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Buttered Enchilada Sauce

I love everything about enchiladas. The cheese, the tortillas, the spice, the sauce… that brick red, tomatoey, heavy-on-the-cumin-and-chili sauce.

But, to the best of my recollection, I’ve only ever bought one can of the stuff in my adult life. I blame it on all of the things I learned about the list of horrifying ingredients on the back of the can. Whoever said ignorance is bliss walked the aisle of the grocery store having read one too many Michael Pollan books.

So for a long time I just combined tomato paste with water and stirred in chili powder, cumin, garlic, and salt until it tasted good. That was enchilada sauce.

Then one time I made enchiladas and took the advice I was given to first ever-so-quickly fry those tortillas in butter. It rocked our world, in a good way, how the butter and the tortillas and the sauce and the beef all sang together in perfect harmony.

And now I can’t make enchiladas without copious amounts of butter. But sometimes I also can’t spare the extra time before supper to stand there and fry one tortilla after another before filling, rolling, and baking.

So I decided to short-cut it and just add that stick of butter to the enchilada sauce. Layer that in a 9×13″ pan with meat, tortillas, cheese, and raw onions and you’ve got a much faster enchilada casserole… or is it lasagna?

Anyway, it’s all the singing in perfect harmony and none of the fuss.

Print Recipe

Buttered Enchilada Sauce

Course: Sauces

Cuisine: Mexican

Serves: 1


  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (or 1/4 tsp cayenne)
  • 2 teaspoons salt or to taste


  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine. Taste, adjust salt as needed, and use in enchiladas or other Mexican food.

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  • Sounds delicious & I can’t believe how easy it is. Was going to buy some Frontera Grill sauce, cause it is all natural & currently on sale, for a dish I’ve been wanting to make but since I have all the ingredients on hand (and usually do) I think I might try your version instead. And enchilada casserole sounds so good that I might have to double the sauce batch and make both recipes.

    Is your tortilla recipe available some place?

    Kari Bh. January 28, 2013 AT 10:39 am
  • Thank you Shannon, I made this tonight. It was delicious. Will definitely make it again.

    Laurie January 25, 2013 AT 4:42 pm

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