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Red Chili Sauce for Tamales

This full-flavored Red Chili Sauce for Tamales Recipe is so good you will want to put it on more than just tamales

Instant Pot Tamales and a recipe for Red Chili Sauce for Tamales

Rich in color and flavor the red chili sauce is made with dried California Chilis that are baked to enhance their flavor.

Then the chilis are soaked to start the base of our sauce.

The ingredients go into the blender, then strained, and finally simmered.

The results are a silky deep red chili sauce. 

Ingredients to Make Red Chili Sauce for Tamales

  • Dried California Chilis
  • Water
  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Flour
  • Olive Oil

Kitchen Gadgets Needed for this Red Chili Sauce Recipe

  • A good blender that can blend the ingredients smoothly. 
  • Colander
  • Mesh strainer

Your blender will need to be strong enough to basically liquefy your ingredients. The mesh strainer is optional but to really remove any leftover skins in the sauce I feel it is necessary. However, if your colander has small holes then it should be just fine. 

Breakfast Burrito with Red Chili Sauce

How to Store Leftover Red Chili Sauce

When I make this red chili sauce for my beef tamales in an instant pot I have leftovers. I save my leftover red chili sauce and put it on my breakfast burritos, enchiladas, nachos, and tacos. 

To store leftover Red Chili Sauce place sauce in an airtight container and refrigerate. It will stay good up to 4 days. 

You can also freeze Red Chili Sauce. Pour sauce into a freezer bag and place in your freezer. 

Prevent Bitter Chili Sauce

This is really important. 

I am dead serious when I say to roast the chilis in the oven for only 2 to 3 minutes. 

If you burn the chilis stop and throw them away. Your sauce will be too bitter to eat. Once they come out of the oven inspect for any burn spots. 

Set a timer and stand next to your oven for 3 minutes. You will begin to smell the aroma of the chilis. Go ahead and pull them out. 

If your sauce turned out bitter there is a chance to save the sauce. Add a pinch of sugar. Not to sweeten the sauce but to counterbalance the bitterness. 

Dried Chili Peppers used to make Red Chili Sauce for Tamales

How to pick out good dried Chilis

When shopping for dried chilis I look for rich color and texture.

Good Dried Chilis are rich in color and not faded. You can bend the chili without it crumbling or falling apart. 

If the chilis are too dried out don’t buy them. You can spot these dried-out chilis by their dull color and they easily crumble. They will also look old. 

Here is a great article on how to pick out different types of Dried Chilis. 

FAQ for Red Chili Sauce

  • Is Red Chili Sauce Gluten Free?
    • No, this recipe contains 2 tsp of flour. 
  • Is Red Chili Sauce Spicy?
    • Yes but it isn’t overpowering. 
  • Can Red Chili Sauce be Frozen?
    • Yes, Store the sauce in a freezer bag and freeze. 
  • How to use Red Chili Sauce?
    • Pour it over tamales, burritos and enchiladas. You can drizzle it over nachos and tacos. 
  • What is Red Chili Sauce made from?
    • I use dried California Red Chili peppers. These can be found in your produce section. 
  • Can I use dried chili powder instead?
    • There will be more bitterness to the sauce and the weights would have to be exact. I have not made a Chili Sauce with a powder so unfortunately I can’t speak on how the it will turn out. 

Red Chili Sauce Recipe

Red Chili Sauce for Tamales

Red Chili Sauce for Tamales

Yield: 24
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Rich in color and flavor this red chili sauce is perfect for tamales, enchiladas, burritos and tacos. 


  • 15 dried California chilis; stems and seeds removed
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp olive oil


  1. Remove stems and seeds from peppers. Place chile peppers on a baking sheet and bake for 1 to 2 minutes at 275F. Avoid burning.
  2. Remove from the oven and put peppers in a pot of hot water (not boiling) and allow them to soak for 30 minutes. Save the soaking water.
  3. Transfer soaked peppers, garlic, cumin, salt, flour, olive oil, and 2 1/2 cups of the soaking water to a blender. Blend until smooth.
  4. Strain chile sauce through a colander into a sauce pot. Use the back of a spoon to push the sauce through. Discard any remaining pepper skin or bits left in the colander. If skin or bits got through your colander strain again through a mesh strainer. 
  5. Simmer the sauce on low. If your sauce gets too thick you can thin it out with the remaining soaking water.


If you have New Mexico Pepper lower the oven temperature to 250F. when roasting. These peppers turn bitter really fast. 

Please read the article above for recipe tips. The peppers if left in the oven too long will become bitter.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 24 Serving Size: 3 ounces
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 18Unsaturated Fat: 0g

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