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I’ve spent time in different parts of Mexico, and I’ve never seen as many taco stands as in Tijuana, Mexico. Its proximity to the US brings people from all over the Mexican Republic.
The hard part is having to choose just one salsa. One of my favorites: Chile de Arbol Salsa.
How to Make Chile de Arbol Salsa
- It starts with chile de arbol pods.
- Look for pods that are still in tact like the one in the picture above.
Choose pods that have no tears and are not cut in half. Bugs like to hide inside torn chile pods. Dust also collects inside.
If the salsa is slightly orange, you might confuse it for habanero salsa.
A habanero pepper packs a powerful punch, but a chile de árbol pepper has no mercy!
- Roast 2 Roma Tomatoes and 2 Tomatillos.
- For a spicier salsa, omit the tomatoes.
This combo is what gives the Salsa de Chile de Arbol that orange-y color. You can also add all tomatoes, or all tomatillos.
How do you make salsa less spicy?
Add more tomatoes (or more tomatillos).
How do you make salsa hotter?
Add more chile and less tomatoes (or tomatillos).
- Char the tomatoes and tomatillos for 3-4 minutes. The sides should be black.
- Add the onion and garlic.
Some people will skip this step all together, and keep it raw. But it’s not the law.
The roasting will give your salsa a delicious smokey flavor.
Note: You can also boil the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and garlic.
Is a tomatillo spicy?
No. Tomatillos are slightly tart and sweet enough to be used in candies and jams. You can eat them raw, or as they are most commonly used in Salsa Verde.
- Garlic roasts quickly, and you don’t want to burn it.
- Remove it after 1-2 minutes and let everything else finishing charring.
Pro Tip: Line the skillet or sheet pan with foil paper for easy clean up.
To Roast in the Oven:
- Place the tomatoes and tomatillos on a sheet pan.
- Add oil and salt.
- Toss to combine.
- Place under the broiler for 5 minutes.
- Add the onion and garlic.
- Broil for 3 more minutes. The skins on tomatoes and tomatillos will have turned black.
This Chile de Arbol Salsa is slightly different from other salsas because it includes dried chiles.
- In a clean skillet, heat the oil.
- You can do this in the same skillet you roasted the tomatoes and tomatillos, but be sure to clean it before you get started.
This is olive oil, but you can also use canola oil or sunflower oil.
There is no frying involved. So, you don’t have to worry about smoking point of the oil.
- 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. Bitter is not better, and that’s no bueno.
When you do this, the room can get smokey. Open the windows and let in some fresh air. The other thing… and most importantly … don’t touch your eyes.
If you are not used to working with chiles, use gloves. If you don’t own gloves, use tongs.
What can I substitute for chile de arbol?
Cayenne is a good substitute for chile de arbol. You can also use red pepper flakes or guajillo chile. This is the same chile used to make Guajillo Sauce.
- To a blender, add all the chile de arbol.
- Also add as much of the oil as you can get from the pan.
The oil adds a smooth, silky texture to the Chile de Arbol Salsa.
- Add the roasted tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and garlic to the blender.
- The tomatoes and the tomatillos will make this salsa liquid and not very chunky.
To make the salsa more chunky, do this in a food processor and pulse a couple of times.
You can also do this in a molcajete. You can see how to use this traditional Mexican cooking tool in the video for Tomato Molcajete Salsa.
You can’t forget the salt. That is very important too.
I would start small with the salt. Blend then taste. If it needs more salt, then add more salt.
Rule of Thumb: You can always add salt, but taking salt out of a dish is nearly impossible.
- Add ¼ cup water.
- Blend until smooth.
Only add as much water as you need to blend everything. You can also use vegetable broth or chicken broth for another layer of flavor.
How to Cook with Salsas
- Sear the meat on both sides. It can be chicken, beef, fish.
- Then, add the salsa and broth to finish the cooking process.
For thicker cuts of meat, add more broth to help finish cooking the meat.
Note: In the case of Chile de Arbol Salsa because it’s so super hot, you can cook with it. However, add a lot more broth than salsa. Taste for good measure.
- Let the salsa cool 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!
The chile de arbol pepper is almost as hot as habanero.
Don’t Forget to Watch How to Make Chile de Arbol Salsa
The easiest way to add more spice to your life is by making this Chile de Arbol Salsa.
Use it sparingly and as desired. Hope you enjoy!
Chile de Arbol Salsa
- 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 2 minutes.
- 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, stirring constantly. Do not let the chiles burn, or the salsa 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. Enjoy!
- How do you make a salsa less spicy? Add more tomatoes (or more tomatillos).
- How do you make salsa hotter? Add more chile and less tomatoes (or tomatillos).