Mexican Red Sauce For Tamales & Pozole

This red sauce (or chile colorado as we know it in Sonora), it’s s not a complicated sauce. Its consistency is somewhat liquidy with a beautiful dark color that comes from the pasilla chiles with a rich deep smoky flavor.

It truly gives depth to any dish you’ll use it on!

3 jars with red salsa and a spoon.

If you’re looking for an authentic red sauce for Tamales or Pozole then this recipe is it!

All you need to do to make the Red Chile Sauce is take the dried chiles, re-hydrate them by cooking in water, puree & lastly, strain them.

Check out the step by step below to see how easy it is!

Red salsa in a glass bowl surrounded by dried chiles on the side.

How to make Mexican Red Sauce

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 faves but you can also add a third type of chile such guajillo.

  • Remove the top of the chiles and shake out most of the seeds.
  • In a large pot, add the chiles and all of the spices.  Add enough water to cover all of the chiles.
  • You may have to push the chiles down in order to squeeze them all in as they tend to be bulky.  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 minutes.
Cooking dried chiles in a white red pot.
  • Transfer chiles to a blender or food processor and add 1 cup broth. Puree for about 1 minute.
  • Strain 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).
  • Once all of the chiles are strained,  transfer to a big bowl and add more salt and pepper to taste.
Blending the cooked red chiles in a blending then passing them thru a strainer.

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 enchiladas, carne con chile, pozole, chilaquiles. It is so versatile!

3 jars with Mexican Red Sauce and a spoon.

A note on buying chile peppers

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.

Tips for buying dried chiles:

  1. They should be pliable, flexible and not overly dry or brittle.  If they brake 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.
Red sauce in a glass bowl surrounded by dried chiles on the side.

Mexican Red Sauce For Tamales & Pozole

Servings 9 cups
Ana Frias
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 40 mins
This Mexican Red Sauce is exactly what you need to make red Tamales & Pozole. Make a batch, freeze and have it ready for when needed.
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 batches until all of the chiles are blended:

  • Transfer chiles to a blender or food processor and add 1 cup broth. Puree for about 1 minute.
  • Strain 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).
  • Once all of the chiles are strained, transfer to a big bowl and add more salt and pepper according to taste.
  • 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.

*Ana’s 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.

This recipe was originally published in November 2014 and it was updated to revise the content and photographs. The original recipe remains the same. Enjoy! 

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! 

Red sauce in a white glass bowl with a wooden spoon.

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30 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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!