When I go out for Mexican food, I’m all in on a few things — the queso, the chips, and the chiles rellenos. But another thing that I really enjoy whether I’m dining out or eating at home is ranchero sauce.
I absolutely love this smoky tomato-based sauce and it’s really a perfect addition to so many dishes whether they’re Mexican, Tex-Mex, or otherwise.
I purposely made this recipe simple with ingredients that are typically handy. You can change it up with fresh ingredients instead of dried or canned, or customize it however suits you!
The next time you’re looking for an easy sauce to spice up a meal, check out this smoky Mexican-inspired sauce.
Table of Contents
What is Ranchero Sauce?
Ranchero sauce is a blend of tomatoes, a variety of peppers, onion, and other seasonings. The result is a smoky and smooth sauce that’s as perfect for traditional dishes as it is for spicing up new renditions of old favorites.
This recipe uses fairly simple ingredients to make the recipe approachable.
- Vegetable oil – This will help to make the sauce silky smooth.
- White onion – Make sure to chop these finely so that they blend well.
- Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce – Roughly chop the chipotle peppers for a bit of texture.
- Plain tomato sauce – Make sure to grab the kind without added seasonings.
- Chicken broth – Canned, boxed, or homemade will all work well.
- Kosher salt – The granules in this are the perfect size for making this sauce.
- Paprika – Make sure it’s fresh so that it has the most flavor.
- Dried oregano – You can use fresh, instead, if you have it, but dried works just fine for this recipe.
- Chili powder – Since this adds some of that spicy flavor, make sure that you have a good, fresh jar of it.
- Fresh lime juice – Squeezing your own is always best but if you only have the store-bought variety that will work, too.
How to Use Ranchero Sauce
Of course this sauce is known for being the star of the show on huevos rancheros but you can use it on a variety of dishes other than those as well.
- Other egg dishes – Outside of the traditional huevos rancheros (or breakfast tacos), you can use this sauce to drizzle over any omelet, mix it into eggs before you scramble them, or even use it as a spicy swap for hollandaise over your poached eggs for a riff on an eggs Benedict.
- Tacos, burritos, and fajitas – Use this sauce in place of others that you may typically pour onto your favorite Mexican dishes.
- Potatoes – Toss roasted potatoes in the sauce or dip french fries in it. Make a loaded baked potato and pour this over top for a spicier version.
- Veggies – Take basic roasted or steamed vegetables and toss them in this delicious sauce.
- Meats – Spoon this over chicken or pork chops to spice up a weeknight meal.
- Dip – Dip tortilla chips, veggies, or even chicken wings in this spicy sauce.
- Beans – Toss beans like pintos or black beans in this sauce before serving.
- Rice – Spice up your rice by adding this sauce in the final part of the cooking process.
- Cocktails – If you like savory cocktails, add a dash of this sauce (especially to Bloody Marys). You can also use it on the top edge of the glass before garnishing — just dip the rim in the ranchero sauce and then into your favorite rim garnish (eg, salt, cayenne, or Old Bay).
This is a great base sauce that is a fantastic canvas for your creativity. Add or change it up to make it your own signature sauce — these are just a few ideas.
- Oils – Try using olive oil, avocado oil, or any other substitute that you have on hand.
- Spices – Experiment with different spices — cumin, especially, is a good option because of its earthiness.
- Broth – For a vegetarian version, try using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. If you want a different flavor profile, you can try beef stock.
- Citrus – Lime is most traditional but you can always try lemon or orange.
- Zest – In addition to the juice, try adding the zest of the lime to add more brightness.
- Red peppers – Try adding some finely chopped red peppers for bright color and flavor.
- Tomatoes – Instead of tomato sauce from the store, use your own fresh tomatoes to make the sauce. You can also try incorporating fire-roasted tomatoes.
- Oregano – Swap out your typical oregano for Mexican oregano.
- Onions – Change up the type of onions you use — nearly any variety will work. Just be sure to keep in mind the flavor profile so that you know if you want to use a sweet onion or another variety.
- Cilantro – Add fresh cilantro to ranchero sauce for a different twist.
- Peppers – Switch up the peppers to create different, bold flavors. Try chili peppers, green chiles, or jalapeno peppers.
- Paprika – Swap out the regular paprika for smoked paprika to achieve more smoky flavor.
- Garlic – Mince fresh garlic, or use garlic powder, to add a punch of flavor.
- Powdered pepper- Ancho chile powder, cayenne pepper, or even simple black pepper will all add various levels of heat to your sauce.
Storage and Freezing
Store this sauce separately from any protein or vegetables that you are serving it with.
Make ahead: Ranchero sauce can be made ahead of time. Reheat over a low temperature on the stovetop.
Refrigerator: Store ranchero sauce in an airtight container or a ziploc bag for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
Freezing: Pour ranchero sauce into a freezer-safe container or a ziploc bag and freeze for up to 2 months. You can also first freeze it in an ice cube tray, then portion it out into ziploc bags.
More Savory Sauces
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- ½ cup white onion chopped
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce roughly chopped
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 1 ½ cups plain tomato sauce
- ½ cup chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
- Add white onion, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and garlic. Cook until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- sauteing onions, garlic and chipotle peppers
- Add tomato sauce, chicken broth, Kosher salt, smoked paprika, dried oregano, chili powder and lime juice, stirring to combine. Simmer on low for 5 minutes.
- tomato sauce and seasonings
- Using an immersion blender, or transferring the whole mixture to a stand blender or food processor, blend until smooth.
- Set aside until ready to use.
- If you’ve tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or ratings!