Red Chilli Sauce – a mother sauce of Mexican cooking

In my recent Modern Mexican cooking class, one of my students really wanted my Red Chilli Sauce recipe.  I don’t teach it in the class, as I find that it is generally too difficult for the students given the constraints of time and the number of recipes we cover. But, it’s a great “mother sauce” for all things Mexican, and so I’ll share it here.Modern Mexican Cooking Class - dried chilliesThis is the most famous of Mexican sauces, which compliments enchiladas, tamales, red meats, and grilled foods. Drizzle this on you favourite piece of meat, smother your enchiladas with it or paint your plates with its rich desert colour from the ancho and mulato chillies.  Red Chilli Sauces typically vary greatly in heat level, mine is mid range as it’s the bold flavour that I love the most. For the best flavour, use it the day after making it, so the flavours meld together and add richness to the sauce that makes your palate zing with flavour.

Modern Mexican Cooking Class - rehydrating chillies

Re-hydrating dried chillies in hot water

This sauce requires some knowledge of the dried Mexican chillies that are used. Once you grasp their flavours and their usage, you’re on your way to cooking something special. For example, I make a mean Ancho Chilli Jam with anchos, as they have the most wonderful deep berry flavours. Once you have the confidence, play, make it modern or keep it traditional; whatever you do, learn about dried Mexican chillies, it will change your life. What is your favourite dried chilli & how do you use it?Modern Mexican Cooking Class - red chilli sauceRed Chilli Sauce


8 ancho chillies, dried
6 mulato chillies, dried
1½ tbsp chipotle puree from tinned chillies
8 roma tomatoes
1 white onion, chopped
7 cloves garlic, roasted, peeled, finely chopped
2 tsp roasted whole cumin, ground
1 tsp dried oregano, ground
1 bunch coriander, fresh, chopped
3 tsp salt
3 tbsp peanut oil, lard or olive oil


  1. Remove the stems and seeds from the dried chillies. In a flat sauté pan, over low heat, dry roast the chillies for 1-2 minutes on each side, shaking the pan once or twice, just until the chillies are fragrant. Do not allow to blacken.
  2. Put the roasted chillies in a bowl, and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for about 10-15 minutes so they rehydrate and get soft.
  3. Blacken the tomatoes over an open flame or under a broiler for 5 minutes, turning till blackened all around. Chop and set aside.
  4. Sauté the onion in 1 tbsp of the oil over low heat until browned. Remove from the heat.
  5. Remove the chillies from the water, and put in a blender. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, coriander, chipotle and salt. Add one cup of liquid. (NB: it’s best if you can use the chilli water, but taste it first to see if it is bitter. If it is bitter, use plain water or chicken stock.)
  6. Blend all together until very smooth. If the sauce is too thick, you can thin with more of the liquid.
  7. Add the remaining oil to a large pot and heat until almost smoking. Pour in the sauce quickly, being careful of splatter, and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously. Do not allow the sauce to get too thick; add more water if necessary. Adjust salt if needed.

Note: to make chipotle puree, empty the entire contents of a tin of chipotles in adobo sauce into a blender, and puree till smooth. For information on where to get specialty ingredients in Australia, see this post: https://www.victorsfood.com.au/blog/index.php/2010/09/where-to-find-dried-chillies-chipoltes-tomatillos-and-more/

Yield about 4 cups

No Comments

Post A Comment

Error: Contact form not found.