This spicy and tasty Chile de Arbol Salsa is the perfect addition to tacos, tamales, and more. With VIDEO or follow along the step-by-step photos to make this true Mexican food favorite that adds a flavorful kick.
Tijuana, Mexico is the land of tacos. I’ve spent time in different parts of Mexico, and I’ve never seen as many taco stands as in this border town. There are tacos for everyone – shrimp tacos, beef tacos, steamed tacos, even gourmet tacos. It probably has to do with its proximity to the US. People from all over the Mexican Republic stop in Tijuana en route to the promised land (aka America).
At Mexican taquerías, you’ll see several salsas. The usual culprits – red salsa, salsa verde, maybe guacamole or avocado salsa (there’s a difference), and sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll find Chile de Arbol Salsa.
If the salsa is slightly orange-y, you might confuse it for habanero salsa. Don’t let that fool you. Proceed with caution. Chile de árbol pepper has no mercy! If Chile de Arbol Salsa has an orange-y color, that means it’s hot but not habanero hot.
I like the kick that Chile de árbol Salsa has. So, I’m making it with 2 Roma tomatoes and 2 tomatillos. This combo is what gives it that orange-y color. You can add all tomatoes, or all tomatillos. FYI, the more tomatoes and tomatillos that you use, the milder it will be.
After the tomatoes and tomatillos have been charring for a bit, add the onion and garlic. Some people will skip this step all together, and keep it raw. But it’s not the law. I like the taste that roasting, smokey, charring gives.
Garlic seems to char up quickly, and you don’t want to burn it. Remove it after 1-2 minutes and let everything else finishing charring. You can also roast everything in the oven too. Old habits die hard. That’s why I do it this way.
In a clean skillet, heat the oil. This is hot stuff, and I’m not just talking about the salsa.
Next, add all the chile de árbol. This will take no more than 1-2 minutes. Watch them carefully. If they burn, the chile will be bitter. I assure you that bitter is not better, and that’s no bueno. By the way, if you like your salsa spicier, add more chile.
To a blender, add all the chile de arbol and as much of the oil as you can get from the pan. The oil adds a smooth texture.
Time to add the roasted tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and garlic to the blender.
You can’t forget the salt. That’s very important too.
Only add as much water as you need to blend everything. I used 1/4 cup of water. Blend until smooth.
Let this cool a bit before tasting. It is always spicier when it is still warm. For all my fellow nerds what’s happening is that the molecules are excited, and they’ll overwhelm your tongue. Chill out, molecules! Then taste for salt.
Add more spice to your life. Make this Chile de Arbol Salsa next time you’re making tacos. Hope you enjoy!
Watch How to Make Chile de Arbol Salsa
- 2 tomatoes
- 2 tomatillos
- ¼ onion
- 1 garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup dried chile de arbol (stems removed)
- ½ tablespoon salt
- ¼ cup water
- In a skillet, char tomatoes and tomatillos on all sides.
- Halfway through the charring of the tomatoes and tomatillos, add onion and garlic to the skillet.
- Cook for 1 minute.
- Remove garlic.
- Let everything cook for 1-2 minutes more, or until onion is translucent.
- With your spatula, move the tomatoes and tomatillos on their sides, making sure they char on all sides.
- Remove everything from the skillet and set aside until ready to use.
- In a clean skillet, add oil and dried chile de arbol.
- If you like it spicier, add more chile.
- Cook for 1 minute.
- Do not let this burn, or it will be bitter.
- Place all the chile de arbol and as much of the oil from the skillet in a blender.
- Add the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, garlic, salt, and water to the blender.
- Blend until smooth.
- Pour into a salsa bowl.