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    Salsa Taquera (Chili de Árbol Salsa)

    Do you like your salsa hot? This one is flaming Hot!! I mean on a scale of 1-5, this is definitely 5+ 🔥🔥🔥

    Yet it’s not the kind of heat that will knock you out hard, as that heat is intermingled with tart and salty and even garlicky notes. Your chances of making the acquaintance of this fiery red salsa is very high in one of those authentic Mexican taquerias (that’s taco shop or taco stand), where your taco plate is always accompanied by a variety of different sauces. And this local favorite sauce, made with their árbol chilies along with regular staples, has its distinguished presence among those sauces. In Mexico, they say the meat is what makes a taco good, but a good salsa is what makes it exceptional! This Salsa Taquera does that job quite easily and happily.

    Salsa Taquera in a mortar.


    Salsa, meaning sauce in Spanish, is far more than just that tomatoey condiment for tortilla chips. In Mexico, it can apply to any number of sauces, which almost always have some kind of chilies them. What kind of chilies, how many and how hot makes a big difference in the final product. Then, salsa could be cooked or uncooked. The classic salsa cruda is like my pico de gallo, where it’s just a fresh, raw mix. Cooked salsas are the ones where ingredients are cooked before blending them together. What produces the vast range of flavors, tastes and textures is how those ingredients are cooked. Sometimes they are charred on a dry surface for smokiness, shallow fried in oil for creaminess, simmered in water for brightness or straight buzzed in the blender for zinginess.

    What is Salsa Taquera?

    Zoomed out view of our mortar full of this fiery salsa.

    Salsa Taquera (Taco salsa)… Salsa Roja (red salsa)… Chile de Árbol Salsa (árbol chili salsa). Different names for the same fiery thing. Traditionally it is made with a molcajete (mortar) and a tejolote (pestle), made from a roughly textured black volcanic rock. The ingredients are pounded into fine puree. But in modern times, your blender is more standard and popular in restaurants and taquerias. This salsa is just a quick blend of plum tomatoes, garlic, árbol chili peppers seasoned with simple salt and pepper, and sometimes a few other herbs and spices. It takes various flavor profiles depending how the ingredients are prepped before blending. They can be dry roasted, boiled, sautéed, or simply blended. Whatever and however it is made, the only constant is the HEAT!

    Árbol Chili Peppers

    A bunch of dried arbol chilis in a wicker bowl.

    Where does the heat come from? Arbol chilis! These small and vibrant red chilis are popular in Mexican cuisine and give quite a punch. They are 6 times hotter than the average jalapeño, and heatwise are similar to serrano or cayenne peppers. So yes, this salsa is meant to be hot. Saying that, you can still customize it to your own taste.

    Here is what you need

    Some on-the-vine tomatoes on a wooden platform.
    • Tomatoes – We are using on-the vine tomatoes today. Roma or plum work great too.
    • Onion – Just a little.
    • Garlic – Yum.
    • Árbol chilies – You will find them in the ethnic section in your grocery store.
    • Oregano – just a hint.
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Lime Juice

    Some tips before you get blending

    Collage of four images showing ingredients cooking in a pan.
    1. First decide how hot you want this salsa to come out. 🙂 We used 8 árbol chilies and it turned up quite hot, any true Mexican would approve. We suggest using 3-4 for mild, and 5-6 for medium heat.
    2. Remove the stems from the chilis, but leave the seeds. The seeds are important for the hotness.
    3. Sauté ingredients in stages. First onion and garlic, then chilis, then tomatoes. Only sauté the chilis for about a minute, till they turn slightly darker red. They can get bitter if overcooked.
    4. I like to add the oil from the sauté pan into the blender. It’s not necessary, but it gives a creamier consistency.
    5. Blend until smooth. This is not meant to be one of the chunky salsas and should be more saucy.
    6. My usual motto: Taste And Adjust! Add more salt, pepper, oregano or lemon juice if you wish. And if it turns out too hot? Don’t worry, you can just add more tomatoes to counter the heat!
    Salsa blended in the blender.

    What to serve with Salsa Taquera?

    This is taco salsa, so any tacos come alive with just a little addition of this bright fiery salsa. Try it on carne asada, pork carnitas, barbacoa pork or beef tacos, al pastor tacos… or even simple street style chicken tacos. So basically, any of your favorite taco would be happy with this fiery addition.

    A plate of chicken tacos topped with his fiery salsa.

    It’s also great with burritos, tostadas and taquitos. Some nacho bowl… yum. Or sometimes all you need is endless tortillas chips to scoop with. This salsa is great for in stirring soups and soups too.

    There are as many variations as many chefs out there, some common ones

    1. Keep the ingredients the same but roast the veggies on a dry skillet till they get blistered, instead of sautéing in oil. This gives a more smoky flavor. Some boil them in water before blending.
    2. Use tomatillos along with tomatoes to get a little different flavor.
    3. Lot of Mexicans add cilantro in the blend… of course 🙂
    4. To get more flavors, some add chicken bouillon.
    5. Some people add canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. This adds to the smokiness.

    How long does it last?

    It can last very well for a couple of weeks in an airtight container in your refrigerator. You can freeze it for up to six months.

    Close up of our Salsa taquera.

    Any salsa, the soul of Mexico in a bowl. So easy, so quick! We will be showing you many other commonly known salsas in the future. Subscribe to get all these flavors straight to your mailbox. Till then, chow down. Life is good when tacos are in your hands! Taco Anyday is a thing for me!! Make it yours too…

    Salsa Taquera, on my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!

    Salsa Taquera in a mortar atop the Gypsy Plate.

    Looking for more tasty sauces? Try our…
    Cilantro Mint Chutney
    Tzatziki Sauce
    Jamaican Jerk Marinade
    Smokin’ Hot Chipotle Mayo
    Guasacaca (Venezuelan Guacamole)
    North African Chermoula
    5-minute Pesto

    Featured image for Salsa Taquera post.

    Salsa Taquera (Chili de Árbol Salsa)

    Yield: 2 cups
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: 10 minutes
    Total Time: 15 minutes

    If you like HOT, this classic Salsa Taquera is for you. Fiery árbol chilis and a few other simple ingredients blend together for the ultimate taco experience!


    • 4-5 tomatoes on the vine, quartered
    • 3-8 árbol chilies (see notes)
    • 1/4 onion, white or Spanish, quartered
    • 2-3 garlic cloves
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1/4 tsp oregano
    • 2 fresh lime, juiced


    1. Remove the stems from the árbol chilies.
    2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Sauté onion and garlic cloves till they change color, about 2-3 minutes. Remove and place them in a blender
    3. In the same oil, sauté árbol chilies for a minute or so. Remove and place them in the blender.
    4. Place the quartered tomatoes in a pan and cook them for few minutes, till they gets blistered all over.
    5. Place the tomatoes along with rest of the ingredients in a blender. Season it with salt, pepper, oregano, lemon juice and blend until smooth.


    You can use other varieties if tomatoes like roma or plum. Adding tomatillos in this salsa is also a very common practice

    Use árbol chili according to your heat preference. 3-4 for mild, 5-6 for medium and 7-8 for hot.

    Nutrition Information
    Yield 16 Serving Size 1
    Amount Per Serving Calories 14Total Fat 0gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 0gCholesterol 0mgSodium 148mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 1g

    Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.

    Did you make this recipe?

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    Picture of Alpana, blogger and recipe developer at GypsyPlate

    Welcome to GypsyPlate! I'm Alpana, former wordwide tour manager and professional caterer, now full time blogger. I love exploring cuisines from around the world, and my recipes have been featured on sites such as MSN, Parade, Brit + Co, CNET and AOL. You can explore my entire collection of sortable recipes in my Recipe Index or learn more about me here.

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      2 thoughts on “Salsa Taquera (Chili de Árbol Salsa)”

      • I don’t agree with the “true Mexican would approve” portion maybe make it non offending like any true spice or salsa enthusiast would approve. Why are the no portion or measurements? Like to I add a head or garlic one clove ???

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