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Homemade taco sauce recipe

This homemade taco sauce recipe comes together very quickly with a handful of pantry basics. Bright, tangy, and just the right amount of spice, this simple sauce will help you level up your taco night.

I’ll give you variations and substitutions where I can, plus helpful tips and tricks for success. Read on for this info as well as the recipe. If you’d like to skip straight to the recipe, use the jump to recipe button at the top of the post.

You may also be interested in my chicken taco sauce and my chicken tacos recipes. For ease of browsing, you can find all of my taco recipes in one place.

Homemade taco sauce recipe in glass jar in front of a bright rainbow striped background.

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Why you should make this recipe

This taco sauce recipe tastes very similar to your favorite store-bought jarred version, but better!

  • Quick and easy – In about 20 minutes, you’ll have homemade taco sauce that tastes better than your favorite store-bought version. It uses canned tomato sauce and a handful of spices.
  • Make ahead – This sauce will last for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, so you can make it ahead of time and use it whenever you are craving tacos.
  • Versatile – The variations on this sauce are endless. You can make it thicker or thinner. You can adjust the heat, the amount of spices, etc. It is totally customizable to your preferences.

Homemade taco sauce recipe

If you keep a well-stocked spice cabinet, it’s easy to whip this up at the last minute. I can almost guarantee that you already have most of the ingredients.

Spoonful of taco sauce recipe in glass jar on a white background.

You might be wondering why you should make this instead of picking up a jar of your favorite sauce for taco night. Well, for one, it actually tastes BETTER than the jar. And secondly, you won’t need a Ph.D. in chemistry to figure out what’s in it. It’s nice to know there are no questionable ingredients in this sauce.

Ingredients in taco sauce

This simple taco sauce recipe uses a can of tomato sauce, water, a splash of vinegar and a handful of spices.

Ingredients for taco sauce recipe on white background.
  • Tomato sauce – A small can of plain tomato sauce is the base of the taco sauce. Be sure to check the label on the can. It is not the same as spaghetti sauce.
    • Substitutions: Tomato puree, crushed tomatoes, petite diced tomatoes.
  • Vinegar – White vinegar has just the right of amount of bright acidity to give this taco sauce recipe a slightly vinegary bite.
    • Substitution: Apple cider vinegar would be a good option in place of white vinegar.
  • Water – You’ll need a splash of water to loosen the sauce a little. Adjust to your preferred thickness.
  • Spices – Cumin, salt, paprika, onion, garlic, oregano and three kinds of chili powder give the taco sauce a ton of flavor.
  • Lime – A squeeze of fresh lime juice after the sauce has cooked brings bright flavor to the sauce and really makes it sing!

How to make taco sauce

Here’s a quick summary of how to make this taco sauce recipe. Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full recipe. 

Taco sauce in a small sauce pot, sitting on a red potholder.
  1. Prep – Get all of your ingredients lined up so you are ready to go.
  2. Heat – Add everything except the lime juice to a small sauce pot over medium heat. Whisk everything together until combined.
  3. Simmer – Bring the taco sauce to a simmer and let it bubble for about 15 minutes. Be careful while it is simmering – the sauce will splatter a little while it’s bubbling.
  4. Cool – Let the sauce cool slightly, add fresh lime juice and stir to combine.

Taco sauce recipe FAQ’s

Can I make this ahead of time?

Yes, you can make this sauce in advance. Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Can I freeze this sauce?

You can freeze this taco sauce in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Is this gluten-free?

This taco sauce recipe is naturally gluten-free and vegan.

Variations and substitutions

Here’s where you can customize this taco sauce recipe to make it exactly the way you like it.

Ingredients for taco sauce with optional add ins on a white background.
  • Spicy – Add in a pinch of ancho chili powder to give it a spicy, smoky kick.
  • Extra spicy – Swap out chipotle pepper for jalapeño pepper powder (or fresh jalapeño).
  • Hot sauce – Our favorite hot sauce is Cholula. You can add in a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce to kick up the heat.
  • Cornstarch – If you like a really thick taco sauce, make a slurry from 1 teaspoon of cornstarch mixed with a tablespoon of water. Whisk it into the sauce while it is simmering, and it will thicken almost immediately. Don’t cook it for too long, because it will become gummy.
  • Canned tomatoes – If you don’t have tomato sauce, but you need taco sauce, you can use tomato puree, crushed tomatoes or petite diced tomatoes for a little texture. This is a great option if you prefer chunky taco sauce.
  • Water / Vinegar – To make a thinner taco sauce recipe, similar to what you’d get at Taco Bell, add a little more water to thin it out. You may want to add an extra teaspoon of vinegar if you want more of a vinegary bite.

Serving suggestions

Try this sauce on eggs – it makes a delicious breakfast burrito. You can drizzle it over nachos, or anywhere that you want a little spice.

Homemade sauce in glass jar with a spoon resting on top of the sauce.

Here are a few of our favorite recipes to pair with this sauce.

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Yield: 1 cup

Homemade taco sauce recipe

Taco sauce recipe in glass jar.

Quick and easy homemade taco sauce recipe will help you level up taco night.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. tomato sauce // 236ml
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup water - Add water to the empty tomato sauce can to get every little bit. (see note) // 60ml - 80ml
  • 2 tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. granulated onion / onion powder
  • 3/4 tsp. granulated garlic / garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 3/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice, optional, but recommended

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients, except the lime juice, in a sauce pot (I used a 1 quart pot) over medium heat. Whisk to combine.
  2. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for 10 - 15 minutes, until slightly thickened. Make sure sauce is simmering, not boiling, the entire time. (You should see small bubbles coming to the surface.) Stir frequently, but be careful, it splatters a bit while bubbling.
  3. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly. Stir in fresh lime juice, if using.
  4. Let it cool completely, store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

  • Water - If you want your taco sauce on the thicker side, use 1/4 cup of water. To make it slightly looser, use 1/3 cup of water.
  • To make your sauce really thick, combine 1 tsp. cornstarch with 1 tbsp. water and whisk it into simmering sauce. Let it cook for a few minutes to thicken, then remove from heat.
  • For a less spicy taco sauce recipe, reduce the chili powder to 1/2 tsp., omit cayenne powder and chipotle powder.
  • To make the sauce a bit hotter, add a teaspoon or two of your favorite hot sauce. Cholula is my favorite.
  • For a really spicy sauce, add in 1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder.
  • For EXTRA HOT taco sauce, add 1/2 tsp. jalapeño pepper powder.
  • To add some bright, tangy flavor, add in 2 tsp. white vinegar, or 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice once you've taken it off of the heat. It makes a huge difference and I strongly recommend it.
  • Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
  • To FREEZE taco sauce - store in an airtight container in the freezer for up 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • For a creamy version, I like to mix it with my chicken taco sauce or plain sour cream. Try it, it's GOOD.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

2 tbsp.

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 21Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 233mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 1g

Nutrition information calculated by a third-party company as a courtesy. It is intended as a guideline only.

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