Are you tired of using the same old can of green enchilada sauce? Time to say goodbye to store-bought and hello to a truly authentic and homemade recipe!
Don't limit this sauce to just enchiladas. Try it on tacos, burritos, empanadas, and more!
Table of Contents
Using this recipe, you'll be able to transform everyday ingredients into a traditional Mexican green enchilada sauce.
We're talking tangy, spicy, and smoky flavors all blended up and ready to cover your favorite enchilada recipes (and more).
What is enchilada sauce?
Many enchilada sauces, whether green or red, are made with similar ingredients: chile peppers, onion, garlic, and tomatoes or tomatillos.
How is enchilada sauce different from salsa?
Once you wrap your head around "salsa" meaning "sauce," you can see how there's really no difference at all.
Obviously, "chunky salsa" won't work as a replacement for enchilada sauce because the consistency is different. But, most smooth salsas are great as an enchilada topping.
Some people don't use tomatoes or tomatillos, but after trying many different red and green enchilada sauce recipes, we think the flavor just turns out better.
This tomatillo enchilada sauce is silky smooth, tart, fresh, and has a nice kick at the end.
No matter what your dietary restrictions are, rest assured this recipe is completely vegan and gluten-free.
🍲 Key ingredients
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
What they are: don't get these "little tomatoes" (as their Spanish name suggests) confused with actual tomatoes. This fruit (yes, fruit) comes from a completely different plant than red tomatoes. Tomatillos are grown natively in Mexico but have been adopted to grow in the US.
Taste: they're more acidic and zesty, but less sweet than the red tomatoes you're accustomed to. Tomatillos have an almost lemon-like brightness to them. This taste is smoothed out by roasting them, and they also take on a delicious "smoky" flavor.
Health: with only 11 calories in a medium tomatillo, it boasts a lot of nutrients like vitamin A, C, and potassium. Your eyes, skin, and heart will definitely thank you for snacking on this green fruit!
For more information, check out our detailed guide on tomatillos.
Taste: an authentic enchilada sauce isn't complete without some spicy chiles. Use whatever you have on hand, but we prefer a combo of poblano, jalapeño, and serrano chiles. Poblano peppers provide a similar flavor to green bell peppers with a little kick, while jalapeños and serranos add even more spice. Roasting your chiles helps balance their flavor to create a perfect mix of smoky, spicy, and sweet.
Health: Although we do love the vitamin C content in spicy peppers, the active ingredient capsaicin is what we're most impressed by. Capsaicin has been shown to reduce hunger as well as increase metabolism!
Taste: the fresh, citrusy, and spicy flavor of cilantro is why this herb is adored by many. It adds an extra herbaceous element to this enchilada sauce, so we don't suggest skipping it if you're a cilantro lover!
Fact: cilantro is hated by some because they claim it tastes like soap (don't worry, we know why). A select few people have a variation in their olfactory-receptors that causes them to pick up on soap-like aldehydes found in this herb. Weird, right?
Taste: by pan-roasting white onion, it changes the pungent, sharp flavor to mellow, sweet, and smoky, which goes perfectly in this green enchilada sauce.
Health: did you know onions contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation and lower LDL cholesterol? This gunk is directly linked to heart disease, which happens to be the number one cause of death worldwide (can you tell we're passionate about this subject?!).
If you have questions about this vegan enchilada sauce recipe, don't forget to check out our FAQ section at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: heat a seasoned cast-iron skillet to just over medium (this takes about 8-10 minutes). If your pan isn't well seasoned, rub it with a little olive oil before heating up.
Step 2 - skillet: place your rinsed tomatillos, chiles, and onion in a single layer on the pan to sear for about 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook on each side until the veggies are charred and softened.
Step 2 - oven: turn your oven to broil on high, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Then, spread the chiles, onion, and your tomatillos out evenly on the foil. Broil for 10 minutes, flipping halfway.
Step 2 - boil: if you don't have access to a cast-iron skillet or oven, bring the tomatillos, chiles, and onions to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes, or until the veggies are soft.
Step 3: peel your garlic and roughly chop the cilantro. Add both to a food processor or blender along with the lime juice and vegetable broth. Note: add in a pinch of cumin and Mexican oregano for more flavor!
Step 4: once the tomatillos, onions, and chiles appear blackened and soft, remove them from the heat and de-stem and seed the chiles. Add the cooked veggies to the rest of the ingredients in your blender.
Step 5: blend everything on medium-high until you have a smooth consistency (about 1 minute). If you think your enchilada sauce needs more liquid, add in extra vegetable broth 1-2 tablespoon at a time.
Step 6: heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high. Slowly pour the salsa in and bring it to a low boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Step 7: once your sauce is done reducing, season with salt to taste and serve immediately over enchiladas or transfer it to a container to store in your fridge. Enjoy!
If you know you're going to make enchiladas, you can always save time by prepping a batch in advance!
This tomatillo enchilada sauce will store well in the fridge for up to 1 week. Keep it in an airtight container or mason jar.
Try making a double batch as this vegan enchilada sauce freezes extremely well! Just transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag and store your sauce for up to 6 months. Ensure you leave room at the top of the container for expansion.
💭 Tips & variations
We'd like to share some tips and variations we learned while experimenting with this green enchilada sauce:
- Roast your veggies. We can't stress how much better this recipe is when the ingredients are roasted. Roast them on your stovetop or in the oven.
- Season the salsa. Make sure you "season," or cook down, the enchilada sauce. This creates a thicker sauce and deepens the overall flavor.
- Use fresh tomatillos. Opt for tomatillos with the entire husk covering them. The fruit underneath should be firm, but not too hard.
- Spice it up. If you want more heat, swap out the jalapeños for serrano peppers (or a combination of both).
🍴 Tasting notes
We love making homemade enchilada sauce, and we know you will too! It's:
If you try this green enchilada sauce, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Green Enchilada Sauce
- Knife & cutting board
- Cast-iron skillet
- Blender or food processor
- 2 lbs tomatillos ($0.90)
- 2 fresh poblano chiles ($0.24)
- 2 fresh jalapeño chiles ($0.06)
- 1 large white onion ($0.24)
- 4 cloves garlic ($0.16)
- ⅔ cup cilantro ($0.18)
- 1 tablespoon lime juice ($0.06)
- ¾ cup vegetable broth ($0.05)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil ($0.11)
- Salt to taste ($0.01)
- 1-2 teaspoon cumin optional
- 1-2 teaspoon Mexican oregano optional
- If your tomatillos still have the husk on them, remove those first and give them a good rinse. Set aside.
- Heat a seasoned cast-iron skillet to just over medium. If your pan isn't well seasoned, rub it with a little olive oil before heating up.
- Once the skillet is hot, place the tomatillos, chiles, and onion in a single layer on the pan and sear for about 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook until each side is charred and the veggies are softened.
- Turn your oven to broil on high, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Then, spread the chiles, onion, and tomatillos out evenly on the foil. Broil for 10 minutes, flipping halfway.
- If you don't have access to a cast-iron skillet or oven, bring the tomatillos, chiles, and onions to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, reduce the heat to simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the veggies are soft.
- In the meantime, peel your garlic and roughly chop the cilantro. Add these to a food processor or blender along with the lime juice and vegetable broth (optional: add in a pinch of Mexican oregano and cumin for extra flavor).
- Once the tomatillos, onions, and chiles appear blackened and soft, remove them from heat and de-stem and seed the chiles (leave them in for extra heat). Add the cooked veggies to the rest of the ingredients in your blender.
- Blend on medium-high until all ingredients are mixed together to your preference, about 1 minute (more time for a smoother consistency or less for a chunkier texture). If it needs more liquid, add in extra vegetable broth 1-2 tablespoon at a time.
- Lastly, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high. Slowly pour the salsa in and bring it to a low boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Once your sauce is done reducing, season with salt to taste and serve immediately over enchiladas or transfer it to a container to store in your fridge.
- You can remove the chile pepper skins, but we don't find it necessary.
- This recipe tastes delicious with a pinch of cumin or Mexican oregano!
- If you prefer a spicier enchilada sauce, try throwing in a few serrano chiles.
- Seasoning the enchilada sauce deepens the flavors and creates a more balanced end result.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of our recipes.
- Nutritional information is a rough estimate.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more tasty sauce ideas, check out our:
- Salsa verde for a similar recipe that also utilizes tomatillos.
- Salsa roja for a smoky and authentic Mexican salsa.
- Avocado cream sauce if you want a smooth, rich, and delicious garnish for all your favorite Mexican dishes.
- Mexican crema to try a vegan version of this cool, creamy, and refreshing sauce.
This green enchilada sauce is mild to moderately spicy since poblano peppers aren't super hot. We'd rate this sauce a 3/10 in spice.
Seasoning (cooking down) the sauce will naturally reduce or thicken it. If you want it even thicker, try adding in corn starch or flour mixed in a small amount of water.
This enchilada sauce is 100% vegan.
Enchilada sauce is sometimes made with flour to help thicken it. We made this gluten-free enchilada sauce because we think it tastes better and more people are able to enjoy it.