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10 May

Chile Gravy

Chile GravyCall it what you will, chile (or chili) gravy or enchilada sauce, either way this blend of dried chiles, cumin, garlic, and beef broth is hard to be without if you love Tex-Mex cuisine. Granted, a lot of Tex-Mex cuisine is also loaded with gooey melted cheese, chips and tortillas but it’s best to skip all that. Instead, pour this earthy, smoky, moderately spicy gravy over ground beef, scrambled eggs, chilaquiles, grilled steak or chicken. Or use it (un-thickened) as a braising or poaching liquid for beef, pork or chicken.

Every Tex-Mex aficionado has their own recipe for chili gravy. Some recipes use only chili powder, instead of whole, dried chiles, which works well if you have access to high-quality, flavorful chili powder. Many recipes use powdered garlic instead of fresh. And all of them use flour to thicken the gravy. This Primal version relies on tapioca powder to thicken the gravy, but even that’s not entirely necessary if you’re okay with a slightly thinner texture.

Besides great Tex-Mex flavor, what other reasons are there to spice up your food with chili gravy? Both fresh and dried peppers contain important nutrients, including antioxidants, and have potential cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Servings: 1 to 2 cups of chile gravy

Time in the Kitchen: 45 minutes


Chile Gravy Ingredients
  • 3 dried ancho chiles, seeds and stems removed
  • 3 tablespoons lard (or if you must, cold-pressed high-oleic/high-stearic sunflower oil)
  • 1/2 a yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin (10 ml)
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (10 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (2.5 ml)
  • 2 1/2 cups beef broth (600 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon tapioca flour (15 ml)


In a dry skillet or pot heated on high, toast the chiles on each side for about 10 seconds. Cover the chiles with water, bring the water a boil and then turn off the heat. Let the chiles soak for 30 minutes to re-hydrate. Drain the chiles (discard the water). Put the chiles in a blender and set aside.

Ancho Chiles

Warm the lard in a skillet over medium heat and add the onion, cooking for about 10 minutes until totally soft. Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or less to soften. Scrape the lard, onion and garlic into the blender with the chiles along with the cumin, chile powder, oregano and broth. Blend until very smooth.

Return the sauce to the stove and gently simmer for 10 minutes. Season well with salt.

Chile Sauce

Just before serving, whisk the tapioca flour with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of water then slowly whisk the liquid into the sauce.

To serve over ground beef, cook a pound of ground beef in a skillet with chopped onion, garlic and cumin. Pour the chili gravy on top before serving.

Chili Gravy 2

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. This is really close to my enchilada sauce. I made it with butter and flour but now make it with tapioca or arrowroot flour. Maybe I’ll pour it over the carnita meat I have in the fridge. Mmmmmm.

    2Rae wrote on May 10th, 2014
  2. Oh man, this looks good. For lunches I’ve been using a paleo recipe of ground beef, a bunch of eggs, cumin, onions, and mushrooms. It’s a great source of protein, but I feel the need to change it up.

    Going to make this and use it as a sauce over the meat and egg concoction.

    Going to have to find ancho chiles though.

    C L Deards wrote on May 10th, 2014
  3. I wholeheartedly recommend everyone try this recipe with Chipotle chilis in Adobe sauce… the best brand (so everyone seems to be saying) is La Catena, they are not so hot and you can even eat the whole can in one sitting (unless you’re really really sensitive to spiciness).

    This will add so much flavor compared to just using the ancho chilies.

    Chile Aficionado wrote on May 10th, 2014
  4. Since when has it been a good idea to subject high pufa sunflower oil to heat? Or to even eat it at all? I was under the impression that all of the o-6 was bad and then heat only makes it worse by oxidizing them?

    Zach rusk wrote on May 10th, 2014
  5. Sounds terrific I would use coconut oil or bacon fat!

    Jean finch wrote on May 10th, 2014
  6. Nice. I haven’t experimented really with “primal” tex-mex. This with some short ribs will happen. Nice work.

    Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 10th, 2014
  7. New paleo chilli recipes are always welcome! And wouldn’t coconut oil be preferable to sunflower? Or ghee?

    Michele wrote on May 10th, 2014
  8. Hmm, so many FODMAPS and pure starches. Ouch says my belly. No tapioca, or alliums for me.

    Kendra wrote on May 10th, 2014
  9. Why not just use tomato paste as a thickener? (Check for HFCS.)

    Anton Byers wrote on May 10th, 2014
  10. Wow, I’ve never heard it called chili gravy before. In the Southwest, it’s generally called red chile, or chile colorado in Spanish (not as in Colorado the state). If made right, it really doesn’t need a thickener. The whole dried chiles, when softened and pureed, will provide all the thickening you need.

    A couple of other points: don’t discard the steeping water until you’ve tasted it first. It can be a little bitter, but it’s also good for using to thin the sauce without losing flavor. Only discard it if it tastes too bitter to you, or if you have too much to use. Also, for the best consistency, strain the sauce through a metal mesh strainer after you blend it but before you simmer it the final time. No matter how much you blend it, there will still be chile skin in the sauce, which takes away from the smooth texture and can also add a bitter aftertaste.

    Anchos work well, but pasillas and guajillos also work well and have their own flavor profiles. Dried New Mexico chiles (the ripe red version of Hatch-style green chiles) are also really common and cheap and work really well in this preparation.

    Mantonat wrote on May 13th, 2014
    • Thanks Mantonat for posting that – I URGENTLY wanted to say the same things! I’m a red chile purist and import them in my suitcase from New Mexico all the way to Norway where I live now. To me, chiles are as interesting as the grapes for wine – every region has a flavor and characteristics. I prefer hatch dried red chile, and have learned that the sun dried varieties need to be rinsed before using. Fat dulls the flavor, which is fine for some recipes but for the basic sauce its better not to use anything but just the chile, a little garlic and oregano, and salt to taste. You can dress it up with pork lard, cumin, or other things when you use it in a recipe.

      My process for the chiles is:
      -break off the stems and put the whole chiles, seeds and all, into a pot of just-boiled water. If you break or tear them in half, they steep more completely. Wash your hands very well after doing this and before touching your eyes or other sensitive places!
      -steep them for 20 minutes with a lid, under no heat, just like you would make strong tea
      -when soft, use a slotted spoon to put them in a blender with some of the steeping water (not too much) and a garlic clove, blend very smooth, about 1 minute. Add a little dash of the water as needed so that it grinds properly in the blender.
      -strain through a tight collandar – I use a pyrex quart sized pitcher with a mesh collander over it, and force the sauce through it by rubbing it with the back of a ladle. Dump the fibers into another bowl as you go, you might be able to add more of the steeping water to the fibers and strain again, to make a second batch of thinner extract from it for use in marinades.

      That’s it. I don’t simmer it, I don’t want to destroy the c-vitamins or flavor by exposure to the heat. It’s not necessary, anyway and the result tastes brighter if it never boils. I use the sauce by the spoonful on eggs, as enchilada sauce, in meat dishes, as a marinade, or slurped directly from a ladle into my greedy mouth. Better than sex!

      FattynSweaty wrote on May 14th, 2014
      • I’d love to see the faces of Norwegian customs officials as they scan your bag full or red chiles, or the faces of any Norwegians willing to try your finished sauce!

        Mantonat wrote on May 16th, 2014
        • Haha 😉 Luckily, my running group is full of expats who have lived in areas of the world that eat mega-spicy, so they like it. The customs officials must think I’m crazy though!

          FattynSweaty wrote on May 19th, 2014
  11. Made this earlier today and it came out glorious… I subbed bacon fat for the lard and didn’t use as much beef broth. Fantastic over scrambled eggs!

    Joanna B wrote on May 13th, 2014
  12. Just made this tonight. Subbed in bacon fat for the lard. Had to use chicken bone broth instead of beef broth. Still tastes great. Had missed the comment on straining the sauce one last time before simmering. Still tastes great, but maybe straining will make the sauce smoother?

    Thanks for the recipe and the tip.

    C L Deards wrote on May 17th, 2014
  13. How long can this be kept refrigerated? Could one make a batch that could be used for a couple of weeks?

    55Kevy wrote on May 19th, 2014

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