Easy Vegetarian Enchiladas (30 Minutes!) – A Couple Cooks

How to make Vegan Enchilada Sauce

Vegan enchilada sauce is a flavorful condiment traditionally used in Mexican cuisine to complement dishes such as enchiladas—rolled tortillas filled with various ingredients like vegetables, beans, and sometimes faux meats in vegan versions. Unlike its non-vegan counterparts, vegan enchilada sauce avoids all animal-derived ingredients.

The base of a traditional enchilada sauce is typically a blend of chili peppers and tomatoes, which gives it a distinctive red color and a combination of tart, sweet, and spicy flavors. In a vegan enchilada sauce, the richness usually provided by chicken stock or lard in some recipes is instead achieved using vegetable stock and other plant-based fats, which can be olive oil, avocado oil, or even coconut oil, depending on desired flavor profile.

Herbs and spices play a crucial role, with garlic, cumin, and oregano being common additions that provide depth and authenticity to the sauce. Adjustments are often made in terms of the spice level, with the type and quantity of chili powder or fresh chilies adapted to taste.

Vegan enchilada sauce can either be store-bought or homemade. Homemade versions have the advantage of allowing for customization of ingredients and exclusion of preservatives or additives which might be found in some pre-made sauces. The sauce is also relatively simple to make and can involve roasting or sautéing the ingredients, blending to the desired consistency, and simmering to meld the flavors.

The applications of vegan enchilada sauce extend beyond just enchiladas. It can be used as a flavoring for other dishes like burritos, tacos, and casseroles, or as a base for soups and stews that benefit from a rich, piquant base.

Vegan Enchilada Sauce Recipe

Easy Vegetarian Enchiladas (30 Minutes!) – A Couple Cooks

Vegan Enchilada Sauce

Vegan enchilada sauce is a plant-based alternative to traditional enchilada sauces that often contain animal-derived ingredients. It is typically made using a combination of tomato-based components, spices, and thickening agents to achieve a rich and flavorful sauce that complements enchilada dishes.
In creating vegan enchilada sauce, one starts with a base of pureed tomatoes or tomato sauce for the bright umami flavor foundational to the sauce. Oil is often used in the base to sauté aromatic vegetables such as onions and garlic, added for their depth of flavor. The choice of oil is important, with selections like vegetable or olive oil being common to keep the sauce vegan.
Spices are central to providing the characteristic warm and piquant flavor of enchilada sauce. Commonly used spices include chili powder, cumin, oregano, and, occasionally, smoked paprika or cayenne pepper for additional heat. One carefully adjusts the amount and blend of spices according to taste preferences and desired spiciness level.
To thicken the sauce and enhance its texture, ingredients like flour or cornstarch are frequently used. In vegan versions, one opts for plant-based flour alternatives, like whole wheat or gluten-free blends if necessary, or might use cornstarch mixed with a small amount of water to create a slurry, which is then added to the sauce.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Sauce
Cuisine Italian
Servings 3 cup
Calories 68 kcal


  • 1 medium saucepan
  • 1 bowl of a blender


  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 10 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp adobo sauce
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt


  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium –high heat, add the minced onion and cook for 5 minutes or until onion turn golden and tender, add the garlic and cook for 1 more minutes.
  • Add the broth to the saucepan followed by the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Transfer to a bowl of a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Serve immediately store in an air tight container and keep in the fridge, use within 2 weeks.
Keyword olive oil, onion

Cooking Tips about Vegan Enchilada Sauce

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Vegan enchilada sauce is a flavorful and versatile component in Mexican cuisine that can enhance a variety of dishes without the use of animal products. When crafting a vegan version of this sauce, one important consideration is to ensure that the depth of flavor is rich and robust, compensating for the umami that is often provided by non-vegan ingredients.

To begin, traditional enchilada sauce starts with a base of chili peppers. In a vegan variant, you may use dried chili peppers like ancho, pasilla, or guajillo, which provide a complex flavor profile ranging from sweet and smoky to earthy and slightly fruity. Rehydrating these peppers in warm water for 20-30 minutes before blending them ensures they impart the fullest flavor possible.

Next, the thickening agent in enchilada sauce is typically flour. To keep the sauce vegan, opt for plant-based flours such as all-purpose, oat, almond, or chickpea flour. This step is crucial as it helps in achieving the right consistency without introducing animal products. Create a roux by cooking the flour in oil (instead of traditional lard) until it’s a light golden brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning.

Thereafter, incorporating tomato paste or fresh tomatoes is common to add tanginess and color. However, adjusting the tomato content is key; too much can overpower the chili, whereas too little might result in a less vibrant sauce.

A savory and rich broth forms the liquid component of the sauce. Vegetable broth is an obvious choice for a vegan sauce, preferably a broth with a good depth of flavor, which can be enhanced with nutritional yeast or soy sauce for an extra umami kick.

Spices such as cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and salt are part of the classic enchilada sauce flavor profile. Toasting these spices gently in the pan before adding liquids can heighten their flavors.

Finally, consistency and balance of flavor are important. The sauce should be neither too thick nor too thin and should have a harmonious blend of the heat from the chili, the sweetness and acidity from the tomatoes, and the warm notes from the spices. Adjust with a bit of sugar or a splash of vinegar if needed to achieve the right balance. Simmer the sauce for 20-30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Serving suggestions about Vegan Enchilada Sauce

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When it comes to making vegan enchilada sauce, there are several factors and ingredients to consider that can influence both the flavor and quality of the sauce. In traditional Mexican cuisine, enchilada sauce typically contains a base of chili peppers, tomatoes, garlic, onions, and various spices. However, to adapt this for a vegan diet, it is crucial to confirm that no animal products are used during the production process, including checking for instances where lard or chicken stock might be traditionally incorporated into the recipe.

A vegan enchilada sauce can maintain the same rich and complex flavor profile as traditional variations by using vegetable stock or water as the base, adding the necessary depth without incorporating animal products. To provide a hearty consistency, thickeners such as flour or cornstarch can be employed. In many vegan recipes, olive oil is the go-to fat for sautéing ingredients, replacing lard or other animal fats.

In terms of spices, cumin, chili powder, and Mexican oregano are key to achieving an authentic taste. Additionally, the incorporation of smoked paprika can add a depth of flavor that emulates the smokiness sometimes provided by non-vegan ingredients.

For those looking to make the sauce from scratch, a serving suggestion might include using dried chili peppers, which would be rehydrated, blended, and then strained to produce a smooth, flavorful base. This process involves soaking the dried chilis in hot water until they are soft, then blending them with the rest of the ingredients to achieve the desired texture and taste. Using a combination of chili types, such as ancho or guajillo, can also add a more complex flavor profile.

Regarding serving suggestions for dishes, vegan enchilada sauce can be versatile. Aside from coating traditional enchiladas filled with plant-based ingredients like beans, rice, and vegan cheese, the sauce can also be used as a topping for vegan burritos or tofu scrambles. It could even serve as a flavorful base for vegan soups and stews. When presenting the enchiladas, a garnish of freshly chopped cilantro and a side of avocado or guacamole can complete the dish, enhancing the freshness against the smoky, rich sauce.

Top 5 FAQs about Vegan Enchilada Sauce

Easy Vegetarian Enchiladas – A Simple Palate

  • What is vegan enchilada sauce made of? Vegan enchilada sauce typically includes a base of chili peppers and tomatoes, which provides its red color and a blend of tart, sweet, and spicy flavors. It also commonly contains vegetable stock or water, plant-based oils like olive or avocado for richness, and a variety of herbs and spices such as garlic, cumin, and oregano. For thickening, flours (e.g., all-purpose, oat, almond) or starches like cornstarch are used instead of traditional animal-based ingredients.
  • How does vegan enchilada sauce differ from regular enchilada sauce? The main difference is that vegan enchilada sauce avoids any animal-derived ingredients like chicken stock or lard that are found in some non-vegan versions. Instead, it relies on plant-based substitutes to achieve a similar depth of flavor and consistency.
  • Can I make vegan enchilada sauce at home? Yes, making vegan enchilada sauce at home is quite simple and allows for customization of ingredients. You can sauté, blend, and simmer ingredients based on personal preferences. Homemade versions also have the advantage of excluding preservatives or additives found in some store-bought sauces.
  • Is vegan enchilada sauce gluten-free? While not all vegan enchilada sauces are gluten-free, it is easy to make a gluten-free version by using gluten-free flours like chickpea or rice flour, or by thickening the sauce with a cornstarch slurry.
  • What dishes can I use vegan enchilada sauce in? Beyond traditional enchiladas filled with vegetables, beans, and vegan cheese, you can use vegan enchilada sauce in various dishes such as burritos, tacos, casseroles, soups, and stews. Its rich and tangy flavor profile makes it a versatile ingredient in vegan cooking.

In conclusion, vegan enchilada sauce is a vibrant and flavorful alternative to traditional enchilada sauces that contain animal products. With a foundation of chili peppers and tomatoes, enhanced with a medley of spices and thickened with plant-based flours or starches, this sauce captures the essence of Mexican cuisine in a way that accommodates a vegan diet.


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