Ancho Chili Sauce is so easy to make and is a total flavor powerhouse! It's essential for both Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. This authentic homemade recipe features the best key ingredient - lightly toasted ancho peppers. Perfect for enchiladas, chilaquiles, tacos and so much more.
Ancho Chili Sauce
OK, my friends. It's time you started cooking with ancho peppers. If you've never cooked with these wonderful dried peppers, you are in for the flavor experience of your life. Ancho peppers are dried poblano peppers, and where poblanos have a deep, earthy flavor, ancho peppers take that depth and earthiness to a whole new level.
You might not think sauces made from dried pepper pods could achieve flavors that transcend fresh pepper sauces, but dried peppers achieve a quality you can't get with fresh peppers.
I wouldn't argue that one is superior to the other, but for me, both are essential in building big, bold flavors. It all depends on the dish. I believe food should speak, and speak LOUDLY. This sauce surely does.
Your taste buds will hear this one!
Ingredients in Ancho Chili Sauce
- Ancho chili peppers
- Vegetable oil
- White onion
- Red onion
- Roma tomato
- Red wine vinegar
- Ground cumin
- Mexican oregano
- Salt and pepper
- Soaking water or stock for thinning
How to Make Ancho Chili Sauce - Step by Step Recipe
Dry toast the peppers. Heat a pan to medium-high heat and add your ancho peppers. Do not use any oil or liquid. You want to dry toast them. Toast them a couple minutes per side. The peppers will puff slightly and the skins will begin to turn red.
Soak the peppers. Set them into a large pot of boiling water and remove from heat. Let them soak covered in water for 30 minutes.
Chop the peppers. The ancho peppers will begin to leech into the water, darkening it in color. This soaking water has a lot of nutrients in it, so do not throw it away for now. Remove the stems and coarsely chop the anchos. Reserve that valuable soaking liquid. Set the chopped anchos into a food processor.
Blend the ingredients together. Heat the oil in a pan to medium heat and cook down the onion, garlic, and tomato, then add them to the food processor along with the vinegar, cumin, oregano and a bit of salt and pepper along with about 1 cup of the soaking liquid. Process until it smooths out.
Do a taste test. You can adjust with salt and pepper and this point, and if you feel it needs a touch of sweetness, add the honey and process a bit more.
Strain the sauce. Press the sauce through a coarse strainer into a bowl.
Variations to Try
This deeply red chili sauce, frankly, will knock your socks off. This is great stuff, my friends! I am IN LOVE with this sauce, both version - with and without extra tomato sauce added in. You can easily add in other flavors that you prefer. I recommend trying this with fresh cilantro.
Truly, amazing. If you'd like a creamier version, add crema our sour cream. So, so good.
Recipe Notes & Tips
- Create the best consistency. After blending, the sauce will be thick. You can add more soaking liquid to achieve your desired consistency. Or, you thin out your sauce with tomato sauce for more of a tomato flavor. You will still get the powerful ancho flavor.
- Toast the peppers. You CAN make this recipe without lightly toasting the peppers, but I urge you not to skip this step, as the dry toasting loosens up the oils in the peppers, resulting in richer flavors.
- Properly strain it. I use a wooden spoon to push the sauce through the strainer. This removes the solids and bits of rough ancho skin that didn't get processed.
You can store your ancho sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks!
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
I hope you love it as much as I do! Enjoy!
Can't find ancho peppers near you? Here's a link (affiliate!) where you can purchase them at Amazon. Very inexpensive: Dried Chile Ancho - Sweet & Smoky Flavor, 16-Ounce Bag
Ancho Chili Sauce Recipe
- 5 ancho chili peppers
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ cup chopped white onion
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 Roma tomato chopped
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons honey optional
- Soaking water or stock for thinning
- Dry roast the ancho peppers on a hot pan about 1-2 minutes per side. The peppers will puff slightly and the skins will begin to turn red.
- Set them into a large pot of boiling water and remove from heat. Let them soak covered in water for 30 minutes.
- Remove the stems and coarsely chop the anchos. Reserve the soaking liquid.
- Set the chopped anchos into a food processor.
- Heat the oil in a pan to medium heat and add the onion. Cook about 5 minutes to soften.
- Add the garlic and tomato and cook another minute or so, until you can smell the garlic. Add them to the food processor.
- Add the vinegar, cumin, oregano and a bit of salt and pepper along with about 1 cup of the soaking liquid. Process until it smooths out.
- The sauce will be thick at this point. You can add more soaking liquid to achieve your desired consistency.
- Give it a taste. You can adjust with salt and pepper and this point, and if you feel it needs a touch of sweetness, add the honey and process a bit more.
- Press the sauce through a coarse strainer into a bowl. I use a wooden spoon to push it through.
- Store in the fridge in an airtight container.
- As a tasty variation, add up to 15 ounces (1 can) of tomato sauce while cooking, or after you strain the ancho chili sauce to simmer. It makes for an outstanding final sauce. Or, swirl in anywhere from 1 tablespoon to a cup of the ancho chili sauce to tomato sauce to liven up any dish.