Red Chili Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa de Arbol Y Tomatillo)

5 from 2 votes

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Red Chili Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa de Arbol Y Tomatillo) is a spicy Mexican salsa with roasted tomatillos, onion, garlic and chiles de arbol. This recipe is one I picked up on a recent trip south of the border in El Fuerte, Sinaloa.

overhead: spicy Mexican sauce in gray serving bowl

Whether it’s for a flavor-punched addition to tacos, enchiladas and other Mexican foods, or as a dip for tortilla chips, you can’t go wrong with fresh salsa. 

Salsa recipes are quick and simple to make, and they freeze well, so you can make a large batch to enjoy any time of the year.

Types of salsa

Salsas are most often either red, like roasted tomato salsa, or green, like avocado salsa. The variety and color of the primary ingredients determines the final color of the sauce. This also determines how spicy or mild the salsa is.

Sweet salsas like pineapple or cherry salsa usually have a milder flavor, but not always!

The flavors in this salsa, along with the consistency, are very much like the Chipotle hot sauce. The restaurant chain is known for their delicious Tex Mex foods, but they’re always better when you make them at home!

How spicy is tomatillo salsa?

While it’s not the spiciest salsa in the world, this red tomatillo salsa is definitely not for those with a weak stomach! The roasted red chiles for this recipe are Mexican arbol peppers.

This green salsa is similar to the recipe for tomatillo salsa verde, but instead of arbol chilis, that recipe calls for green chiles, specifically Anaheim and serrano.

overhead: fresh tomatillos, garlic, onion, and red chili peppers for salsa de tomatillo

Aside from the red chile peppers, the primary ingredients in this salsa are onions and roasted tomatillos. 

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Tomatillos – Although they are also known as Mexican husk tomatoes, tomatillos are not actually tomatoes at all. However, like tomatoes, they are nightshade fruits, and  they do look a bit like green tomatoes.

    The sticky exterior of the fruit is covered with a papery husk called a lantern. As the fruit ripens, the lantern loosens, revealing the fruit inside.

    When you shop for ingredients, choose tomatillos that are firm and unwrinkled. Avoid soft spots is a sign that the fruit is overripe.
  • Onion – Using white onion is my preference, but yellow or red onions would also be fine.
  • Garlic – Adds plenty of flavor to this pork piccata and complements the lemon well.
  • Dried Arbol chiles – Chile de Arbol peppers (also known as rat tail chiles or bird’s beak chilis) are small red Mexican chiles, approximately 2 inches long, and they pack a lot of heat for their size. Dried chiles should be leathery and flexible, never brittle.

    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.

Parts of tomatillo plants are poisonous/toxic if eaten, including the leaves, papery husk, and stem

dry roasting Mexican husk tomatoes, white onion, and dried red chili peppers in cast iron skillet

How to Make Red Chili Tomatillo Salsa

  1. Dry roast the ingredients – The salsa ingredients are dry roasted in a pan rather than being boiled in water. Not only does roasting chiles and tomatillos create more flavor, but it also softens them, resulting in a smoother sauce.
  2. The process takes about 15 minutes, so turn and move the ingredients around in the pan at least once. This will prevent anything from burning.
  3. Transfer to food processor or blender to puree.
  4. If you prefer chunkier salsa, you can certainly stop blending when the consistency is the way you like it.

One fantastic thing about this recipe is that the ingredients are combined in a food processor, making it super quick and easy! There’s no way that Chipotle hot sauce can taste as fresh as this homemade version!

Want a thinner tomatillo red chili salsa?

If the consistency is thicker than you like, just process in a tablespoon of water at a time to thin it out.

overhead: bowl of green sauce made with tomatillos and arbol chiles


Can you freeze Chipotle hot sauce?

Yes, the sauce freezes beautifully! To save room in your freezer, transfer the tomatillo red chili salsa to zip top freezer bags. After sealing them closed, lay the bags flat to freeze.

How should I store fresh salsa?

Be sure to store your salsa in a sealed container in the refrigerator. It should keep well for 5-7 days. For longer storage, up to 3 months, it may be frozen.

dipping tortilla chip into bowl of spicy tomatillo salsa

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overhead: spicy Mexican sauce in gray serving bowl

Red Chili Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa de Arbol Y Tomatillo)

5 from 2 votes
Red Chili Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa de Arbol Y Tomatillo) is a spicy Mexican sauce with roasted tomatillos, onion, garlic and chiles de arbol. This recipe is better than Chipotle hot sauce!
Servings: 4
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes


  • 1 lb tomatillos peeled and husks removed
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 8 dried chiles de arbol
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt


  • Put the cut onion and tomatillos in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast for 3 minutes, turning once. Add the garlic cloves and chiles, continue toasting for another 12-15 minutes until all are lightly charred, turning often to get all sides.
  • Transfer the onion, tomatillos, garlic and chiles to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add a little water to thin out and add salt to taste.
  • Serve as a salsa dip with tortilla chips, over grilled meat, fish or chicken and tacos.


Calories: 39kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 276mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 362IU | Vitamin C: 12mg | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg

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.

Course: Appetizer, Sauce
Cuisine: Mexican
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown overhead in serving bowl) tomatillo red chili salsa - Kevin is Cooking


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. Hi Kevin,
    In Australia I have only been able to source a tinned tomatillo , do you thinkI can still put them on the skillet or just skip that step.

  2. 5 stars
    Terrific, simple recipe thanks Kevin. Tastes awesome. Grew the tomatillos ourselves. Difficult to get Mexican chilis in our part of NZ so used dried Kashmiri chilis – perfect heat.
    Cheers, Kevin