How to Thicken Enchilada Sauce in 5 Easy and Quick Methods

Knowing how to master enchilada sauce is a great goal for a home cook. Even if you are not making your own, you may want to alter the canned stuff to your liking. There are many varieties of enchilada sauce you can use: red, green, and even a creamy white. Red enchilada sauce is probably the most common and what most people are using.

If you are making your own red enchilada sauce or using a store bought one, you may need to thicken it. There are 5 easy ways to remedy the situation and make a thicker enchilada sauce. Consider using a cornstarch slurry, a roux, or even peanut butter to thicken your sauce. 

Why is My Enchilada Sauce Watery?

Canned enchilada sauce is a great shortcut to use when making your own enchiladas. But… the canned stuff also tends to have a thinner consistency than what you may be hoping for. 

Alternately,  maybe your homemade recipe left you with a sauce that is not as thick and creamy as you’d like. Either way, knowing how to thicken your enchilada sauce is a good idea. 

How to Make Enchilada Sauce Thicker

A thick and creamy enchilada sauce is good for various reasons. When it has a nice viscosity, enchilada sauce sticks to the tortillas well and has a better mouthfeel. If you are using enchilada sauce for other recipes you may need a thicker enchilada sauce than what you have. 

Knowing several different ways to achieve this is a good idea. Depending on what type of enchilada dish you are making may determine which method you use to thicken your enchilada sauce. 

Method 1: Add Tomato Paste

A lot of red enchilada sauces have a tomato product in it, such as tomato sauce or tomato paste. Tomato paste is a super concentrated tomato product that can also act as a thickener to your enchilada sauce.

Ingredients

Because adding tomato paste to your enchilada sauce could alter the flavor, you may want to add in extra seasoning, as provided in the list. 

  • Enchilada sauce
  • Tomato paste
  • Garlic powder, cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper 

Things You’ll Need

Making sure you have everything ready to go will help ensure a smooth process for thickening your enchilada sauce.

  • Skillet
  • Ingredients 
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon 

Steps 

  1. Start by pouring your enchilada sauce in the pan on a medium-low heat. 
  2. Whisk in the tomato paste, start with about 2 tablespoons.
  3. Once the tomato paste is fully incorporated, season to taste with the spices as needed. 
  4. Bring the sauce to a simmer and reduce to low. 
  5. Simmer the sauce for 5-10 minutes or until thicker, stirring with the wooden spoon occasionally. 
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If you don’t have all the extra spices listed, you could use taco seasoning. 

Method 2: Add Cornstarch

Cornstarch is such a versatile ingredient serving a lot of purposes. It is great in baking, creates a light and crispy batter for fried food, and makes an excellent thickening agent. 

Ingredients

You will only need about 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch for this quick and easy slurry.

  • Enchilada sauce 
  • Cornstarch 
  • Cool water

Things You’ll Need

Gather all of your ingredients and have everything ready to go to make this an easy process.

  • Skillet 
  • Small bowl
  • Fork 
  • Wooden spoon

Steps 

  1. Measure 1-2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a small bowl and add 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of cool water. 
  2. Store the cornstarch and water together with a fork until combined, set aside.
  3. Heat your enchilada sauce in the skillet on medium low heat until it simmers.
  4. Stir the enchilada sauce while  slowly pouring the cornstarch slurry into it.
  5. Allow to simmer until thickened, about 5-10 minutes.

No matter what kind of enchilada sauce you need to thicken, cornstarch would be a good choice. 

Method 3: Using a Roux

Making a roux is actually the base to a lot of homemade enchilada sauces and does a great job of giving a thicker end product. You can make a roux and add it to either homemade or canned enchilada sauce. 

Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you will need if you already have enchilada sauce, but need it to be thicker. Whether you are thickening canned sauce or homemade, this method will work just fine.

  • Enchilada sauce
  • Unsalted butter 
  • Flour

Things You’ll Need

Gather all of your supplies together in order to make this process quick and easy. 

  • Small skillet
  • Large skillet
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon
  • Measuring spoon

Steps 

Start out by making the roux.

  1. In the small skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
  2. Once butter is melted, sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of flour and whisk to combine.
  3. Continue to whisk the roux for 1-2 minutes, turn off the heat and set aside.
  4. Heat up your enchilada sauce in the larger skillet over medium low heat and bring to a simmer.
  5. Once the enchilada sauce is simmering, whisk in your roux until combined and there are no lumps.
  6. Stir with the wooden spoon and continue to simmer until the enchilada sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.

You want to make sure and cook your roux for at least 1-2 minutes to cook the flour. Don’t go too much longer though, or the roux will not thicken your enchilada sauce.

Method 4: Creamy Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is used in a variety of cuisines as a flavor enhancement, providing a rich and nutty flavor profile. If used in enchilada sauce, it will transform a regular enchilada sauce into a mole sauce and have a wonderful taste.

Ingredients

Choose a natural or creamy peanut butter to add to your enchilada sauce. Natural peanut butter is best as it won’t have any added oil, sugar, or other ingredients, but a creamy peanut butter will work just fine. You want to refrain from using chunky peanut butter as it will not provide a creamy texture.

  • Enchilada sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of creamy peanut butter

Things You’ll Need

This method of thickening enchilada sauce is quick and easy, with minimal effort.

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  • Skillet
  • Measuring spoon
  • Whisk 

Steps 

  1. Start by heating your enchilada sauce over medium-low heat in the skillet.
  2. Measure two tablespoons of peanut butter and whisk into the sauce.
  3. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, for about 5 minutes.

While this method for making your enchilada sauce is very easy, it will alter the overall flavor profile of the sauce. The peanut butter adds an earthy and nutty richness to the dish that is delicious. 

Method 5: Reducing the Enchilada Sauce

Sometimes all you need is patience. If you’re making enchilada sauce from scratch and it is not thick enough you can try reducing it. Similarly, if your canned enchilada sauce is too thin, it may just need to be reduced down. 

Ingredients

With just one ingredient in this method, it is worth a try.

  • Enchilada sauce

Things You’ll Need

Don’t forget to add your patience with this method, maybe enjoy a beer or other beverage while it’s cooking.

  • Pan or skillet
  • Wooden spoon

Steps 

  1. Pour your enchilada sauce into the skillet and set over medium-high heat.
  2. Bring the sauce to a low boil and continue to boil for several minutes.
  3. Stir the mixture occasionally to prevent it from burning or sticking to the pan.

Because this method of reducing the enchilada sauce doesn’t require any added ingredients, it may be worth trying first to see if it gets thick enough for what you are going for. 

Do’s and Don’ts When Thickening Your Enchilada Sauce

There are several quick and easy ways to thicken your enchilada sauce. Be sure and follow the steps for the method you choose so you have a tasty and thick end product. Here is a quick reference for some do’s and don’ts that you may want to keep handy.

Do’s

  • Make sure you have all of your ingredients and supplies together before you start. This is referred to as “mise en place” in the culinary world, in other words – have everything in place. 
  • When determining which method to use to thicken your enchilada sauce, think about the overall flavor you are going for so you can best decide which method is best to do.
  • If using a coated skillet or pan, use a silicone whisk to prevent scratching the pan.
  • Wooden spoons are best for any pan, as they prevent scraping and won’t get as hot as a metal spoon.
  • If you are using a roux to thicken your enchilada sauce, make sure you cook it for 1-2 minutes in order to cook out the raw flavor of the flour.
  • If using a cornstarch slurry to thicken your enchilada sauce, you will want to cook the sauce for at least 5-10 minutes to cook out the starch.

Dont’s

  • Don’t forget to taste your enchilada sauce once it is thickened. If you need to adjust the seasoning, do so and then simmer for another 1-2 minutes.
  • If you are using peanut butter to thicken your enchilada sauce, try not to use chunky peanut butter as it will alter the texture of the sauce.
  • When using a roux to thicken your enchilada sauce, don’t overcook the roux. Some recipes will call for a long cook time for roux, but the longer it cooks, the thinner it becomes. When using roux as a thickening agent, you only need to cook it for 1-2 minutes.
  • Don’t add cornstarch directly to the sauce. You need to make a slurry with the cornstarch first in order to dissolve it and for it to combine into the sauce.
  • Don’t forget to whisk and stir. When first adding any thickening agent to the enchilada sauce, it is best to whisk to combine. Once the lumps are smooth, you can switch to a wooden spoon to stir the sauce until it is thick. 
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How to Make Homemade Enchilada Sauce

If you can, it is best to make your own enchilada sauce from scratch. This will help you control how thick the sauce is and make adjustments as you go. There are several different varieties of red enchilada sauce, here is a quick and easy version to try at home.

Ingredients

Making your own enchilada sauce is easier than you may think and everything you need is probably in your pantry and spice cabinet.

  • 3 tablespoons of: oil, lard, or butter
  • 3 tablespoons of flour 
  • Seasonings: chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, black pepper 
  • 2 cups of chicken broth 

Things You’ll Need

With such few ingredients and no chopping, you don’t need too many things.

  • Skillet
  • Whisk
  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cup
  • Wooden spoon

Steps

Follow these simple steps for a delicious, easy, and thick enchilada sauce.

  1. Make your seasoning mixture first by combining: 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, salt, and cumin, ½ teaspoon each of oregano and black pepper. Set this mixture aside.
  2. Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a skillet set on medium heat.
  3. Once the oil is warm, add 4 tablespoons of flour and whisk for 2 minutes.
  4. Add in your seasoning mix and stir for one minute, toasting all the seasonings.
  5. Slowly pour in your chicken broth, whisking until all combined. 
  6. Continue to whisk until there are no more lumps and the sauce is smooth. 
  7. Bring the sauce to a low boil, then reduce the temperature to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  8. Be sure and stir occasionally with your wooden spoon. 

If the enchilada sauce gets too thick, add a little water to thin it out. Adjust seasoning as needed to your liking. 

Conclusion 

Enchilada sauce is a smooth and delicious sauce that can be used for several different recipes, including: nachos, tacos, cooking chicken in, and of course in your favorite enchilada recipe. If you are making your own from scratch or using the canned variety, you may find that you are wanting a slightly thicker sauce. 

Thickening your enchilada sauce doesn’t have to be hard or take a long time. You could add some tomato paste or peanut butter to thicken your enchilada sauce, or try adding a roux or cornstarch slurry. Sometimes it’s as easy as reducing your sauce by boiling it for a little longer and you will get the results you want.