Toasted ancho chiles, sautéed aromatics and spicy chipotles in adobe blended up in a rich beef broth. This homemade ancho sauce is sweet, smokey, spicy and incredibly satisfying!
DIY Ancho Chile Sauce
Do yourself a favour and stock your pantry with some dried ancho chiles and chipotle in adobo sauce so you can make your own homemade enchilada sauce!
Growing up in Arizona I never realised how spoiled for choice I was when it came to finding quality Southwest and Mexican cuisine. Then I moved to England. To say the options here are limited is putting it mildly.
And if the restaurant options weren’t bad enough, the store bought sauces, salsa and tortillas have been equally sad. Making everything from scratch is basically a necessity – I can’t even buy enchilada sauce from my local grocery stores.
Fortunately, making it a home is pretty easy once you’ve got all the right ingredients!
Better than Store Bought Staples
Ancho Sauce Ingredients
So, what exactly is this ancho sauce made with?
Most of the required ingredients are pretty basic kitchen staples you likely already have on hand: onion, garlic, oil, cumin, salt and stock.
Two ingredients you may need to stock up on are the peppers: ancho chiles and chipotle in adobo sauce.
Ancho chiles (also just called ‘anchos’) are dried poblano peppers. They have a slightly sweet, smokey and earthy flavor.
While fresh poblanos are typically picked when they’re still green, ancho peppers are left to ripen on the vine until they turn red and which point they get picked and left to dry.
Are ancho chiles spicy?
They’re a little spicy, but still pretty mild.
Poblanos (and anchos) typically rank have 1,000-2,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). SHU measures the amount of capsaicin in peppers. Capsaicin = Heat.
For comparison, they are more spicy than a banana pepper (0-500 SHU) and less spicy than a habanero (100,000 – 350,000 SHU).
Chipotles in Adobo
Chipotle peppers are smoked and dried jalapeño peppers. They are slightly sweet, a bit fruity and known for their rich, smoky flavor. Spice-wise, they are more on the moderately spicy side with about 2500–8000 SHU. Much less spicy than habaneros but definitely spicier than an ancho chili.
Chipotles in adobo are rehydrated chipotle peppers that are then simmered and stored in adobo sauce.
Without getting too sidetracked here, adobo sauce is another spicy red sauce usually made with chilies, spices, tomato and vinegar. Another recipe for another day!
This recipe breaks down into three main stages:
- Toast & rehydrate the anchos.
- Sauté the aromatics and spices.
- Blend everything together into a thick sauce.
Step One: Anchos
- Chili Prep: Tear the anchos into small-ish chunks (about 1-2 inches). Remove and discard the hard stem and seeds inside.
- Toast: Add the dried chili peppers to a large, dry sauce pan over a medium heat. Toast for 3-4 minutes until toasty and fruit smelling.
- Hydrate: Add the toasted chilies to a large heat safe bowl and cover with hot beef stock. Set aside for about 15 minutes while you prep your other ingredients. They dried chiles won’t fully rehydrate, but they will soften enough to blend easier.
Step Two: Sauté
- Onions & Garlic: Add some oil to the same pan used to toast the chilies and warm over a medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the onion and sauté about 5-7 minutes to soften then add the garlic and cook another minute.
- Cumin & Tomato Paste: Stir in the tomato paste and cumin and cook a few minutes to caramelise the tomato paste. If the pan starts looking a little dry, add a tablespoon of water to keep things moving.
Step Three: Blend
- Combine: Add everything (stock, chilies and remaining ingredients) to a large blender.
- Blend: Blitz on high until smooth. Taste and season with a little more salt if needed.
- Cool: Let cool and transfer to an airtight container up to a week in the fridge until ready to use or use right away in your chosen recipes.
A few commonly asked questions before you get started:
Is it spicy?
A bit, yeah. It’s not insanely spicy, but it might make your nose run.
As I mentioned earlier, spice perception really does vary for everyone. While the ancho chiles are quite mild and fruity, the chipotle peppers pack in a fiery punch.
Overall, the final spice level depends on how you serve it. If you find it to be too hot to taste, serve your dish with a side a sour cream or yoghurt to neutralise the spice.
How do I use it?
Use this in place of your normal enchilada sauce or in recipes calling for a Mexican style red sauce (like in chilaquiles, tacos, etc).
- From Scratch Chicken And Black Bean Gluten Free Enchiladas
- Butternut Squash Enchilada Casserole
- Sweet Potato & Black Bean Enchilada Skillet
- Skinny Sweet Potato Enchiladas (Vegetarian + Bean Free)
Shelf Life + Storage
Fridge: Once cooled, store leftover ancho sauce in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for up to a week.
Freezer: Alternatively, you can also store the sauce in a freezer-safe container or bag. I recommend you store the sauce no more than three months to avoid freezer burn and flavor loss.
More Southwest & Mexican Recipe You Might Like
- Turkey Chorizo Recipe
- Instant Pot Adobada Tacos
- Portobello Mushroom Fajitas
- Beef Instant Pot Carnitas
- Instant Pot Adobada Tacos
- Smokey Black Bean Tacos & Mango Guacamole
- Chopped Southwest Chicken Salad With A Tahini Lime Dressing
- 3 to 4 dried ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1-inch pieces (1 1/2 oz)
- 2 cups beef broth (480 ml)
- 1-2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
- 2 tablespoons oil (30 ml)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- ¼ cup tomato paste (64g)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Heat anchos in large nonstick pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Toast in the dry pan about 2 to 3 minutes until fragrant. Stir constantly.
- Transfer anchos to heat safe bowl. Cover with boiling water. Stir in beef stock cubes and leave at least 10-15 minutes to soften. Set aside,
- Add oil to the now-empty skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, about 5-7 until translucent. Stir every so often. Add garlic and cook about 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add tomato paste and cumin. Cook about 3-5 minutes on a medium low heat, stirring frequently, until tomato paste starts to darken and caramelise.
- Transfer the tomato paste and onion mixture to the blender along with the softened ancho chilies and beef stock. Blend on high and process until smooth, about minute. Taste and season with salt as needed.
- Use in place of enchilada sauce or cool and store in an airtight container for up to a week in the fridge.
- Make it vegan: use vegetable stock in stead of beef.
- You can also use chicken stock instead of beef.
- This recipe makes about 2 3/4 cup sauce (about 600g).