best.  Go to a few restaurants and when you find one you really like, ask the cook or owner how they make it.  Most will tell you proudly.  If they spell chile with an I on the end, they don.t know what they are doing anyway.


10 years ago on Introduction

"A relative sent me home with a bag of roasted and dried red chili peppers - (ancho I believe)." I suspect you mean "dried," not "roasted and dried." We New Mexicans don't roast red peppers before drying them--- we just wipe them off and put them on the roof for a few weeks.


10 years ago on Introduction

Here in Mexico, we don't waste the solid stuff left on the strainer. It can be used to add a bit of spicy flavor to other recipes - soups, tamales - or as a base for a milder sauce. We also strain it about 2 or 3 times, or until the solid stuff is really dry. "Gotta get every last drop of flavor, you'll go to hell for wasting food," my grandpa used to say.

1 reply

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

Good point. I am usually good about waste not, want not, but I think my focus on the end product took over. I'll add that comment!


looks delicious! very well written instructable, I think I'll try this next time I make fajita's!


10 years ago on Introduction

Very clear and well written instructions ....Been using this or a variant of it for years for enchiladas thin it a bit add some fired cubed beef for Chili Colorado


10 years ago on Introduction

very interesting, and tasty looking ill have to give it a whirl next time i make enchiladas