Enchilada Sauce Vs Taco Sauce – What’s The Difference?

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If you enjoy Mexican food, you’ll likely have come across a few sauces that make your mouth water. If you’re trying to recreate your favorite meals at home, it may be a bit tricky to notice the subtle differences between the perfect enchilada sauce and a rich taco sauce. 

They’re so similar, you may even wonder if taco sauce and enchilada sauce are basically the same thing.

So what is the difference between enchilada sauce and taco sauce? The main difference between taco sauce and enchilada sauce is the ingredients used for each. Enchilada sauce depends on chili powder whereas taco sauce uses paprika. Enchilada sauce pulls heat from fresh or canned chilis while taco sauce uses cayenne pepper. 

There are a few more critical differences between the two sauces which we discuss in detail through the following article, along with a few more of your favorite Mexican sauces and recipes.

What is Enchilada Sauce?

Enchilada sauce is, as you may be able to guess, the sauce that enchiladas are baked in.

It is full of flavor and spice. There are a wide variety of other Mexican style recipes, but each one tastes just as delicious as the next. Regardless of the recipe, enchilada sauce is primarily designed to give a savory flavor for dipping or baking enchiladas in.

It is usually made as a thick, yet somewhat soupy, sauce with loads of flavor that sinks into the stuffed corn tortilla and enriches the meal as it bakes. Enchiladas can be filled with anything from meat and cheese to beans, potatoes, vegetables, or a combination.

Enchilada comes from the root word enchilar, which means to season with chili in Spanish. All enchilada sauce, according to the definition, must be made with chili.

Types of Enchilada Sauce

The most common type of enchilada sauce is a traditional red sauce, made with tomato paste, chili powder, and a few other seasonings and ingredients. It’s quite savory and full of warm spices but is not necessarily a “hot” sauce.

A green enchilada sauce is creamier and can be spicier, depending on how you want to make it.

There is no tomato paste in this sauce, but rather it’s mainly roasted green chilies blended with the broth of your choice. If you want more heat, you can add some jalapenos to kick the spice up a few notches. 

You can also make a white enchilada sauce, which is most commonly used with chicken enchiladas and is the least Mexican style of all the types of enchiladas.

Again, there’s no tomato paste. Instead, it has a creamy base made with butter, flour, and sour cream. Green chilies can be added for heat. Most cooks will cover white enchiladas with cheese and a flavorful Monteray Jack to add a bit more spice to the dish as well.

Ingredients in Enchilada Sauce

A traditional red enchilada sauce will typically be made using the following ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Oregano
  • Tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The sauce will also include either broth or water and possibly either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar and then it’ll likely be thickened with some flour.

What is Taco Sauce?

Taco sauce is perfect for adding to tacos but it has also become a very inclusive condiment that can add a delicious, smoky, and spicy Mexican flavor to any number of recipes. 

It can be used as a dipping sauce for chips, tater tots, or burritos and it is perfect for drizzling over the top of a loaded plate of nachos.

Taco sauce is so popular that walking down the right aisle of nearly any grocery store will usually offer you a choice of at least five different brands. It is also very easy to make and customize to your own taste, however, and it will keep in your fridge for a long time.

Ingredients in Taco Sauce

Taco sauce uses many of the same ingredients as enchilada sauce, but they’re combined in a way that makes each sauce completely unique. 

Taco sauce has a tomato sauce base, and then the following seasonings and spices are typically added:

  • Cumin
  • Garlic
  • Paprika (smoked is premium)
  • Oregano
  • Cayenne
  • Onion Powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste

You can also add some sugar or even a syrup such as honey or maple syrup to taste if you like a little sweetness with your spice.

Many people will argue that enchilada sauce is spicier than taco sauce, but it really depends on how much cayenne pepper you use in your taco sauce, as well as how many chilies or jalapenos make their way into your enchilada sauce.

Both taco sauce and enchilada sauce are easily adapted to your personal preferences. 

Enchilada Sauce vs Taco Sauce – What’s the Difference?

Enchilada sauce and taco sauce are very similar in many ways, and they’re both very versatile.

But just as a fan of Indian food knows that a subtle difference in the ratio used for the spices can make an entirely different meal, so does a fan of Mexican food understand the differences between the ingredients of these two sauces. 

Both can be thickened or thinned according to your preferences, the heat of either enchilada or taco sauce can be adjusted, and each sauce can be used successfully in many different applications.

In fact, many people will prefer either enchilada sauce or taco sauce and use them for all their Mexican style recipes, regardless of what the dish is.

If you compare the ingredients list between enchilada sauce and taco sauce you’ll notice some very crucial differences:

Enchilada Sauce Taco Sauce
Tomato Paste Tomato Sauce
Vegetable or Chicken Broth
Chili Powder Paprika
Green chilies or Jalapenos Cayenne Pepper

Substituting Taco Sauce for Enchilada Sauce

If you have a specific preference for taco sauce over enchilada sauce, or perhaps you have taco sauce already in your fridge that you want to use rather than buying or making a new sauce, you can easily use one for the other. 

Enchiladas demand quite a bit more sauce than tacos, so to make the most of your taco sauce, try adding some additional liquid to your taco sauce, such as a chicken or vegetable broth.

If that dilutes the flavor too much, you can boost it with a dash of extra chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, or added chilies if you’d like more heat.

If you want to substitute the enchilada sauce for taco sauce, you may find that it’s too runny for your tacos.

You can reduce your sauce by simmering it in a saucepan over low heat to thicken it up just slightly. Many people enjoy a little sweetness to their taco sauce as well, so this is a good opportunity to drizzle in a little bit of honey or maple syrup as well.

Other Types of Mexican Sauces

In North America, the most well known Mexican sauce is referred to as salsa. Interestingly, in Spanish, “salsa” simply means sauce. There are many different kinds of salsa, from salsa verde and pico de gallo to a fresh simple tomato and corn salsa. 

Depending on how broad of a definition you use to cover the topic of Mexican sauces, you may include table sauces like guacamole or pickled vegetables in a mustard sauce, or cooking sauces like Mole, adobo sauce, and of course, enchilada sauce and taco sauce.

Related Questions

We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to the differences between enchilada sauce and taco sauce. We’d also like to invite you to check out these related questions.

Are Enchiladas Mexican?

Enchiladas are Mexican, yes. They are a very popular Mexican street food, where they are made quite simply with corn tortillas dipped in enchilada sauce without any other fillings.

Wrapping filling with corn tortilla and baking it in a sauce like making an enchilada is thought to date all the way back to the Aztecs. 

Now, there are many different ways to make enchiladas, each with a slightly different recipe title depending on the type of sauce used and the fillings the tortilla is stuffed with. 

Are Tacos Gluten-Free?

Traditional Mexican tacos are naturally gluten-free because they use corn tortillas rather than flour tortillas.

If you’re buying store-bought tortillas or taco shells, as is most common, it’s a good idea to check the box to see if the product was made in a gluten-free facility if you’re highly allergic.

Not all taco kits that you buy in a grocery store are made with corn tortillas. Many are made with flour tortillas which are certainly not gluten-free, so you’ll have to be careful and read the ingredients list.

Taco sauce is usually gluten-free, but occasionally you’ll find a sauce that includes flour or other wheat products. So again, you’re always going to want to be safe. It’s best to just read the ingredients list carefully and look for gluten-free certifications. 

What Are Street Tacos?

Mexico is very well known and appreciated for its various street foods. Any Mexican street food is made to be hand-held and easy to eat as you’re walking and traveling.

Street tacos, specifically, usually have small corn tortillas that are doubled-up to prevent any tearing or lost ingredients. These tortillas are then stuffed full of meat that has been seasoned and grilled.

You’ll usually have a choice of pickled vegetables and some shredded radish, carrot, or jalapeno. Of course, fresh salsa is always at the ready, usually right alongside some crèma, which is the Mexican equivalent of crème fraiche (kind of like sour cream).

Up Next: How To Make Salsa Less Spicy

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