The ingredient list for Salsa Roja will change based on which region you're in, and who's cooking it, and what kind of mood they're in.
In other words, there are countless interpretations of Mexico's most common salsa.
Salsa Roja might sound exotic to gringos but it roughly translates as red sauce, a simple nomenclature that includes any salsa made with tomatoes as the base. If you're using tomatillos as the base then you've officially entered green sauce territory, i.e. Salsa Verde.
And technically, you're already an expert at making Salsa Roja because the Tomato Jalapeno Salsa from the first Module qualifies.
At the other end of the Salsa Roja spectrum you'll find some fiery concoctions that have more concentrated flavors. You can think of these as topper sauces. They lie somewhere between a bottled hot sauce and a chunky sauce like the Tomato Jalapeno Salsa above.
You'll also frequently see these salsas made with dried chiles, so that will be our starting point for this version.
That's 6 Guajillos and 3 Anchos. As mentioned, Guajillos are mild in nature and usually prefer a dance partner, so you'll frequently see them paired with Anchos.
But first throw 3 tomatoes in a 400F oven and let them roast while you work on the other ingredients.
This roasting step will become habit once you taste the difference. Normally these tomatoes need about 20-25 minutes in the oven, but for this version I tend to just pull them out when I need them because there's a simmer coming up on the horizon that will give them a final blast of heat.
Okay back to the chiles...start by wiping off any dusty crevasses with a damp towel, then de-stem and de-seed them.
We'll eventually strain the sauce so don't worry about getting rid of every last seed.
Meanwhile, saute 1/2 onion and 3 whole garlic cloves in a big dollop of oil.
Once the onion is getting tender, add the dried chiles. For crowd control it can be easiest to cut the chiles up into smaller pieces.
Let the chiles cook for a few minutes over mediumish heat, just enough to wake them up.
Then add the roasted tomatoes to the pan along with:
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon salt
freshly cracked black pepper
2.5 cups water
1 chipotle in adobo (optional)
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (optional)
You can consider the chipotle in adobo and the adobo sauce optional. The adobo sauce has sweet undertones and I think this balances out the flavor of the dried chiles quite well.
Let this simmer for 5 minutes or so and then add it to a blender and give it a good whirl.
Strain the sauce over a mixing bowl and discard the leftover solids. You might have to use the back of a spoon or spatula to push the sauce through the strainer.
You'll end up with a fiery Salsa Roja that is hoping to be used on grilled meats, breakfast dishes, and fingers.
It's much more concentrated than the Tomato Jalapeno Salsa, so start by using it in moderation, a few drops at a time.
Definitely take a final taste for salt level, I added another small pinch to this batch.
I also usually add a splash of cider vinegar so that it'll keep well in the fridge in one of these beauties:
Salsa in a squeeze bottle might officially turn your home kitchen into a taqueria! This recipe will make a bit over 3 cups worth and that will easily fill one of these bottles.
Keep it in the fridge because it seems to pop a little more when it's cooled down. (Note: I prefer the Tomato Jalapeno Salsa directly out of the blender when it's still warm from the roasted tomatoes.)
I'll put the recipe box below for this more concentrated version of Salsa Roja. It's a great option to keep in mind if you want an alternative to the Tomato Jalapeno Salsa.
And that wraps up the Anchos Module -- you've now officially added Anchos and the other dried chilis to your repertoire. Well done!
In the Module table down below, click on 'Dried Chiles -- Quiz!' to move on to the Quiz.
- 6 Guajillo dried chiles
- 2 Ancho dried chiles (or 3 smaller Anchos)
- 3 tomatoes
- 1/2 onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 chipotle in adobo (optional)
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- splash cider vinegar
- 2.5 cups water
- olive oil
- Start by roasting the tomatoes in a 400F oven.
- Use a damp towel to wipe off any dusty crevasses on the dried chiles. To de-seed them it's easiest to cut off the stem and make a slit lengthwise, then use your hands to pull out the ribs and seeds.
- Saute 1/2 onion and 3 whole garlic cloves in a dollop of oil over medium heat. When the onion starts to soften add the dried chiles. (It's worth cutting the chiles into smaller pieces before adding them to the pan.)
- Let the chiles cook for a few minutes and then add the roasted tomatoes to the pan along with: 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, freshly cracked black pepper, 2.5 cups water. (I also add 1 chipotle in adobo and 1 tablespoon of adobo sauce but this is optional.)
- Simmer for 5 minutes or so and then add everything to a blender and combine well.
- Strain the sauce over a mixing bowl and discard the leftover solids. You might have to use a spoon or spatula to push the sauce through the strainer.
- Taste for salt level. I added another pinch of salt along with a splash of cider vinegar.
- Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the fridge (in a squeeze bottle!).