Green Mexican sauce and green enchilada sauce are two types of flavorful green sauces commonly used in Mexican cuisine. While they share some similarities, there are also some key differences between the two.
What is Green Mexican Sauce?
Green Mexican sauce, also sometimes called green salsa or salsa verde, refers to any type of Mexican sauce that is green in color. There are many different regional variations of green Mexican sauce throughout Mexico. Some common ingredients used in green Mexican sauce include:
- Tomatillos – Green tomatoes that give the sauce its classic green hue.
- Serrano peppers – Spicy green chili peppers.
- Cilantro – Fresh green herb.
- Lime juice
Green Mexican sauce has a bright, tangy and lightly spicy flavor. It tends to be thinner in consistency compared to other sauces. Some popular uses for green Mexican sauce include:
- Salsa – Dip for tortilla chips
- Enchiladas – Pour over enchiladas before serving
- Tacos – Topping for tacos
- Quesadillas – Add to quesadillas while cooking
- Burritos – Burrito filling ingredient
What is Green Enchilada Sauce?
Green enchilada sauce is a type of sauce specifically used for making enchiladas. The sauce is poured over corn tortillas stuffed with a filling like chicken, beef, cheese or beans. The stuffed tortillas are then baked or fried with the green enchilada sauce to absorb the flavor.
While recipes can vary, common ingredients in green enchilada sauce include:
- Tomatillos – Provides the classic green color
- Green chile peppers – Adds spicy heat like jalapenos or serranos
- Chicken or vegetable broth
- Allspice, cumin, oregano – Spices for flavor
The sauce has a medium-thick consistency that helps it coat the tortillas well. The flavor is mildly spicy, herby and often has a hint of sourness from tomatillos. The sauce helps provide moisture and binding to the enchiladas when baked.
Differences Between the Sauces
While green enchilada sauce and green Mexican sauce share some ingredients like tomatillos, peppers, cilantro and onions, there are some key ways that the sauces differ:
- Consistency – Green Mexican sauce is thinner and more salsa-like, while green enchilada sauce has a thicker, gravier consistency for coating tortillas.
- Spiciness – Green enchilada sauce tends to be mildly spicy, while green Mexican sauce can range from mild to very spicy depending on the type and amount of peppers used.
- Flavor – Green Mexican sauce has a brighter, fresher flavor. Green enchilada sauce is more robust with deeper spice flavors.
- Use – Green Mexican sauce is a condiment, while green enchilada sauce is specifically for making enchiladas.
- Ingredients – Green enchilada sauce uses more spices like cumin and oregano. Broth is also common to thin out the sauce.
Are They Interchangeable?
In most cases, green Mexican sauce and green enchilada sauce are not directly interchangeable in recipes, for a few reasons:
- The thinner consistency of green Mexican sauce would likely not coat and flavor enchiladas sufficiently during baking. The sauce would soak into the tortilla rather than coat it.
- The more robust, spicy flavor of green enchilada sauce would overpower many foods like chips if used as a salsa. The deep spice flavors could clash with ingredients like fresh vegetables and lighter proteins.
- Dishes that specifically call for one sauce likely rely on that sauce’s unique flavors and qualities to provide the ideal flavor profile.
There are some exceptions where the sauces could be swapped:
- Thickening green Mexican sauce with a slurry or cornstarch would allow it to work for enchiladas in a pinch.
- Watering down green enchilada sauce makes it better suited as a taco topping or dip.
- Using green enchilada sauce for nachos or chilaquiles could work well since the sauce wouldn’t need to coat a whole enchilada.
However, for best results it’s recommended to use the sauce specifically called for in a recipe and adjust seasonings to taste as needed.
How to Make Basic Green Mexican Sauce
Here is a simple recipe for a versatile green Mexican sauce that works for enchiladas, tacos, burritos and more:
- 1 lb tomatillos, husks removed – rinsed and quartered
- 1 medium white onion, cut into chunks
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers, stems and seeds removed
- 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 lime, juiced
- In a medium pot, combine the tomatillos, onion, garlic, jalapenos and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes until tomatillos are softened and dull green.
- Carefully transfer the tomatillo mixture to a blender. Add the cilantro, salt, cumin and lime juice.
- Blend until smooth, adding a splash of water if needed to thin.
- Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Serve warm or cooled.
For spicier sauce, add another jalapeno. For a brighter flavor, add more lime juice a teaspoon at a time. The sauce keeps refrigerated for 4-5 days.
How to Make Easy Green Enchilada Sauce
This simple recipe makes an easy weeknight enchilada sauce:
- 1 lb tomatillos, husks removed – rinsed and halved
- 1 small white onion, roughly chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 jalapeno peppers, stems removed
- 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
- 1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt
- In a medium pot, combine the tomatillos, onion, garlic, jalapenos and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until tomatillos are very soft and dull green.
- Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender. Add the cilantro, cumin, oregano and salt.
- Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Use immediately or let cool completely before storing. Keeps refrigerated for 4-5 days.
For a spicier sauce, leave the jalapeno seeds intact. For more flavor, simmer the sauce with a whole peeled onion and discard before blending.
- Green Mexican sauce and green enchilada sauce share some main ingredients like tomatillos, peppers and cilantro.
- Green Mexican sauce is thinner, brighter and more salsa-like. Green enchilada sauce is thicker and deeper flavored.
- The sauces are not directly interchangeable in most recipes due to differences in consistency, spice level and flavors.
- In a pinch, green Mexican sauce can be thickened to use for enchiladas. Green enchilada sauce can be thinned for use as a salsa.
- For best results, use the specific green sauce called for in a recipe.
Both sauces are extremely versatile and can be adjusted to preference. They provide great fresh flavor to all types of delicious Mexican dishes.