Make Your Own Taco Sauce

When tacos are on the menu at our house, I like to be sure I have some of this homemade taco sauce ready to be served with them too.  I used to find myself always reaching for the ready-made Ortega Taco Sauce at the store, but now? Well now I very much prefer to make my own version of Ortega taco sauce. Not only does it save us money, we think it tastes better too!

Jar of homemade taco sauce with spoon

I also love that this homemade taco sauce recipe comes together so quickly and easily and that’s because it all starts with a frugal can of tomato sauce. I use the 8 oz size can of tomato sauce as the base which then gets thinned down with a ¼ cup of water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar to add some tartness. I add in a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar or agave nectar to offset the vinegar just a bit too.

Then it’s time to add in a nice assortment of spices. I add 1 teaspoon of cumin which provides a nice boost of the Mexican flavor to this sauce. I also add in a ½ teaspoon each of garlic powder and onion powder. Then ¼ teaspoon each of chili powder, paprika, and cayenne get stirred in too.

A bowl of homemade taco sauce being stirred with a whisk

And there’s also a ½ teaspoon of lemon pepper in the mixture too which may seem a little unusual but adds just the little “sumthin-sumthin” that makes this recipe a favorite of ours. This ingredient was included after my son tasted one of my first batches and thought it needed a little extra citrus flavor. I got the idea to add in some lemon pepper and it’s been a great addition that’s been stirred into every batch I’ve made since.

And I’ve made many batches! Our homemade taco sauce has become a staple at our house that I’ve been making now for several years and I almost always have some in a little jar in the door of the refrigerator with my other regular condiments.

A bowl of homemade taco sauce

If you give this recipe a try you might soon discover as we did, that it’s a tasty and frugal alternative that’s worth making again and again. Taco night at our house just isn’t the same without it!

A jar of homemade taco sauce

This post was originally published 6/6/11 and was updated 3/21/21.

Easy Homemade Taco Sauce

This quick homemade version of taco sauce starts with a can of tomato sauce that you flavor with a bit of vinegar and spices from your pantry. The result is a speedy and delicious way to enjoy taco sauce and you may never buy ready-made taco sauce again!
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Sauce, Taco
Author: Beverly


  • 1 Can Tomato Sauce (8 oz size)
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 1 Tbl White Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Lemon Pepper Seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Cayenne (Ground Red Pepper)
  • 1/4 tsp White sugar (or Agave Nectar)


  • Pour the tomato sauce in a small mixing bowl. Add the water and vinegar and stir to combine.
  • Add the remaining seasonings and stir to mix everything together.
  • Store your homemade taco sauce in a covered jar in the refrigerator. If possible let the mixture set for a few hours before using to let the flavors mingle.


Note: This sauce may get a little “lumpier” as it sits in the refrigerator but it is still delicious!

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  1. REALLY appreciate you for sharing your recipe which I have made several times. Hopefully its ok to share this as I was trying to replicate your recipe.

    FRESH variation if anyone is interetsed…
    -8oz tomato sauce
    -1/4 cup water
    -7g fresh garlic cloves(cleaned)
    -40g sweet onion (Vidalia)
    -5 pickled jalapeno slices (HOT)
    -1/2 tsp ancho powder (or paprika)
    -1/2 tsp Sweetener (Stevia)
    -1 tsp cumin
    -1/8-1/4 tsp salt
    -2 tsp juice from jalapenos (or vinegar)
    -2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
    I add all to bowl then blend with immersion blender
    -use this as a starting point & adjust to your taste
    -I gave weight of garlic & onion to try to be more accurates as (3) garlic cloves & (a small) onion may vary in size, LOL

    1. I guess a true FRESH recipe would include tomatoes & peppers which I may try in the summer when I can source them from my garden.
      I just wanted to try real ingredients rather than powdered where I could is all.

  2. For 7 dollars, I ordered the food-thickening additive ‘Guar Gum’ on Amazon. This additive is a powder derived from beans for thickening foods, with or without heating.
    A little goes a long way, so all you need is 1/4 teaspoon blended into the other dry ingredients (to help disperse it evenly) as you make this recipe.
    I think the water retention and thickness are perfect now.
    Prior to using Guar Gum, a drop of sauce on a paper towel would look like a fried egg: a red yolk, surrounded by a water ring (the whites). After G-gum, the ‘egg white ring’ is essentialy gone, the red yolk retaining all the fluids.
    Looks more like a professional sauce, too, with the shine it adds.
    No taste change, except a better mouth feel.

    1. I have kept mine in the refrigerator for several months with no problems so I would say this should keep for at least 10 or 12 weeks (about 3 months), if not even longer.

    2. Your written dialog speaks of adding 1 tsp of sugar, yet the formal recipe at the bottom of the article calls for 1/4 tsp sugar.
      Which is it?

        1. Thank you for the clarification.
          I think the sauce is wonderful, and is a close match to bottled ortega’s. I love the sauce just as it is, but in the interests of duplicating, I did side by side tastes with Ortega’s and my homemade batch.
          1) Your sauce may be a bit hotter than ortega-mild. That’s perfectly OK for me, but for those who are not fans of heat, maybe 1/8 tsp of ground cayenne is the way to go.
          2) Salt is not good for us, but in the interest of taste, I felt it needed a tad. I did math with the ortega bottle and the great Value Tomato Sauce can, and found that adding 1/4 tsp. salt to the recipe would give both the same sodium content.
          3) I did more math regarding sugar content, and it seems that there is more sugar than what we added. It actually seems to want an additional 3/4tsp. (for a total of 1 tsp sugar in the recipe) to match the bottled product. But in the interests of experimentation I added only an additional 1/4 tsp for a total of 1/2 tsp into my mix. I think doing so made your sauce ever so slightly sweeter than the bottled, but I kinda like it that way. I am still having trouble understanding why my math says the recipe still shy by a 1/2 tsp of sugar when it doesnt taste that way. The math IS good… Isn’t it??
          In summation: I think one may consider halving the cayenne pepper to 1/8 tsp if the user prefers mild. The addition of 1/4 tsp salt rounds out the flavor to more resemble the bottled product. I think the sugar can be left alone, unless one wants to use a ’rounded’ 1/4tsp, just to get right to the edge of the bottled taste!

          1. Not sure if Mr. Feet is still around or not but in regards to sugar my bottle says (under carbohydrates)1g added sugar per serving. There are 28 servings in my bottle therefore 28g sugar per 16oz bottle.

            according to what I found 12.5g sugar = 1 TBSP
            so there are slightly more than 2 TBSP per 16oz bottle

            just to use round #’s lets say our recipe is equal to half of a 16oz bottle (it’s actually slightly more). So to make an 8oz recipe we should be using 1 TBSP or 3 tsp of sugar, right?

            Admittedly, I am not a dietitian or recipe engineer (LOL) so PLEASE let me know if I am calculating this incorrectly…but that is what I came up with FWIW.

            Frankly, I will not use that amount in my recipe but I started at 1/4 tsp, then went to 1/2 tsp and still my tasters (family) still said it wasn’t sweet enough when sampling alongside “REAL” Ortega (Mild).

            I’m pretty happy with it at 1/2 tsp myself. When I taste them side by side I get an almost ketchup type sweetness from the Ortega so I don’t really want mine that sweet, but to each their own.


  3. I have made this many times and never saw the need for the 1/4 cup of water. The consistency seems perfect compared to Ortega sauce. It seems the water would make it way too thin. I think the flavor is spot on and so easy.

    1. It will last for many months. The longest I have had some in the fridge was 5 months and it was fine, and would probably have lasted still longer.

  4. I made your sauce and it was perfect.What I liked most about it is that I can omit garlic from it as it is homemade.I know it good for you but I cannot eat garlic.So now I can enjoy my tacos!store bought has garlic!Thank you

    1. I’m so glad this homemade option was a solution for you. As you said, when you make your own, you control the ingredients!

    1. I have never tried canning this sauce but from some quick research I did, it looks like 35 to 40 minutes is about the usual time for canning sauces.

  5. Nothing but stellar reviews and I’ve been simmering the last batch of my own tomatoes for days down to a gallon of perfect organic tomato sauce. So far this year I’ve done salsas, pizza sauces, tomato jams, plain stewed tomatoes and even Bloody Mary mixers and the only logical next step would be homemade Ortega.

    Sounds like it can simply be multiplied but I’m going easy on the cumin and will adjust to taste before processing as 8 TSP in a gallon still seems excessive. I don’t see any point looking up a recipe only to doctor it but that seems like a lot. Any comments from experience with this recipe?

    1. Well, I have only made this recipe using one 8 oz can of tomato sauce at a time, and I know the one teaspoon of cumin for that size batch is a ratio that I like. If you multiply to make a larger batch you could dial down a bit on the cumin if you wish. If you need to add more after the fact, that is not a problem to add more in. Just let it set for several hours after adding it to let the new additional spice incorporate into the mixture.

  6. well, I’m going to make a very large batch of this, can it, and use it for xmas gifts. Will let you know how it works.

  7. This is soooo close to the real deal(i eat the hot). It does seem just a tad bit off, though. The only thing i am doing different is using no salt added tomato sauce. Im not sure if it is due to the added water, lack of sodium, or maybe just need to give it a few hours to settle. I will definintely reply with my results. So if you’re trying to save your money or your health and get that Ortega taste, this cant be beat!

  8. Loved this! I’m always looking to replace store bought items with homemade recipes and this couldn’t have been any better! I used my canned tomato sauce and it was amazing – thank you so much for the recipe!

  9. I just made the taco sauce, it’s FANTASTIC!!
    I used home canned tomato puree. And I used smoked hot paprika. It has quite a kick and excellent flavor. I did not have a couple of hours for the flavors to marry, so I heated the tomato puree on the stove and added all the seasonings to the warm tomato sauce. Then I put it in the blender so the texture would be smoother. Perfect! Thanks soooo much for the recipe!!!!!

    1. It’s always inspiring to me to hear how others adapt the recipes I share here. Thanks for sharing and it’s nice to know the homemade puree works too!

  10. I recently started making an effort to eat clean but so far every recipe I have tried for clean versions of things i use have been awful. I didn’t hold out much hope for this but figured what the heck, I had everything on hand. OH MY GOSH YUM!!! Thank you!! Gave me faith to keep trying and not give up and go back to processed stuff with things I can’t pronounce.

  11. I just did a huge batch and canned this. I used tomato paste instead of sauce and for every 6 oz. of paste,use 2.-2.5 cups of water. I liked this recipe for the spices where other recipes really lacked in that department.
    If you can,leave at least inch head room because this does expand while cooking. I did a 30-45 minute water bath because I used citric acid for the tart factor so it upped its acid for canning. Lemon juice would work also. This tasted awesome and is going to my daughter’s wedding in January for the mexican dishes she will have.

  12. I am going through Ortega taco sauce withdraw since the recall. I go through a bottle each night.( yes you can ask my wife…she’ll tell you I’m weird but I don’t care). I’m going out to get ingredients now. I’ll tell ya what I think.

  13. Thank you so much! Ortega taco sauce was recalled due to some peanut allergen present. I love their sauce I tried to use taco bell instead and it wasn’t the same. I made this and it was delicious. Love it!

    1. Ortega sauce has been recalled? That is why I couldn’t find it for a few days now. That really sucks! Okay glad I found this. I usually get the hot ortega taco sauce. Would you just increase the spices a little more to make it hotter?

      1. Yes, to make it a little hotter you could add some crushed red pepper flakes to the mixture and/or you could try increasing the amount of cayenne in the mixture too.

    1. When you hover with your mouse over the pictures in this blog post (or any post on my blog), a little “Pin It” button will appear at the top left corner of the picture. You can then click on that and you are able to pin the article on Pinterest using whatever picture you chose to click on.

  14. Thank you! I actually ran out of Ortega Taco Sauce today but had everything else ready to go. This recipe was actually tastier than the jar I buy! This is my new go-to recipe! Thanks again, you saved dinner tonight!!

  15. OMG SLAM DUNK!!! My son refuses to eat tacos w/o taco sauce and we were out, so I looked online for a homemade recipe and it brought me right here. I doubled the recipe and found I was short on cumin so substituted with chili powder (which I also checked online to be sure on). I will admit to over doing it on the cayenne too, thinking I was doubling, I quadrupled the cayenne (oops), but spicy goes over well in this house. I shook it up and popped it in the fridge and said it would take a few hours to blend the flavor. Well my son didn’t care and w/in 30 min of making he tried the sauce….he LOVES LOVES LOVES it. My oldest son tried it and loved it too. I will NEVER have to buy taco sauce again. It is waaay cheaper to buy tomato sauce or even make it and cumin is not a regular for me, but I’ll keep it handy from now on. Bev, (did I get that right?) You are AWESOME!!! I’m sharing this with friends on FB, this is the height of awesomeness for my week! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

    1. Well, your comment just made my day! So glad you found the recipe helpful. This is what I love about DIY recipes. They provide a way to be resourceful when you need it, and most of the time they result in a superior product too!

  16. I am so making this tonight. I put in a search on google, and this appears. I will save a LOT of money since I have these items in my cupboard already. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe !

  17. just wondering could you use diced canned tomatoes or are you talking about the tomato sauce you would put on a meat pie and hot chips.

    1. I use tomato sauce which is a thicker and smoother type sauce with no chunks (I don’t use the diced tomatoes).

  18. Had no lemon pepper so subbed lemon juice for that and vinegar. Seems taste authentic enough; poured it back into the empty bottle. 😉

  19. I am going to try this with my homemade tomato sauce instead of from a can. Have you ever tried canning this sauce as well?

    1. It’s been many years since I have done any canning, but I think you could can this taco sauce with success.

      1. Cool, I’ll try it! My wife and I just started canning last summer after growing our first big garden, and I’m always on the look out for new uses of tomatoes and canning. Thanks again for the recipe!

  20. If theres one thing i love its ortega taco sauce. sometimes i even add tacos to make it taste better. either way, im going to try this to save myself a lot of money. thanks

  21. I am so trying this today, I can not eat anything with seeds in it and have been buying the jar sauce then having to strain it. This is cheaper and no seeds. Thanks.

  22. I am so excited I found this. I feel the same way as your husband about taco sauce (and sour cream). I was just about to go make a trip to the grocery store to pick some up when I found this (which means now I can eat before 9 o’clock)!!! Thanks so much. I don’t have any lemon pepper, but since you added that after the fact it should be fine. I do have limes, but I’m not sure that would be the same. Maybe I’ll put a splash of lemon juice from a bottle. THANKS!!!


    1. I just made this and didn’t have any either so I used regular pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. It was awesome and I’m never buying that bottled junk again.

  23. Thank you so much for the recipe on tacos. I almost had my supper ready & NO TACO SAUCE ! I am gonna try to fix yours except I don’t have any tomato sauce. I have stewed – whole & diced – I wish I knew what you would do . Thank You anyway.

    1. I would probably have put my stewed tomatoes in the food processor to see if I could turn them into sauce 🙂

  24. Until I found this recipe post, I would make tacos and then remember that we were out of sauce. Which is no surprise here, the way they pour it on their tacos. My family loves this, and I’m not even worried about how long it will last as it may never even make it to the fridge. Thank you!

    1. I have kept this for several months in the refrigerator with no problem. I have never tried keeping it longer than that as by then it is used up. Based on that, my experience is that it will keep for at least 3 to 4 months.

  25. So glad my Google search for homemade Ortega taco sauce led me here 🙂 I’m trying to eat more organic, less GMO foods, and that’s hard to do unless you make things like this yourself.
    Can’t wait to try this!

    1. That’s definitely on of the advantages of homemade items. You have so much more control and knowledge about what’s in it. I hope you enjoy the taco sauce!

  26. This is so close to ortega sauce that I can't really tell the difference. Big thanks. Stores around here stopped selling ortega, and I've tried every other taco sauce maker on the shelf, and none of them came close to replacing the ortega. So in short you helped out huge.

  27. This is great. I already use Amy Daczyn's recipe for the taco seasoning this is awesome….

    I also make my own salsa, which you probably already do also, tomatoes (canned or fresh), garlic, cumin, salt, cilantro and a little olive oil if you have some.

  28. Interesting. I make my own taco flavoring for meat (i bought one of the packets, used it, and kept it for the ingredient list). That works well. I do my own seasoning salt, too. But i'd never thought of making the sauce from a bottle. My hubby prefers the chipotle sauce of some brand, that specific one, nothing else will substitute. But it might be interesting to try! Thank you. 🙂