Chile de arbol salsa is a flavorful, spicy condiment. Make this feisty, delicious Mexican salsa with tomatoes, tomatillos and arbol peppers.
Salsas come in many different forms, but more often than not, the base is either fresh tomatoes or tomatillos. To that, seasonings and vegetables or fruits are added to create and enhance the flavor.
Of course, the type of chile pepper in the salsa will determine how spicy or mild it is. Sweet salsas like pineapple or cherry salsa usually have a milder flavor, but not always!
The uniqueness of chile de arbol salsa
The combination of ingredients is what makes this spicy condiment stand above the rest. It isn’t made solely with tomatoes, like a roasted tomato salsa, nor is it made only with tomatillos, like my tomatillo red chili salsa.
Instead, it includes a combination of both! With sweetness from roma tomatoes and tart flavor from Mexican tomatillos, plus spicy heat of arbol chili peppers, there are a lot of flavors working magic together.
What are arbol chiles?
Chile de Arbol peppers (also known as rat tail chiles or bird’s beak chilis) are small red, spicy Mexican peppers. At only 2 inches in length, they pack a lot of heat for their size.
Arbol chilis range from 15,000 to 30,000 on the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) scale, several times hotter than jalapeno peppers, which have a SHU rating of 2,500 to 8,000.
This recipe is similar to my recipe for tomatillo salsa verde, but that recipe calls for green chiles rather than red.
Ingredients in salsa arbol
Aside from toasted arbol peppers, the primary ingredients in this salsa are tomatoes, tomatillo and garlic.
Although they are also known as Mexican husk tomatoes, tomatillos are not tomatoes at all. However, both tomatoes and tomatillos are nightshade fruits. Truth be told, tomatillos do look a bit like green tomatoes.
The skin of a tomatillo is sticky and covered by a thin, papery husk called a lantern. As the fruit ripens, the lantern loosens, revealing the tomatillo inside.
Choose tomatillos that are firm and unwrinkled, and avoid any with soft spots. The soft, mushy, and/or brown spots are signs that the fruit is past its prime.
Recipe instructions and notes
This recipe couldn’t be any easier to make because the ingredients are blended together in a food processor!
Of course, if you don’t own a food processor, it’s okay. Although it may take an extra minute or two, a blender will work just as well.
- Toast the chili peppers.
Some recipes for salsa arbol call for boiling the peppers in water. Not only does roasting create better flavor, it also makes the peppers pliable. This makes them easier to blend.
As you toast the chiles, keep the pan moving and remove them from as quickly as possible after they’re toasted. This will prevent them from burning.
- Combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender.
The salsa will be very loose and liquidy at this point, but as it simmers on the stove, the sauce will reduce and become thicker.
Uses for chile de arbol salsa
Aside from using it as delicious dip for tortilla chips, there are plenty of other ways to use the salsa! Here are a few suggestions:
- Stir it into a pot of chili con carne or soup for an extra kick of heat.
- Drizzle it over tacos, tostadas, or a taco salad.
- Spoon it over scrambled eggs, an omelet or Huevos Rancheros for breakfast.
- Add a little bit of salsa arbol to sour cream and it becomes a delicious topping for mashed potatoes or a hasselback potato.
Chile de Arbol Salsa
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 oz dried chiles de arbol (about 36-40 chiles)
- 28 oz diced tomatoes or 3 cups fresh
- 2 large tomatillos husk removed
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- 3 garlic cloves or 1 tbsp minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/8 tsp Mexican oregano
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat and quickly toast the chiles for 10-15 seconds. They will brighten in color. Quickly remove from the oil so they don't burn and transfer them to a food processor or blender.
- Add the tomatoes, tomatillos, vinegar, garlic, salt, oregano and a 1/4 cup of water to the blender. Process until smooth. Season with salt as needed.
- Pour mixture into saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. If the consistency is too thin for your liking, continue simmering until it reduces and reaches your desired consistency.
- Allow salsa to cool before using. Serve either warm or chilled.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.