These Beef Enchiladas with Homemade Mexican Red Sauce are the real deal. When I go to a Mexican restaurant, I sometimes flirt with the idea of trying something different as I peruse the menu, but I know my eyes will eventually land on the enchilada section and that’s it. I’m done. Everything about them makes me swoon: their smell, the softness of their corn tortillas, their flavorful beef filling, their signature red sauce and their blanket of lots and lots of melted cheese. I love all the little side items too: the beans, rice, finely shredded lettuce, and sour cream. Can you tell it’s one of my favorite meals? Here’s how I make my homemade beef enchiladas.
Beef Enchiladas with Homemade Mexican Red Sauce
It’s no secret that I love cheese – it just makes me happy. Melted cheese has a particularly special place in my heart. It can improve my mood instantly; it completes me. So many of my favorite things to eat involve gooey, melty cheese, and at the top of the list are beef enchiladas. I crave them, I love them, I need to eat them regularly. Obviously, I had to figure out how to make them at home frequently, and I’ll admit, with no shame, that I had always used canned enchilada sauce. I don’t have anything against it, in fact I think it’s pretty darn delicious.
You say tomato I say dried chile pepper
But, one day I started to wonder… How do they make that stuff? Not surprisingly, the ingredient list on the can has some slightly mysterious items, so I began googling and found tons of “authentic homemade” enchilada sauce recipes. I ruled out one after another, finding lots of tomato-based sauces, thickened with flour. The only thing I really knew was that a true Mexican red sauce was based on dried red chile peppers, so this was the ingredient I looked for. I found three really great, authentic sounding recipes and combined my favorite elements to come up with this sauce. It was so fun and easy! You just need a blender, and other than the dried chile peppers I bet you have everything else you need for the recipe. You can also find my sauce recipe on DCfud.com along with lots of other great recipes and articles!
These Beef Enchiladas with Homemade Mexican Red Sauce are the real deal. A flavorful beef filling, toasted corn tortillas, covered in red sauce and LOTS of cheese. The BEST!
For Mexican Red Sauce:
- 8 dried ancho chiles (also called California chiles, as I discovered while emergency-googling in the international aisle at Wegmans)
- 3 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tbs salt
- 1 tbs sugar
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tbs cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
- tiny pinch of ground clove (traditional, but optional)
- 2 tbs white vinegar
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups soaking liquid (from soaking the peppers)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
For Beef Enchiladas:
- 20 soft corn tortillas
- 1 1/2 lbs ground beef
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 4 cups shredded cheese; I like a mixture of sharp cheddar and monterey jack
- 3–4 cups of enchilada sauce
Preheat oven to 400. Set a tea kettle or small pot of water to boil. Prepare chile peppers by tearing or snipping off stems and shaking out as many seeds as you can. It’s fine if they rip, they’re all getting blended later. Place peppers on baking sheet and toast in preheated oven for 5 minutes. Transfer peppers to a large heat proof container and pour over boiling water to cover. Let them steep for 1-2 hours. The water will become a deep red color and the peppers will become very soft.
Next, place peppers, two cups of soaking liquid, garlic and spices in a blender and puree until completely smooth. Heat oil in saucepan and add the pureed mixture, vinegar, and chicken stock. Cook over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes until the sauce reduces and slightly thickens. You should have about 3 1/2 cups. At this point you can cool the sauce, transfer to a container and store in the fridge until you’re ready to make enchiladas.
To prepare enchiladas:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Using tongs, toast corn tortillas over a gas burner until browned in spots. If you don’t have a gas burner or don’t want to live dangerously, toast in a hot, dry skillet (I recommend non-stick or cast iron). Stack them on a plate, and cover with foil or a clean kitchen towel to allow the tortillas to steam and soften. This step is important for two reasons: It adds flavor to the tortillas and it prevents them from cracking when you roll them up later. Most traditional recipes call for quickly frying each one in oil. This is easier in my opinion, and much less greasy!
While your tortillas steam and cool slightly, prepare the beef mixture. Saute onion, garlic, and beef together until beef is browned. Season with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce and cook for a few more minutes until slightly thickened. Off the heat, add 1/2 cup of cheese to the beef and stir through. Let cool slightly.
Spray bottom of a large baking dish (mine is 9″x 13″) with nonstick cooking spray, and add a very thin layer of Mexican red sauce. Reserve a cup of sauce for topping later, and place the rest in a shallow dish. Set up an assembly line with shredded cheese, beef, tortillas, and sauce. Take a tortilla and dip both sides in sauce, top with about 2-3 tablespoons of meat mixture and a pinch of cheese, roll gently and place seam side down in baking dish. Repeat with the rest. I use my hands for this entire process, including scooping the meat. It’s well worth the mess, and your hands will get covered in sauce, so using a spoon is just kind of silly (plus, it’s fun to play with your food!).
Pour remaining Mexican red sauce over enchiladas and cover with lots of cheese (whatever you have left, plus a little extra if you want… it can’t hurt, right?). Cover dish with foil, and bake in 375 degree for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly, remove foil and bake until the cheese begins to brown in spots. About 5-10 more minutes.
I like to serve this with simple white rice, black beans cooked with garlic and cumin, shredded lettuce, sour cream, cilantro, pickled red onions and hot sauce. A few slices of avocado or some guacamole is always nice, too.
Note: For a vegetarian version of this, (If you plan to make cheese or black bean enchiladas) either use vegetable stock, or just use 4 cups total of the soaking liquid and omit the stock all together.
**I updated this post with new photos on 2/19/2020. See below for the OG photos from October 22, 2013!