Green Enchilada Sauce

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Green Enchilada Sauce has so much flavor that you’ll never want to go back to the canned sauce again! This easy homemade enchilada sauce is made from a mixture of tomatillos, onion, peppers, and garlic. To add flavor and consistency, we throw in some well-loved seasonings, vegetable broth, and olive oil.

Add this delicious and versatile sauce to your favorite Mexican dishes — we can’t get enough of these Chicken Enchiladas with Green Sauce

Overhead image of Green Enchilada Sauce

What Is Green Enchilada Sauce?

This recipe is a favorite for Mexican dishes — drizzle it on or mix it into countless favorites like enchiladas, chilaquiles, migas, nachos, and burritos! It even makes a great finishing sauce to drizzle on top of grilled chicken, fish, shrimp, and steak.

Homemade Is Best!

Don’t get me wrong — I love and use Old El Paso® Green Enchilada Sauce often — it makes a simple crockpot recipe (like this Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Soup) a breeze to assemble. But other times when I’m craving the best green enchilada sauce, this is my go-to. So why make your own when canned is so convenient? 

  • It’s economical. You pay a premium for someone else to make this sauce for you. The ingredients for this sauce are inexpensive and you can make it in bulk and freeze the leftovers. (Frozen leftovers are just as easy to use as opening up a can!)
  • You can customize it to your preference. Everyone has different taste preferences and in an enchilada sauce, it’s simple to emphasize some flavors over others. Especially for those that are sensitive to spice in store-bought sauces or who can’t get enough spice — both easy adjustments when you make your own!
  • Peace of mind. While you can’t be certain exactly what you’re getting from a store-bought sauce, it’s nice to know exactly what is in the sauce you and your family are consuming. You aren’t running the risk of added preservatives or filler ingredients or potential allergens — this can be an organic Green Enchilada Sauce if you purchase organic ingredients!
  • It’s gluten-free. If you are gluten-intolerant or avoidant, it’s often easier to make your own enchilada sauce than try to find a gluten-free one at the store. This recipe is naturally gluten-free.
  • Pretty simple. This recipe doesn’t require a whole lot of hands-on time — the oven and the blender do most of the work for you!
  • In case there is ever a green enchilada sauce shortage, you don’t need to be left wondering how to make chicken enchiladas with green sauce! You’ll have the sauce recipe right here to reference! 🙂 

Ingredient shot: the fresh peppers, onions, garlic and tomatillos needed for this recipe

Green Enchilada Sauce — Tomatillos

This Green Enchilada Sauce sauce is made with (a personal fave) tomatillos!

Tomatillos are small, green fruits that look somewhat like green tomatoes even though the two aren’t related. They have a dry, leafy husk and a tart, slightly fruity tasty. They are extremely versatile and the main ingredient in our homemade green enchilada sauce!  When I say tomatillos are fruits, I say it in the same vein when I say a tomato is also a fruit. They’re savory, even though biologically, they are fruit. Below are a few tips: 

  • Aim to find tomatillos that are roughly the same size so they’ll roast evenly in the oven.
  • Look for tomatillos with husks that are relatively tight with firm fruit inside. Firm is that sweet spot between rock-hard and squishy.
  • Avoid tomatillos with loose husks that are shriveled, discolored, or spotted.
  • To remove the husks, pinch them back and pull them off from the fruit — the husk should peel off easily. The fruit underneath will be sticky from the husks, so give them a quick rinse in warm water before using.

Ingredient shot: the roasted peppers, tomatillos, onions and garlic.

Green Enchilada Sauce FAQs

1Are Green Enchilada Sauce and Salsa Verde the same thing?

Not quite! Salsa Verde is raw (like salsa) while the ingredients in enchilada sauce are usually cooked (or roasted/sautéed).

Enchilada sauce requires liquid (broth/stock/water) to thin into a useable sauce whereas salsa verde ingredients are simply blended and eaten as is (a little chunky is even better IMO!).

2What is Green Enchilada Sauce made of?

There is certainly some variation between green sauces but most are made from tomatillos, green chiles, onion, garlic, and spices. Tomatillos are widely used in Mexican cuisine and in their sauces!

3What is the difference between green and red enchilada sauces?

As far as flavors, red sauces tend to have a more earthy flavor while green sauces are more fresh and vibrant.

The main difference is the type of chili used to make the sauce. Red enchilada sauce uses red chiles (or ground chili powder) and green enchilada sauce uses green chiles.

4Which is spicier: red or green sauce?

Both sauces can range in spice levels — it all depends on the peppers used and whether or not the seeds were left in. That’s one of the best parts of making your own enchilada sauce; you control the heat level.

5Can I substitute Salsa Verde for Enchilada Sauce?

There isn’t a great way to replace one for another — salsa and enchilada sauces are different foods with different flavors.

6Is Green Enchilada Sauce spicy?

Many people think that green sauce isn’t very spicy because tomatillos can be slightly sweet, but jalapeños definitely crank up the heat — green enchilada sauce can be mild or spicy hot, all depending on those peppers!

How To Make Green Enchilada Sauce

  1. Roast: A lot of recipes call for sautéing the first few ingredients, but we prefer roasting them. You get such a better caramelization and end flavor — roasting is well worth it! Plus it’s very hands-off– no need to stir it every few minutes.
  2. Blend: Once ingredients are nice and caramelized, transfer them to a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend until smooth — easy!
  3. Taste and season: Don’t forget to give your sauce a quick taste and adjust seasonings until the flavors are just how you like them.

Customize Green Enchilada Sauce Ingredients

It’s easy to make this sauce exactly how you and your family like it! Below are a few suggestions for modifying ingredients in the sauce:

  • Modify the heat: If you aren’t a fan of intense heat, be sure to remove the seeds and ribs from the jalapeños. You can even slightly reduce the amount, but keep in mind that tomatillos are fairly sweet. The jalapeños help balance the flavors, so you may end up with a sweeter sauce. On the flip side if you love spice, leave in as many ribs and seeds as you can handle!
  • No cilantro: if you don’t love cilantro, just leave it out. Try adding 1-2 tablespoons lime juice instead.
  • Thickness: If you’d like a thinner sauce, add a touch more liquid. As it stores it does thicken up a bit more!
  • Love citrusy flavors? Add in some fresh lime juice!

Process shots: add roasted veggies and remaining ingredients to the blender; process until smooth; taste and adjust

STORAGE

Enchilada Sauce Storage

Properly stored in an airtight container, this sauce will stay fresh for 5-7 days.

This sauce freezes really well. (Make a double batch to save for later!) Let sauce cool completely at room temperature and then transfer to freezer-safe containers or bags. Label and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge or warm on the stovetop in a medium-sized pan.

Close-up view of enchiladas made with Green Enchilada Sauce.

Using This Sauce

Here are some of our favorite ways to use this sauce:

  • In enchiladas! Replace red sauce with this homemade green sauce in your favorite enchilada recipes — here are some of our favorites: Chicken Enchilada CasseroleVegetarian EnchiladasQuinoa Enchilada Bake.
  • Add to your favorite breakfast: This sauce is delicious drizzled over scrambled eggs, added to breakfast burritos, or used to amp up the flavor in a breakfast casserole! Add to migas, chilaquiles, or Huevos Rancheros.
  • Use in your favorite dinner: Drizzle this sauce on your favorite tacos, quesadillas, burritos, fajitas, tamales, nachos, etc. You could even add it to soup, which we do with this White Turkey Chili
  • Add to a salad. Thin the sauce with some olive oil or even some water; drizzle on a bed of greens or salad similar to this Chipotle Chicken Salad.
  • Keep things simple — Add to a bowl of rice and beans or as a finishing sauce for grilled chicken, shrimp, fish, or steak.

Source: This sauce is lightly adapted from a favorite cookbook, The Well Plated Cookbook by my good friend Erin, from WellPlated.com. This is the sauce that coats her famous green chile enchiladas I shared from the cookbook a couple of years ago. We make this sauce all the time and haven’t found one we like better. The only changes we make are adding in some lime juice for acidity, increasing the amount of cumin, and replacing the water with vegetable stock. Thanks, Erin!

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Green Enchilada Sauce

5 from 1 vote
Green Enchilada Sauce has so much flavor that you'll never want to go back to canned sauce again! This homemade enchilada sauce is made from a mixture of tomatillos, peppers, and garlic. To add flavor and consistency, we add in some well-loved seasonings, vegetable broth, and olive oil.
Print Recipe

Green Enchilada Sauce

5 from 1 vote
Green Enchilada Sauce has so much flavor that you'll never want to go back to canned sauce again! This homemade enchilada sauce is made from a mixture of tomatillos, peppers, and garlic. To add flavor and consistency, we add in some well-loved seasonings, vegetable broth, and olive oil.
Course condiment, sauce, Spice
Cuisine Healthy, Mexican, Vegetarian
Keyword green enchilada sauce, green enchilada sauce recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 2 cups sauce (8 servings)
Calories 85kcal
Cost $5.26

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small, ripe tomatillos (Note 1)
  • 2 poblano peppers, (Note 2)
  • 2 jalapeño peppers (Note 3)
  • 1 small yellow onion (Note 4)
  • 4 cloves garlic, leave peels on
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup vegetable stock/broth (or use water)
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoons lime juice

Instructions

  • ROAST: Place a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 400 degrees F. Line an extra-large sheet pan with parchment paper. Add prepared tomatillos, poblanos, jalapeños, onion, and garlic to the pan. Add olive oil and salt/pepper to taste (I add 1 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper). Toss until everything is well coated and then spread in an even layer so veggies aren't overlapping. Roast for 15 minutes, toss veggies, space again, and roast for another 10-15 minutes or until veggies are caramelized and soft. Tomatillos should be breaking down. This can take longer if there isn't enough room on the sheet pan!
  • BLEND: Peel the skins from the garlic and discard. Add whole garlic cloves and the rest of the ingredients from the sheet pan (including any oil left behind) to a high-powered blender (process in batches if needed). Add in cilantro and cumin. Blend until completely smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add in the vegetable stock or broth and blend until sauce is smooth. If desired, add in lime juice, gradually and to taste.
  • ADJUST: Taste and adjust sauce, adding more salt, pepper, or cumin until flavors sing. If you want a thinner sauce, add additional vegetable stock, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, or until the desired consistency is reached.
  • STORAGE: Use immediately in your favorite dishes or store in an airtight container for 5-7 days. This sauce freezes really well. Let sauce cool completely at room temperature and then transfer to freezer-safe containers or bags. Label and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge or warm on the stovetop in a medium-sized pan.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Tomatillos: This recipe uses about 10 small tomatillos. Try to find tomatillos roughly the same size. They should be firm to the touch, but not rock-hard or squishy. Avoid tomatillos with loose husks that are shriveled or discolored. To prepare for this recipe: pinch off the husks, scrub clean (they're sticky) under warm water. Dry, and leave them whole to roast.
Note 2: Poblano peppers: Remove the stems and seeds. Chop into 1-inch pieces to get about 2 cups.
Note 3: Jalapeños: Remove the ribs and seeds. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces to get about 1 cup which is what we need in this recipe. If you like milder flavors, you can reduce this quantity slightly, but keep in mind that tomatillos are on the sweeter side and the jalapeños balance the flavors. On the flip side, if you love heat, leave in some of the ribs and/or seeds for more spice!
Note 4: Onions: Peel and discard the skin. Coarsely chop into 1/2-inch pieces to get about 1 cup.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 85kcal | Carbohydrates: 8.3g | Protein: 1.3g | Fat: 6g | Sodium: 367.4mg | Fiber: 2.6g | Sugar: 4.7g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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