The Biggest Differences Between Ranchero And Enchilada Sauce

A dish of enchiladas
A dish of enchiladas - Thesomegirl/Getty Images

Ranchero sauce and enchilada sauce provide the flavor to two popular dishes, huevos rancheros and enchiladas. They have some similarities and share a few ingredients, including the use of chiles. Take a quick glance at them and it's plain to see that they look nearly identical. It's easy to understand how people might get them confused. They are both sauces that are simmered and cooked down to develop their flavors, but some important differences become evident when looking at their components.

Ranchero sauce usually features tomatoes -- often using the canned variety -- as the main ingredient. A traditional enchilada sauce, on the other hand, uses way less tomato, and it's usually in the form of tomato paste or sauce. The heat level between the two varies greatly, and how chiles are incorporated into these sauces differs as well. Ranchero sauce may use either fresh or dried chiles while enchilada sauce usually includes dried chiles. Becoming familiar with each condiment's distinct qualities will help you determine how best to use them.

Read more: The 15 Best Store-Bought Barbecue Sauces, Ranked

What Is Ranchero Sauce?

huevos rancheros in a skillet
huevos rancheros in a skillet - AS Foodstudio/Shutterstock

Ranchero sauce is often the star of that beloved classic, huevos rancheros. The dish's name means "eggs in rancher's style," and it was originally created to serve as a hearty breakfast. In some ways, the sauce resembles salsa. It features many of the same ingredients: tomatoes, onions, chiles, and cilantro. Unlike enchilada sauce, ranchero sauce can come together quickly. The sauce doesn't need to simmer for long on the stove, making it a great choice for an easy and fast meal.

The texture of ranchero sauce varies from recipe to recipe. Most prefer to leave it chunky while others put the sauce in a blender to give it a smoother consistency. There's also a difference of opinion on what kind of chiles to use. Fresh serranos or jalapenos work great in the sauce as do dried pasilla and guajillo chiles. The kind of tomatoes used helps shape the flavor of the sauce as well. Briefly cooking down fresh tomatoes will make for a hearty sauce and using fire-roasted tomatoes will add a bit of smokiness to it.

What Is Enchilada Sauce?

a plate of beef enchiladas
a plate of beef enchiladas - Alisa Korolevskaya/Getty Images

Enchilada sauce is usually milder than ranchero sauce. Some recipes simply call for regular chile powder, which has a lot of flavor, but not much heat. Dried New Mexico chiles are also popular for enchilada sauce, and they are usually seeded before being used. Overall, enchilada sauce is well seasoned with cumin and garlic powder. Tomatoes play a supporting role in it in the form of tomato paste or a small amount of canned or fresh tomatoes.

Compared to ranchero sauce, enchilada sauce tends to be thinner in its consistency. Chicken stock or broth makes up a large percentage of its base. Make sure to watch the salt levels of your sauce when using broth or stock since they can be high in sodium on their own. Unlike ranchero sauce, there is more than one style of enchilada sauce. Green enchilada sauce is a popular variation, which features tomatillos and fresh chiles.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.