Saturday, August 20, 2011

Dry-Chile Enchilada Sauce

This is my dry chile sauce. Dried Chiles in Mexican cuisine is what sun-dried tomatoes are to Italian cuisine. There are countless varieties of dried chili pods (Poblano and Anaheim peppers for example) that are dried in the sun until they are dehydrated. This process gives the pods a smoky, woody and mildly spicy flavor with a subtle raisin or dried fruit-like sweetness.  
When selecting dried chiles, avoid the very dry weightless pods because this is an indication that they are old and no longer have any flavor. They should have a smooth, glossy skin and should  have a slightly supple leather-like texture. I use dry chiles in a lot of my cooking. Some of the most common and available to me are the Chile negro and Chile guajillo.

For the Sauce 

       4   garlic cloves
    1/4   medium onion sliced in strips
       8   dry guajillo chiles
       4   dry negro chiles
       3   cups of boiling water
1  1/2   tsp of Kosher salt
    1/8   tsp of Mexican oregano

Begin by preparing the Chiles.  Clean and remove the seeds from each pod. 

To clean them, take a damp kitchen towel and wipe the exterior of each pod making sure you clean between the folds and creases on each chile before you cut them open.
Cut open each pod, and with a spoon remove all the seeds.  You can control the level of heat in the sauce by removing the membrane on each pod. 

Removing the membrane will make a mild sauce

Once you have cleaned and prepared your chiles gather all of your ingredients, preheat a skillet and boil 3 cups of water in a saucepan.

Add a drizzle of oil to the hot skillet.  Place one pod at a time on the hot oil for a few seconds on each side, then set aside on a plate. The chiles will change to a lighter color and become very fragrant.  Be careful not to burn the chiles because that will make your sauce bitter. Repeat this step with each pod and set aside.

Keep the skillet on the heat. Add another drizzle of oil if necessary, then toss into it, the garlic and sliced onion and saute for about 3-4 minutes.

Add the chiles, onions, garlic, kosher salt, and the pinch of oregano, into the saucepan with the boiling water and allow to boil at medium heat for about 6-8 minutes. This will soften and plum the chiles and allow the garlic and onions to cook thoroughly. 

Pour the mixture into the blender and add 1/2 cup of icy cold water. (This will bring the temperature down a little bit).  Place lid on the blender and hold tightly shut with a kitchen towel when you start the blender to avoid any spills. Blend until very smooth.
Strain the sauce through a sieve. This is the finished sauce.  It should yield about 3 to 3 1/2 cups.

Now that you know have the sauce, you can use it in various Mexican dishes like these red enchiladas. 
For this recipe click here : Morelia Style enchiladas

Here is a link I found for reference on different varieties of dry chiles with very nice visuals and substitution for those of you who may have a hard time finding certain varieties.

Click here


  1. I love this sauce! I use it in scrambled eggs to chilaquiles to machacado. It goes great with pork as well and just about anything.

    1. I love it too! I add it to about anything. I think I poured this sauce over seared lamb chops and diced potatoes. It was delicious. I also stir some of it into chicken or beef soup for a little color and a robust flavor.

  2. I made this recipe last night and it came out great! Thank you.

    1. I'm so happy that you liked the recipe, Anasazi. Thanks so much for stopping by to comment. I appreciate the feedback.