Homemade Taco Sauce (Mild, Spicy, or Creamy!) - Slender Kitchen (2024)

Make the most delicious homemade taco sauce that tastes like your favorite fast food or taco kits! It's made with just 8 pantry ingredients with options for mild, spicy, and creamy versions. Serve it with tacos, bowls, quesadillas, tostadas, and more.

10 CAL 2g CARBS 0g FAT 0g PROTEIN 0

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Homemade Taco Sauce (Mild, Spicy, or Creamy!) - Slender Kitchen (1)

Homemade Taco Sauce Recipe

Kick up your next taco night with this Homemade Taco Sauce! Made from pantry staples, it's ready in 20 minutes and tastes so much better than those little packets.

Let’s be honest. I love Taco Bell taco sauce and those delicious little packets that come in Old El Paso or Ortega Tacos kits, but there are two main problems.

First, there is never enough! We are always fighting over the last packet. Second, the list of ingredients is scary for anyone looking to eat less processed foods. Luckily, there is an easy solution—taco sauce is so easy to make at home!

In less than 20 minutes, with a few common pantry ingredients, you can make your own taco sauce to serve with tacos, quesadillas, eggs, bowls, burritos, and more. Plus, you control the spice, tanginess, and sweetness.

Looking for more delicious sauces for tacos and more? Try this tasty birria sauce, ranchero sauce, and homemade habanero hot sauce.

Three Reasons to Make Homemade Taco Sauce

  • Control the flavor: As much as I love the salty, vinegar taco sauce from Taco Bell, I always wish it was a little spicier. You can make homemade sauce as spicy, vinegary, or sweet as you like.
  • Better than store-bought: Honestly, most store-bought and restaurant taco sauces contain many ingredients I can’t even begin to pronounce. When you make it at home, it’s free of preservatives and more processed ingredients.
  • Always on hand: Am I the only one who never has taco sauce on hand when you need it? This recipe is easy enough to make with pantry staples, so you never run out.

Looking for more taco sauce ideas? Try this fish taco sauce, creamy chipotle sauce, and creamy shrimp taco sauce.

Homemade Taco Sauce (Mild, Spicy, or Creamy!) - Slender Kitchen (2)

What is taco sauce made of?

Traditionally, taco sauce is made from a combination of tomato sauce, vinegar, and spices, including garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. It usually has some sugar to balance the spices and vinegar.

What is taco sauce? Taco sauce is a Tex Mex or American sauce popular for crispy ground meat tacos. It’s served in many fast-food Mexican restaurants like Taco Bell or Del Taco. In Mexico, you won’t find taco sauce almost anywhere. Instead, you will find a variety of salsas.

Ingredients and Easy Swaps

  • Tomato sauce: This is the main ingredient in taco sauce. Make sure to choose canned tomato puree that is only made with tomatoes, it shouldn’t have any seasonings or condiments. You could also blend canned diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes, but it won’t be as thick. For a stronger tomato flavor, add some tomato paste as well.
  • Vinegar: For that tangy flavor, you need to add vinegar. White vinegar is typically used, but you could swap in apple cider vinegar. You could also use lime juice, but it won’t have that same classic flavor.
  • Cumin: Cumin adds smokiness to the sauce. Swap in a chipotle pepper for more smoke and spice.
  • Garlic and onion powder: Dried spices are normally used in taco sauce. Swap in freshly minced garlic or onions for a stronger garlic or onion flavor. Frozen garlic cubes would also be perfect.
  • Paprika: Paprika adds some sweetness. If you prefer smokier flavors, use smoked paprika.
  • Chili powder: For a traditional flavor, use regular chili powder. For more smoke and heat, swap in ancho chili powder. Adjust the amount to your preference.
  • Cayenne pepper: This ingredient provides most of the heat. Adjust the amount to suit your taste.
  • Sugar: Most restaurant and store-bought taco sauces contain corn syrup. I prefer using white or brown sugar, but you could also use honey, maple syrup, or agave.
  • Optional herbs: Traditional taco sauce doesn’t contain herbs, but you could add some dried oregano or coriander for more flavor.

Homemade Taco Sauce (Mild, Spicy, or Creamy!) - Slender Kitchen (3)

How to Make Homemade Taco Sauce

This sauce couldn’t be easier to make.

  1. Simmer:Add the tomato sauce, water, spices, vinegar, and sugar to a small saucepan. Bring to a low simmer and cover with a lid. Simmer on low, stirring so that the bottom doesn’t burn. If the sauce gets too thick, add some water or chicken broth.
  2. Adjust the flavor: Taste the sauce and adjust the flavor to your liking. My family likes a little extra vinegar and cayenne.
  3. Let cool and store: Let the sauce fully cool before storing it in the fridge. In my opinion, this sauce tastes even better the next day.

Variations: Mild, Smoky, Spicy, and Green Taco Sauce

There are so many different ways to make this sauce your own. The green and creamy versions are particularly delicious!

  • Mild: For mild taco sauce, skip the cayenne pepper completely and add a touch of extra sugar if needed.
  • Smoky: Use ancho chili powder instead of traditional chili powder and smoked paprika instead of sweet.
  • Smoky and spicy chipotle: Add smoke and spice to your taco sauce, and add 1-2 tablespoons of canned chipotle peppers in adobo (or just the adobo sauce).
  • Spicy:Add extra cayenne pepper and chili powder for a spicier taco sauce. You could also add your favorite hot sauce to taste.
  • Green taco sauce: Swap in blended canned or fresh tomatillos for the canned tomato sauce.
  • Creamy taco sauce: To make a creamy taco sauce, add a few spoonfuls of mayonnaise, sour cream, Mexican crema, or Greek yogurt.

Homemade Taco Sauce (Mild, Spicy, or Creamy!) - Slender Kitchen (4)

Way to Use Taco Sauce

Obviously, the number one way to use this sauce is for tacos, but it is also so good in so many other recipes. Here are some favorites:

  • Crispy Tacos: Taco sauce is a classic for Tex-Mex tacos like ground turkey tacos, ground beef tacos, and easy ground chicken tacos. Load on the lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and homemade sauce.
  • Tostadas: Make your crispy tacos open-faced withclassic tostadas piled high with refried beans, protein, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, onions, and taco sauce. Try it with turkey tostadas, beef tostadas, or even shrimp tostadas.
  • Burritos and quesadillas: Swap in this homemade taco sauce for hot sauce or salsa in a bean burrito, chicken quesadilla, or even a breakfast burrito.
  • Enchiladas: This homemade taco sauce is pretty similar to enchilada sauce. Use it in this Slow Cooker Enchilada Casserole or Enchilada Soup.
  • Get creative: Use taco sauce in these Zucchini Taco Boats, Mexican Stuffed Mushrooms, Easy Homemade Sofritas, or Healthy Taco Casserole.

Storing and Freezing Leftover Sauce

This sauce keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. You can also freeze it for later use. We like to make a big batch and then freeze it in ice cube trays when needed. Defrost a few cubes worth when you need it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions about making and using taco sauce.

Is taco sauce a thing in Mexico?

Taco sauce is not used in authentic Mexican cooking and recipes. It is a Tex-Mex sauce typically used on American-style ground beef tacos, burritos, and more. In Mexico, tacos are normally served with salsas made from fresh tomatoes, tomatillos, chile peppers, herbs, and dried chiles.

What are the ingredients in mild Taco Bell sauce?

Taco Bell's mild taco sauce is made with water, tomato puree, vinegar, salt, dried chile peppers, yeast extract, xantham gum, and preservatives.

Homemade Taco Sauce (Mild, Spicy, or Creamy!) - Slender Kitchen (5)

More Homemade Salsas and Condiments

Looking for more ideas for sauces and salsas for taco night? Try these next.

Guacamole

Salsa Verde

Creamy Avocado Salsa Verde

Creamy Cilantro Lime Sauce

Corn Salsa

The Recipe

Homemade Taco Sauce (Mild, Spicy, or Creamy!) - Slender Kitchen (11)

PREP TIME: 3 Min

COOK TIME: 20 Min

TOTAL TIME: 23 Min

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Ingredients

US METRICS

  • 8 oz canned tomato sauce (tomato puree)

  • 1/4 cup water (or chicken broth)

  • 1 tbsp white vinegar

  • 1 tsp chili powder

  • 1 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/2 tsp paprika

  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

  • 1/2 tsp onion powder

  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)

  • 1 tsp sugar

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Instructions

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1

Add the tomato sauce, water, vinegar, spices, and sugar to a small saucepan. Stir to combine well.

2

Bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring as needed to prevent burning. If the sauce seems too thick, add a splash of water.

3

Taste the taco sauce and salt as needed. Many canned tomato sauces have a lot of salt, so you may not need much. However, if the tomato sauce doesn't have salt, plan on seasoning well. Allow the sauce to fully cool and store in an airtight container.

Equipment

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Diets:

  • Clean Eating
  • Gluten Free
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian

Nutritional Facts

Serving Size: 2 tbsp

Amount Per Serving

Calories 10

Calories from Fat 1

% Daily Value *

Total Fat 0g

0%

Saturated Fat 0g

0%

Monounsaturated Fat 0g

0%

Polyunsaturated Fat 0g

0%

Cholesterol 0mg

0%

Sodium 124mg

5%

Total Carbohydrate 2g

1%

Dietary Fiber 0g

2%

Sugars 1g

Protein 0g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.

Notes

Salt: Adjust the amount of salt you use in this recipe based on the saltiness of your canned tomato sauce. Some taco sauce recipes use chicken bouillon powder instead of salt.

Creamy: Add 2-4 tablespoons of sour cream, mayo, Mexican crema, or Greek yogurt.

Mild: Skip the cayenne pepper or just use a pinch.

Spicy: Use extra cayenne pepper or add a canned chipotle pepper in adobo.

Green: Swap in blended canned tomatillos for the tomatoes.

Homemade Taco Sauce (Mild, Spicy, or Creamy!) - Slender Kitchen (14)

About the author Meet Kristen McCaffrey

Hi, I’m the cookbook author, recipe developer, and food enthusiast behind Slender Kitchen. I am obsessed with making healthy food that is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Meal planning is my secret weapon and I hope I can make meal time easier for you with our tried and tested recipes and foolproof meal plans.Learn More

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