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Roasted Tomato-Chile de Arbol Salsa

This is it, my quintessential red salsa. It’s what every taqueria in my fantasy would set out in little bowls. It’s what everyone on each would whip up instead of buying jarred salsa in stores. But here’s something to get excited about: you can use this sauce as so much more than just a taco topper.

Servings: 2 cups


  • 1 pound plum tomatoes (about 4)

  • 3 to 6 chiles de arbol, depending on how spicy you like it

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 medium white onion, chopped

  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed

  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper



  1. Preheat the broiler.

  2. Put the tomatoes on a baking sheet and broil, turning occasionally, until the tomatoes are nice and charred, 10 to 12 minutes. Take the tomatoes out, let them cool just until you can handle them, slip off the skins and cut out the tough cores. Transfer the tomatoes to a big bowl (don't you dare forget the tomato juice that has leaked out and reduced to awesomeness on the baking sheet), then roughly chop them.

  3. While the tomatoes are broiling, heat a dry skilled over medium heat and toast the chiles (in batches, if necessary), flipping them over occasionally, until they just begin to smoke, about 5 minutes. Set them aside in a bowl.

  4. Put the olive oil, onion, and garlic in a saucepan, set it over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 7 minutes. Add the toasted chiles, tomatoes, and 2 cups water, bring to a simmer, and cook for about 12 minutes, so the flavors come together. Let it cool a bit.

  5. Carefully transfer the mixture to a blender. Add the cilantro, salt, and pepper and puree until the mixture is very smooth.

  6. Pour the mixture through a medium-mesh sieve into a bowl. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

  7. Store the salsa in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to a week, or in the freezer for a month.

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