What is the Best Substitute for Enchilada Sauce?

by Charlie
Enchilada Sauce substitute

Enchilada sauce is a Mexican sauce option primarily used in making sweet enchiladas. However, it has also expanded and can be used as a part of several other dishes. Thanks to its strong and spicy flavor and the many variants available, enchilada sauce continues to evolve significantly. 

Still, like every other food ingredient, you might be looking to get something different from time to time. Many have searched for substitutes for this sauce. 

So, what is the best substitute for enchilada sauce? While there aren’t many options at all, taco sauce remains the top pick for an enchilada sauce substitute. It doesn’t have the same taste profile as enchilada sauce, but taco sauce is very versatile and can work in many situations pretty well as an enchilada sauce substitute. 

An Overview of Enchilada Sauce

As its name suggests, enchilada sauce is the sauce used to bake the famous enchilada dish. It is a renowned sauce option that can also be used with other dishes, scoring points for optimal versatility. 

Enchilada sauce comes with a lot of spice and flavor. It originates from Mexico, and like many other Mexican recipes, you can find different variants of it. 

The classic enchilada sauce version is the red enchilada sauce. This one comes with a base of red chilis, and it contains ingredients like garlic, onions, and vinegar. However, you can also swap out the main chili ingredient to incorporate options like ancho chili, chipotle pepper, and serrano pepper. Each of these will provide a different flavor and spice profile. 

Recipe regardless, enchilada sauce is primarily used to provide a savory base for you to bake and dip your enchiladas in. You can also use it to make several other dishes, including chicken soup, tortilla soup, enchilada casseroles, and much more.

With so much versatility, it’s easy to see why enchilada sauce is so famous. 

Why Replace Enchilada Sauce?

  • Taste differences: Enchilada sauce comes with a spicy flavor and a relatively strong taste. You might want to try something different for a change, so a substitute will come in handy.
  • Non-availability: If you find that you can’t get any enchilada sauce close to you, a substitute will be necessary to still make your dish. 

Options for Enchilada Sauce Substitutes

Best Overall Substitute for Enchilada Sauce: Taco Sauce 

So, as stated earlier, there aren’t many substitutes for enchilada sauce that can perfectly capture its essence and taste. However, several options can at least try to capture its essence. The most ideal is taco sauce. 

Famous primarily in Mexican dishes, taco sauce grew as an ideal sauce for adding to tacos. However, over the past few years, it has also become an inclusive condiment that can incorporate the characteristic smoky and spicy Mexican flavor into several recipes.

You can use taco sauce as a dipping sauce for tater tots, tortilla chips, and much more. It is also ideal for adding to a plate of nachos as a lovely sauce option. 

Taco sauce and enchilada sauce are similar in various ways. For one, they are both versatile and can work with a wide array of dishes. They can also be thinned or thickened based on your preferences, and you will find that you can adjust their heat levels as you would like. The two options come with that spicy and smoky flavor, but their tastes are different. 

So, it’s easy to see how one could use taco sauce as a substitute for enchilada sauce. However, you would also need to keep some things in mind. Most prominent is the fact that enchilada sauce requires a little bit more volume than taco sauce. So, if you’re looking to maximize the latter, you would need to add some liquid to it. You might want to try some chicken broth.

If the liquid dilutes the taco sauce, then you can add a little bit of garlic powder or chili powder to improve its flavor. You could also simmer the taco sauce in a saucepan to reduce its volume. Use low heat to make it thicker, and you’ll be fine.

You can find taco sauce at any grocery sauce, and it comes in different brands. So, feel free to enjoy it as you would like. 

Best Versatile Substitute: Salsa

Native to Spain, salsa is a famous sauce option in many dishes around the world. It has a much thicker and fuller texture than enchilada sauce, being made primarily from onions, tomatoes, and chili. Unlike enchilada sauce, however, the tomatoes are more significant to salsa’s taste and texture than anything else. 

While it doesn’t taste like enchilada sauce, salsa still has some similarities to the latter. Both can be used with different dishes, many of which are the same. Salsa also comes in different taste variants, which you can build and design to your preference – just like enchilada sauce.

However, there are significant differences as well. For one, salsa is used more as a condiment option instead of the main ingredient. It is served cold along with a dish, as opposed to being mixed right into it. You can use salsa with dishes like tortilla chips, tacos, and much more. 

Also, the spice level you get with salsa isn’t tied to the type of salsa you make. Salsa’s heat comes from the spices and chilis you add later in the recipe, so those are what you want to tweak if you’re looking to change spice levels.

Like taco sauce, replacing enchilada sauce with salsa should be approached with caution. For one, you should know that doing this will alter the dish’s taste profile entirely. Of course, this isn’t a bad thing. Salsa sauce and enchilada sauce are different foods with varying flavors.

So, your ability to replace the latter with the former will depend on your flavor preferences. 

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