Difference Between Green and Red Enchilada Sauce

Are you #teamred or #teamgreen?

What am I talking about? Enchilada sauce, of course!

Dating back to the 1500s, enchiladas boast a long, evolving history of adaptations, but today, they serve as well-loved Mexican comfort food.

Enchiladas are corn tortillas, filled with a diverse range of meats, cheeses, beans, and vegetables; however, what really brings an enchilada to life is the savory enchilada sauce—either red or green.

A common question: what is the difference between green and red enchilada sauce?

The Difference Between Green and Red Enchilada Sauce

The differences between green and red enchilada sauce start with the ingredients, which determine the taste. From there, you can decide whether the Mexican dish you are ordering or serving pairs better with green or red sauce. Let’s start with green enchilada sauce:

What is Green Enchilada Sauce Made Of?

Las Palmas Green Enchilada Sauce

 

Green enchilada sauce, or Verde sauce, is generally made from a mixture of green tomatillos, green chiles, onions, garlic, vinegar, and other spices like cumin and cilantro.

Let’s start with the green tomatillo. While these small fruits resemble green tomatoes and are even referred to as “Mexican husk tomatoes,” they are not even related to tomatoes. Tomatillos are small, green fruit with a dry, leafy husk and have a “tart, fruity, and slightly herbal” taste. They are super versatile and are one of the main ingredients in green enchilada sauce.

Green chiles or jalapeno peppers are also a main ingredient. Both chilis and jalapenos come from the same pepper family (Capsicum annuum), but jalapeno peppers are used in green enchilada sauce for extra heat. To add consistently and flavor, green enchilada sauce includes olive oil, onions, garlic, salt, pepper, broth or water, and additional well-loved spices and flavors like cilantro and lime.

What is Red Enchilada Sauce Made Of?

El Paso Red Enchilada Sauce

 

The red enchilada sauce ingredients are similar to green, except red enchilada sauce is typically made from dried red chile peppers rather than green ones. Red enchilada sauce includes vinegar, onions, garlic, and other spices like basil, oregano, and chili powder. Some modern versions of red enchilada sauce include red tomato paste or ripe tomatoes as the base.

The dried red chile peppers add the flavor to red enchilada sauce, so if you see “whole chile peppers” as an ingredient, you know you have an authentic sauce. Common types include Anaheim, Cascabel, Guajillo, Chipotle, and Chili de Arbol, and they range from mild to very hot.

Some red enchilada sauce uses chili powder both in addition to or as an alternative to red chili peppers. The freshest onion and garlic, oregano, basil, paprika, and salt add an authentic flavor to the sauce.

What About the Flavors?

After you understand the ingredients of both red and green enchilada sauces, you can imagine the flavors will differ. As far as taste, red sauces have an earthy flavor, while green sauces have more fresh flavor. Both red and green enchilada sauce range in spice levels, all dependent on the peppers used and whether or not the seeds were left in. (Seeds add spice!)

While the sauces can taste drastically different, they both start with peppers! The flavor differences simply depend on how the sauces are prepared.

How to Choose Your Enchilada Sauce

The best way to choose your enchilada sauce is to look at the ingredients in the sauce itself and pair it with the type of enchilada or Mexican dish you are preparing. Consider the main ingredients in your meal: chicken, beef, pork, beans, or vegetable. Then, ask yourself what type of sauce would go well with your dish.

A common pairing is a red enchilada sauce with ground beef enchiladas and a green enchilada sauce with chicken enchiladas, but honestly, it all comes down to preference. There are several authentic canned enchilada sauces on the market, many from tried and true companies that began over 100 years ago, like Rosarita, La Victoria, or Las Palmas. Check out our list of best canned enchilada sauce.

However, some people prefer making their own enchilada sauce from scratch. There are many recipes online for red and green enchilada sauce, and variations of both. Here is a recipe for red enchilada sauce that includes red chilis. As I mentioned before, some red enchilada sauces recipes use tomato sauce or puree. This recipe for green enchilada sauce includes tomatillos and green chiles and looks delicious!

You can strategically pair your enchiladas with sauce, or you can also go with your preference! Some people prefer green, and others prefer red.

Green or Red?

So, have you decided whether you’re a #teamgreen or #teamred enchilada sauce lover?

You may prefer one or the other, or you may be like many people and love both! Now that you know the differences between green and red enchilada sauce, you can decide which one to include with your delicious Mexican-inspired feast!

Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.

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