This red sauce is perfect for tamales and pozole. It’s an authentic and easy recipe with a beautiful dark color and a deep smoky flavor that comes from the pasilla chiles.

3 jars with red salsa and a spoon.

**This post was originally published on Nov 2014. It has been updated to be more helpful.

If you’re looking for an authentic red sauce for Tamales or Pozole then this recipe is it! All you need to do is Red Chile Sauce is take the dried chiles, rehydrate them by cooking in water, puree & lastly, strain them.

Meet my go-to homemade tamale sauce recipe. It’s simple to make – all you need are dried chiles, a few pantry ingredients and 30 minutes – and it tastes immeasurably better than any kind I’ve found in a jar. The classic tamale & pozole recipes is made with chiles only (no tomatoes are involved) plus some seasoning for depth of flavor.

***Make sure to scroll all the way down to the recipe card to get the full ingredient list and written recipe.

A clear bowl with salsa para tamales.

This sauce is easy enough to whip up on a weeknight, but it’s also a great recipe to make in advance. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze it for up to a few months! I like to keep a stash on hand for anytime a delicious Mexican dish.

Ingredients

Okay let’s start with good chiles. I like to combine two different type of chiles as it gives extra depth to the flavors. It’s not about how spicy the sauce is… it’s always about the flavor!

Chile New Mexico and Pasilla are my favorites for this sauce but you can also add a third type of chile such guajillo chiles or ancho chile.

A white bowl with dried chiles.
  • The Chiles: Dried New Mexico chiles & dried Pasilla chiles
  • Seasoning: Salt, black pepper, dried oregano
  • To blend the chiles: Homemade (preferably) broth (beef, chicken or vegetable).

Save to Pinterest to make later 🤍 

How to make Mexican Red Sauce

The seeds and stems of dried chiles in a white bowl.
  1. Remove the stems of the chiles and shake out most of the seeds.
  2. In a large pot, add the chiles and all of the spices.  Add enough water to cover all of the chiles.

Note: You may have to push the chiles down in order to squeeze them all in as they tend to be bulky.  

  1. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until they’re very soft and pliable. Let the chiles soak in the water for another 10 minutes to continue the rehydration process.
  1. Transfer chile pepper to a blender or food processor and add 1 cup broth. Puree for about 1 minute. Discard the soaking liquid.
  1. Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and strain the pured chiles to remove the remaining seeds and skins (tip: push the chile mix with a spoon to get the most out of them).
  2. Once all of the chiles are strained,  transfer the mixture to a big bowl and add more salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and reserve the sauce until ready to use.

The beauty of this Mexican Red Sauce recipe is that you can make a few cups, freeze it and use later as needed.

Besides making tamales rojos & pozole, you can also use this authentic basic red sauce to make the tamales masa red, enchiladas, carne con chile, chilaquiles, burritos. It is so versatile!

3 jars with Mexican Red Sauce and a spoon.

Guide on buying dried chiles

Where? If you live near a Latin grocery store, buy your peppers there as they will have the freshest selection. You can also find the dried peppers in bags in most grocery stores in your Latin isle.

Online: Luckily you can buy them online these days so making authentic Mexican food is just one click away! Walmart and Amazon carry them as well as MexGrocer.

Tips for buying dried chiles:

  1. They should be pliable, flexible and not overly dry or brittle.  If they break when you bend them, that means they’re very old.
  2. The stems should still be attached to most of them
  3. If you have extra chiles, freeze them in ziplock bags for up to 6 months. This will preserve their freshness.
A bowl with tamal sauce with a wooden spoon.
Authentic Tamale Sauce
Pestle and mortar icon graphic.
MORE EASY…

Mexican Salsas To Try:

Try any of my delicious salsas…. Always authentic, easy & delicious!

If you enjoyed this recipe I’d love it if you take 5 seconds to rate and review it below on the blog. It’s also super helpful to me and other readers if you share any changes you made to the recipe. Gracias!!!!

Print Recipe:

A bowl with tamal sauce with a wooden spoon.

Mexican Red Sauce For Tamales & Pozole

Servings 9 cups
Ana Frias
4.86 from 14 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
This red sauce is perfect for tamales and pozole. It’s an authentic and easy recipe with a beautiful dark color and a deep smoky flavor that comes from the pasilla chiles.
9 cups

Ingredients  

  • 8 ounces dried New Mexico chiles
  • 4 ounces dried Pasilla chiles
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 3 cups broth (beef, chicken or vegetable). You may need a little more to blend all of the chiles.

Instructions 

  • Remove the top of the chiles and shake out most of the seeds.
  • In a large pot, add the chiles salt, pepper and oregano.
  • Add enough water to cover all of the chiles.
  • Cover and cook on medium heat for about 20 minutes or until they're very soft and pliable. Rest chiles in the water for another 10 to 15 minutes to cool off.

The following steps will be done in 3 batches or so until all of the chiles are blended:

  • Transfer chiles to a blender or food processor and add 1 cup broth (do not add the cooked water). Puree for about 1 minute.
  • Place a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and pass the pureed chiles to remove the remaining seeds and skins (tip: push the chile mix with a spoon to get the most out of them).
  • Repeat the process until all of the chiles are blended and strained. Taste for salt and pepper and add more according to taste if necessary.
  • Discard the seeds and skins left in the mesh strainer.
  • Note: The flavor may be strong at this stage but it changes for the better once it's mixed into your recipe for tamales or pozole.
  • Store in jars in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freeze until ready to use.

Muy Delish Notes:

Selecting the dry chiles:
  • They should be pliable, flexible and not overly dry or brittle. If they break when you bend them, that means they’re very old. 
  • The stems hold still be attached to most of them. 
  • If you have extra chiles, freeze them in ziplock bags for up to 6 months to preserve their freshness. 

Add Your Own Private Notes

Whenever you come back to this recipe, you’ll be able to see your notes.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 22kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Sodium: 112mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g

The nutritional information and US conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this data. If this is important to you, please verify with your favourite nutrition calculator and/or unit conversion tool.

My sister Brenda is the expert at making this sauce and she’s the one that showed me how to do it. I’m so lucky to come from a family of great cooks! 

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36 Comments

  1. Hi there – can you clarify please – do you also add the water that the chilies are boiled in when you puree them? And then the broth is additional liquid after the pureeing and straining, correct?
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Galina! Thanks so much for the question! Okay I updated the recipe card to be more clear with the instructions. Could you please let me know if you still have any questions? Thank you so much for the heads up!

  2. I wanted to draft you this little note to finally thank you once again on the splendid information you have shared in this article. It’s remarkably generous with you to convey publicly all many people might have made available for an e book in order to make some profit for their own end, notably considering that you might well have done it in case you desired. These tricks as well served to become good way to fully grasp that other people online have similar passion much like my personal own to know the truth significantly more with regards to this issue. I believe there are millions of more pleasant opportunities in the future for those who look over your site.

  3. I’ve been making tamales for over 30 years. Used a recipe given to me by a dear friend.. they have always been yummy. No problems.. this year I decided to try another recipe and see which ones we liked best. I found your recipe and saw it had baking powder in it.. since I’ve never used that in mine I tried it. Can’t say that I’m a fan of it. The masa was too fluffy and when it cooked up the texture was so soft and fluffy had to use forks.. did I put too much?

    1. Hi Suzanna! I assume you’re talking about the tamales recipe and not this one right? I do wonder if you used too much as the quantity I use in my recipe is very minimal. It does not change the consistency too much…the baking powder just gives a little extra volume but not noticeable. Do you remember how much you used?

  4. Hello, when do you add beef bullion, its not clear to me, you don’t mention it in the instructions, I have to assume its included in “all of the spices” although I wouldn’t necessarily call bullion a spice. This should be more clear. Also, do you have an opinion on using chicken bullion instead of beef? Thanks, Im looking forward to making this today and smothering it all over my tamales.

  5. 5 stars
    I love your recipes so much!! I’ve shared your site numerous times. All your procedures for traditional dishes are so well described. I used to tell people to come over while I cook if they want to learn but now I refer them to your site. So many are just like my mama taught me. It feels so good to have a place to refer the next generation to these wonderful delicacies. In addition to sharing, I do pick up tips that I’ve sometimes forgotten. Muchísimas gracias for a truly beautiful collection.

    1. 5 stars
      Hi Ellegelle! Your comment made my day! You have no idea what this means to me! I truly enjoy sharing the foods that make me happy hoping that other people will love them as much.

      It is exactly my wishes too, to preserve these recipes for future generations. Thank you so much for your sweet comment! It truly is one of the best ones I have received.

      Stay well!

      xoxo,
      AnA

  6. I just wanted to make sure that this sauce can be used for enchiladas? I always imagined that there were tomatoes in enchilada sauce until I started to look for recipes to make it homemade.

  7. 5 stars
    I just love your site. The photos are inspiring and, although I make many of these recipes “by heart” it’s nice to have a place to direct the next generation for quantities and and detailed procedures. I got oodles of ideas for variations that I have either not tried or had forgotten about. My aunt’s vs my mother’s vs my mother-in-law style of sopa, for example.

    BTW – have you ever tried slightly toasting the red chiles before boiling? Place on a cookie sheet in the oven, medium low, until you can just barely start to smell the aroma. (See, – “medium low” – how could my niece and daughter know what that means!) I think it adds to the richness of the sauce. I have never tried the pasillas before but I am going to next time.

    Thanks so much for your lovely work!

  8. I have a question, after i blend the chilies in a food processor do i add a cup of water from which i boiled the chillies from or just regular water?

  9. 5 stars
    This reminds me so much of the salsa roja my Grandma Cuca made — delicious, with that lovely smoky undertone from the ancho. I added juices from a roast and used dried mushroom powder instead of the buillon. Thanks for putting together a great site.

  10. Seems great to me. I made some from a different recipe but it was almost like yours. I used leg garters. Used the broth in the sauce & the masa. I learned to add the amount called for in the masa becausee mine at first was a little dry. I also added some of the sauce to my Masa. Delcious.

      1. Hi Billy! I updated the recipe to reduce the time. During these years of making it I have found that it doesn’t need to be cooked for 2 hours as I was originally taught. thanks for the question! Ana

  11. I love this! Most people think that “red sauce” is loaded with tomatoes but it’s all chile just like you did here. The bouillon idea is so smart too! Bet it adds a nice depth of flavor. Totally trying that next time.

    1. So true Vijay! no tomatoes involved here 🙂 Oh and bouillon is my best friend lol! Have a great day!

    1. Hi Caren! Sorry I’m just seeing my comments! I was having problems with wordpress 🙂 … anyhow, I hope so too! California is not that far from AZ so you never know! Happy Holidays!

    2. There is no room for oregano and any Mexican cooking this is deafly not tamale seasoning and some sort of an Italian whatever where is the cumin where is the garlic

      1. Actually Mexican Oregano is used in lots of salsas and sauces. Most people can’t find this so I wonder if that is why she didn’t put to use it.

        1. Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for your reply to Mike! You are correct, Mexican oregano is not found in many places, especially in the northern states (in U.S.). Honestly I don’t think it makes that much of a difference and that’s why I don’t think it’s indispensable that you go out of your way to look for Mexican oregano. Thanks again to both!